UPDATED! 100+ New Photos - First Drive: 2016 Nissan Titan XD
Call it Big, Call it Capable, Just Don't Call it A Heavy-Duty
There are distinct rules in the truck market—rules stating that trucks with less than an 8,500-pound GVWR are considered light-duty and trucks that weigh more than that are heavy-duty. In what can be considered the natural order of truckdom, these are established norms and government weight classes for which truck makers go to great lengths to classify and market their vehicles. However, Nissan has chosen not to go head to head with the traditional ¾-tons, but rather engineer a truck that can comfortably fit into its own little niche. The most innovative thing about the new Titan XD could very well be its positioning in the marketplace.
Not quite a true heavy-duty (although with a curb weight as high as 7,480 pounds and a GVWR up to 8,800 pounds, the stout XD has enough mass to qualify), but more truck than the typical ½-ton, the Titan XD is poised to fill in a blank space in the market that has essentially been abandoned by the traditional ¾-ton trucks as they battled it out in the capability wars. Ten years ago, ¾-ton trucks had tow ratings in the 12,000-pound range; now they start at 14,000 and only climb from there. So what’s a truck buyer to do when he feels the ½-ton trucks are a little too lightweight for his needs, but the ¾-ton trucks are too much of a step up in cost and capability? Nissan thinks it has the answer with the new Titan XD.
Nissan will leave it up to your imagination as to what the “XD” stands for. We like to think of it as Xtra Duty, but you can think of it as a more livable, lighter-duty ¾-ton—a modernized version of the old Ford F-250LD or Chevy 1500HD trucks of yore. To say the new truck should be pitted against the Ford F-250, Ram 2500, and Chevy Silverado 2500HD is to miss the point of the Titan XD entirely. Nissan doesn’t want to steal the sales crown from Ford or get into a capability war with Chevy and Ram. Nissan wants to make a truck that fits the needs of a legitimate group of truck buyers and carve out a little more market share for itself in the pickup part of its business.
So what makes the Titan an XD? To be clear, this is not the upcoming ½-ton Titan replacement. That yet-to-be-revealed version, while sharing the cab and some beds with the XD, is a smaller, lighter, and gasoline-only truck. The XD has a unique front clip and completely different chassis that doesn’t share one bolt with its lighter-duty stablemate. The Titan XD also packs the punch of an optional 5.0L Cummins turbodiesel V-8 churning up 310 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque, backed up by a six-speed Aisin transmission. A 5.6L gas V-8 engine will join the lineup at a later date. The XD is capable of towing up to 12,314 pounds (as determined by the J2807 standard) depending on configuration. Of course, everything will depend on trim and drivetrain; a mid-grade crew cab PRO-4X’s towing drops down to 11,784 pounds.
For comparison, the max towing available from the competition’s crew cab 4x4s with the premium engine and towing package options are as follows: Ram 1500 EcoDiesel 3.0L (9,000 pounds), Ram 1500 Hemi 5.7L (10,450 pounds), Ford F-150 EcoBoost 3.5L (11,600 pounds), Chevy Silverado 6.2L (11,700 pounds), and Toyota Tundra 5.7L (9,800 pounds). Clearly, the Titan XD has some competition from Ford and Chevy with similar towing numbers, but the Titan XD has larger ¾-ton class components, as well as more than 1,000 pounds in additional mass, which makes it the perfect platform for maximum towing stability. Additionally, Nissan engineers are famous for underrating their vehicles, which means a Titan XD could be more comfortable at towing its max than its competition is.
While the focus of the Titan XD was very much towing competence, Nissan tried to keep other areas of the truck in line with the ½-ton market. For instance, it features a smooth-riding independent front suspension, albeit with a heavier-duty recirculating ball steering setup borrowed from the successful fullsize NV van lineup. Six-lug wheels are also on par with the ½-ton market, but the XD uses larger wheel studs than a standard Titan and drops the Dana 44–based rear axle in favor of a beefier 9.84-inch (250mm) AAM rear axle with a 3.916 ratio.
The maximum payload of the XD is 2,004 pounds for a four-wheel-drive crew cab (2,091 pounds for a crew cab 4x2), which is also on par with the upper crust of the ½-ton class. The F-150 4x4 SuperCrew maxes out at an impressive 2,660, thanks to the lightweight aluminum body, while the equivalent Chevy and GMC pickups max out in the 2,000-pound neighborhood, depending on engine, with Toyota and Ram rounding out the field with 1,555 pounds and 1,400 pounds, respectively. Using the Titan’s payload capacity is easy with a bed space that is loaded with utility. Customers will appreciate the spray-in bedliner, LED lighting in the bed and tailgate, an optional and removable Titan Box, Utili-trak rails with segment-exclusive in-floor channels, a 120-volt power outlet, and two-way tailgate assist.
