Nissan never fully understood the rules with competing in the full-size truck marketplace. They had most of the basics with the choice of two different cab styles, range of trims, and a powerful V8 engine. But Nissan forgot one key rule about trucks; constant improvements will keep you in the spotlight. If you don’t believe this, just look at the Detroit three and their pickups. Every year, it seems one of them introduces new feature or improvement that will catapult them into the spotlight. It could be a new engine option, larger towing numbers, or an improved interior.
Nissan never did that. Throughout the lifecycle of the first-generation Titan, the Japanese automaker only made minor changes. The biggest one of note was a revised interior toward the end of the 2000s. But with Nissan not making constant improvement or changes, the Titan fell to the back of the pack in a number of key areas such as towing and fuel economy. In 2014, Nissan only moved 12,527 Titan trucks. That largely trailed the Detroit three and even the Toyota Tundra.
- Ford F-Series: 753,851*
- Chevrolet Silverado*: 529,755*
- Ram Pickup: 439,789*
- GMC Sierra: 211,833*
- Toyota Tundra: 118,493
*Includes light and heavy duty trucks.
The company isn’t giving up on the full-size truck market. Late last year, Nissan introduced the Titan XD. This model is said to provide the towing numbers and stability of a heavy duty truck, while having the maneuverability of a light-duty truck. The truck also features the brand’s first diesel engine. Later this year, Nissan will introduce a fully-redesigned Titan that will fix a number of the issues from the previous-generation model. That includes the choice of both a V6 and V8 engine, and a range of bed and cab configurations. It should be noted that the Titan and Titan XD don’t share much in terms of mechanical bits.
We spent a week with a Titan XD to see if Nissan has a real chance of making any inroads in the full-size truck marketplace.
Disclaimer: The Titan XD tested for this review is a pre-production model.
The bad news for some buyers is that you can’t get the Titan XD in an extended cab or with a longer bed. On one hand, Nissan might be on to something as many heavy duty trucks come in a crew cab configuration with a short bed. But limiting the configuration to just one style limits the appeal.
Nissan has put a lot of work into the Titan XD’s bed to make it one of the most capable in the class. It begins with a dampened tailgate that makes it easier to open and close it. The bed itself comes with integrated tie-downs to help secure cargo and integrated LED lighting to make it easier to load or unload whenever it is dark. In the middle of the bed is an integrated gooseneck tow hitch that allows the Titan XD to tow even more types of trailers such fifth-wheel RVs.
Getting into the Titan XD’s interior is slightly difficult due to the tall ride height. Entry rails are an option and one we would highly recommend getting. Otherwise, it is the perfect way to train for the Olympic high jump. Once you get inside, you’ll find an interior that isn’t special in terms of design. At least Nissan got the basics right with a large amount of soft-touch materials and contrasting trim pieces. Controls are large and within easy reach for both driver and passenger. The interior featured no squeaks or rattles, impressive for a pre-production model.
Depending on trim, the Titan XD will seat either five or six people. Our Pro-4X tester came with seating for five. Getting yourself comfortable up front is very easy thanks to optional power adjustments for the seats and steering wheel. The back seat is very spacious with plenty of head and legroom for up to three passengers. Storage is impressive with an expansive center console and lockable storage bins under the rear seats. Nissan also made the lids of the storage bins fold out to provide a flat surface for carrying items in the back.
Our tester came fitted with the optional seven-inch touchscreen with the NissanConnect infotainment system. Despite being one of the newer systems in the marketplace, the interface looks like it came from the Windows 95 era. At least moving around the system isn’t a big issue with large touch points and buttons on either side taking you to various functions. The screen Nissan uses for the infotainment system isn’t the best as it easily washes out in sunlight.
Despite what numbers say for the diesel V8, it doesn’t feel fast. Acceleration can be described as leisurely as most of the engine’s power is used to overcome the Titan XD’s heft - 7,257 pounds in the case of our tester. Much like the Ram 2500 Power Wagon I drove a few months back, the diesel engine sounds like you’re going fast, but you’re not. One other disappointment with the diesel V8 is how noisy it is. Compared to other diesel trucks, the 5.0L V8 sounds like a Peterbilt truck at idle. Despite Nissan’s efforts with using double-pane glass and sound-deadening material, a fair amount of engine noise comes in. The six-speed automatic is the bright spot in the Titan XD as it delivers smooth shifts.
