The Titan made its debut back in 2004 and hasn’t changed much since. Sure, there was a mild refresh back in 2008, but the bones remained unchanged. Nissan only offered two cab and bed configurations, one engine, and the choice of two- or four-wheel drive. That’s all changing for the 2016 model year.

Nissan has decided to expand the Titan into a pair of pickups – the regular Titan carrying the half-ton designation, and the Titan XD, a sort of go-between for customers who need the extra towing and hauling capabilities of a heavy-duty, but who don’t want to pay for 900 pound-feet of torque and a 30,000-pound tow rating. When asked to describe the new Titan XD, Richard Miller, Director of Product Planning for the truck, says to think of the Titan XD as a three-quarter ton truck from 2003. It has 500-plus pound-feet of torque and can tow roughly 12,000 pounds. That’s exactly where mainstream 2500-series trucks were at in the mid-2000s.

Miller and his design team know they’re marketing the Titan XD to a niche customer. Still, their research apparently shows there’s profit to be made in this middle ground. Helping expand the Titan’s marketability is an increased number of build configurations, trim levels, and (coming soon) engine options. No longer will the Titan be a one-size-fits-all truck. Single cabs, base trim levels, and eight-foot beds are part of the mix, as well as the range-topping Platinum Reserve trim with all the proper luxury trimmings. The combinations won’t be as extensive as those from Ford, Chevy, or Ram, but are said to cater to a much wider audience than before.

In order to find out more about the Titan XD, I took a trip to the Arizona desert just outside Scottsdale. These roads are very familiar to the Titan XD. Nissan’s R&D testing center is a two hours’ drive south and engineers spend many hours tuning the Titan XD on the six-percent grades found in the mountains outside of town.

So how’d the Titan XD stack up? Keep reading to find out.

Continue reading for the full driven review

  • 2016 Nissan Titan XD - Driven
  • Year:
    2016
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V8
  • Transmission:
    six-speed automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    310 @ 3200
  • Torque @ RPM:
    555 @ 1600
  • Energy:
    turbodiesel
  • Displacement:
    5.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    9.2 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    110 mph (Est.)
  • Layout:
    Front Engine; 2WD, 4WD
  • Price:
    40000 (Est.)
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Walk-Around Video


Exterior

2016 Nissan Titan XD - Driven
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2016 Nissan Titan XD - Driven
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2016 Nissan Titan XD - Driven
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Designers took inspiration from the truck’s namesake, looking at medieval helmets and armor for aesthetic cues

The Titan XD is a massive truck. Designers took inspiration from the truck’s namesake, looking at medieval helmets and armor for aesthetic cues. Large headlights are matched by a large, chrome grille with the Titan name embossed across the top. This is the first and only vehicle Nissan has branded in such a way. The long, bulging hood protrudes well forward of the A-pillars and the lower bumper houses functional pieces like the fog lights, tow hooks, and skid plates.

The cargo bed area comes with its own share of functional pieces. Nissan made a name for itself with in-bed features on the first-generation Titan and the story continues here. Tie-down rails on the bed floor and sidewalls offer a nearly limitless number of attachment points. SV and higher trim grades come standard with a gooseneck hitch from the factory, including the needed wiring connectors. Of course, Nissan continues to include a spray-on bed liner as standard equipment in its trucks – something it started in 2004 with the original Titan. Another option is hard-plastic cargo boxes that mount to the inside of the bed walls. They offer similar storage to Ram’s RamBox option, but can be taken out should the full bed be needed. They are also compatible with a tonneau cover and camper shell.

Every available tester on site was of the crew cab variety, but the Titan XD will also come as a regular cab and extended cab, with bed lengths to match. This gives the truck an appeal to both construction fleets and wealthy horse ranchers with just a few option boxes checked differently.

Interior

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2016 Nissan Titan XD - Driven
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2016 Nissan Titan XD - Driven
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Nissan is trotting new lands with the Titan XD’s interior. Nothing about it, save for a few familiar switches, buttons, and the infotainment software, is borrowed from another vehicle. This clean-slate approach has allowed designers to bring a new level of luxury and usefulness to the Titan.

The 2004 Titan pickup pioneered the center console-mounted shifter in the truck market, but designers found that customers missed the valuable real estate consumed by the shifter, so the 2016 Titan XD reverts back to a column-mounted shifter. Not only does it free up an enormous amount of space, it’s more familiar to traditional truck buyers. The sifter pulls triple duty, holding both the Tow/Haul mode button and the manual gear selector.

The center stack is laid out in a similarly logical method. The buttons are easy to read, easy to reach, and intuitive in their function. The navigation system and its functions work well, offering plenty of features modern buyers are looking for. It also includes Nissan’s 360-degree camera system – something that has become almost a necessity on such a large truck. It makes backing up and trailer hook-ups a snap, too.

