2016 Nissan Titan XD: A Tweener With Unique Functionality

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2016 Nissan Titan XD

2016 Nissan Titan XD First Look

After spending a day evaluating the all-new 2016 Nissan Titan XD on a motoring drive on the outskirts of Phoenix that included tow testing, payload hauling, and off roading along a 25-mile-long challenging dirt track with a sand wash, we moved on the second day to our next test location at Nissan’s Technical Center in Stanfield. Here, on the 3,050-acre facility located in the Arizona’s low desert terrain, we drove the new pickup on a high-speed track and over courses used by Nissan’s engineers to test ride comfort, along with a host of other torture tests to ensure longevity and reliability of all of the truck’s components.

You can think of it as a “tweener”. The 2016 Nissan Titan XD bridges the divide between a light-duty pickup and a functional heavy-duty truck. It’s more important than you might think: today’s full-size pickup truck segment is extremely competitive, with only five light-duty offerings vying for consumers’ dollars, but each comes with a number of models, trims and options. Nissan is challenging its class-contenders with the second generation of its Titan truck, boasting a bold new design and powerful engine choices that make its new model a heavy-duty hauler with the drivability and affordability of a light-duty player. Its first iteration to come to market is diesel-powered.

Nissan says the Titan XD will cross the divide by offering the utility, towing, and hauling capabilities of the larger, more expensive 3/4 –ton work trucks while delivering the fuel-efficiency and pricing of a more affordable half-ton pickup. The first model to go on sale late in 2015 is the diesel-powered Crew Cab XD that comes in both rear-drive and 4WD, with a Platinum Reserve luxury on-road model and a PRO-4X off-road model. The lineup will ultimately offer three cab configurations (Crew Cab, King Cab and Single Cab), two frame sizes and three bed lengths, a total of three powertrain offerings (including V-8 and V-6 gasoline choices), and five grade levels (S, SV, P4X, SL, and Platinum Reserve). It competes with the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra and Toyota Tundra.

Motivated by a powerful 5.0-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel V-8 mated to an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission, the 2016 Nissan Titan XD achieves 310 horsepower at 3,200 rpm and 555 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,600 rpm, with a maximum towing of 12,314 pounds and a payload of 2,091 pounds. While exact fuel economy numbers have not yet been released, Nissan says the diesel powertrain is expected to provide 20 percent better fuel economy than a gasoline-powered V-8, while towing full loads.

The TITAN XD benefits from a unique frame and chassis to handle its Cummins diesel and its expanded towing and payload potential. Its new fully boxed, full-length ladder frame is extensively reinforced and strengthened for added stiffness, vertical and lateral bending, and torsional rigidity. Up front, the double-wishbone with stabilizer bar suspension is reinforced and tuned for hard use while the rigid rear axle suspension utilizes hefty leaf springs and leaf bushings, along with twin-tube shock absorbers. It also features an extended 151.6-inch wheelbase – about 20 inches longer than non-XD Titan models. Responsive steering is provided by a recirculating ball-type high-capacity steering system with parallel rod steering linkage to optimize steering effort characteristics, even under heavy axle weight and towing conditions.

Durable off-road performance has also been emphasized, with features such as hill descent control, hill start assist, and brake limited-slip differential. Available towing aids include an integrated trailer brake controller, trailer sway control, tow/haul mode with downhill speed control, and a trailer light check system that assists with one-person hook-up operations. Also assisting trailer hook-ups is an available RearView Monitor with Trailer Guides, while Nissan’s available Around View Monitor provides a unique “bird’s eye” view of the surrounding area from front, rear, and side cameras to help with parking and pulling in and out of tight spaces. Moving object detection also alerts the driver to moving vehicles, shopping carts, or other large objects around the truck when backing out via an on-screen notification and warning chime.

