Straddling the middle is no easy thing — but that’s what Nissan hopes to do with its new Titan XD.
It is tougher — in terms of the beefiness of its frame, the grunt of its engines (including a standard gas V8, with a turbodiesel V8 available optionally) and its ability to pull and push more than a light-duty 1500 series pick-up (like the previous Titan) but not quite as much of a handful to deal with as a heavy-duty 2500 or 3500 series pick-up.
Not everyone needs a dually — or the ability to pull 18,000 pounds (which is about what the Ram 2500 turbodiesel can pull).
The bad news — arguably, the stupid news — is that Nissan is only selling this thing in Crew Cab configuration. And only with a 6.5 foot bed.
Which is an obvious deficit, no matter how much it can tow.
Also, its max tow rating — 12,300 lbs. with the optional diesel V8 — isn’t that much higher than the max tow ratings of either the Ford F150 (12,200 lbs. when equipped with the optional twin-turbo 3.5 liter gas V6) or the Chevy Silverado 1500 (12,000 lbs. when equipped with the optional 6.2 liter gas V8).
However, the Titan does out-tow them all with its standard gas V8.
All the 1500s — except the Toyota Tundra — come standard with V6s and much lower standard tow ratings. And even the V8 Tundra (with its top-of-the-line optional V8) can’t match the pulling power of the gas V8-powered Titan XD (11,270 lbs. vs. 10,500 lbs. for the Toyota).
So while the diesel is getting most of the press, it’s the gas-engined Tundra XD that may make the most sense.
WHAT IT IS
The Titan XD is a new take on Nissan big trucks. It’s bigger and beefier than the previous Titan (no XD) and offers as an option a turbo-diesel V8 engine that can pull up to 12,300 lbs. — outclassing the max tow rating of currently available 1500 series trucks (though its maximum capacity is well below what 2500 and 3500 series trucks can handle).
It comes only in crew cab (four door) configuration and only with a 6.5 foot bed, though Nissan may — and hopefully, will — expand the cab/bed configurations later in the model year.
Base price is $35,290 for a 2WD 4×2 S trim with a 390 hp 5.6 liter gas V8; adding 4WD puts the MSRP at $38,290.
With the optional 310 hp (and 555 ft.-lbs. of torque) Cummins diesel V8, the MSRP is $40,290 with 2WD and $43,290 with part-time 4WD.
The most expensive version is the Platinum Reserve with the Cummins diesel and 4WD. It lists for $60,520.
This pricing structure puts the Titan XD to the right of the Toyota Tundra CrewMax — which starts at $33,270 ($34,970 with the step-up 5.6 liter V8 in place of the standard 4.6 V8) and the Ford F150 Supercrew with 6.6 bed, which stickers for $34,165 to start. You can add the twin-turbo 3.5 liter Ecoboost V6 (and 12,200 pound max tow rating) to this truck for an additional $1,515 — bringing the sticker price to $35,680 or just a couple hundred bucks more than the MSRP of the base trim Titan with the gas V8 and an 11,270 lb. max tow rating.
But the Nissan costs thousands less — and tows more — when equipped with the hunky diesel V8 than a Chevy Silverado 1500 crew cab equipped with the optional 6.2 liter V8 and 6.6 foot bed, which stickers for $46,705 to start in LTZ trim.
A Dodge Ram 2500 Mega Cab with the optional 6.7 liter Cummins turbodiesel six tows more — but costs a lot more: $50,420 to start in SLT trim.
The Titan XD is all-new.
The regular Titan (no XD) is on vacation for the 2016 model year. It will reappear in fall as a 2017 model.
Burly towing capability with the standard gas V8 engine; competitive price vs. lighter-duty 1500s.
Available heavy-duty diesel pulling power — without the clunky ride and handling that’s typical of 2500 and 3500 series pick-ups.
Factory-installed integrated gooseneck trailer hitch.