In terms of fuel economy, we recorded an average of 17.6 with most driving taking place in urban environments. Don’t expect any EPA fuel economy numbers as the Titan XD is exempt thanks to its gross vehicle weight sitting above 8,500 pounds.
Nissan is promoting towing as one of the key strengths of the Titan XD and on paper, it seems there is a good case for it. When properly equipped, the Titan XD can tow up to 12,314 pounds when using a tow hitch and 12,160 pounds with a gooseneck hitch. But when you compare it to light-duty trucks, the Titan XD holds a slim advantage. Here is a table outlining the tow ratings of Ford, GM, and Ram trucks when equipped with their optional engines.
As the table shows, both the F-150 and Silverado/Sierra 1500 (when equipped with Max Tow Package) can trounce the Titan XD when equipped with 5.6L Endurance V8. But when equipped with the 5.0L Turbodiesel V8, only the F-150 comes close by about 400 pounds. The Silverado and Sierra 1500 can cut that gap to around 300 pounds, but you'll need an optional tow package. The Titan XD can also tow with a gooseneck hitch from the factory, something that none of the light-duty trucks can say. Plus, the Titan XD is said to provide a more secure feeling when towing a heavy trailer. We can’t really say if that one is true or not since we didn’t get the chance to tow with the truck.
The Titan XD’s ride is up there with the Ram 1500 in terms of ride quality. No matter the road surface, the Titan XD was able to provide a smooth ride. Around corners, the Titan XD feels planted in terms of the suspension. The steering is another matter. When the steering wheel was dead center, we found we could turn the wheel a few degrees and the truck would still go straight. We also found the steering to be very light and not having much feel. This didn’t give us the confidence that we were in control or able to maneuver the truck easily in tight spaces. It was a good thing our tester featured Nissan’s around-view camera system which made maneuvering a bit easier.
In terms of the Titan XD’s pricing, Nissan undercuts most heavy-duty trucks except the Ford F-250 when it comes to models equipped with the gas engine. When it comes to diesel option, the Titan XD’s undercuts them all.
Some of the issues we can chalk up to this Titan XD being a pre-production model. But when we talked with a couple of folks who have driven production models, they said the steering still felt somewhat light. We hope Nissan can work some of these issues out.
I really don’t feel comfortable giving a full verdict on the 2016 Nissan Titan XD at the moment, mostly due to this being a pre-production model and the issues I had with the steering. I am considering doing a re-test of the Titan XD at a later date to see if these issues were only with the pre-production model or not.
That said, I do have some impressions on the truck. Nissan is trying something different with the XD by trying to fit in between the light and heavy-duty trucks and I have to applaud them for this. Trying to do something different in a highly competitive marketplace could lure in some buyers. But it also could backfire. For one, truck buyers are the most brand loyal of any vehicle type. Trying to draw someone away from a brand they have been with is a difficult task. Making it even tougher is where Nissan has placed the Titan XD. How do you convince someone who is looking at either a light-duty or heavy-duty that the truck they want is in between? You could use towing, but as we showed, the advantage is with the diesel V8 and it is slim one compared to certain models. You could say it is more stable when towing. But in that case, why not get a heavy-duty that provides that along with higher tow ratings? The only case we could make it for it would be in terms of pricing.
Nissan may have put themselves between a rock and hard place with the XD.
Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Titan XD, Insurance, and One Tank of Diesel
Model: Titan XD
Engine: Cummins 5.0L Turbodiesel V8
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 310 @ 3,200
Torque @ RPM: 555 @ 1,600
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - N/A
Curb Weight: 7,257 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Canton, Mississippi
Base Price: $50,970
As Tested Price: $58,285 (Includes $1,195.00 Destination Charge)
Pro-4X Convenience Package - $3,310
Pro-4X Luxury Package - $1,510
Pro-4X Utility & Audio Package - $1,100