The 2016 Nissan Titan XD is a new semi-heavy-duty pickup powered by a diesel engine and built on a totally new heavy-duty chassis. Equipped with a 5.0-liter Cummins that punches out 555 foot-pounds of torque, the Titan XD is rated to tow up to 12,300 pounds.
Titan XD rides more smoothly and costs less than the heavy-duty Chevy Silverado 2500, Ram 2500, and Ford F-250 Super Duty, but it’s more capable than the light-duty Silverado 1500, Ram 1500, and F-150.
Or at least that’s the idea behind it. We found it largely delivers on that promise.
The regular Titan has been redesigned for the 2017 model year, and while it looks like the Titan XD inside and out, their chassis have little in common with each other.
The heavy-duty Titan XD is built on a fully boxed, full-length ladder frame that is more robust than that of the standard, half-ton Titan. The XD was engineered to accommodate the larger, heavier diesel engine and to tow and haul heavier loads.
The Cummins 5.0-liter V8 turbo diesel engine that comes in the Titan XD is rated at 310 horsepower at 3200 rpm and 555 pound-feet of torque at 1600 rpm, that last figure particularly impressive and important for towing trailers.
Though it wears a Nissan badge, it isn’t completely accurate to call the Titan a Japanese truck. The Titan XD was designed in California and engineered in the U.S. The pickup is built in Mississippi, its Cummins V8 diesel engines assembled in Indiana.
Buyers of heavy-duty pickups often are pulling trailers that weigh 8,000-9,000 pounds, and the Titan XD comfortably handles them with its 12,000-pound towing capacity. Trailers are usually heavier than owners realize, Nissan says, and light-duty trucks, even those that tout 12,000-pound towing capacities, come with lesser brakes and chassis than what the Titan XD brings to the table. Nissan’s engineers say they believe in comfortable towing, and by comfortable they mean the kind of comfort that involves comfortably coming to a stop when something unexpected occurs and comfortably managing a strong crosswind so the tail doesn’t start wagging the dog uncomfortably.
The Titan XD’s four-wheel ventilated disc brakes are substantially larger than those on light-duty pickups. Its towing equipment includes an integrated trailer brake controller, trailer sway control, Tow/Haul mode with downhill speed control, trailer light check system, rearview camera with trailer guides and other cameras pointing every which way.
The 5.0-liter Cummins engine smoothly delivers strong torque, the truck is poised, the brakes feel reassuringly powerful, the crew cab is comfortable front and rear, everything is easy to operate. It’s a nice truck.
We found the Titan XD ride quality a bit easier than that of the heavy-duty pickups, such as the Ford F-250 and F-350 and Ram 3500, but firmer than the light-duty trucks, such as the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500. The Titan XD ride seems closer to that of the heavy-duty trucks, which are all better than they were just three years ago. Compared with the Titan XD, the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, Silverado 1500 and Sierra 1500 all ride like they are on clouds.
In back-to-back driving in a Titan XD and Ram 1500 with the Ecodiesel V6, the Ram felt smoother and more refined, while the Titan felt more prepared to go off road or pull a heavy trailer. Those are seat-of-the-pants impressions. We have not towed with the Titan XD but after driving one for a week have no doubt as to its towing capability.
Tow ratings for the Titan XD range from 10,608 to 12,314 pounds. A Ram 1500 with a 5.7-liter V8 has a maximum tow rating of 10,620 pounds, with most models rated for less than that. Titan XD can be set up to tow a gooseneck trailer literally in a couple of minutes.
In back-to-back driving in a Titan XD and a Ford F-350, the Titan XD rode a bit easier, its softer springs a benefit with an empty bed, though perhaps not as much as might be expected because the ride of the dually not being as bad as imagined. Low speeds on rough neighborhood streets and back roads is where the heavy-duty pickups are the most painful and where the light-duty trucks most noticeably shine. Our Titan XD rode on 20-inch wheels; the standard 17- or 18-inch wheels with taller tires should in theory ride better.
Yet the Ford F-250, Ram 2500, Silverado 2500 and Sierra 2500 all bring a bit more stability to the towing effort, and the 3500 versions bring still more. While we believe the Titan XD is plenty stable, we doubt it is as stable at high speeds and in high winds as the 2500-series heavy-duty trucks, which in turn are not quite as stable as the 3500-series trucks. Like speed, stability costs money, so you have to decide how stable you want to be and that’s related to the side and weight of the trailer, geography and other factors.
That said, the Titan XD will handle what many heavy-duty pickup owners need without having to pay for engineering capable of pulling 20,000 pounds. Assuming the Titan XD will serve the buyer’s needs, it seems to come down to whether the Nissan makes sense from a pricing standpoint.
The 2016 Nissan Titan XD comes with the Cummins diesel engine.
Titan XD’s front seats are comfortable. Titan XD Platinum Reserve seats are upholstered in leather that looks and feels feels good.
