The market-share graph shown by the Nissan folk during an introduction to the newly redesigned 2016 Titan pickup told the sorry tale of the truck brand’s struggle for success in the U.S. marketplace.
In bright colors, the graph of full-size trucks sold in recent years showed the dominance of Ford F-150, the best-selling vehicle of any kind in the United States, followed by Chevrolet Silverado, Ram, GMC Sierra and Toyota Tundra. Down at the very bottom of the illustration was a slim line that represented Titan’s paltry share, something on the order of 5 percentage points.
Does that mean Titan is not worthy? That F-150, Silverado and the rest of the leaders are somehow better?
Not really. What it tells us is that full-size-truck buyers are fiercely brand loyal, and that they strongly favor all-America pick-em-ups.
So what’s Nissan need to do to break the ice? The strategy is to go up the middle and fill what the Japanese automaker perceives as an unserved niche in the truck market: a mid-size diesel pickup for drivers who want the cargo and towing capacity of the larger three-quarter-ton trucks in a smaller package.
Serving to fill that void is the new Titan XD, the first version of the all-new Nissan pickups to hit the road, paved or otherwise, as Nissan re-enters the truck market with a diesel-model launch. Nissan calls it a “new class” of pickup truck, one powerful enough to perform the tasks of the heavy-duty competitors but with the size, comfort, economy and drivability of standard half-ton pickups.
The heart of the XD is a new 5.0-liter Cummins turbo-diesel V8, a workhorse with 555 pound-feet of torque mounted in a heavy-duty chassis that delivers the capability of towing 12,000 pounds and carrying 2,000 pounds (when properly equipped). Soon to come are Titans with gasoline-fueled V6 and V8 engines, but the focus now is on Nissan’s entry to its new-found middle grade, which the automaker hopes will make an impression with its unique abilities.
We were introduced to the Titan XD in a daylong media drive through the Arizona desert, which included highway driving, dirt-road passages and rocky climbing with the Pro-4X off-road version of the XD. Along with that was sampling the XD’s ride over rough roads with a 500-pound payload (you couldn’t even tell it was back there) and towing a 9,500-pound gooseneck trailer up and down long highway grades (which it accomplished easily).
The restyled 2016 Titan is a handsome truck with a bold, bright front end. It’s not terribly different from the competitors, but its details are attractively presented with the strong presence of Nissan styling DNA. The XD has a lengthened front overhang to accommodate the Cummins diesel engine.
Available in crew-cab configuration only, the XD diesel models have an extra-long 151.6-inch wheelbase and 78-inch-long pickup bed. Upcoming gasoline-powered Titans will be available in single cab, king cab and crew cab models, with various bed lengths.
The XD has been tuned for comfort and driving ease that belie its brawny capabilities, with such things as hydraulic cab mounts that isolate occupants from the rugged fully boxed ladder frame and heavy-duty suspension. The XD was an easy truck to drive, handling well and soaking up the bumps on a rough dirt road. On the highway, it is smooth and quiet, with no intrusive diesel roar.
The four-wheel-drive Pro-4X model readily climbed up a steep and boulder-strewn trail, showing it off its exemplary torque and traction. The Pro-4X comes fully equipped for off-road shenanigans, with 9.1 inches of clearance, electronic features such as hill-descent control, and skid plates to protect the drivetrain and other vital parts.
The XD comes in five levels of trim – S, SV, Pro-4X, SL and Platinum – in two- or four-wheel drive and priced from just over $40,000 to $60,500, plus shipping and options. The XD comes well-equipped in even the less-expensive versions, and it is downright luxurious in the upper ranges.
Among the innovations demonstrated during the introduction were running boards that extend all the way to the rear wheelwells, making it easier to access the bed from the side, and easily removable and lockable side-storage compartments in the bed, which also boasts a variety of hooks and cleats for securing loads, plus LED lighting.
There are a number of new towing aids, such as integrated trailer-brake controller, trailer sway control, a tow/haul mode with downhill speed control and a trailer-light check system that allows the driver to monitor brake and running lights from inside the cab.
One-person trailer hookups can be accomplished using the new RearView Monitor with Trailer Guides, which provides assistance for lining up the truck’s ball with the trailer hitch via the dashboard video monitor. Nissan’s unique Around View Monitor presents a virtual bird’s eye view of the truck’s surroundings for parking and maneuvering in tight places, and Moving Object Detection warns the driver of such things as other vehicles while backing up.
The Titan XD is certainly a sophisticated beast of burden, and that was the aim. It’s sort of a Goldilocks approach to pickups: the three-quarter-ton heavy-duty models are too much truck and the regular half-ton models are too little. Nissan is betting that a significant number of pickup-truck drivers will find the Titan XD to be just right.
2015 Nissan Titan XD
Vehicle type: Five- or six-passenger, crew-cab pickup, rear- or four-wheel drive
Base-price range: $40,290-$60,500 (plus shipping)
Engine: 5.0-liter turbo-diesel V8, 310 horsepower at 3,200 rpm, 555 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 151.6 inches Overall length/width: 242.7 inches / 80.7 inches
Curb weight: 6,709 to 7,480 pounds Gross vehicle weight: 8,800 to 8,950 pounds
Maximum cargo capacity: 2,000 pounds (when so equipped) Maximum towing capacity: 12,300 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: NA
Assembled in: Canton, Mississippi