From the very first time you see the Titan XD in person, you realize just how big of a truck it is. Opening the door reveals a high hip point that requires a substantial climb into the cabin on trucks not equipped with Nissan’s full-length side steps: in other words, a proper truck. The interior has a quality look and feel that puts it right at the top with the very best in the truck market. Soft-touch materials, abundant features, and thoughtful styling give even the base model an upscale feel, while the high-zoot Platinum Reserve’s soft leather and luxurious materials put the truck in a whole other class. Everything you interface with, especially the switchgear, makes you appreciate Nissan’s attention to detail. We especially enjoyed using the Around View Monitor and trailer light check options.
In the interest of exceptional comfort, Nissan has brought the company’s Zero Gravity seating to the Titan. Based on technology using NASA-endorsed research, the Zero Gravity seats are designed to give an optimal torso angle and eliminate pressure points on the body. We can tell you these are among the best truck seats we’ve ever experienced. Moving to the back of the cab, rear occupants have ample legroom, and the split seats fold up or down, with locking storage large enough to fit a long gun under the seat. A foldout shelf also allows the Titan XD to have flat load floor without taking away from overall passenger space. While interior function and comfort are all important to new truck buyers, the real focus is always on how a truck drives. Fortunately, we’ve had numerous opportunities behind the wheel of the Titan XD in various trim levels and each time we’ve been impressed.
The Titan benefits from copious amounts of sound deadening, hydraulic body mounts, and laminated front glass. All these things contribute to an extremely quiet cabin, and the Titan XD’s body structure is a tight one, exhibiting no flex, creaks, or secondary rattles. The Nissan team should be lauded on the solidity of the Titan XD’s structure.
With a push of the start button, the Cummins comes alive quickly and settles into the familiar but muted idle of a diesel. In fact, the new engine uses Bosch glow plugs borrowed from Cummins’ V903 military 15.0L V-8 and will start in 2 seconds or less in temperatures as low as 32 degrees. Cummins, through the magic of Piezo injectors, has engineered in the ability to have up to seven injection events per cycle, aiding the quietness of the engine. The Aisin transmission shifts with firmness and authority and feels well suited to the Cummins V-8. The original Titan’s gated shifter has been replaced with a column shifter to free up substantial space for storage in the center console. With eight cupholders in the front and eight in the rear, including spaces large enough for 32-ounce Gatorade bottles in the open console, the Titan XD should have enough cup capacity for any job site or family adventure.
Going down the road, the Titan XD feels heavy and substantial. The ride quality is taut and is neither too soft nor too harsh. It finds a middle ground that does a nice job of splitting the difference between ½- and ¾-ton trucks. The mass is apparent, but cornering is flat with safe understeer at the limits, and the grunty Cummins moves the 7,000-pound truck along smartly. Long gone from the Titan are soft brakes and a mushy pedal; in their place is a system with progressive action and good pedal feel. The XD’s brakes feel every bit of their 14-plus inches in diameter. Steering effort is heavy, especially at low speeds, but it seems well dialed for the highway.
We drove the Titan XD with conventional trailers weighing as much as 10,000 pounds hanging off the back, and the truck feels as stable as anything this side of a Super Duty. The downhill speed control does a good job of maintaining speed with a load, and the Cummins engine happily hauls without complaint. As good as the system is, we hardly missed an exhaust brake but still wish Nissan would consider adding one for an extra level of control. When compared to the true ½-ton competition, the Titan feels more solid, more planted, and more stable, with less push-around. It’s a rock-solid towing platform, and a rear factory gooseneck setup is standard on all but the base model. There is even an accessory fifth-wheel hitch designed by Reese that uses the gooseneck crossmember mounting points.
During our testing, we saw about 17 mpg in mixed driving and roughly 20 mpg on the highway. Unfortunately, the fuel tank is a measly 26 gallons, with an equally small 4.5-gallon DEF tank. In our minds, there is no reason the Titan XD shouldn’t have a 35-gallon tank and an 8-gallon DEF tank to extend the range of both fluids.
While pricing hasn’t been announced yet, you can expect the crew cab, diesel-powered XD to start in the mid-$40,000s and top out with the impressive Platinum Reserve at about $60,000. Considering an F-150 Limited is creeping close to $70K and doesn’t even have a diesel option, Nissan is pricing the Titan to be one helluva deal, no matter how you slice it. For those who want ½-ton livability with near-¾-ton capability, the Titan XD is a compelling choice. It’s a nice truck and worth a look. For our money, we’d lean toward the PRO-4X, which adds monotube Bilstein shocks, more aggressive all-terrain tires, and a locking rear differential.
Initially, the XD will be available in the crew cab body style with a 6.5-foot bed, but as production ramps up, regular and King Cab options will be available, along with other bed lengths and the aforementioned gasoline V-8. With capability and size that neatly splits the traditional ½- and ¾-ton segments, the Titan XD is poised to win over customers finding themselves in the middle looking for a quality truck that is just right for their needs. If you consider yourself one of these in-between buyers, you owe it to yourself to try out the Titan XD. It’s the Xtra Duty ½-ton that stands out from the crowd with a mix of size, capability, and a diesel engine designed to work: a “heavy half” that’s happy to live in the middle.