Comfort levels are high, usability is good, and aesthetics are certainly pleasing

Behind the wheel, the gauge cluster is simple and effective with two main analog gauges, two smaller gauges for fuel and coolant temperature, and a center TFT display for more detailed vehicle info. The screen does lack a digital speedometer and the analog speedometer counts by 20 mph increments, making quick speed checks more difficult. And besides, why a 140-mph speedo on a diesel truck?

Anyway, the cabin is downright comfortable thanks to Nissan’s zero-gravity seats. They are designed to have no pressure points, making long drives more pleasant. Room inside the second row of the crew cab is very large. Legroom, headroom, and elbowroom are all class average, meaning big-boy construction workers will fit just fine. The rear bench gets its own air vents, 110-power port, and on upper trim levels, heated outboard seats. The Titan XD is similar to Ram pickups in how it manages cargo under the second-row bench. The rear floor isn’t flat, so a fold-out false floor offers a flat loading space, while a lockable storage box offers space for tools, the gooseneck hitch equipment, and even a space for a rifle.

Overall functionality of the interior is good, with plenty of storage spots and cubby holes for things. Comfort levels are high, usability is good, and aesthetics are certainly pleasing.

Drivetrain

2016 Nissan Titan XD - Driven
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2016 Nissan Titan XD - Driven
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2016 Nissan Titan XD - Driven
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The big news with the Titan XD is its engine. Nissan partnered with Cummins to build a turbodiesel that is more cost-effective than the competitors’ heavy-duty diesel engines, but more powerful than any gasoline offering in the market. The result is a 5.0-liter V-8 that produces 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque. The engine will come as standard equipment in the Titan XD at first, until Nissan releases a new gasoline engine as a base-level alternative. Don’t count on seeing that until at least the 2017 model year.

The Cummins will come as standard equipment in the Titan XD at first

The Cummins is mated to a heavy-duty, six-speed, Aisin AS69RC automatic transmission with manual control, similar to the one found behind the 6.7-liter Cummins I-6 turbodiesel in the Ram Heavy Duty. Optional behind that is a two-speed, electronically controlled transfer case for the 4WD system. Opting for the off-road biased PRO-4X trim includes an electronically locking rear differential into the mix.

Cummins and Nissan built the engine and truck combination for serious work. The engine includes a diesel exhaust brake that holds downhill speeds. Beefy, 14.2-inch front and 14.4-inch rotors and oversized calipers do the rest of the work. The engine boasts a rather innovated turbocharger system that helps reduce lag while keeping emissions and fuel economy in check. Mounted inside the valley of the V-8, the two-state turbocharger has four stages of operation designed for all driving situations in mind, including one mode for exhaust regeneration. For more info, check out our in-depth dive into the Cummins’ turbocharger system here.

The engine’s turbocharger system isn’t the only high-tech parts on board. The engine block is constructed from compacted graphite iron and has a forged-steel crankshaft connected to aluminum pistons. Aluminum alloy heads and composite valve covers help keep weight and noise in check. The glow plugs are specially designed by Bosch to heat up quickly, giving the diesel quick start times, regardless of the weather.

Frame & Suspension

2016 Nissan Titan XD - Driven
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Nissan pulled inspiration for the Titan XD’s front suspension from its NV3500 vans

Of course, the engine is only part of the drivetrain’s full story. The Titan XD rides on a fully boxed steel frame that is unique to that truck. The half-ton Titan won’t share the XD’s underpinnings. Nissan pulled inspiration for the Titan XD’s front suspension from its NV3500 vans. Double wishbone control arms connect the front wheels to the frame and are sprung by MacPherson struts. Half-shafts connect the wheel hubs to the front differential on 4WD models. Out back, conventional leaf springs pull duty holding up the rear, while shock absorbers control body movement. The springs are said to have tuning that less stiff than a conventional three-quarter ton truck, yet offer far better load-holding abilities than a conventional half-ton. Sounds self-explanatory, but this leads to a smoother ride when not towing or hauling.

Passengers will also note the cabin’s rather tranquil environment. Much of that can be attributed to the hydraulic cab mounts that are sandwiched between the frame and cab floor. They reduce the amount of vibrations and oscillations that are characteristic of heavy-duty trucks.

The Titan XD’s frame also includes a standard receiver hitch, and save for the base S trim level, an integrated gooseneck hitch. The gooseneck is optional for S-grade buyers. The hitch is bolted to the frame and its cradle is welded with impressively thick beads. For those needing to tow a fifth-wheel, Nissan will offer a custom fifth-wheel hitch that mounts into the gooseneck ball and safety chain mounts. That means no drilling or welding is needed to install the hitch. Best of all, it’s easily removable.

