The first drive of the Titan took place in Arizona last fall, where Nissan has a testing facility. While it was great to finally drive the Cummins-powered truck; it was in the desert – not an environment that Canadians deal with regularly.  We were much happier when we got it back home to Canada this spring and tested it in the real-world conditions we live with everyday.  Check out our new CTKC video review to see how the Titan copes in Canada. 

The new Nissan Titan XD is a very North American pickup truck; yet it falls outside the familiar Big Three truck categories.  It’s not a half-ton, nor is it a three-quarter ton truck.  Nissan says it lives somewhere in between those two designations.  Of course this refers to payload and towing capacity, but the new Titan also has another feature that is new to the segment – a less-than- HD diesel engine.  Specifically it’s a 5.0L displacement twin-turbo-diesel engine built by Cummins.  Pumping out 310 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque it is smaller than more common 6.7L Cummins that the Heavy-Duty Ram uses – yet, it’s larger than the 3L EcoDiesel in the Ram 1500.

So, we really do have a new truck, with a heavy-half chassis powered by a mid-range diesel engine pegged to comfortably tow over 12,000 lb.  Yes, it does seem that Nissan is creating its own niche rather than fitting its truck into the existing ones.  Mind you, if you’ve been around long enough, you’ll remember that this has been done before. In the early 80’s Ford offered both the F-100 and the F-150. The latter was offered as a HD half-ton and was rated to tow about a 1,000 lb more than the F-100.  Still this new Titan has expanded the truck market and for all truck buyers that’s good.

Interestingly this is a current story that has been in the works for over a decade as in the winter of 2003 I stood on the edge of the Nissan Proving Grounds test track in Arizona, watching the roll-out of an all new truck – the Titan.  That truck offered up some unique features however it was still a very “Japanese truck” – or at least what the Japanese builders envisioned an American truck should be.  That truck had some marginal success in the early market however its development was allowed to languish and eventually fall off the update schedule all together.

Frankly, the only reason this fact is important to mention is to differentiate that Titan from this new one.  This is not the next generation of that truck.  While they share the same name, the new Titan XD has virtually nothing in common with the first offering; and that’s good.  Perhaps from watching Toyota, or perhaps on its own, Nissan has learned that the North American truck market is as much about respecting its history and culture as it is about innovation and technology.  This new truck ricochets off all those touch-stones.

Back in the Arizona desert again for the next chapter of this story – I drove the Titan XD and towed 9,000 lb with it. I dropped 750 lb in the bed, bashed it off-road and floored it on highway on-ramps – all the things I’d do with any pickup truck; and my first impression is that this truck feels, drives and handles like it came out of a Detroit factory sporting a “Semper Fi” Marine Corp tattoo.   If Nissan’s aim was to build an “American” truck they did it.

The new Titan is built on a 151- inch steel ladder frame with traditional leaf spring suspension in the rear and double wishbone front suspension. The spacious Crew Cab is offered with a 6.5-ft bed which also features a factory installed gooseneck hitch.  A fifth-wheel hitch that fits the gooseneck holes is also offered.  These available hitches point to the fact that the XD is built to haul. To that end, inside, I found an integrated trailer brake controller, Tow/Haul mode with downhill speed control, a rear-view 7-inch colour monitor that displays a clear image for hooking up trailers (either bumper or in-bed). It also has a bird’s eye view feature for tight spots.

Other driving aids include TSC (Trailer Sway Control) and a unique trailer light check feature. Using the key fob you can stand at the rear of the trailer and have the lights cycle through, running, signals and brakes – without someone in the cab.  The standard mirrors pull out for towing and they are also heated.

All these features make towing a trailer a simple one-man job.  I found everything worked well during my test drive; including the downhill speed control that uses the six-speed Aisin transmission to hold the load on long slopes.  However, I do think Nissan missed a chance here to throw a diesel exhaust brake into the mix.  Perhaps next time.

The cargo carrying ability of the Titan bed was obviously another focus of the design team with items like LED bed rail lighting and tailgate illumination included.  Nissan has also included its current Utili-track system that offers adjustable aluminum-alloy tie-down cleats on the side and on the floor of the bed.  One surprise was a 120V utility power point outlet inside the bed; it will offer up to 400 watts of AC power.

Another feature that Nissan copied from the other builders (but with its own twist) is lockable in-bed storage.  Two high-impact plastic lockers, with lids and lights fit inside the bed alongside each cargo wall.  These are locked in place, yet with a few minutes work can be removed to free up the whole bed when needed.  With the lockers in place Titan maintains the all-important four-feet between sides, but with this innovation it’s not a permanent fix.  It’s good to have choices.

As for interior appointments, Nissan will offer five trim levels and all you really need to know is that the top-of-the line one (Platinum Resource) is as sumptuous and well appointed as any other expensive truck on the market.

When it comes to the interior environment it drives quietly and confidently and with 16 cupholders no one will ever go thirsty. As for traction, in Canada, the Titan will only be offered with 4WD. An optional electronic locking rear differential will also be available.  There will also be an off-road package to order. The 2016 Nissan Titan XD  is on sale now.

Interestingly, this truck is just the first (and sort of a halo vehicle for the line) of three trucks.  Later this year we will see a more traditional half-ton with a gas V8 and V6 offering.  This truck will sit on a different frame and may offer different trims.

As for the Titan XD, it only comes with the Cummins 5L V8 diesel, in a crew cab and the pricing will start at $52,400 for the base S trim and walk up to $73,900 for the Platinum Reserve model.

Words by Howard Elmer.