: Nissan is getting trucky for 2016.
Its fleet of commercial vans is selling well. In fact, as a whole, Nissan’s sales over the past two fiscal years were up 48 per cent.
The one challenge is the Titan full-size pickup that bowed in 2004 and has been a tepid seller ever since.
With that in mind, Nissan is committed to upping Titan’s game this year with three cab configurations, two frame sizes and three power trains — the most important of which is the introduction of the diesel Titan XD model.
Nissan sees it as filling the “white space” between when a half-ton pick-up hasn’t enough power for the job and a three-quarter is overkill.
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A clever move on Nissan’s part was opting for the 5.0-litre two-stage turbo diesel V8 from Cummins, whose reputation for quality, reliability and longevity is renowned.
Producing 310 hp and 555 lb/ft of torque, it is mated to a heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission with four-wheel-drive.
The Cummins will eventually be offered in all XD cab and trim configurations. It will arrive first as a Crew Cab to be followed by Single and King Cab versions. Initially all XDs will be sold in Canada in 4X4 with the 6.5-foot box.
Being a diesel, the Titan XD is exempt from reporting fuel economy, but in the U.S., Motortrend reported (US) 15.8/20.8/17.7 mpg city/highway/combined.
Towing and hauling is the primary reason for the XD being in the lineup. To that end, maximum payload is 2,000 lb and towing is a maximum of 12,000 lb when properly equipped.
Nissan claims this offers a 20 per cent increase over its gasoline competition while towing.
At the press launch of the Titan XD in Arizona, Nissan made a big deal about this, having a brace of XDs with 1,000 lb loads in the bed and towing boats and 9,000 lb Bobcats in mountainous terrain.
My co-driver, who is vastly more experienced than I at towing, said the performance of the XD was “sweet,” adding the torque of the Cummins and the ability of the suspension to cope was one of the best he had ever experienced.
Nissan put a lot of thought into towing, starting with hitching a trailer, which usually involves two people – the driver and a spotter to see when the hitch comes over the ball.
To get around this, the XD uses Nissan’s Around View monitor and backup camera.
As the driver backs up, the camera’s adaptive guidelines help align the hitch with the ball. The guideline does not cover the ball and there is an audible alert when the trailer tongue is directly over the ball – brilliant.
Another thing that eliminates two people is XD’s exclusive trailer light check that uses the key fob to see if the brake lights, turn signals, running and clearance lights are all operational.
There is an integrated trailer brake control along with Downhill Speed Control and Trailer Sway Control.
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Titan XD is the first non heavy-duty truck to be offered with an integrated gooseneck hitch, which is located directly above the rear axle and removable with a flick of a lock.
Ride and handling were also a key objective, with the XD’s suspension tuned primarily for towing comfort but also with “acceptable performance” with a light or no load.
This we found out at a off-road park outside Phoenix with the rugged XD Pro-4X model across desert floor, up boulder strewn grades and down the same using downhill decent control and all the while with great traction and the ability to make tight turns even in 4WD.
It comes with 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, all-terrain off-road tires, Bilstein off-road shock absorbers, electronic locking rear differential and skid plates.
Optional on XD are dual lockable in-bed storage boxes that sit sight-unseen at street level and can hold a wide range of essential work and recreational equipment.
These are accessible from inside the bed without having to remove a camper top or tonneau cover. The boxes are watertight (and drainable) and can be used as a cooler for picnics or tailgating. They are also removable for times when extra bed capacity is required.
Adding to storage is a second row area under the seat with a locking lid for added security and the integrated fold out flat floor.
The centre console can hold a computer tablet with case or a 15-inch laptop.
In the box is an industry-first Utili-Track Bed Channel System with four heavy-duty aluminum alloy cleats that move and lock anywhere along the walls, bed floor and header tracks that give the user endless tie-down possibilities.
There are five trim models in Crew Cab with 4X4 models starting with (all starting prices) the S ($52,400), the SV ($56,300), Pro4X ($63,950), SL ($70,250) and Platinum Reserve ($73,900).
Now with robust diesel power, the Titan XD is definitely on the way to finding the full-size pickup sweet spot, not to mention that space between the half-ton pick-up and the three-quarter.
Nissan Titan XD 4X4 2016 at a glance
BODY STYLE: Full-size body on frame pickup truck
DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, four-wheel-drive, mated to a six-speed heavy-duty automatic transmission
ENGINE: 5.0-litre Cummins two-stage turbo diesel (310 hp, 555 lb/ft of torque)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Diesel) NA; reported (US) 15.8/20.8/17.7 mpg city/highway/combined.
TOW RATING: Up to 12,000 lb properly equipped
PAYLOAD: Up to 2,000 lb properly equipped
PRICE: (4X4) S ($52,400), the SV ($56,300), Pro-4X ($63,950), SL ($70,250), Platinum Reserve ($73,900).