Let’s deal with this right off the top: the all-new Nissan Titan XD is a tweener.
What I mean is that it’s a heavier light-duty truck that falls in between the half-ton and three-quarter ton classes of full-size pickup. Essentially, Nissan is positioning the Titan XD to have more of the capability found in the latter, combined with the road manners and driveability of the former.
Mechanically, the XD ticks a lot of the boxes truck buyers will approve of, starting with the Cummins engine.
Made of a compacted graphite iron block with a forged steel crankshaft and aluminum heads, the Cummins 5.0-litre turbo diesel V8 tips the scales at just 362 kilograms (800 pounds). It features a new M2 two-stage turbocharging system that is designed to work well at both low and high engine speeds. A high pressure fuel system from Bosch featuring piezo fuel injectors allow for precise fuel control for optimized combustion, which helps to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.
In terms of output, the engine delivers 310 horsepower and 555 lb-ft of torque, which bodes well for towing thanks to its maximum tow rating of 5,460 kilograms (12,038 pounds) and maximum payload of 908 kilograms (2,004 pounds). This is good news if you’re going to be hauling a boat, horse trailer or loads of gravel, among other things.
Under the skin, Nissan appears to have done its homework in building a rigid, durable backbone for the Titan XD. Its platform is shared with the Nissan’s NV2500 full-size cargo van, and features a fully-boxed steel ladder frame that has been reinforced for greater stiffness.
A double-wishbone with a stabilizer bar forms the reinforced front suspension that’s tuned for hard use, while the rear utilizes heavy duty leaf springs and leaf bushings. A 13-inch rear differential features 3.5-inch axle tubes, while the front differential is 9.25 inches long. All Canadian-market XDs are 4x4.
When it comes to stopping force, the XD comes with standard four-wheel disc brakes that are 360 mm (14.2 inches) in diameter up front and 365 mm (14.4 inches) in the rear. 17-inch wheels are standard, but 18 and 20-inch sizes are available.
In terms of styling, Nissan has wisely chosen to avoid trying to out-cowboy the domestics by giving the XD a powerful warrior-type look designed to invoke an impression of size and strength.
So, while there is a lot of brightwork on certain trims, especially the high-end Platinum Reserve, you won’t see any Texas-inspired belt buckles or other homages to the American West here. Much like the original Titan, Nissan isn’t selling nostalgia with this truck and its design is reflective of that.
While in Arizona, I was able to sample several crew cab models, including the upper level SL, on a mix of on- and off-road drive routes that also involved towing a 4,082-kilo (9,000-pound) enclosed car trailer.
A few things stand out from my time behind the wheel.
First off, the XD’s interior is enormous, nicely finished and chock full of well-designed utility features. From a giant centre console capable of swallowing a 15-inch laptop to multiple 12-volt outlets, more cup holders than you can count on two hands and various other pockets and storage cubbies, Nissan designers have made the most of available space.
Second, the Cummins engine is much quieter, both at speed on the highway and in slower city traffic. The oft-cited ‘diesel clatter,’ while still detectable under acceleration, is well supressed. Better insulation is key here, especially the use of laminated front side glass that helps supress wind and road noise.
Third, towing appears to be a real strength thanks to the presence of trailer sway control, an integrated trailer brake controller and downhill speed control, which is essentially engine braking. Towing the enclosed trailer up and down a long and winding stretch of highway near Scottsdale proved to be a drama-free exercise.
The six-speed Aisin heavy-duty transmission seems ideally matched with the Cummins engine. Power delivery is smooth, both truck and trailer felt planted on the road and the downhill speed control was easy to modulate with judicious braking and acceleration. No gear-hunting here.
In sum, the Titan XD is a well-engineered truck loaded with useful and innovative features, several of which will be familiar to first-gen Titan owners, including the spray-in bedliner, Utili-track bed channel tie-down system and bedside storage. The Trailer Light Check System integrated into the key fob, which allows one person to check all of the trailer lights, is yet another cleverly-designed innovation.
Although not cheap, the Titan XD offers a lot of truck for the money, but the real question is how big is the market for a more capable half-ton pick-up? The answer to that question will go a long way in determining its long-term success.
BY THE NUMBERS
$169 /HP (CALCULATED W/ BASE MSRP)
2016 Nissan Titan XD SL Crew Cab 4x4
ENGINE: 5.0L V8 turbo diesel
HORSEPOWER: 310 hp @ 3,200 rpm
TORQUE: 555 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
CONFIGURATION: front-engine, four-wheel drive
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
DRY WEIGHT: 3,357 kg
FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS (CITY / HWY.): NA
WARRANTY (MOS. / KM): 36 / 60,000
ALTERNATIVES: Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra 2500, Ford F-250, Ram 2500