Hands-On Testing

Nissan had several tests set up designed to showcase the Titan XD’s abilities. The four main areas were ride and comfort, off-road, towing, and highway travel. Here’s the details:

Ride & Comfort

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The day of testing started off with a one-mile loop of rugged terrain designed to punish suspension parts, body mounts, and tires. The freshly rutted road had rocks strewn about and deep sandpits. Adding to the mix were three competitors’ trucks on hand for back-to-back testing. The crop included the 2015 Ford F-250 Super Duty, the GMC Sierra 2500 HD, and the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Z71.

You could certainly tell you were on a rough road, but the truck just felt solid

I first took the Titan XD around the road. Even without the PRO-4X suspension package, the truck traversed the rocky road with relative ease. Bumps were soaked up well and vibrations into the cab were minimal. You could certainly tell you were on a rough road, but the truck just felt solid. Conversely, the Titan XD also felt large, even compared to the Super Duty. I think much of that has to do with the Titan XD’s large hood.

Now in the Super Duty, I made my way around the course with relative ease. The truck felt competent, but just felt less isolated from the bumps. With less than 200 miles on the odometer, the F-250 was far from being tired, so the difference in suspension and cab mounts could be felt.

The Silverado 2500 HD with the Z71 package came next. The truck drove a bit larger than the Super Duty, but not as large as the Titan – again, thanks to the XD’s large hood. Most noticeable in the Silverado was the body shake. With any speed on the course, the truck felt more apt to dance. The truck still felt solid and well built – with no interior rattles – but didn’t seem to have the same composure as the Titan.

Nevertheless, I won’t call a winner against here as the testing was short and somewhat impromptu.

Off-Road

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A 20-minute highway jaunt took me to the off-road portion of the day. Located near Ford McDowell, the OHV park provided grand vistas of open desert surrounded by red-rock mountains with cactus plans and sagebrush dotting the desolate landscape. I traded my Platinum Reserve Titan XD for a PRO-4X model and headed out. The first obstacle was a 40-degree rock face slope that challenged the traction of the tires.

With low-range and the rear differential lock engaged, the truck had no problems climbing up the incline. Minimal throttle was needed as the 555 pound-feet of toque pushed the truck towards the sky. With nothing but clouds in the windshield, the 360-degree camera system became very handy to watch the surrounding trail.

The trail continued to climb, but it turned to a dusty path with large bowling-ball sized rocks scattered about. The truck walked up the hillside without issue as rocks kicked up and pinged against the metal skid plates. On our way down, the trail allowed for higher speeds, so high-range was selected. The PRO-4X’s rugged suspension did a great job at soaking up the bumps, while the cab mounts were most definitely working overtime to keep vibrations away from the passenger compartment.

Towing

2016 Nissan Titan XD - Driven
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Perhaps the most telling of the tests was the towing test. The route mostly consisted of a gnarly, six-percent grade through the mountains. The Titan XD was loaded with a Bobcat skidsteer on a flatbed trailer. The combination weighted in a 9,600 pounds, 2,714 pounds shy of the truck’s max tow rating of 12,314 pounds.

The Titan XD did a great job accelerating from a stop on fairly level ground. The engine pulls hard all the way to its 4,000-rpm redline. The turbocharger can be heard, but only if you’re listening for it. Highway speeds came faster than I expected as the truck settled into sixth gear. Cruising down the road is a non-even. The truck soaks up rises and falls in the road with no continued body motion and it tracks straight despite the extra weight on its hitch.

Approaching the grade at 65 mph, I kept my foot steady to maintain the speed. It was only halfway up the hill that more throttle was needed. The engine had power in reserve as my speed never dropped below 60 mph. Cresting the top of the hill, the engine began to work with the transmission to hold 65 mph all the way to the bottom. The truck never felt overworked or like it was being pushed down the hill. The return run was more fun as I tried accelerating up the hill. With the throttle buried, the big Cummins clawed its way up, the speedometer slowing climbing itself. The boost gauge was maxed out as the turbo was audibly screaming, the engine fan kicked on, and the coolant temp climbed by a degree or two, but the truck continued to accelerate up the six-percent grade. All this took place at roughly 1,500 feet above sea level on a 77-degree afternoon.

I could feel the truck working, but that only added to the fun

I walked away impressed with the truck’s ability to accelerate up the grade with little fuss. I could feel the truck working, but that only added to the fun. I’d have no reservations in pulling all 12,314 pounds the XD is rated to pull. And as far as ratings go, yes, the Titan XD’s towing numbers are SAE J2807 certified, meaning the Society of Automotive Engineers validated Nissan’s towing claim after extensive, third-party field testing.

