Test Drive: 2016 Nissan Titan XD

On a chilly morning, the Nissan Titan XD’s Cummins Turbodiesel V8 fires up after a few slightly laborious cranks which suggest something big is about to awaken. Ignition is achieved promptly after a little glow-plug warming and engine cranking, before charming diesel sound effects and vibrations move through the Titan’s body and cabin. Then, the engine settles into a mildly-thudding idle that sounds like work being done.

If you’re a truck guy and your rig’s packing heat under the hood, you’ll probably want nearby truck guys piloting the competition to know about it.

Nowadays, diesel engines can be made to fire up and run smooth as glass, and quiet enough for those nearby to hear themselves blink. Titan XD goes another route, with signature sounds and vibrations helping validate its owner’s choice in a high-tech diesel monster-engine, every time they fire it up. You’ve got to bet it’s on purpose: after all, if you’re a truck guy and your rig’s packing heat under the hood, you’ll probably want nearby truck guys piloting the competition to know about it.

On the road, Tundra owners slow down for a look. F-150 EcoBoosts and Ram HEMIs flank the Titan XD a moment, then speed off, sounding their blow-off valves and sports exhausts (respectively) as they fire past. Truck guys in parking lots walk up and ask if this is the ‘new one, with the Cummins’. In my Northern Ontario locale, a new-to-market pickup like the Titan XD draws reactions like a drop-top Lamborghini.

They should have called it the Titanic. The Titan XD will satisfy any truck-guy need to pilot something big and tough and imposing. The tested PRO-4X model requires a hearty hop on board, lacked running board implements to preserve ground clearance levels, and rolled on a set of General Grabber tires for above average-bite into various mucks and turfs. From the driver’s seat, Titan seems to generously fill a highway lane. People stare and point at its towering body. All your friends – all of them – will respond the same way upon meeting your new Titan XD for the first time: by saying, “Oh my God, it’s so big!!”

Start thinking of witty replies.

The Titan XD PRO 4X is a jack of all trades: whether you’re hauling a 12,000 pound trailer or slogging through some mud and ruts, you’re well backed up with a list of hardware and specs that reads like a truck nut’s wishlist. You get 555 lb-ft of torque, Bilstein off-road shocks, skid-plates, a gooseneck trailer hitch, a locking rear diff, and more. Your writer didn’t find occasion to tow or haul anything other than himself and some camera gear around [James Bergeron will have a comprehensive towing test of this rig soon – Ed], and an early-March test-drive meant that my favourite off-road trails were still too snowed-in for exploration. Still, numerous jaunts down my favourite badly-rutted, muddy and flooded-out backroad, as well as no less than 10 hours of highway driving, revealed plenty.

Off road, Titan XD drives like it looks like it drives: big, heavy, planted, stable and extremely rigid. The Bilstein shocks and ultra-rigid frame deliver the tough and jouncy ride expected of a big truck on rough roads, though the suspension feels finely tuned, and body motions are kept in check. On nasty backroads with ruts and heaves and washboards and potholes, even at speed, it feels like the road, not the suspension, is getting beaten to a pulp. Where, say, a RAM 2500 meets the rough stuff with sharp and sudden body motions, the Titan XD has a layer of softness calibrated in around the edges to keep things smoother.

From the driver’s seat, the feel is pure toughness. Steering is isolated nicely, with all but the most severe ruts, bumps, washboards and potholes failing to try and pull the wheel from your hands. With minimal effort at the wheel, Titan tracks straight and true over nearly anything. And though the tester’s lengthy wheelbase increases the likelihood of being hung-up while climbing certain obstacles, it does help smooth the ride out.

Traction – largely thanks to its tank-like weight and knobby tires, is massive. Need more? Titan PRO 4X has your back, with four-low and diff-lock just a flick-and-click away. Be careful though: as a massive truck weighing as much as your local grocery store, you’ll need something like a Chinook helicopter to free it if you get stuck.

The highway drive is pleasingly well-sorted: smooth in the face of the beefed-up shocks, with wind noise levels kept in check, near-nil road noise levels, and no need to raise your voice for a conversation. Steering is stable, exhibits a refreshing tendency to lock onto its line, and has a just-right blend of on-centre slack and quick response, so Titan XD feels keen to both keep to its lane without readjustment, and to maneuver easily between lanes, as required. In all, steering and suspension feel dialed in nicely, in virtually any situation, and at virtually any speed. It’s no more strenuous a machine to drive on the highway than a Toyota Camry.