Outside, the Titan XD exterior features a bold, commanding presence with a fresh, modern technical feel that Nissan says is inspired by a theme of “powerful precision tool.” Its muscular, athletic design wears an extended front overhang, with aerodynamically tuned front spoiler, roof and tailgate spoilers, underbody covers, rear tire wind deflectors, and a seal between the cab and bed.

To aid with cargo, the XD employs Nissan’s Utili-track Bed Channel System which features four heavy-duty aluminum alloy cleats that move and lock anywhere along the walls, bed floor, and header tracks for flexible tie-down possibilities. Also onboard are lockable and removable, watertight and drainable bedside storage boxes that can be accessed from inside the bed without having to remove a camper top or tonneau cover.

Inside, designers focused on enhanced utility with conveniently grouped controls, additional lockable storage, and a center console that can hold a computer tablet with case or a 15-inch laptop. The premium grade instrument panel includes a combination of analog and digital gauges, along with a 5.0-inch color display, unique diesel monitoring and maintenance displays, and 7.0-inch NissanConnect with Navigation, Mobile Apps and Services color monitor. Nissan’s standard front and rear Zero Gravity seats help maximize posture positioning for enhanced comfort during long-distance driving; available are heated and cooled front and heated rear seats, along with a choice of water-repellant fabric or durable leather-appointments. Special attention was also paid to reducing the intrusion of noise and vibration into the cabin, using laminated front and rear side glass, additional engine noise isolation, and body sealing.

We concentrated our drive on the 2016 Titan XD PRO-4X motoring it on a variety of on-road an rigorous off-road courses. Nissan has done its homework and not only has met its competition head-to-head but also has some game-changing technologies and competencies. It’s a large truck with a “big-boy” feel, but is easy to get in and out of, with running boards, and its ergonomics make it easy-to maneuver. We also used the truck for towing and appreciated its plentiful torque, smooth and quiet diesel ride and its towing technologies.

Pricing and full specifications will be announced at a later date.

2016 Nissan Titan XD
PRO-4X Crew Cab
Vehicle type: full-size light-duty pickup truck
Base price: TBD
Price as tested: Not available
Drivetrain: 5.0-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel V-8 mated to an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission
Horsepower and torque: 310 horsepower at 3,200 rpm and 555 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,600 rpm.
Overall length: 243.6 inches
Turning diameter: 53.8 inches
Curb weight: More than 8,500 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 26.0
EPA mileage rating: TBA

Name: Nissan Technical Center North America’s Arizona Testing Center (ATC), the company’s premier test facility for the Americas.

Location: A barren, five-square-mile census-designated place in Stanfield, Arizona.

Capabilities: Hot- and cold-weather simulation; high altitude; high speed; crash; powertrain; durability. Arizona’s low desert terrain provides NTCNA with an ideal environment to test Nissan vehicles for hot weather, heat durability, engine cooling and air conditioner performance. The NTCNA proving ground also features a 5.7 mile high-speed oval and four individual road courses designed to test vehicle durability, reliability, and ride comfort.

According to ATC director Steve Monk, the site focuses on “comfort and ride-and-handling events that are important for the North American region.” That means scouring the continent for challenging, aggravating, and crappy roads, hiring a civil engineering firm for surveying purposes, then precisely replicating those roads on the grounds of the 3050-acre facility. “We have wavy asphalt roads from Florida, broken concrete from Michigan, turns and elevation changes from the San Gabriel Mountains, and two turns that replicate racetracks,” Monk says.

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Sue Mead
Sue Mead’s automotive career began as a freelance evaluator for Four Wheeler Magazine in 1988, on the first team that included women as testers. Today, she travels the globe test-driving cars and trucks, and working as a photojournalist/feature writer for dozens of publications, specializing in 4WD and adventure. Mead has been an auto editor and 4WD editor for CNN/fn. Her books include Monster Trucks and Tractors; Off Road Racing, Legends and Adventures; and Rock Crawling. She has been to 70 countries; driven enough off-road and 4WD race miles to have circumnavigated the globe twice! Mead won the Open Production class at the 2011 Dakar; and is an inductee into the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.