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First Drive: 2016 Nissan Titan XD

The All-new Cummins Diesel-Powered 2016 Nissan Titan XD Carves a Pickup Market Niche

Nissan’s been selling its full-size Titan pickup for more than a decade without much success, so it took another look at the truck market and found what it calls a “white space” between half-ton and three-quarter ton pickups. Their research showed that 75,000 half-ton truck buyers needed just a bit more towing and hauling capability and were forced to buy a much larger, heavier and more expensive pickup, while the same number of three-quarter ton truck buyers really did not want or need this size vehicle when a smaller truck would get the job done for them, whether for work or recreation. So what Nissan came up with is a truck midway between a half and three-quarter ton, added a brand-name diesel engine for power and towing, and hopes the 2016 Nissan Titan XD will appeal to many of those 150,000.

Nissan first introduced its Titan pickup in 2004 and for the most part, to the chagrin of its dealers, did not change it much during a period when Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge (Ram) and Toyota were

2016 Nissan,Titan XD,Cummins diesel,fuel economy

Looking for white space

constantly improving their trucks and having robust sales as a result. Starting in late 2015 that changes and your local Nissan dealer will have the all-new 2016 Titan XD ready for a test drive. Nissan has not released official pricing, but expect the trucks to retail between $40,000 and $60,000.

Clean Fleet Report was invited to Scottsdale, Arizona, in early December to experience the 2016 Titan XD and to meet with its designers, engineers and marketing team. We learned of Nissan’s challenges to try to entice truck buyers to consider purchasing the Titan as opposed to the more popular pickups on the market.

Drivetrain

2016,Nissan Titan,Cummins turbodiesel,power,fuel economy

The heart of the beast

Clean Fleet Report drove the 2016 Nissan Titan XD Crew Cab 4WD with the 5.0-liter V8, Cummins turbodiesel, putting out 310 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque. Nissan will be offering the Titan with gasoline V6 and V8 engines sometime in 2016. The one available transmission is an Aisin six-speed automatic which also has a dash-mounted transfer case selector to choose between rear-wheel drive (RWD), four-wheel drive high (4H) and low-range (4LO). The EPA does not rate fuel economy for vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVRW) more than 8,500 lbs., but Nissan has stated that the Titan XD with the Cummins diesel gets under load, hauling or towing, a “20-percent increase in fuel economy over a comparable V8-powered vehicle.”  During our test drives we were getting an observed fuel economy average of 17 mpg.

Driving Experience: On the Road

To get a feel for the ride and handling of the 2016 Titan XD, Nissan had us follow a prescribed route that included city streets, washboard dirt roads, off-road hills and open highway. It became clear pretty quickly that the horsepower, torque and weight of the Titan XD were well-matched, resulting in a pickup that is exactly what Nissan wanted. The Titan’s exclusive Cummins turbodiesel slots between the 6.7-liter inline-six diesel Cummins provides to Ram for its 2500 and 3500 (three-quarter and one-ton) trucks and the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 found in the Ram 1500. The Titan engine has more horsepower and torque than the 3.0L turbo and a bit less horsepower and torque than the Ram with the 6.7L. This sounds a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but Nissan is confident they have designed an engine and truck combination that, for many buyers, will be “just right.”

The Titan XD is built on a fully boxed, full-length ladder frame that has been reinforced for added stiffness and rigidity. The suspension is a double-wishbone front and rigid rear axle with leaf

2016 Nissan,Titan XD,chassis,tough

What lies beneath

springs and bushings along with Bilstein monotube coil-over shock absorbers. All this rigidity and stiffness could lead to an unpleasant ride, but Nissan designed-in hydraulic cab mounts to isolate passengers from ride harshness and cabin noise. Vibration has been reduced through the use of laminated front and rear side glass, and the body has been sealed so engine and road noise are isolated outside of the cabin.

I found the 2016 Nissan Titan XD was stable, accelerated smoothly and handled freeway onramps and corners with good control and little body roll. In about 20 miles of towing a trailer loaded with a Bobcat front loader (for a combined weight of about 9,000 lbs.), it was easy to forget it was even there, including when stopping. The Titan XD, rated at 12,314 lbs. for towing and a 2,091-lb. payload, has Trailer Sway Control and Trailer Brake Control to work along with the hydraulic power-assisted front and rear ventilated discs that have noise and shudder control designed into the system.

The standard, engine-speed variable-assisted power steering provided good road feel through the wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel, which came on the Titan XD Platinum Reserve model.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Available in Crew, King and Single Cabs with three bed lengths, Diane Allen, Senior Manager of Nissan Design America, says it “remains recognizable as a Titan, but with a look of the outgoing truck that grew-up, worked out in the gym and became more physical and expressive.” Allen also said the 2016 Titan XD has a “modern warrior” and “predator” look to it with the LED headlight signature, grill and an integrated front end that results in a “well finished truck.” The new Titan XD is taller than the outgoing Titan, but still shorter in height than competitor’s three-quarter ton pickups.

