Test Drive: 2016 Nissan Titan XD

 So let's get the first obvious question out of the way: why the hell is a GT-R nut like me test driving and reviewing a full-size pickup truck, and a diesel at that?

Well, the trouble with a GT-R is that despite having four wheel drive it's hardly a system meant for off-road use, and as good as it is at hauling ass it's just not meant for hauling loads of people and cargo. And there also comes a time in every trackday nut's fancy that you entertain visions of towing a dedicated track car to events so you don't have to hitchhike if unfortunate happenings should occur.
Yes it's big, but big is good when you want to tow something.

With that in mind I've been waiting eagerly to see what Nissan had cooked up with the new Titan after a gestation period that took longer than most animal species need to evolve. In Nissan's defense, the long development time wasn't entirely their fault – part of that blame, oddly, needs to go to Chrysler. Many eons ago when Nissan first started considering plans to replace the previous generation Titan, they thought of going into a joint venture with Chrysler to develop a common platform. Unfortunately Chrysler ran into its monetary issues then got bought out by Fiat and like good mafiosi the Italians put the hit on the shared development plan.

That left Nissan to go it alone again and at that point it would have been totally understandable for them to have just said enough was too much and given up on making a new full-size pickup entirely. After all, the full-size pickup market is probably the vehicle segment most entrenched in brand loyalties, specifically American ones. Even Toyota, who famously made even the Germans stand up and take notice when Lexus started to outsell them, hasn't made a dent in the American big three's dominance of the plus-size pickup market.

Nissan is ambitious however, and armed with a desire to break into the commercial truck market they decided to develop their NV series of commercial vehicles and the platform for those eventually became the basis for the new Titan. And instead of simply taking on the American manufacturers in a head-on assault with a similar product Nissan decided to make a bit of a feint. They saw a gap between the light-duty trucks that most families buy to play pretend cowboy and the heavy-duty trucks that real cowboys use to tow their bovines to wherever bovines go when they feel like road tripping. In that Goldilocks zone Nissan thought they could distinguish themselves by offering a truck that could haul and tow more than a light-duty but not be quite as unwieldy and huge as the existing heavy-duties. Oh, and they decided to throw in a diesel, from esteemed oil-burner maker and dirty pun source, Cummins.

And that's how we got the new Titan XD – a new truck for new kind of truck buyer. Maybe.
The last thing an errant prairie dog will see.

I just wish it looked as new as it really was. It's not that the Titan's new look is ugly or outdated. Its problem is that it's too derivative. The old Titan had an appropriately Japanese look to it that made it stand out from the American competition. This new one looks more like what a Japanese person thinks a Ford F-150 should look like. Oh well, as I said it's not ugly, and maybe the more conventional looks will get some more buyers – like some idiot who thinks he just bought an F-series. On the bright side, it looks better than a Great Wall Wingle!
You know how they say objects with large amounts of mass bend light? Yes, that's why this shot of the first Titan XD I drove is out of focus. Nope, it's not due to my crappy photography skills at all. Nuh uh.

At least it looks appropriately imposing for a full-size truck – unlike the old one which always looked a bit smaller than its rivals. With a huge chrome grill in the front it'll easily fill the typical full-size truck buyer's quota of everybody-get-out-of-my-way-ness. The overall proportions are just as imposing and macho but sadly the huge chrome badges on the front fenders are just too gaudy. Styling-wise Nissan gets a C for the new Titan from me – but Professor Oliver may decide to award an A+ if the company decides to grow some Truck Nutz and build the gnarly Titan Warrior concept. Build it Nissan, you know your inner bro wants to.
Striking fear into the hearts of stray animals and Starbucks drivethroughs everywhere - the Nissan Titan Warrior concept. Image credit: Nissan

The outside may be a tad average but fortunately that's not true of the inside. Although even the top-of-the-range Platinum Reserve I drove still had an overall functional design sense, it was a very comfy place to be and upscale enough to suit the nearly $60K base price. As you'd expect from a range-topper the Platinum Reserve (God, that sounds more like whiskey than a truck) came with all the funky gadgets – power everything, nav system, Nissan's useful Around View Monitor (very handy for a huge truck like this), leather seats that can be adjusted to your buttock's preferred level of hot or cold, and a rear-seat entertainment system for when your ranch hands need to watch reruns of Bonanza.
You'll know a Platinum Reserve when you see one from all the BIG, SHOUTY BADGING AND CHROME!!!
Those ranch hands should have no complaints about the leg room while watching their Westerns in the back seat. If they do complain, just throw 'em in the huge 6.5 foot long bed where they can scrabble away at the included plastic bed liner trying to hang on for dear life. While fearing for their lives they can at least leave their valuables and a tender farewell note to their loved ones in the handy Titan Box storage containers on each side of the bed. Assuming they make it to your destination in one piece they can then deploy the rear tail gate with a very un-pickup-like damped motion and climb shakily out to kiss the ground in thanks.
The Platinum Reserve interior is a nice place to be if you love dead cows and trees.

