2016 Nissan Titan XD is a Square Peg in a Round Hole That Fits

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2004 was the year Usher had some of his biggest hits in the music world. It was also the year 3 Doors Down had their hit “Here Without You”. If that doesn’t ring a bell for you, 2004 was also the year that the Nissan Titan came out. You probably forgot about that one though. 2004 was also the year where Ford had the 6.0L Powerstroke V8 diesel with 325 HP and 560 LB-FT of torque.

Fast forward to 2015 and the Biebs and Adele are rockin’ the charts and Nissan FINALLY has something Titan related to talk about. Unlike Bieber, Nissan wants you to remember this truck: The 2016 Titan XD. With 310 HP and 555 LB-FT of torque from a V8 Cummins, the 2016 Titan XD picks up where Detroit left off. The Titan XD should be pegged as the spiritual successor to the heavy duty pickups of 2004.

The arms race power between Ram and Ford has amounted to pickup trucks that can tow over 30,000 pounds. Besides the need for a CDL to tow that much, that is a lot more truck than most people need. What if Nissan took the best of 2004 and the best of 2015 to bring a pickup that isn’t overkill in the power department at a more reasonable price than that of a diesel Super Duty F-250 or Ram 2500? The Titan XD is the pickup equivalent of a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn’t match up with anything else out there. Not a bad problem to have in a hyper competitive market.

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Often with a heavy duty pickup you have tradeoffs you have to contend with. A rough ride, unwieldy size, poor fuel economy, and a high price are a few tradeoffs over a half ton pickup. Sure, you can tow a house but what if you never need to tow that much? While trucks like the F-150 claim they can tow 12,000 pounds, it’s not something I’d recommend doing very often. It will put a lot of strain on the brakes, engine, and transmission. Besides, the F-150 claims it can tow as much as a 2004 Super Duty but lacks a diesel like the Super Duty back then had. There has to be a better way.

This is where the Titan XD comes in. It’s not quite in the same range as a heavy duty pickup that you can buy with a Ram or blue oval on the front but it has some serious hardware upgrades to get you and your load from A to B.

 

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The Titan XD starts with a Cummins 5.0L diesel V8 mated to an Aisin six-speed transmission. Cummins has some serious street cred in the engine world and truck world. Add in a heavy duty purpose-built frame, massive brakes, and fifth wheel towing capability and you have a recipe for a serious piece of machinery ready to tow and/or haul.

Nissan didn’t try to copy the recipe of anyone else else with the Titan XD – it’s uniquely positioned but has some of the best attributes of the best pickups in the market. They magically made the suspension as comfortable as a half-ton pickup like the F-150, crafted an interior as quiet as the F-150, and the styling is as bold as a Ram. Driving around Arizona in the XD, guys towing trailers and campers were slowing down to take a look. The bright LED daytime running lights, tall hood, and brawny grille look better on the road than they do in photos.

The ride and handling are really well done. The suspension is the perfect mix of comfort and poise to give you confidence empty or loaded up. And the suspension can take a real beating, too. Driving off-road, the Titan XD Pro-4X delivers loads of run, given the size and weight of this truck.

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Nissan didn’t try to make a copy of anything else. They went out and sourced drivetrain parts from proven suppliers. Looking under the Titan XD you’ll find parts from Cummins, Aisin, Magna, American Axle, Bosch, and Dana. This is not a half baked truck. Inside, the interior of the high end Platinum Reserve looks like the big brother to the Maxima Platinum. It’s super plush with the best feeling switches, buttons, knobs, and stalks in the pickup segment. Everything feels high quality with excellent materials and tons of storage space. 16 cup holders should help with keeping everyone hydrated but a small 26 gallon fuel tank will allow everyone to empty their bladders on shorter intervals.

The Titan XD is a bit of an oddball, there is no doubt about that. If you’re the kind of person who wears crosstrainer-type shoes, capri pants (short pants?) or freaks out about towing a huge load in your F-150…you should be able to relate to what the Titan XD is trying to accomplish. It doesn’t want to be able to tow an 80 foot yacht but aims to give buyers great fuel economy, comfort, and maneuverability if you tow all the time or if you just tow some of the time. It really is the square peg in a round hole of pickups. The Titan XD hopes you’ll forget about the sins of the past decade with the half ton Titan. Look at that last decade as time taken to study and carve out a niche in the segment and get this truck right. Yes, they had plenty of time to work on this truck, and it shows. Of course, others have tried to play in this segment and decided to walk away. Ever wonder what happened to the Silverado 1500 HD?

 

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Downsides to the Titan XD? A couple. Smallish fuel tank, a low rear bench seat, odd sized DEF tank, and a somewhat dated infotainment system. None of these are real deal breakers but no vehicle is perfect.

My pick in the Pro-4X model. I think it offers the best blend of value, ride comfort, and capability. The 18-inch wheels make the ride just a hair more comfortable than the 20-inchers on the SL and Platinum Reserve and the suspension seems “just right” on all road surfaces. Stick around though. Nissan will have crew, extended cab, and regular cab versions of the XD, as well as a 5.6L V8. Later next year the regular half-ton Titan will be out with a V8 and a V6 gas engine.

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