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First Drive: 2016 Nissan Titan XD
Carving out space in the heavy-duty truck segment

Jeff Glucker December 16, 2015 Featured, First Impressions, Nissan Reviews, Reviews 10 Comments

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You tow things. You have toys that get dirty, a camper or a boat. You’re going to need a truck that can handle the heft you’re hauling, and this means deciding on playing within the 1/2-ton segment or jumping into the world of the 3/4-ton. There’s a fair difference between those trucks, and one can often find themselves either wishing they’d stepped up to the 3/4-ton pickup or perhaps finding that they barely use the capabilities of a 3/4 and could’ve saved tons of dough by opting for the 1/2 ton.

This is where the 2016 Nissan Titan XD comes into play, and it’s an “in-betweener” truck that’s hoping to capture those fluctuating between big boys toys and, well, bigger boys toys. It’s tough to make a name for yourself in the full-size truck segment unless you’ve got a Ford of Chevy badge on the front (Fine, Ram too… but to a lesser degree, based on sales numbers). Nissan is looking to carve out its own niche with the Titan XD, and snag some market share from both sides of pickup party fence.

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The Titan XD is the first salvo in the opening battle that will be fought by an all new family of Titan trucks. If you see the XD badging, you know you’re dealing with the “increased-capability” pickup. Joining shortly will be the standard Titan. This is the one created to squarely take on the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, Chevy Silverado, and the Toyota Tundra. That truck isn’t here yet, but know that between the two only the cabs and beds share bits. The respective chassis’ of the Titan and Titan XD are totally different.

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Nissan is kicking off the Titan XD party right by showing us the Cummins Diesel V8 version. There will be a gas-chugging V6 and V8 on down the line, but it’s the turbo-diesel mill we’re most curious about at the moment. Under the hood of the Titan XD sits the 5.0-liter oil burner, and it’s good for 310 horsepower and 555 lb-ft of torque. Bosch supplies the fuel system and the gearbox comes from Aisin. It’s a heavy-duty six-speed transmission, and it will only wind up in the XD corner of the Titan family tree.

What we have with this powertrain setup is a truck that punches just past the top of the 1/2-ton range, with respect to towing. The max tow rating for the diesel Titan XD is 12,314 pounds. That’s about 300+ pounds more than the Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado. In the payload department, the Titan XD is no standout but it’s no chump either. It’s rated to handle a max payload of 2,091 pounds, which is plenty for stuffing any number of dirt-loving toys in the bed of the truck. By comparison, the F-150 and the Silverado can each handle a bit more than that. The F-150 especially ramps up the payload capacity if you opt for the Heavy Duty Payload Package, which allows for a maximum of over 3,200 pounds.

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Back to towing for a moment though, as the Titan XD shines rather brightly here. Nissan have fitted the truck with a number of aids to make towing a breeze. Here’s a note about me: I have never really towed anything before. So when I was hopping behind the wheel of an unfamiliar truck hauling an unfamiliar 9,600-pound load, you could say I was bit… anxious. That feeling immediately drifted away, however, as the truck made short work of all that weight hanging out behind its rear axle. There was no sway, there was no drama, there was only movement in the direction I intended all of it to go.

The Titan XD is fitted with an integrated brake controller, but I didn’t test it out as the trailer used here just had surge brakes. Nissan have also integrated a gooseneck hitch into the bed of the truck. It hides behind three metal panels that are easily removed, and can then be stowed under a storage compartment beneath the rear seating area. To further aid in towing, the truck is also equipped with a system called DSC. No, it’s not stability control (as you’d guess on first reading those letters) but instead it stands for Downhill Speed Control. Even that name is a bit deceiving though, because it’s not just for going downhill. What this system does is basically provide the right gear or braking at the right time, be it uphill, downhill, or even on a flat road. It senses when it’s needed and how it’s needed based on a yaw control system that tells DSC at which angle the truck is traveling. If you’re going downhill, just give the brakes a touch and the truck will drop a gear. If you’re coming to a stop on level ground, the system pitches in to make it a drama free affair, and if you’re climbing a grade it will keep the truck moving smoothly and safely. For someone who’s never towed, this first shot at hauling was made quite easy, and that’s all you really want here.

