2016 Nissan Titan XD First Drive

by Lawana Perkins | Posted on Monday, November 16th, 2015

If you were to find yourself in the market for a fullsize pickup truck today, you would be presented with a bevy of intriguing options, each designed to fulfill a specific usage scenario. You could choose a half-ton model, like the segment-leading Ford F-150, and be rewarded with a relatively comfortable ride and decent fuel economy. Or you could opt for a heavy-duty, three-quarter-ton truck, perhaps a Ram 2500, and enjoy the ability to tow towering trailers and haul herculean loads, albeit at the expense of fuel efficiency and any sort of daily-driving comfort. And, of course, there are one-ton behemoths that could practically uproot a sequoiadendron giganteum but ride and handle like they are hewn from those very same timbers.

2016 Nissan Titan XD

But what if your perfect pickup fell somewhere in between these established classes? What if what you really want is a truck that offers more capability than a typical half-ton without the hard-riding, fuel-guzzling drawbacks of the heavy-duty class? It’s exactly that slice of the market that Nissan has targeted with its newTitan XD.

Perhaps the single biggest piece of news destined to catch the trucking establishment’s attention is the availability of a 5.0-liter diesel V8 engine from Cummins. Just the fact that such a well-respected brand donated Nissan a turbocharged diesel heart is news; the fact that it beats out 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque sounds like a perfect pot of porridge. To put those figures in perspective, consider that the top-performing 5.9-liter inline-six diesel from Cummins produced 305 hp and 555 lb-ft in the engine bay of the Ram HD trucks in 2003. The fact that a so-called heavy half-ton is putting down that kind of power a little over a decade later is impressive. Put another way, the engine provided by Cummins isn’t a weak point in this Titan’s armor. Later, a gasoline-burning V8 will show up, but its specs haven’t yet been announced.Starting this year, there are two distinct Titan model lines. The standard Titan is a classic half-ton entry. The XD brings with it things like a heavy-duty, fully boxed frame, a meaty rear axle, some of the biggest brakes ever fitted to a consumer-grade pickup, and hydraulic recirculating-ball steering gear. The XD’s frame is based on the design used in Nissan’s heavy-duty commercial van platform, and it’s 20 inches longer in the XD than in the standard Titan.

With an engine that looks great on paper nestled in a burly steel ladder frame, it would seem Nissan should be poised to promote some massive towing and hauling figures. Sadly, we’re a bit disappointed on that front, and we have a feeling a number of potential buyers will share our frustration. At its best, the 2016 Titan can tow 12,314 pounds and handle 2,091 pounds of payload. Yes, that means the Titan XD can tow more than any of its half-ton peers, but just barely. The Ford F-150, when properly equipped, has a maximum tow rating of 12,200 pounds, which is within spitting distance of the Titan XD. That same Ford has a maximum payload rating of 3,270 pounds, which is far and away higher than the Titan XD’s max rating. Chevy’s latest Silverado 1500 and its GMC Sierra twin can tow 12,000 pounds and boast payload ratings of 2,060, again bumping up very close to that of the Titan XD.

The great equalizer in the towing and payload ratings game is curb weight. In its lightest configuration, which not coincidentally is the one that its max tow and payload ratings are derived from, the Titan XD weighs 6,709 pounds, and its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating comes in at 8,800 pounds. Subtract the former from the latter and you’ve got max payload. Put simply, the Titan XD is a truck of titanic weight. The F-150 we’re comparing it to rolls in with a base curb weight of 4,489 pounds, thanks in no small part to its aluminum bodywork.These numbers are for the base, two-wheel-drive Titan S. But here’s the bad news: each step up the ladder – from S to SV, SL, and finally Platinum Reserve – brings with it a commensurate step down in towing and payload headroom. Adding four-wheel drive to the base Titan XD lowers the max tow rating to 12,038 pounds and has a similar effect on payload. In its most luxurious, leather-lined form, the Titan XD Platinum Reserve 4×4 can tow 10,608 pounds and has a payload rating of 1,470 pounds. In an effort to make a comparison to the highest-rated half-ton we could find, a 2016 Ford F-150 King Ranch Super Crew with a 6.5-foot bed, four-wheel drive, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, and six-speed automatic transmission is rated to tow 11,700 pounds and has a payload rating of 2,060 pounds, both better than the Titan XD Platinum Reserve.

Maximum ratings may be a bit of a letdown to those buyers looking to the Nissan Titan XD as a way to out-power the best half-ton options. But there’s a lot more to the towing and hauling game than maximum figures. When towing big loads, diesel engines are preferred over gas powerplants for several reasons, not the least of which are the comfort of lower rpm operation and the promise of extended service intervals and long-term durability.

We can’t project how reliable or durable the 2016 Titan XD will be, other than to say we very much respect the Cummins brand and that we personally witnessed some awfully harsh testing procedures at Nissan’s secret test lab just south of Phoenix, Arizona. But we can say for sure that the Titan XD can pull a 9,000-pound trailer up a six-percent grade with confidence, because we hooked exactly that much weight to the hitch of the XD to test it for ourselves. We can also say that the Titan XD, in Pro-4X trim, has the equipment it needs to climb steep off-road grades while dodging cacti and boulders, because again, we put it to the test. See for yourself in the video below.

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