Sensible column shifter for the transmission (maybe not as “sporty” as a console-mounted shifter but it de-clutters the center console).
Rear seat bottoms can be folded out of the way to make more room for cargo inside the cabin.
Removable “Titan box” bed storage system for hauling ice (and beverages) or tools or whatever… and you can take it out of the bed when you’re not in order to haul more things in the bed.
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
Heavier — and slower — than 1500 series trucks.
Not as burly as 2500 series trucks.
Diesel-powered Titan’s tow rating isn’t that tremendous vs. what’s available in several 1500s.
Fuel tank is just 26 gallons (Ram 2500 carries 31).
Uncle’s emissions rigmarole requires regular DEF top-offs.
Crew cab (and 6.5 foot bed) configuration only.
UNDER THE HOOD
The Titan XD comes with your pick of gas or diesel V8 power — unlike the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado and Dodge Ram, which start out with V6s. The Toyota Tundra comes standard with a V8 — but doesn’t offer a diesel option. The Ram 1500 is available with a diesel — but it’s not a V8.
Score one, Nissan.
The Nissan’s gas V8 — standard equipment — is an uprated version of the 5.6 liter V8 used in the previous Titan 1500 but making 390 hp now vs. 317 hp before. It is paired with an also-new seven-speed automatic (two more gears than the previous Titan’s five-speed automatic) and your choice of 2WD or part-time 4WD with two-speed transfer case and Low range gearing.
The Titan thus starts out with more engine — and not surprisingly — boasts more standard pulling power: 11,270 pounds.
To beat that in a Ford F-150, you will have to move up three engines — from the base 3.5 V6, past the next-up 2.7 liter V6, passing over the available 5.0 V8, to the top-of-the-line 3.5 liter twin-turbo “EcoBoost” V6, which can pull 12,200 lbs.
It’s a similar story over at the Chevy store.
The Silverado’s base V6 doesn’t cut the mustard; neither does the next-up 5.3 liter V8. To match — to slightly beat — the Titan, you have to buy the top-of-the-line 6.2 V8, which can pull 12,000 lbs. But unlike Ford — which offers the 3.5 Ecoboost V6 and 12,200 lb. tow rating in less expensive trims — Chevy only sells the 6.2 V8 in the higher-cost trims.
Dodge and Toyota can’t hang, regardless of what’s under the hood. The best the Tundra can do — with its top-of-the-line 5.7 V8 (a 4.6 V8 is standard) is 10,500 lbs.
The V8 (gas) Ram 1500 is the same (lesser) league: 10,620. Its available diesel V6 pulls 9,210 lbs.
Optional in the Titan XD is a DOHC 5.0 liter Cummins turbo-diesel V8 that ups the towing ante to 12,300 pounds. This engine — which makes 310 hp and 555 ft.-lbs. of torque at 1,600 RPM — is paired with a heavy-duty Aisin six-speed automatic with tow/haul mode and a standard 3.92 rear axle ratio.
The Cummins block looks like aluminum, but it’s actually a special type of lightweight cast iron called compacted graphite iron. The heads are conventional cast aluminum.
Unfortunately, even though the Titan is in a weight class of truck that used to be exempt from (or at least, subject to less strict) emissions requirements, it’s not anymore. Uncle is going after the bigger rigs, too. Which is why the diesel Titan has both a particulate filter and the dreaded DEF tank, which must be topped off periodically. A dashboard light comes on to nag you about this — and if you ignore it long enough, the engine will go into a “limp home” mode until you do as Uncle demands and top off the DEF tank (filler right next to the fuel filler).
Regardless, the Titan can pull.
It’s just not very quick.
Even the gas version — notwithstanding its solid hp numbers. Because of its weight numbers. Being a heavy-duty truck, the Titan XD is also a heavyweight: 6,005 lbs. for the 2WD version (6,276 for the 4WD). For a sense of this, the previous Titan 1500 weighed just 4,847 lbs. for the 2WD version and a comparatively svelte 5,549 lbs. for the 4WD version.
