A Promising Idea That Falls Short in the Real World
For years now, the only nondomestic full-size pickups available have been either the Toyota Tundra or the Nissan Titan, and neither one has been available in a heavy-duty specification. Last year, Nissan introduced the then-new second-generation Titan with an XD version, which straddled the line between light- and heavy-duty trucks. Notice that the badge reads XD (as in cross-duty) and not HD (as in heavy-duty)? Equipped with a stout 310-hp, 555-lb-ft 5.0 liter V-8 Cummins turbodiesel, last year’s $60,000 USD truck was called out for offering more towing capability than some light-duty trucks but less than similarly priced heavy-duties. This year, Nissan reissued the XD with the company’s familiar gasoline-powered 5.6-liter Endurance V-8 and about a $3,000 USD discount.
What Makes it XD?
Compared to the non-XD Titan, the XD’s V-8 has the same 390-hp rating, but it makes 7 lb-ft more twist that’s sent through a taller 3.36:1 rearend rather than the standard 2.94:1. (The XD diesel has a 3.92:1 ratio.) The XD also boasts larger brakes and a proper gooseneck trailer attachment engineered into the frame and accessed through the bed. And although all XDs are uprated to a standard Titan, compared to the XD diesel, the gasoline XD has lower tow ratings. A properly equipped XD diesel 4×4 is rated to tow up to 12,037 pounds (5459.9 kg) (Class 4 hitch) and 11,890 pounds (5393.2 kg) (gooseneck hitch), whereas the gas XD 4×4 is rated to 11,000 pounds (4989.5 kg) (Class 4), and 10,850 pounds (4921.5 kg) (gooseneck).
Our annual Truck of the Year competition avails us to an array of specialized tests used to determine the performance capabilities of a variety of trucks: half-ton, three-quarter-ton, and so on. How did this new gasoline-powered Titan XD perform? Not very well.
In standard acceleration testing, the XD Platinum Reserve was predictably slower than a similarly equipped non-XD Titan Platinum Reserve (roughly 900 pounds (408.2 kg) lighter) by about a half-second. Yet the XD’s larger brakes did bring the more massive XD to a halt from 60 mph (96.6 km/h) in roughly the same distance as the standard Titan. Surely towing will be the XD’s forte, right? Its upgraded ratings would indicate it would. However, towing the same 7,000-pound trailer, the XD was 1.4 seconds slower to 60 mph, slowly narrowing the gap at the quarter mile with a 20.1-second, 68.9-mph (110.9 km/h) performance to the standard Titan’s 20.0-second, 70.7-mph (113.8 km/h) best. (Side note: In real-world driving and especially during acceleration testing, we noticed with all the Titans on hand this year, there was a pause between full-throttle application and actual forward progress. Perhaps this has something to do with Nissan’s unique way of “directly controlling the intake valve, rather than using the traditional method of controlling intake with a throttle valve.”)
And things got even worse for the XD when we subjected it to the real-world SAE J2807 Davis Dam incline test. Towing a 7,500-pound skid-loader up the grade, the standard Titan accelerated from 35 to 55 mph (56.3 to 88.5 km/h) in 18.3 seconds, requiring 1,175 feet to do so. The XD needed more than twice the time and the distance at 40.4 seconds and 2,969 feet. What happened? We figured that the XD’s weight, gearing, and uniquely tuned transmission programming conspired to this mishap. Almost like a speed limiter would, the XD’s tachometer stubbornly clung to redline nearly the entire time up the grade and refused to upshift to the next gear. Despite using its Tow/Haul mode with Downhill Speed Control, the XD overran the 60-mph set speed on the cruise control, which descended the back of the grade. And this is why we do what we do. We put these trucks to the test and sometimes discover that specs on paper do not necessarily translate into real-world capability.
“It did eventually hold the speed limit of 65 mph (104.6 km/h) on the uphill just fine,” editor-in-chief Ed Loh said in its defense. “Other than that, driving with the trailer was quite good. There were no issues with handling or trailer sway; I never felt the vehicle get out of control. The solid brake response was very comforting.”
Interior Features and Comfort
Seating comfort in trucks likely isn’t the highest priority for most consumers. But for working folks who spend hours in the saddle, Nissan’s standard “inspired by NASA” front and rear Zero Gravity seats are said to “help maximize posture positioning for enhanced comfort during long-distance driving.” Most agreed the Titan XD’s front seats were at least as comfortable as the other pickups in this year’s TOTY competition. “I know this might put me in the minority, but I’m more comfortable in this driver’s seat than in the Ford’s,” executive editor Mark Rechtin said. Testing director Kim Reynolds furthered that assessment. “Most of these rear seats are very slablike and vertical,” he said. “This touch of lumbar support goes a long way. There’s a 110-volt outlet back here and seat heaters, too.”
In terms of design, the XD Platinum Reserve’s handsome exterior, interior presentation, and features aren’t noticeably differentiated from the non-XD Platinum Reserve—so much so that at least one staffer mistook one for the other on the driving rotations without even noticing. The entire staff found the parts-bin infotainment and switchgear too similar to any Nissan product.
“The side-mirror controls are simply confusing to me,” Reynolds said. “The interior shows very little creativity—it’s just there, and predictable, and expected.”