The crew cab’s back seats are nearly as comfortable, with plenty of headroom, legroom, knee room and hip room.
Climbing into the Titan XD takes effort, however, especially if running boards are not used. Step-in height is a couple of inches higher than that of a Ram, according to our measuring tape, but it feels like a mile. From the driver’s seat, the Titan hood seems higher than that of other trucks.
Titan XD is an attractive truck with a big chrome grille. Titan’s styling seems to make it look smaller than the domestic-brand full-size pickups. Park them closer to one another, however, and Titan looks just as large. In fact, it is about the same width as the other full-size pickups.
Likewise, at 77.9 inches, or taller for the upper models, the Titan XD is roughly an inch taller than a Ford F-150 and nearly three inches taller than a Ram 1500. Two- and four-wheel versions of the Titan XD are the same, barring tire differences.
All Titan XDs are crew cabs, ride on a 151.6-inch wheelbase, and have 5.5-foot beds. Maximum payload capacity is 2000 pounds, and the Titan XD can handle a snowplow, though a manual transmission is not available.
Lights mounted low in the bed illuminate the contents, even when a bed cover is installed. A rail system in addition to traditional tie-downs make securing cargo easier. The tail gate is damped and opens smoothly and lowers easily instead of slamming down with a thud.
The Cummins diesel fires up quickly, even on cold mornings, by pressing a start button after inserting a traditional key. The 5.0-liter V8 diesel is heard as a pleasant rumble at idle from the cabin with the windows up and is felt through the seat as a slight purr. From outside the truck, an almost-imagined clatter can be heard, a confident, satisfying sound, but not loud like the 5.9-liter Cummins inline-six engines in early Rams. It is smaller than the diesel engines in the heavy-duty pickups but larger and more powerful than the light-duty diesels.
The Cummins V8 feels smooth and sophisticated and responds to the pedal with strong torque. A clever two-stage turbocharger setup means it’s ready for either quick acceleration performance or effortless cruising with no lag to throttle changes, which makes it an enjoyable driving companion. It feels precise at steady throttle, purring up a steep grade like a roller coaster train cranking up the first big hill. By heavy-duty pickup standards, the Titan XD steers and handles nicely.
A column shifter is used for the heavy-duty Aisin six-speed automatic, with a rotary dial for 2WD, 4H, and 4LO. Seats and steering wheel are power-adjustable. The navigation screen is on the small side but the rearview camera works well. A driver information center appears in the instrument cluster than can initially be challenging to figure out.
A movement-detection system beeps to alert the driver when someone walks up close to the truck. A DEF gauge allows the driver to monitor levels of diesel exhaust fluid, an improvement over a warning light; DEF can be found at truck stops and convenience stores.
The Titan XD suspension uses double wishbones and coil springs in front with a rigid axle and leaf springs with twin-tube shocks in the rear. The springs are hefty to tow and haul more effectively than light-duty, though softer than what’s used on the true heavy-duty pickups to reduce ride harshness when empty. An electronic locking rear differential is available, useful in mud.
The Titan XD comes prepared for towing a gooseneck trailer. It takes less than two minutes to pop out the plugs in the bed, plug in the ball, and hook in the chain anchors. Then, back up to the gooseneck trailer and a camera guides the setup. Pressing a button on the dash switches off the parking alerts. Pressing a button on the key fob initiates a trailer-light sequence, allowing the driver to walk behind the trailer and watch as the system cycles through the turn signals, brake lights and running lights to ensure everything is working correctly, a useful safety feature. The only thing that’s easier is hooking up a conventional bumper-pull trailer where the rearview camera has been redesigned to be a more effective aid.
The mirrors are relatively small but effective, stacked with the convex mirror below the flat mirror. They can be extended manually, by standing outside the truck and yanking on them, neither as convenient nor as effective as the big, power-extendable mirrors on the Ford Super Duty. The flat mirrors automatically tilt when reverse is selected, sometimes more hindrance than help.
Some buyers need more capability than light-duty but don’t want to pay for the off-the-chart capability of heavy-duty. The Titan XD is an alternative for them. And that’s exactly what Nissan had in mind when it produced this truck.
The EPA does not rate heavy-duty pickups, including the Titan XD. We saw 16.7 miles per gallon on a 14-mile drive that was two-thirds rural roads, one-third 70-mph Interstate. A Ram with the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 and two-wheel drive got 22.3 mpg on the same run back to back and is EPA-rated at 23 mpg Combined, or 20/28 mpg City/Highway. Nissan estimates the Cummins diesel will be 20-percent more efficient than comparable gasoline engines when towing.
The Titan XD is a compelling alternative for semi-heavy pulling power, a small gooseneck horse trailer, a car trailer, a camper or a boat. If you rarely or never tow heavy trailers, then you probably would be better served by the regular Titan or one of the other light-duty pickups.
Driving impressions by Mitch McCullough, editor, New Car Test Drive.