Not surprisingly, it takes longer to accelerate to 60.
A lot longer.
About 9.3 seconds — vs. as quick as 6.4 seconds for the F-150 (with the mid-range 2.7 twin turbo V8 and a stunning 5.9 seconds for the 6.2 liter-equipped Silverado.
Uncle doesn’t publish mileage stats for trucks in the Titan XD’s weight class, but I averaged mid-low teens driving a diesel-powered 4WD around for a week. The gas-engined version will probably give you about the same mileage — its lesser inherent efficiency (as a gas engine) crutched somewhat by its new and very efficient seven-speed transmission.
So why didn’t Nissan put the new seven-speed box behind the Cummins diesel? Two reasons: It probably could not handle the torque output of the diesel V8 — or the loads it would be expected to be bear.
Side note: As mentioned up above, Nissan gave the Titan XD a comparatively small fuel tank — just 26 gallons. This makes the thing seem thirstier than it really is. Other big trucks offer larger tanks — or even dual tanks — which greatly extends their range in between pit stops.
ON THE ROAD
Well, it’s a behemoth. Twenty feet and change (242.7 inches) long, almost seven feet (77.9 inches) tall and riding on a wheelbase (151.6 inches) that’s almost long enough to swallow an entire Versa Note sedan (163.7 inches).
But — except in close quarters — it is a manageable behemoth.
The ride quality is as pleasant as the Urban Cowboy 1500s — and much better than the real cowboy 2500s, which almost have to be that way (harder-riding) in order to be capable of doing the things they can do (like pull almost 18,000 pounds). You can only do so much with so much unsprung mass.
The Titan’s body-on-frame (with rubber biscuits in between) construction — typical of heavy-duty trucks — also helps dissipate the dissonance that would otherwise intrude.
It’s only when maneuvering in close quarters that the scale of the aptly-named Titan becomes apparent.
Turning radius is almost 54 feet (53.8 to be exact) and to put that in perspective, a Versa’s turning circle is 34.8 feet. Granted, that’s an apples-orange comparison — but it gets the point across.
You almost need tugs to line this thing up for a parking spot and negotiating city streets with cars parked on either side (and other cars coming at you from the other direction) can be entertaining. At least you’re bigger — so the cars coming the other way usually defer and do the backing up.
At idle the diesel burbles just enough to let you (and others) know it is a diesel. It does not, however, feel particularly strong. Its numbers are good — 555 ft.-lbs. of torque at 1,600 RPM is very decent — but it’s also nowhere close to the axle-twisting rotational force of something truly hairy like the Ram 2500’s Cummins 6.7 turbo-diesel, which metes out a Kenworth-level 800 ft.-lbs. of torque.
“Neck snapping” doesn’t quite capture it.
The Nissan/Cummins diesel’s chief virtue is its easygoing pulling power. It doesn’t feel like it could wrench a double-wide off its cement blocks like the Ram 2500 does (and could) but it also doesn’t feel at all winded pulling a 10,000 pound-plus load (which I did). Read Ford forums and you’ll find many complaints about the real-world performance of the Ecoboost 3.5 V6 when tasked with pulling serious weight — its advertised capacity notwithstanding.
The Chevy Silverado with the 6.2 V8 is probably the Titan XD’s biggest worry as that hero of a V8 makes almost as much torque (460 ft.-lbs.) as the Nissan/Cummins diesel and much more hp (420). However, as noted earlier, Chevy will only sell you the heroic 6.2 in expensive trims with result being you’ll spend thousands more than you would to get into a diesel-powered Titan XD.
The gas V8 offers a bit more pep at the expense of some pull. But you can still pull a lot, even so (see above) and the economics of this version of the Titan XD are pretty compelling unless you really do need to regularly pull a load that weighs over 11,000 pounds.