Drivers take it all in from a cabin that’s styled logically, dotted with high-tech interfaces, and manipulated via a blend of touch-screen and tactile interfaces. Stitching and metal line the cabin, and upscale materials are applied for good measure. Numerous passengers noted that the center stack looks pure RAM 1500, and picked up on a generic look to the cabin layout overall. It’s tidy, upscale, and modern, but if there was an opportunity to do something different and revolutionary with pickup cabin design, Nissan missed it, here.

The Rockford Fosgate stereo is mighty, the heated and chilled seats and heated steering wheel engage in quick order, and though the resolution from the around-view camera system is fairly low, it’s in effective tool in the fight against caving in the bumpers of your fellow motorists in tight quarters nonetheless. Though Titan XD is a gigantic roadbeast, your writer was expecting a larger turning circle. Still, brush up on four and five-point turns if parking in tight quarters, and fire up the biceps – Titan’s steering is notably labour intensive at low speeds.

The bed featured numerous implements for adjustable cleats and tie-downs, a bright overhead LED light, a tailgate assisted in both directions by a fancy internal spring, and a set of storage bins, similar to the RAMBOX units found in Ram trucks, though removable when not needed. Built-in cupholders and drainage provisions make these bins a handy storage option for chilled beverages. Still, storage boxes are super-controversial.

“STORAGE BOXES ARE STUPID BECAUSE WHAT ABOUT MY QUAD??!!” shout the haters.

Maybe you don’t have a quad? And in any case, unlike the RAMBOX setup, Titan XD’s in-bed boxes can be can be removed.

Features, new-truck novelty, power galore, and driving characteristics aside, the real appeal to the Titan XD lies within its positioning in the marketplace.

In my circle (and many others), if you need a little pickup to haul a little bit of stuff, and a little trailer, you buy a big pickup. And if you need a bigger pickup to tow a bigger trailer and a bit more stuff, you buy a Heavy Duty (and then a lift-kit, light-bar, and smokestacks, and probably, truck-nuts).

And thanks to a torque-war waged between heavy-duty pickups, there’s a gaping hole in the marketplace. Today, half-ton models max out around 420 lb-ft, and many HD models offer double that amount and then some, in case you’ve got to haul a sunken nuclear submarine out of the sea, or something. With a specific towing-focused chassis, brakes, suspension and even unique lug-nuts, Titan XD is built to fill that torque-hole with its massiveness, bridging the gap between half-ton and ¾ ton with a previously non-existent option positioned as a high-capability pickup that doesn’t require a step into a Heavy Duty. Call it a heavy half-ton, a 5/8 ton, or a light heavy-duty, but if you’re frequently maxing out your half-ton and engaging in white-knuckle trailering, but you don’t need (or want) to move into a full HD model, the Titan XD was conceived for you.

Mileage on my watch landed at a measured-by-hand 16.3L/100km – right in the same vicinity as any number of V8-powered gasoline pickups driven similarly, but with a landslide more torque. For where and how I drive, I found the Titan XD’s mileage to be fantastic for its available capability, and the tester wasn’t even broken in yet.

Gripes? The headlights are adequate, nothing more, and leave a little to be desired during after dark cruising, especially given Titan XD’s ability to cruise comfortably at speed. Some drivers will wish for more power assist from the steering at low speeds to make parking easier, too. Finally, the rounded edge of the centre stack, around the 4x4 selector knob, frequently found itself trying to dig in beneath my kneecap, regardless of my seating position.

End of the day, those shoppers after a pickup with above-average confidence for towing and hauling, highly respectable mileage, and nicely dialed in driving dynamics, should give the Titan XD a closer look.

Warranty:
3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 3 years/60,000 km roadside assistance

Competitors:
Chevrolet Silverado 1500
Chevrolet Silverado 2500
Ford F-150
Ford F-250
GMC Sierra 1500
GMC Sierra 2500
Ram 1500
Ram 2500
Toyota Tundra

2016 Nissan Titan XD PRO 4X
articles_PricingType 2016 Nissan Titan XD PRO 4X
Base Price $63,950
Optional Equipment PRO 4X Luxury Package ($7,750)
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,795
Price as Tested $73,595
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.2
6 Exterior Styling
8 Performance
6 Interior
8 Comfort
8 Fuel Economy