2016 Nissan Titan XD first drive: A true 5/8-ton pickup



Nissan banks on being where the other guys aren’t

What is it?

The American pickup truck market is such a Goliath of a segment that hacking off even 1 extra percent for your brand can be an important shift … as long as your brand isn’t Ford or Chevrolet, which control about two-thirds of the market. Look no further than Nissan for an example — the company spent six years designing and testing its new Titan XD, aiming to grab a bigger slice of that massive pickup pie for itself.

The Titan XD, Nissan says, is a pickup truck for those who need something a little more powerful than the standard 1500/150-grade trucks, but where a 2500/250 might be overkill. We finally have the true 5/8-ton hauler that we never knew we needed. We spent a full day in the dusty Arizona desert testing the new truck on and off the road, driving with a payload and towing 9,600 pounds or so (about ¾ of its max) up and down the mountains.

The biggest news for Nissan and the XD is the introduction of a Cummins turbo diesel to the lineup. The 5.0-liter V8 delivers 310 hp at 3,200 rpm and 555 lb-ft of torque at just 1,600 rpm. It’s the launch engine for the XD, and the only mill that we tested. That Cummins is connected to an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted, if necessary, with plus and minus buttons on the chunky column shifter. Two- and four-wheel drive versions are available in Supercab, King Cab and Crew Cab configurations, with bed sizes measuring 8, 6.5 or 5 feet. There are five trims: S, SV, Pro-4X, SL and Platinum.

2016 Nissan Titan XD Photo 55

The 2016 Nissan Titan XD fills the gap between 1/2- and 3/4-ton trucks using a 5.0-liter Cummins V8 diesel engine Photo by Nissan

All of the research and development was done in the United States, which means a lot of nooks and crannies for storage inside and bunch of tie-down points, cleats and rails in the bed, plus LED bed lighting. Nissan also took a page out of Ram’s book with bedside storage, though its lockable boxes can be removed from the inside of the bed with a few screws so as not to impinge on cargo space.

As with the development, the design was done stateside too. The theme is “a powerful, precision tool,” Nissan tells us, which makes sense considering all of the (somewhat strange) design elements have a specific purpose. The extended front overhang accommodates the big diesel engine and air cooler while front and rear spoilers help with aerodynamics. Despite the flatter face, Nissan says the new Titan is better at cheating the wind than the last version. Step rails extend all the way to the back wheels to help access stuff in the front of the bed.

Interior features include the aforementioned column shifter with manual shift control, which frees up space in the center console, dual-zone climate control, remote start and unlock (which also doubles as a trailer light check so you don’t need a second set of eyes), multiple power points, heated and cooled front seats and Nissan Connect with apps and navigation, but no Wi-Fi.

2016 Nissan Titan XD Photo 62

The 2016 Nissan Titan XD fills the gap between 1/2- and 3/4-ton trucks using a 5.0-liter Cummins V8 diesel engine Photo by Nissan

What’s it like to drive?

Hopping in the cabin using the step bar and A-pillar handle, we notice this pickup feels high off the ground, though Nissan notes that, like all of its other specs, the Titan’s floor height falls between most ½- and ¾-ton trucks. There’s a tiny shudder on ignition, but very little clickity-clack from under the hood. And the diesel smell is long gone.

Before we take off, Nissan drops about 500 pounds of payload in the bed for our first jaunt on the smooth Arizona roads to Fort McDowell Adventures where we base our off-road routes. The Cummins doesn’t whine a bit about pulling the load, nor do the 14-plus-inch brake rotors mind stopping everything. The cargo was blocking most of our rear view, but if it hadn’t been for that we probably wouldn’t have noticed the weight at all. Shifts from the six-speed are smooth no matter the rpm. In typical diesel fashion the power does take a few seconds to really come on, but there’s no annoying wheelhop or bounce to speak of, even when unloaded.

The steering system uses a recirculating ball setup, which has a surprising amount of weight at low speeds. It’s not exactly difficult inching around a parking lot, but it’s far from luxury-car light. At speed it’s much easier. The ratio is just about right for a big truck though, needing 4.6 turns to go lock-to-lock, and at no point does the steering feel sluggish, whether in lane changes or on the off-road course. The backup camera and Nissan’s Around-View Monitor both help make parking lot maneuvers less likely to result in crunched metal, too.

Nissan Titan XD land speed ECTA SCTA Bonneville SEMA

On the rocky two-track off road courses near Fort McDowell the XD creeps up slick rocks without much of a problem in four-wheel drive high; we drop it into four low and lock the differential over the bigger stuff, which turns the truck into a grumpy billy goat, spitting rocks sideways from the chunky, General Grabber 20-inch tires. Four low also desensitizes the gas pedal to ease slow-speed movement. Clearance is measured at 9.1 inches so we weren’t too worried over the sharp terrain; the Pro-4X trim also gets skid plates to protect the radiator, oil pan and fuel tank.

Once we finish the off-road course we hitch up a bright green Bobcat loader and trailer to the gooseneck hitch—standard on SV models and above—which is safely under the max rating of just over 12,000 pounds. Rumbling off, the Cummins sticks in gear until redline, smoothly switching cogs and sending surprisingly little noise into the cabin. An integrated electronic trailer brake is included, though this particular trailer had a hydraulic setup.

A few confident hard stops on flat land prove the brakes’ abilities before we set out on a long 6 percent downhill grade through the mountains. Here the pickup and trailer stay straight and planted, without any sway or nervousness. The XD does have trailer sway control, though getting into a situation where you need it is dangerous itself so we’ll have to trust that it works. The oversized mirrors are standard and helped keep the wheels between the lines. When slowing in tow mode, a small tap of the brakes signals the six-speed to drop a gear, sometimes two, which keeps the velocity at a manageable level without burning up the brakes.

2016 Nissan Titan XD Photo 34

The 2016 Nissan Titan XD fills the gap between 1/2- and 3/4-ton trucks using a 5.0-liter Cummins V8 diesel engine Photo by Nissan

Do I want it?

The Titan XD takes most of the headaches out of truck things like towing, hauling, hooking up a trailer and winding your way through narrow trails on the job site or in the desert. It’s as comfortable on the road as any of the other light- and heavy-duty pickups, and if Nissan’s accurate when it states that about 150,000 people move up or down a level in truck capability when they get a new pickup, it could have a winner. Now, if the company can capitalize on those folks looking for a medium-duty hauler, and snag a few Big Three buyers while it’s at it, that percentage point might make all the difference.



Source link

Translate »