Nissan Titan XD — Just the right size

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

At the turn of the century Nissan decided to enter the lucrative full-sized pickup truck market dominated for an eternity — or so it seemed — by the U.S. big three — Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado and Dodge Ram. Nissan figured even a small piece of this giant pie could yield big returns. The Titan, introduced as a 2004 model, featured aggressive good looks, some neat standard equipment, a base 5.6-liter 317-horsepower V-8, and four doors.

That first-generation Titan proved to be a solid pickup that drew a small number of loyal followers. But it would never become a full-fledged member of the pickup truck segment, selling on average only one-half of one percent the number of F-150s built by Ford each year.

Even so, Nissan struck a deal with Chrysler in 2008 to share its new-at-the-time Dodge Ram platform for its second generation. Unfortunately for Nissan, that deal collapsed with the bankruptcy of Chrysler, and Nissan's truck plans were set adrift until Nissan began planning its own truck. It took a few years, but the Titan returned with a vengeance in 2016 with a two-tiered plan — build a more capable truck then the standard 1500, called the Titan XD, and a new half-ton Titan in crew cab, king cab and — for the first time ever — a single cab format.

Nissan needed a niche it could exploit and found one in the XD. Discussions with truck owners revealed the space between light-duty “half-ton” pickups and heavy-duty “three-quarter-ton” models could be filled with a new size. And so was born the XD.

The Titan XD hit the market in 2016 anchored by a new Cummins 5.0-liter turbocharged V-8 diesel making 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque — enough to tow 12,000 pounds and haul 2,000-pounds of payload. Equipped with four-wheel drive, this is the right-sized truck to go virtually anywhere and accomplish weekend chores or industrial-sized projects.

We drove the diesel Titan XD at two different occasions in Texas and found it very capable at hauling and towing big loads. Nissan hooked us up with big trailers and off we went tackling hill country roads with ease. The downside to the diesel — especially if you don't need quite as much towing and payload capacity — is in its on-road performance. It's slow, clocked at about 10 seconds from 0-to-60.

There is a very viable alternative if you find the bigger truck more attractive than the standard 1500, but would rather have a gas engine — a 5.6-liter V-8 that makes 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque and a prodigious towing capability topping out at 11,270 pounds. The V-8 is mated to a seven-speed automatic. We figure the diesel has the edge in fuel economy, but because heavy-duty trucks are exempt from fuel economy testing there are no figures available.

The Titan XD is currently available only in four-door crew cab format with a 6.5- bed. Nissan says the single cab and king cab model will enter the lineup in early 2017. The XD comes in five trim levels — S, SV, Pro-4X, SL and Platinum Reserve. The base model with the gasoline V-8 starts at $37,485 — the diesel-equipped version begins at $42,535. Our Platinum Reserve test truck with four-wheel drive and the 5.6-liter V-8 carried a base price of $55,025 and an as-tested price of $56,715. It comes with such goodies as a trailer brake controller, premium leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled "Zero Gravity" front seats, heated rear seats and a surround-view camera system.

We were pleased with the compliant ride and decent performance from the big test truck. This could be a daily driver for shopping and traveling to and from work if you were of a mind to drive a big truck with its less-than-stellar gas mileage

Interiors are impressive — particularly the leather-clad Platinum — looking like they could have come out of the Pathfinder crossover except for the column shifter. Rockford Fosgate audio, a tilt/telescoping steering column, and deep console with 120v plug and USBs should please owners. The dashboard is handsome, with familiar gauges and swtichgear that have been used in other Nissan vehicles for several years.

There's stretch-out room in the rear with comfortable seats that are sure to make passengers happy. And you can flip up the rear seat bottoms when hauling cargo in the cab, but the floor below isn't entirely flat. To remedy this there's a flip-out platform that stands about 3 inches above the carpet on fold-down legs, just like in Ram trucks.

If your needs fall more in line with the the standard-sized Titan 1500 it is now on sale as well.

Base price: $37,485; as driven, $56,715
Engine: 5.6-liter V-8
Horsepower: 390 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque: 395 foot-pounds @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Drive: four wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 151.6 inches
Length: 242.7 inches
Curb weight: NA
Turning circle: 53.8 feet
Towing capacity: 11,270 pounds
Payload capacity: 2,523 pounds
Fuel capacity: 26 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: NA
0-60: NA
Also consider: Ford F-250, Chevrolet Silverado HD, Ram 2500

The Good
• Attractive interior
• Solid towing capacity
• Lusty gas engine

The Bad
• Only crew cab available

The Ugly
• Large turning circle