Hands-On: 2016 Nissan Titan XD
All-New Pickup Features 1/2-ton Size, 3/4-Ton Capability
Nissan sees an underserved need in the truck market. In a phenomenon known as “segment creep,” we live in an era when 3/4- and 1-ton trucks are able to tow between 20,000 and 30,000 pounds, while 1/2-ton trucks can now tow almost as much as their HD predecessors of just a few years ago.
However, there are some out there who don’t need the pavement-crushing torque and intimidating capability of a 3/4-ton diesel but who still want more stable towing than even today’s impressive 1/2-tons can offer. It’s with these customers in mind that Nissan presents the 2016 Titan XD. Featuring a 5.0L Cummins turbodiesel V-8 and a heavy-duty frame, one might think that the Titan is designed to go head to head with the Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD, Ram 2500HD, and Ford F-250 Super Duty. But its smaller dimensions, 6-lug wheels, and lower power and torque than its HD diesel competitors show that Nissan designed this truck for easily accessible capability, not class-destroying numbers.
Truck Trend recently got some up-close access to the Titan XD, specifically a fly-yellow PRO-4X model equipped with the Cummins turbodiesel V-8 (a gas V-8 will come standard). After a few hours of poking, prodding, and peeking, here are a few of our first impressions.
Cummins Diesel PowerNissan is rightfully proud of its partnership with Cummins for the Titan XD. The compound-turbodiesel setup in the truck is good for 310 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque, slotting it neatly in between its competitors’ gas and diesel offerings. Its torque number, for example, out-twists Ford’s 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 by 135, while it bests Chevrolet’s 6.0L Vortec V-8 by 175 lb-ft. That means that although it’s rated to tow “at least” 12,000 pounds (about the same as the EcoBoost and a bit less than the Vortec), it should be able to pull those big trailers with less stress and drama. Its twin-stage sequential-turbo layout is designed by Cummins Turbo Technologies to be ideal for both high-stress towing and daily driving duties.
Obviously, compared to Ford’s Power Stroke V-8, GM’s Duramax V-8, and Ram’s Cummins I-6, Nissan’s oil-burner makes less power and torque, but again, the Titan is designed to be a tweener. Nissan thinks there’s a market out there for people who regularly tow or haul more than 10,000 pounds but don’t need or want the massive power or price tag (or the inferior ride and handling) of a 3/4- or 1-ton diesel.
Middleweight FrameAn interesting aspect of the Titan XD is its unique frame. Compared to the standard Titan pickup (which Nissan hasn’t yet revealed in this new generation), the XD borrows heavily from the company’s NV2500 heavy-duty van. Starting with a Nissan Commercial Vehicles chassis, the Titan XD adds extra reinforcements for added rigidity and resistance to torsion and bending. Furthering the XD’s distinctiveness over 1/2-ton trucks is the factory-installed frame-mounted gooseneck hitch, which is a rarity in the light-duty segment.
On the PRO-4X model we saw, the front double-wishbone suspension featured Bilstein coilover shocks, with a 9.25-inch front differential. Leaf springs and Bilstein shocks suspended the rear 10.5-inch live axle, which is the same unit as in the Ram Power Wagon. A Nissan-designed electronic-locking differential will aid traction in sticky situations. All four wheels hide vented disc brakes, measuring 14.2 inches up front and 14.4 in back.
Mini-HD StylingOur first impressions of the truck based on photos were good, but they got even better when we saw it in person. Subtly flared fenders front and rear add definition to the body sides, making it look lithe and athletic. The bluff, upright front end is uniquely Nissan, but the grille and headlights look windswept. Projector-style headlamps incorporate little half-T LED signature lights. That half-T look shows up in the taillights as well. It’s clear that the Titan’s designers sweated the details on this truck, as it has a fairly cohesive design.
Complaints are few: Not all of us liked the color, although the PRO-4X’s two-tone paint scheme (grey rocker panels, bumpers, and wheel arches) would look very nice with many different hues. The chrome vents on the front fenders, which proudly wear the Cummins logo, look a little bit tacky. And this writer thinks the XD-specific front bodywork looks a little awkward with the rest of the truck, dwarfing the cab and bed. Nevertheless, Nissan has done a good job styling the Titan, as it is a unique take on basic pickup styling.
The Great IndoorsNissan knew that one of the biggest faults of the first-generation Titan was its interior. Although it was class-competitive in 2004, when the Titan first debuted, its competition rapidly learned the value of nice interior plastics and contemporary design.
It’s in this area that the 2016 Titan shows its newness best. Even the pre-production interior of the Titan showed very well, with fantastic materials wrapping the upper dash, steering wheel, seats, and armrests. Although there’s some hard plastic, it’s mostly limited to high-wear areas like the lower dash and the sides of the center console. A column-mounted shifter opens up a huge well of space on the console, which Nissan says will accommodate a 15-inch laptop. Our only complaint major complaint about the interior is the use of hard plastic on the windowsill, where many of us hang an elbow when cruising with the windows down.
The seats are now built using Nissan’s Zero-Gravity technology, which features prominently in the company’s new cars and crossovers. Nissan promises that the design will reduce fatigue and increase comfort, particularly over long stretches of seat time. Obviously, our brief studio time with the Titan didn’t allow us to test the seats’ long-haul comfort, but they did feel cushy while still being supportive. The PRO-4X had power front seats, including adjustable lumbar, and all of us were able to find a comfortable seating position. Mercifully, the front headrests don’t attack the back of your head as they do on most Ford seats, and cool PRO-4X embroidery and contrasting stitching adorn the side bolsters.
Metallic-look plastic shows up on the dashboard, door panels, and center console, providing some relief from the mostly-black interior, and gorgeous gauge faces flank an electronic information display in the instrument cluster. Pushbutton start, transfer-case controls, an HVAC/infotainment cluster, and an integrated trailer-brake controller appear on the center stack, and most controls fall readily to hand. We’ll need some drive time to decide how well everything is laid out, but first impressions suggest that it should be pretty logical and easy to decode.
Parting ThoughtsNissan says it isn’t chasing sales volume with the Titan, and that’s probably a wise thing. We doubt the F-150 will lose its sales crown any time soon, and General Motors has long been a juggernaut in pickup sales as well. However, we’re also confident that the Titan will be more than a bit player in the fullsize market, particularly given the wealth of options it’ll offer customers. With two different frames, the choice of gasoline or diesel engines, and the extra capability and strength of the Titan XD, the new truck should provide enough for most light-duty truck buyers.
We certainly can’t wait to get our hands on a production-spec example for some drive impressions and instrumented testing. If it lives up to the promises made by Nissan’s PR team and the positive impressions we got from our too-brief time with the truck in the studio, we’re sure it’ll be a hit.