AT THE CURB
The biggest shortcoming of full-size Japanese trucks has always been the limited choices they offer (vs. American-brand full-size trucks) when it comes to cab/bed configurations.
The Titan XD doubles down on this pattern by offering no choices at all.
It’s the crew cab (four full-size doors) and 6.5 foot bed, take it or leave it.
I suspect a lot of potential buyers will leave it.
It’s frustrating to see an otherwise appealing truck — a really solid effort — hurt by a corporate decision to ignore the needs of people who want less cab and more bed. Or the reverse.
The Ford F150, the Chevy Silverado 1500, the Ram 1500 — even the Toyota Tundra — can be had in regular cab, extended cab or crew cab form, with various bed lengths to suit.
Ditto all the 2500 series trucks currently on the market.
The Titan XD stands alone, insolently — a kind of 4×4 soup Nazi.
Right off the bat, Nissan has put this truck at a competitive disadvantage. I, for example, would be interested in a regular or extended cab Titan XD. But I am not interested in the crew cab because I don’t have a crew. And I’d rather have an eight-foot bed instead.
Or even just less length.
When I characterized the Titan XD as a behemoth, I was using that word with deliberate precision. It is longer overall (and not by a little) than all the other major players: 242.7 inches vs. 228.9 for the Toyota Tundra crew cab (which to be fair has a shorter 5.6 foot bed, but still) 231.9 inches for the Ford F-150 Super Crew, 237.9 inches for the Ram 1500 crew cab and 239.6 inches for the Silverado crew cab.
The Nissan is also longer than the 2500 series crew cab versions of the F-truck (232.4 inches) and Silverado (239.5 inches) and nearly as long as the Greatest Kahuna of them all, the Ram 2500 MegaCab (248.4 inches).
Suffice to say, it’s a whole lotta truck.
Maybe too much truck for some.
And for others, perhaps not enough.
The shorty bed, for instance — although this can be crutched somewhat by dropping the tailgate and using (after buying) the available tubular extender cage to keep stuff from leaving the bed. But it’s not the same as having an eight-foot bed.
You also have to pay extra for a factory-applied, sprayed-on bed liner. Ditto a receiver hitch and wiring harness for your trailer.
You can, however, get things — like an integrated gooseneck trailering system — not available (or advisable) in lighter-duty 1500 series trucks.
An integrated trailer brake system is also available and the bed can be ordered with neat-o features such as Nissan’s “Titan box” storage system (these can be removed or left in place as your needs of the moment dictate) and a folding step ladder to get in the bed (tall walls).
An available Advanced Drive Assist off-road display shows the truck’s (and terrain’s) forward, rearward and lateral tilt. You can get an electric-locking tailgate — and a factory bed tent, too.
It’s about a $5k jump to go from the gas V8 Titan XD ($35,290 for the 2WD version) to the same truck with the diesel V8 ($40,290).
Is it worth it?
On the one hand, the gas-engined Titan makes a persuasive case for itself (excepting the limited cab/bed configurations). As it sits, it’s much stouter than any 1500 unless you ante up those trucks with their optional (and higher-cost) engines and even then, they’re inherently lighter duty in terms of their construction.
On the other hand, the diesel pulls even more — and while it doesn’t pull all that much (on paper) than the max-effort versions of the F-150 and Silverado 1500, those are when all is said and done gassers — and gassers will never have the grunt (and probably not the long-haul durability) you’ll get with a diesel.
Still, if I’d been The Decider over at Nissan, I’d have made the diesel V8 gruntier. Maybe 650 ft.-lbs. of torque. To put some more distance between it and gas V8s like the Silverado’s 6.2 — and to get a little closer to diesel sixes like the Ram 2500’s 6.7 liter Cummins.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s by far the toughest Japanese-made (though made in the USA) truck yet.
But it’d be nice if they made it in more than just the one configuration.
*** Photo courtesy of Caricos