Highway Driving


A large majority of the testing came from loaded and unloaded highway driving. During the loaded portions, my truck was fitted with 750 pounds of rocks inside a large, square box. Strapped down via Nissan’s in-box tie-down rails, the cargo was hardly noticeable. It did help calm the rear suspension over broken pavement, but didn’t affect the ride otherwise. Unloaded, the truck felt peppy on the open road. Turbo lag is nearly non-existent and the diesel pulls hard off the line.

Nissan did a great job with the steering as well. It is nicely weighted, even at low speeds, and has almost no dead spot on center. The brakes are easy to modulate, with a linear take-up on the pedal. The harder you push, the faster you stop. Throttle tip-in is completely absent, making smooth starts a breeze.

The truck feels well planted on the highway with little body motion. The wheels do transmit road conditions to the driver, but not in an exhausting way. The split-level side mirrors – once correctly adjusted – provide a good view around the truck.

Overall, the Titan XD should make for a good long-distance hauler.

Prices

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Nissan has not announced official pricing, but says the Titan XD will start at around $40,000 for the base S trim grade. Opting for the higher-spec PRO-4X or SL trim line will bump the price to roughly $50,000, and opting for the range-topping Platinum Reserve trim will cost around $60,000. The full trim range includes S, SV, PRO-4X, SL, and Platinum Reserve.

Those prices represent a deep discount on similarly equipped trucks from the competition. A base XL trimmed Ford F-250 Crew Cab with the Power Stroke turbodiesel has a starting price of $44,460. On the Chevy side, the 2016 Silverado 2500 HD with the Duramax turbodiesel starts at $46,330. Choosing the range-topping Platinum and High Country trim levels shoots the Ford’s and Chevy’s prices to $65,500 and $67,000, respectively.

Competition

Choosing an equal competitor to the Titan XD is impossible as Nissan squarely aimed the truck at a gap in the pickup truck market.

Chevrolet Silverado 2500

2016 Chevrolet Silverado HD High Resolution Exterior
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The Silverado comes in three main flavors: 1500, 2500, and 3500. The 1500, otherwise known as the half-ton doesn’t offer the towing capacities as the Titan XD or its 2500-series brother. The 2500 on the other hand, is a more dedicated heavy duty truck made for such work. The Duramax diesel is offered here, with 397 horsepower and 765 pound-feet of torque, while the 6.0-liter V-8 comes standard. Fully equipped, the Silverado 2500 HD can haul 3,275 pounds in its bed and tow 18,000 pounds via a gooseneck trailer. Conventional, tag-along towing is rated at 14,500 pounds. The price for such a truck is just under $50,000; and that’s without the leather-lined interior.

It’s clear how prices and towing capabilities increase with a dedicated 2500 HD truck. Sure, it can tow nearly 6,000 pounds more than the Titan XD, but does everyone need all of that capability? That’s where Nissan says no.

Read our full review here.

Ford F-150

2016 Ford F-150 Limited High Resolution Exterior
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But what about a half-ton? Well, the new F-150 has the highest tow rating of any half-ton at 12,200 pounds. That’s impressive, but you have to be very selective of what powertrain and options to buy in order to reach that weight rating. What’s more, it’s the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that is rated to tow that weight. Now I could spark a whole debate on towing with a gasoline verses diesel engine, but it’s a likely bet that the 5.0-liter Cummins V-8 turbodiesel would feel much more comfortable towing 12,000 pounds than a twin-turbocharged, gasoline V-6. Just compare the Cummins’ 555 pound-feet of torque to the EcoBoost’s 420 pound-feet.

When it comes to regular or semi-regular towing of heavy loads, it would likely be more advantageous to go with the more dedicated rig. Then again, the Titan XD isn’t so dedicated it sacrifices ride and comfort for some crazy tow rating you’d have to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License in order to legally haul.

Read our full review here.

Conclusion

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The illustration above with the Silverado 2500 HD and F-150 is exactly what Nissan developers saw when they penned the idea of the Titan XD. They saw a hole in the truck market for something more capable than a regular half-ton, but less cumbersome and more comfortable than a three-quarter ton.

It will be interesting to watch how well the Titan XD does in the market and how well traditional truck buyers will receive it. Market share typically goes to Ford, GM, and Ram – in that order – with Toyota and Nissan trailing behind. Perhaps with the Cummins name attached, the Titan XD will help brake the glass ceiling for “import” automakers in the truck segment. “Import” is a funny term these days, since both Toyota and Nissan build their U.S.-spec trucks exclusively in the United States. The Titan has been built in Mississippi since its introduction in 2004. The same will be true for the Titan XD and its upcoming Titan sibling.

All told, the 2016 Titan XD appears to be a great addition to the market place. Its combination of comfort and performance, along with the new crop of cab and bed configurations, should help Nissan see a drastic growth in sales. But above all, truck folks should be happy with what they find in the Titan XD.

  • Leave it
    • * 15 mpg combined during testing
    • * No digital speedo
    • * Aimed at a small niche
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