Rechtin put it this way: “You get inside the Titan XD, and you can tell the decades of experience that Ford has over Nissan. The vision out the front of the Nissan isn’t as good, the mirror coverage isn’t as good, and so on.”
Especially unfortunate was the low-resolution rearview monitor that struggled with the bright-light/dark-shadows contrast that so often occurs. We had difficulty trying to back the truck up in a crowded parking lot and especially so when attempting to precisely maneuver the truck to a trailer. We called for a spotter instead. Some of the other competitors’ cameras were simply in another class when it came to managing difficult light and lining up to accept a trailer.
We also experienced a recurring Titan XD glitch with NissanConnect where if a Bluetooth-connected phone call exceeded a certain amount of time (approximately 15 minutes), as Scott Evans described it, “the infotainment system made a loud sizzling and popping noise, the screen flickered, and the system reset itself. Meanwhile, the call is still connected on the phone but must be switched over to the handset.”
Fuel Economy and Ride Quality
Most trucks ride around without a payload or a trailer, and usually the ride quality suffers because the excess capability isn’t being used. Heavy-duty trucks are the most demonstrative of this trade-off, so the Titan XD, being a tweener of sorts, managed to straddle this load-capability/ride-quality line pretty well. In fact, every judge found the Titan XD’s ride superior to that of the Ford F-150 and to every heavy-duty pickup in this year’s competition. Where it didn’t measure up, however, was in the noise, vibration, and harshness category, where many drivers felt the steering column transmitted too much vibration to their hands and that the tire noise was excessive—even compared to the heavy-duties.
Our testing regimen also gives us scientific insight into otherwise-anecdotal consumer-reported fuel economy of EPA-exempted big trucks. Although the standard Titan is, indeed, rated by the government agency at 15/21/18 mpg (15.7/11.2/13.1 L/100km) city/highway/combined, the XD is not required to be tested. Our in-house Real MPG team tested both and found that although the standard Titan came somewhat close to the EPA’s results with 12/18/15 mpg (19.6/13.1/15.7 L/100km), respectively, the XD strayed even farther (predictably) with its 12/16/13 mpg (19.6/14.7/18.1 L/100km) results. Incidentally, last year’s EPA-exempted Cummins turbodiesel XD returned 16/21/18 Real MPG (14.7/11.2/13.1 L/100km), which topped the Titan range in our real-world experience.
Scanning the judges’ notes on the Titan XD, one theme came through more than any other: a resounding, head-scratching “I don’t get this truck.” Associate road test editor Benson Kong wrote, “I love the idea of the between-the-classes truck, but I continue to feel a bit disappointed with the XD. It’s kind of understandable because running deeper into the HD numbers realm is an entirely different game. However, I believe this truck is one great engine and a more imaginative interior away from being top class.” Associate editor Scott Evans was less charitable when he wrote, “Nissan said it set out to build a 10-year-old F-250, and it delivered. It’s a nice truck on its own, but it doesn’t stand up to the class leaders. Even the F-150 makes this truck feel 10 years old, much less the F-250.”
If you are looking for a nondomestic full-size, almost-heavy-duty truck, the Nissan Titan XD might be for you. That said, we would recommend the diesel-powered version if you actually intend to tow with it.
|2016 Nissan Titan XD 4×4 Platinum Reserve V8|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD|
|ENGINE TYPE||90-deg V-8, alum block/heads|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||338.8 cu in/5,552 cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||390 hp @ 5,800 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||401 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||17.5 lb/hp|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; live axle, leaf springs, anti-roll bar|
|BRAKES, F; R||14.2-in vented disc; 14.4-in vented disc, ABS|
|WHEELS, F;R||7.5 x 20-in cast aluminum|
|TIRES, F;R||LT265/60R20 121/118R (M+S) General Grabber HTS|
|TRACK, F/R||68.6/68.6 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||242.7 x 80.7 x 78.8 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||53.8 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||6,840 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||56/44%|
|HEADROOM, F/R||41.0/40.4 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||41.8/38.5 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||63.3/63.6 in|
|PICKUP BOX VOLUME||57.8 cu ft|
|PICKUP BOX L x W x H||77.8 x 61.7 x 20.8 in|
|WIDTH BET WHEELHOUSES||50.0 in|
|PAYLOAD CAPACITY||1,810 lb|
|TOWING CAPACITY||11,000 lb|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH Unladen / towing 7,000 lb|
|0-30||2.4 / 4.6 sec|
|0-40||3.8 / 7.2|
|0-50||5.3 / 10.2|
|0-60||7.4 / 15.1|
|0-70||9.7 / 20.7|
|0-80||12.4 / 28.1|
|0-90||16.8 / —|
|0-100||21.6 / —|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||4.1 / 9.2|
|QUARTER MILE||15.7 sec @ 87.5 mph / 20.1 @ 68.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||124 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.75 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.2 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1,700 rpm|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$57,110|
|AIRBAGS||Dual front, front side, f/r curtain|
|BASIC WARRANTY||5 yrs/100,000 miles|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||5 yrs/100,000 miles|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|FUEL CAPACITY||26.0 gal|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||11.6/16.0/13.2 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON||Not rated|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||Not rated|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||Not rated|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Unleaded regular|