Behind the sizable steering wheel is a column-mounted shifter (unlike the old truck's floor-mounted version) that's connected to a six speed auto and that party-piece turbo V8 Cummins diesel that's tuned to shovel out 310 hp and ALL the torques. Okay, it's really just 555 ft-lbs but that's enough to give the 4x4 Platinum Titan XD a 10,610 pound towing capacity. That's more than enough for two GT-Rs and a couple of umbrella girls. If you must bring a third umbrella girl as a spare then you can get the Pro-4X instead and have an extra 1000 pounds or so. That trim level is what I was really interested in but my local dealer Sonora Nissan hadn't gotten one in their first batch of Titans.

A few weeks later they did get a nice silver Pro-4X and to my pleasant surprise the interior was much more along the lines of what I'd like from a pickup truck. Instead of the wood trim that infested even the steering wheel on the Platinum Reserve and threatened to instantly double my age, the Pro-4X had much sleeker looking silver trim with a great leather steering wheel and seats covered in a mix of nice black cloth and vinyl trimmed in some very, very natty white Pro-4X stitching and monograms. Yup, it instantly felt more like a proper truck than something a rich suburbanite would drive to play pretend badass when the weather's too hot to take the Harley.
Yes, that's more like it. Silver and black for our robot apocalypse future.

The Pro-4X logos add five quarts of testosterone each and will instantly deepen your voice to levels exceeding that of Barry White.

Even at 11000 pounds towing capacity for the Pro-4X that may not seem very impressive given that Ford rates it's perennial best-seller F150 at around that number even with the EcoBoost V6 but ratings are only one side of the story. Nissan claims that the Titan has chassis and transmission specs more along the lines of a heavy-duty truck than the light-duty competition. Since the new Titan chassis is actually derived from the commercial-grade NV trucks that are meant to see lots of abuse it should hold up well to the lesser demands of the average private citizen. By tossing in a big hulking diesel and overbuilding the chassis to near heavy-duty specs Nissan seems to be aiming to make their tow rating a realistic target for regular use. Oh, and if your lotto winnings end up allowing for the purchase of a big-ass fifth-wheel RV to haul the whole clan to the next cow-tipping competition the Titan comes pre-equipped for such feats of strength.

Of course that extra strengthening and big diesel translates to a lot of weight and with 7080 pounds of testosterone to haul around the Titan XD was never going to challenge a GT-R in performance. Even with that in mind, the ones I drove had a slight sluggishness off the line that seemed to be due to more than just the weight. To me it seemed the throttle calibration was on the gentler side and required a firm shove to get the beast properly going. Passing power was more than ample however and once acclimated to the throttle – and the supertanker size – it was fairly easy to tool around town and on the highway in the Titan. Well, easy for something that obscures more sunlight than a partial solar eclipse.
Let's see that Warrior Concept again...for reasons. Image credit: Nissan

One thing that didn't take getting used to was the ride, which even in the off-road oriented Pro-4X was very good for a full-size truck. You wouldn't confuse it for a luxury sedan of course but it was very competitive with other full-size trucks I've been in. Even unladen it rode well, unlike a lot of pickups that can feel like they're suspended by old mattress springs and Flubber. Handling is hardly a big consideration in tanks like these so let's just say it did about as well as anything big enough to haul your entire living room and the neighbor's should be expected to. Maneuverability? It's twenty feet long! I didn't need any assistance from tug boats at least if that makes you feel better. In that regard Nissan's always awesome Around View Monitor really helped when I had to back up and maneuver the Platinum Reserve in the dealer parking lot. Around View is standard on the Platinum but unfortunately someone forgot to tick off that option box for the Pro-4X and I had to make do with just a simple backup camera. What is this, the turn-of-the-21st century? Around View Monitor all the things Nissan!

So, overall what we have here is a very solid truck from Nissan. With very loyal buyers and aggressive incentives it's going to face an uphill battle against the American competition. But with an approach that hopes to find an untapped niche of buyers looking for a just-right “medium-duty” pickup maybe this Titan will be more than just a blip in the full-size market unlike its predecessor.

So am I buying one? Ask me if I ever get around to buying that dedicated track car I mentioned at the start.

Gracious acknowledgment to Sonora Nissan for letting me waste some of their diesel fuel by taking their Nissan Titans for a spin whilst trying not to smoosh any of the local wildlife, pedestrians, or fellow drivers.