When I last reviewed the Nissan Titan, I wrote the following,”Competitively and comparatively speaking, the Nissan Titan is a laggard.” I wouldn’t call that a ringing endorsement and here’s why: Ford, Chevy, and Ram so dominate the truck landscape that the Titan was always an afterthought.
Want proof? Ford sold more than 780,000 F-Series trucks last year. Chevy added another 600,000+ Silverado models to the mix while Ram sold more than 411,000 trucks. Meanwhile, Nissan sold exactly 12,140 Titans in 2015.
It was never a fair fight and after years trying, Nissan decided to battle for market share in the margins. They’ve discovered a niche or specialized market that lives between the half-ton trucks (think Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado 1500) and the 3/4-ton heavy-duty trucks like the Ford F-250 and Ram 2500.
It’s the Nissan Titan XD and its known as a 5/8-ton pickup truck. That means it sits between light and heavy-duty and appeals to a limited audience. Will the strategy pay off for Nissan? Time will tell, but it’s easy to identify five reasons to give this unique truck a close look.
Reason #1: Nissan Titan XD is big and bold
The first thing you should know about the Nissan Titan XD is that it is huge. My test model featured a full-size crew cab that comfortably seated five passengers. Plus, unlike most trucks that feature a full-size cab but a short bed, the XD Crew features a full bed and stretches to 20-feet long. Make sure you have at least 20 spare feet in your garage before you buy the largest XD model. And it’s big everywhere. The long hood overhang at the front of the truck makes this a big and tall truck from every angle and ideally suited for owners who shop at the neighborhood Big and Tall shop. My test model included running boards that made it possible for my kids to climb into the cab without the need of a vaulting pole.
The design is solid, strong and bold. It looks and feels like a heavy-duty truck and the design was enough to inspire compliments from strangers who boldly asked if I liked this new Nissan truck and how it compared to Fords and Chevys. It generates interest. If it generates buyers is a secondary question.
Reason #2: Cummins turbo diesel V8
For now, only a single engine is available on the Titan XD: a Cummins 5.0-liter turbo diesel V8 that makes 310 horsepower and a burly 555 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm. That configuration is matched to a six-speed automatic and you can choose either rear or four-wheel drive.
It’s not fast. Estimates peg 0 to 60 times at around 9 seconds or slower. But you’re not choosing this car for speed or off-road chops. This is a work truck and that diesel engine delivers the capability to tow more than 12,000 pounds when properly equipped. You can also drop more than 2,000 pounds in the bed of the truck and go to work. That’s more than you’ll get from a light-duty truck and less than what you’ll find in a heavy-duty truck. Again, the Nissan Titan XD fills a void that previously went ignored.
The turbo diesel engine actually uses two-stage turbocharger that promises to reduce turbo lag and deliver power the moment you need it. Again, this isn’t a fast truck, yet turbo lag never bothered me or my passengers.
Official fuel economy scores are not available or required for big trucks but I traveled more than 350 miles and averaged 16.5 mpg. Most of the miles were on the highway. Is that fuel-economy score good enough for you? Perhaps. I’ve averaged 28 mpg in highway driving a Ram EcoDiesel truck. Though the Ram EcoDiesel is less powerful and less capable than the Titan XD, it’s another truck that is well worth your time and consideration.
Reason #3: Mostly smooth around town and on the highway
You’ll never forget you’re driving a large truck when you’re behind the wheel of the Titan XD. Just try to park in a crowded shopping mall lot to generate immediate appreciation for small-truck dynamics. Yet I found the big XD easy to drive on a daily basis. The ride was mostly smooth though some expansion joints on one stretch of highway were perfectly matched to the wheel length of the truck and made the ride continuously jittery for a few miles. Otherwise, the truck was as easy to handle as any other 20-foot truck.
One impressive fact about this new engine is that it’s surprisingly quiet. Though I was driving a diesel, it was the truck itself that turned heads instead of the obnoxious rattle of some other diesel engines I won’t mention. Insulation keeps any residual racket outside the cabin, and that’s a good thing and creates a feeling of calm confidence that isn’t native to every diesel truck.
Reason #4: Near-luxury interior and logical layout
The Nissan Titan XD Platinum model I tested sits at the high end of Nissan truck land. Wood-toned panels, black, soft-touch materials and dark chrome are highlights of an interior that feels more like a luxury car than a working truck. The seats feature Nissan’s Zero Gravity design and were comfortable on a three-hour drive. They’re also water-resistant, which proved useful when snow fell from the roof and covered the seats when I opened the front door. It brushed off easily.
One difference between the XD and most other trucks is that it dispenses with the traditional stick common to Ford and Chevy trucks or dial shifter found in Ram trucks and instead uses a column shifter. That’s the kind of shifter that hangs off the steering column and is rarely seen these days. It instantly reminded me of the Ford Country Squire station wagon I used to learn how to drive. The column placement is a smart choice, however, because it frees useful space in the center console and Nissan wisely designed that space to accommodate a small laptop computer. Since many XD owners will use the truck as a mobile office, it’s a smart and useful feature.
The heated and cooled front seats are a nice touch, too. I used both during my week driving the truck as Utah’s weather turned from warm spring conditions to spring blizzard overnight. The heated steering wheel was also a welcome reward for cold hands, though it almost became too hot to hold at random moments.
I used Bluetooth to stream audio and make phone calls. I spun the standard dials to find my favorite satellite radio stations. All the tech features worked easily and as expected. Compared to the last time I tested a Nissan Titan that featured a remarkably basic interior, the Titan XD felt like a major upgrade.
Reason #5: Excellent safety features
As you might expect, all 2016 Nissan Titan XD trucks come with essential standard features like antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, front and side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. If you choose the Pro-4X, SL and Platinum Reserve models, a rearview camera is also standard.
My test model included Nissan’s Around View Monitor, which makes perfect sense on a truck of this size since it creates a 360-degree view of your surroundings and generates a great deal of confidence as your back out of a parking spot or your driveway. Most important, it increases the visibility of small bikes or kids who are nearly invisible behind or by the sides of the truck without it. It’s a must-have upgrade on Pro-4X models and standard on the Platinum Reserve.
Crash test ratings are not available, but given this truck’s sheer size and the way gravity works, it should do a good job of protecting you in an accident.
A unique truck for a specific buyer
This new truck and represents a new era for Nissan. The base Titan XD S starts at $40,290 while the high-end Nissan Titan XD Platinum Reserve starts at $57,470. With options, my well-equipped model topped $63,000.
A more conventional Titan half-ton pickup will appear later this year. Until then, buyers will need to decide if a 5/8-ton truck is exactly what they need. If they find themselves in that unique niche, Nissan may have the perfect truck.
2016 Nissan Titan XD photo copyright Waterdog Media, Inc.