There’s even more added to the truck to make it your new favorite towing rig. The rear camera can show you the centerline, the direction it’s heading, and exactly where the top of the hitch is sitting. The guidelines don’t cover the ball hitch, and you’ll even get an audible warning when the trailer tongue covers the hitch. Once you’ve done that, you can hop out and hook everything up. There’s no need for a spotter here to make sure all your lights are functioning either, as you can do that by holding down a button on the key fob. The truck will then cycle through brake lights and turn signals to show you that everything is working as it should.

2016 Nissan Titan XD Interior

Our particular test vehicles vacillated between a top-of-the-line Platinum and the off-road-minded PRO-4X. The image above shows you what to expect when you drop over $60,000 on a pickup truck. You’re most likely the boss of the crew, the head of a ranch, or just a dude with some bucks in Texas and you prefer a pickup to a Cadillac. Most of the surfaces are nice to the touch, with the exception of the faux wood trim. It both looks and feels cheap. The leather, however does not, as it’s meant to evoke the feeling of ones favorite hunting jacket. It’s top shelf cow skin, and it works rather well here.

The rest of the interior is familiar to anyone who’s been in a Nissan product lately. Everything is easy to reach, the nav screen graphics look dated, and the Zero Gravity seats are absolutely a joy to sit in. You’re going to be comfortable regardless of whether the trip ahead of you is 5 minutes or 500 miles. You can fit the truck with an optional Rockford Fosgate audio setup, which is nice if you like BASS BASS BASS IN YOUR FACE FACE FACE. It could use a tad bit more balance, and at this price point perhaps they could toss in the Bose Studio Surround system you can find in the Infiniti Q70.

2016 Nissan Titan XD

As great at towing as I found the Platinum, I was equally impressed with the off-road chops of the PRO-4X. Let me preface this, however, by saying that anyone wanting to take his or Titan off road should just wait for the standard Titan and the upcoming gas V8. I’ve heard it’s going to be a hot rod of a truck, and the smaller, lighter platform will be more suited to having fun in the dirt. That said, the Titan XD PRO-4X is equipped to handle more than I’d expect from such a large pickup. This trim adds Bilstein shocks, off-road rubber, an electronic locking rear differential, hill hold assist, and skid plates. There were many a dust-covered gravel-strewn trail to be found in the Arizona area around Scottsdale. This Titan XD tackled them like a Pro Bowl linebacker going after a Pop Warner quarterback.

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When the Titan XD heads to market, you’re going to be able to choose between the S, SV, PRO-4X, SL, and Platinum trims. The S will be your standard work truck and the SV is essentially an everyday base trim above the S, meaning it’s possessing of a few nicer creature comforts and you may actually be mad if you get a dent in the sheet metal. The PRO-4X is really the off-road version of your choice of the truck in SV or SL trims. The SL is considered the entry-level luxury version of the truck, and offers nearly the same amenities as the top of the hill. It’s the Platinum version though that commands all of your dollars, and returns the nicest cabin space.

Trucks aren’t cheap. The Titan XD certainly falls in line with the rest of the segment here, as a S Crew Cab 4×2 will set you back somewhere in the $40,000 range. Jump to a PRO-4X Crew Cab and you’re paying out over $50,000. If you happen to own the construction company rather than simply manage the site, you’ll have to shell out over $60,000 for the Platinum. Nissan hasn’t yet given specifics on pricing, but they’ve spelled out the general areas where various trim lines will fall.

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What Nissan is attempting to do is carve out its own niche in an extremely tough segment. Truck folks are very loyal to their beloved brands. Additionally, there’s the whole discussion of misplaced (and often incorrect) loyalty a truck buyer might feel because they think they’re buying American. It’s fine to want to buy a vehicle made in your own country, I get that. But you should know a bit more about what you’re talking about. Your Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, and Ram 1500 probably came (or had parts provided) from Mexico or Canada. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it puts a damper on your argument when you claim your truck was built here in ‘Murica. Especially when the Titan XD comes to life in Canton, Mississippi.

Even with all that, Nissan faces a tough road ahead with the truck. Folks know what they want, what they like, and this is something just a bit different. If they can catch just a bit of those who want a dash more than what a normal 1/2 ton can tow yet don’t need everything a 3/4 ton can do, then Nissan may have just made the truck for them.

[Disclaimer: Nissan flew me to Arizona and put me up in a lovely hotel. This was one of the nicer rooms in which I’ve watched cartoons.]

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  • I’ve been pointing out that this truck is not a new idea. Up until 2004 or so, a “25 series” truck had 8600 lb GVWR, which is the same rating as the new XD. Then, the old “35 series” single-rear-wheel trucks got relabeled to be “25 series” and the 8600-pounders were completely discontinued. Here, Nissan has simply resurrected an old truck style.

    I think this is a great idea, but I’m unsure the market will agree (it almost never agrees with me). The stiff springs in current HD trucks are often unsuitable for typical daily uses of consumer-owned trucks. The intermediate-compliance springs of old “25 series” trucks and the new XD are really in a Goldilocks position between insufficient capacity and intolerable ride.

    • There was a period where you could get a “1500HD” from GM that was 8-lug, on the HD chassis but (presumably) had much softer springs and maybe taller gears or something. I think you could get a Dodge MegaCab in “1500” trim, but again on the HD chassis (solid axle, etc).

      These days the high-spec “half tons” from GM and Ford are all rated similarly to this truck.

      I just have such a hard time believing in the longevity of the 6l60 transmission and 8.whatever” 10-bolt rearend that GM runs in their half tons.

      • Yeah, I omitted a lot of detail about that 2500/3500 evolution that I don’t remember and didn’t bother to look up. There was also the 7-lug F-250LD / F-150HD transition as well.

        I do know GM fairly well; the 1500HD had an 8600 lb GVWR and was a crew cab/short bed on a “2500” chassis. It was discontinued at the end of the GMT800 run (replaced by a nine-thousand-something pound CCSB 2500). The non-HD 2500-badged trucks (that is, 8600 lb GVWR) were discontinued at some point in the middle of the GMT800 era. The light-duty 8-lug axles are the 9.5, which is a semi-float axle. That’s what they put on my 3500 van–a 9600 lb GVWR application–so it’s probably OK if not overloaded. The trans would have been the 4L80-E.

        I checked on current truck specs. The heaviest 1500 GVWRs are “max tow” 4×4 models from Ford (7850 lb) and GM (7600 lb). The lightest 2500 GVWRs are the CCSB Ram at 9000 lb and the RCLB GMs at 9300 lb. The Nissan is aiming right between those two bins.

  • 1977ChevyTruck

    These trucks really do look brilliant. I normally don’t care for tech in vehicles, but the things you highlighted here actually look genuinely useful.

    I think they’ll sell quite well, especially with the Cummins. Not just because they typically make decent engines, but also because that chrome “C” itself is a fashion statement in these parts.

    I’ll be looking out for them on the road in the next few months.

    After that, I’ll be looking away from them, because those f****ing light bars that the rednecks insist on putting on their are blinding!

    • Citric

      I saw one of those light bars on some kind of CUV today, and may have audibly said “Why do you possibly need that?” to nobody who could hear me.

      • Because fun? I don’t know. I could only justify it if I drove off-road at night often, and I just don’t think that many people actually do so.
        http://i194.photobucket.com/albums/z313/ndrwhrnr/IMG_3983_zpsyjwyn6bl.jpg

        • Citric

          This was on a vehicle which, unlike that Tercel, has never been off road and probably never will be. I can’t remember the specific model off hand, but it was a definite soft roader on stock tires.

  • Ooh, automatic tranny with engine braking programmed in? That’d be a selling point for me. Driving an International 4300 for work has spoiled me for other, lesser transmissions that just coast when you let off the gas.

  • For years we were hearing about how Dodge/RAM were teaming up with Nissan on next-gen trucks, including a mid-spec Cummins motor. The bodywork on this truck looks really really similar to the new Dodges, as does the interior. The rear axle is the same AAM unit that the Dodges get.

    I’m really really curious about the development history of the vehicle we see here today. I suspect what we see here are the results of a lot of planned-to-be-shared designs that were established early on, then un-Dodged later in the game.

  • neight428

    It’s the perfect truck for the leisure time I wish I had. Towing cars to the track, dirt bikes out to the boonies and all manner of stuff around my property. Alas, my property is 1/6 acre in the ‘burbs best traversed pushing a lawnmower, my two dirt bikes are pedal powered and have three and training wheels on them, respectively, and my track car is imaginary.