When Nissan was designing its first full-sized pickup in the late 1990s, it knew that whatever it came up with could not be one millimeter less in capacity, ability or power than anything made by the Detroit Three. That truck, the Titan, went on sale in 2003 with the hardware and specs to compete. But it still could not chink the armor of the full-sized pickup segment.
Now, 13 years later, Nissan has retooled, recreated and repositioned its pickup line with a heavy-duty model: the Titan XD. It is on sale now with a Cummins diesel V-8 engine. Soon, a gasoline 390 horsepower, 5.6-liter V-6 and a V-8 will be available. And more re-engineering arrives this spring for the half-ton Titan.
In terms of size, Nissan says it positioned the Titan XD as a tween, between half-ton and 3/4-ton pickups. But it isn’t that much smaller than its HD competition ,the Ford Super Duty, the Ram, GM’s Chevy Silverado and the GMC Sierra. Its physical mass has been trimmed to rein in monster truck territory.
While truckers and automakers could dismiss the first-gen Titan as a farm-team player, the Titan XD will have them reconsidering.
The Cummins 5.0-liter diesel engine with two-stage turbocharge is a compact brute with 310 horsepower and 555 foot-pounds of torque. The engine, at its most brutish, is at a low 1,600 rpm, which is basically what it takes to get a 12,000-pound trailer rolling from launch. Acceleration can seem slow from a stop, but it builds quickly and the six-speed automatic gives well-timed and smooth shifts, up or down.
As a heavy-duty pickup with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 8,500 pounds, Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy ratings are not required. That being said, I have gotten 17.6 to 18.1 mpg combined city and highway, which seems strong for a four-wheel-drive luxury crew-cab pickup on 20-inch tires that weighs 7,480 pounds. The 26-gallon tank allows a decent cruising range, but more is always better in this class of tow machine.
The Titan XD is sold in five trim levels, all with a four-door crew-cab body style that has a 6.5-foot bed on a 151.6-inch wheelbase. Pricing starts at $41,485 and ranges to $61,715 for the loaded Platinum Reserve with the diesel engine (which I tested today). The tester cost $63,270 with a few extras. The PRO-4X ($52,165) is an off-road rig upfitted with hardware, such as 18-inch all-terrain tires, Bilstein off-road shock absorbers and electronic locking rear differential.
While all full-sized pickups today are tight and pretty soundproof, the fully-dressed Platinum Reserve may be Nissan’s most luxurious vehicle. It seems to be built with the same standards, materials and expectations that Nissan applies to its cars.
Its engineering elements also are strong. The hydraulic steering is tight with confident turn-in and predictability in evasive maneuvers. But it’s too heavy when parking, and the 20.2-foot-long truck has a cruise-ship-class turning circle of 53.8 feet.
The ride quality is also outstanding for its forgiving smoothness; it’s just not sprung as stiffly as some in the HD segment. There is little jiggle and bounce, which is common in an unladen pickup. It’s not a sports car, but the weight transition is confident when hustling through a turn.
Stopping power is also reassuring from four-wheel disc brakes with mighty 14.2- and 14.4-inch vented front and rear rotors. Engaging them is just as smooth as in a big fat luxury sedan. The rotors, which are more common to the larger heavy-duties, are a couple of inches larger than those on the GM half-ton trucks.
Incentives for those who tow include: an integrated fifth-wheel hitch point, trailer sway control, a trailer brake controller and a tow-haul mode to leverage downshifts and engine braking on a downhill. Also included is a trailer light check, which is handy to ensure that the brake lights, turn signals, running lights and clearance lights are functioning.
The Platinum Reserve bed includes a spray-in bed liner, bed lights and LED bed-rail lighting, a Utili-track channel system with four movable aluminum cleats to strap down materials and a 110-volt outlet on the rear right-hand side. It only takes a two-finger push to raise or drop the tailgate, which is also lockable and can be removed.
Standard equipment on the Platinum Reserve is weighty. The leather-trimmed upholstery is glove soft. The open-pore wood trim is attractive, and there is just enough chrome and innovative design to enhance but not overwhelm. The back seat folds into a foldout floor and has lockable under-seat storage. The full-sized 20-inch spare is on an alloy wheel.
Cabin conveniences on the tester include: smart key entry and push-button ignition, heated and cooled front seats, heated back seats, an Around View camera, a 12-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system with color touch screen display and voice recognition for audio and navigation. There is no height adjustment to the front passenger seat, but it was not an issue for those who rode with me.
Pricing is another factor that sets the Titan XD apart. With options, the Titan XD can be $2,000-$4,000 less than its competitors. The Titan XD diesel has its rewards for the trucker open to something new.
Mark Maynard is online at email@example.com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage