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2016 Nissan Titan XD

 

2016 Nissan Titan Pro 4X

Base Price: $40,290
Price as Tested: $60,520

Nissan’s goal with its 2016 Titan XD is to to cash in on the “Goldilocks” effect. More heavy duty than a half-ton, and less fuel thirsty and expensive than a three-quarter-ton, Nissan engineered the Titan XD for those needing to tow more than a half-ton’s typical 5,000-to-10,000-pound capacity, but less than a heavy-duty pickup’s 15,000 plus pounds. Nissan marketers refer to this gap as “white space.” In the Goldilocks story it’s called “just right.” In the Titan XD saga, it’s known as “Nissan’s the great full-size-pickup hope.”

Penned at Nissan Design in San Diego, engineered at Nissan Technical Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan, tested at its testingDSC02578 center in Stanfield, Arizona, and built in Canton, Mississippi, Nissan aggressively targets the American full-size truck buyer with the 2016 Titan XD.

If you think Nissan stopped producing the last-generation Titan a couple of years ago, you’re among the majority. Unless you’ve gone shopping for one, you probably wouldn’t know that Nissan’s Mississippi plant has been steadily building Titans throughout 2015. The fact that on average only about 50 roll off the line per day may well explain the confusion. Nissan will wind up selling roughly 12,000 Titans in 2015.

For a while Nissan did seem to abandon its full-size-pickup ambitions – remember its brief flirtation with Ram rebadging some of its 1500-pickup production as Titans? That arrangement, however, fell through, spawning the Titan XD.

Regular Titan versions with gas V8 and V6 engines will follow later next year, but they seem to be more of an afterthought. Ultimately Nissan’s big-truck emphasis is attracting those pickup buyers needing to tow 10,000 to 12,000 pounds, who don’t want the hassle and expense of owning a heavy-duty truck. It’s all about the Titan XD.

DSC02574When the regular strain of Titans arrives next year, they will basically be resting on the 2015 frame. Nissan, though, engineered a entirely different, heavier-duty boxed, ladder frame derived from its commercial vans for the Titan XD. This is to better handle the extra pulling power of the Cummins 5-liter V8 turbo diesel. Often referred to by Nissan wonks as the “triple nickle” for its 555 lb.-ft. of torque, this turbo diesel generates 310 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission hustles engine output to the wheels.

Because the government classifies Titan XD as heavy duty, Nissan isn’t required to publish estimated fuel-economy numbers; however, it promises that the turbo diesel will deliver better mileage than gas V8s capable of towing similar weights.

Nissan isn’t relying solely on the Titan XD’s turbo diesel and towing prowess as marketing hooks. In addition to a number of current technologies, such as an integrated brake controller, sway control and tow mode with downhill speed control, Nissan has developed a bit of industry-first technology to tempt serious trailer towers. One such all-new feature is a rearview backup monitor with trailer guides. It includes a blue line that helps an unaided driver put the hitch directly under the trailer tongue. I accomplished this on my first attempt and I have nearly zero experience towing.

There is also a Trailer Light Check system that, with just the key fob, allows a driver to step behind the trailer to check that the 2016 Nissan TITAN XDbrake lights and trailer turn signals are operating. Historically, this is a two-person chore.

In a recent media first drive of the Titan XD in Arizona, I found the truck to be remarkably quiet for a diesel-powered vehicle. Whether empty or hauling the 600-pound payload Nissan provided, its ride was smooth and its handling confidence building. No doubt Titan XD’s ride quality will attract some buyers not satisfied with the typical harshness of a heavy-duty pickup’s ride.

Although Nissan is reluctant to toss around the heavy-duty label, from all appearances, the Titan XD looks like more like a 2500 than a 1500. Anyone much under six feet will need a boost to admire the shinny Cummins under the hood.

Inside the crew cab I drove in Arizona, I found the controls and switches logically placed. This cabin is roomy and comfortable. As with a couple of its sedans, Nissan installed its NASA-inspired zero-gravity seats up front. It relocated Titan’s gated shift lever from the center console to the steering column, creating more storage space. There is also hidden storage under the backseat floor.

DSC02572Generally the Titan XD is loaded with typical higher-end features like a seven-inch color display with Navigation and NissanConnectSM.

All in all, Titan XD is a terrific truck; however, with some versions of competitors’ half-ton trucks capable of towing nearly as much as it can, Nissan may find that white space to be a much narrower niche than it believes. Arguably its 26-gallon fuel tank will weed out many longer-distance haulers. This is a roll of the dice for Nissan, and only time will tell how savvy a bet it is.