2016,Nissan,Titan,XD,diesel,Cummins

A little flash with the grit

The 20-inch aluminum wheels with a dark “sputter” finish were attractive and the aluminum running boards—that ran the full length from wheelwell to wheelwell—added a nice visual to the design while providing convenient access to the cabin and bed. Another clever feature is the removable and lockable tailgate and the fold-down step for bed access.

Nissan’s Utili-track Channel System, integrated into the bed floor, allows for tie-downs to be slid along a track making securing cargo easy work. Also available or standard on the Titan XD are spray-in bed liner, dual lockable in-bed storage boxes, tie-down hooks, moveable aluminum cleats, 100-volt power outlet, cargo bed lights, LED lights under the bed rail, receiver hitch, seven-pin wiring harness receptacle, front tow hooks and integrated gooseneck hitch.

Driving Experience: Interior

Luxury abounds inside the Titan XD Platinum Reserve with leather and wood, aluminum accent pieces and all the expected comfort and convenience

2016 Nissan,Titan XD,premium, interior

Inside a truck is no longer a derogatory term

features such as power and heated seats, power exterior mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry and starting, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, automatic climate control, one touch up-and-down power windows, power door locks, heated steering wheel with audio and telephone controls, rain-sensing wipers and USB and 12V power ports. Adding utility to the interior is a second row, floor-mounted, under seat storage system that also becomes a flat surface when closed. This way when you bring home that 55-inch flat screen it can be stored inside the cabin, away from the elements and nefarious strangers.

For infotainment in our Titan XD Platinum Reserve model, there was a seven-inch color touch screen display with Nissan Connect and navigation. Sounds were by an excellent 12-speaker Rockford-Fosgate system with subwoofer, which powered SiriusXM, AM/FM/CD/USB with Aux Jacks and MP3/WMA playback. To help keep your eyes on the road the truck had a Bluetooth telephone connection with hands-free text messaging.

Safety and Convenience

The 2016 Nissan Titan XD comes with multiple airbags, front passenger knee bolsters, anti-lock braking, vehicle dynamic and traction control, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert. Of special note and available on many Nissan models is their Around View Monitor system, which is a series of cameras strategically located on the exterior of the truck that allow the driver to see completely around the vehicle, as if looking down from above. For driving off road, the Titan has a very cool feature accessed by pushing the camera button on the dash—a camera mounted at the right front tire that shows obstacles such as boulders, ruts and other nasty things that get in your way when cruising off pavement.

2016,Nissan Titan,XD diesel,Cummins, towing

Haulin’ may be its middle name

As part of the RearView Monitor Camera, you can align your tow ball with the trailer receptor making a one person connection possible. Once you have made that connection and plugged-in the seven-pin wiring harness, it is time to check the trailer lights. This is usually a two-person job, but Nissan has a patented technology where with a few pushes of buttons on the key fob, you can go through the turn signals, brake and running lights.

Observations: 2016 Nissan Titan XS powered by Cummins Diesel

Once the “white space” or niche was identified, the engineering and design teams set benchmarks for what the all-new Titan would be, while the marketing team had to develop a plan that needed to lean heavily on educating truck buyers with the message, as Rich Miller, Director, Titan Product Planning, summed it up, “Everything you want in a truck but nothing you don’t.”The need for Nissan to bring out a completely new Titan was obvious—and necessary if the brand was to continue to be considered a full-line automobile manufacturer. The question was should they design a truck with the same attributes as their competition or develop a vehicle that has a compelling story to tell. As Phillip O’Connor, Director, Chief Marketing Manager for Trucks, Crossovers and SUVs, said, “Innovation is core to what Nissan does.”

The brand loyalty of truck owners, and even-more-so diesel truck owners, is well known. This group probably researches their next purchase more than any other vehicle segment buyer, whether

2016,Nissan,Titan,XD,turbodiesel, Cummins

The race is on–and Nissan’s finally in it

this is for vocational use or the trailer-towing weekend warrior. Since Nissan says they are not creating a new truck segment, but are letting the consumer have a choice of a truck they have not had before, they are hoping you will visit your local dealer with an open mind and check-out what could become the next pickup in your driveway.Merely rolling out a new pickup and saying, “come buy it” would not do. In 2015 Nissan will sell about 12,000 Titans while Chevrolet, GMC, Ford, Toyota and Ram combined will sell more than two million pickup trucks. Nissan is not taking a chance with the Titan XD as the truck segment is hot and shows no signs of cooling off.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

 

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About Author: John Faulkner

John Faulkner is an automotive marketing professional with more than 30 years experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent's 1950 Studebaker. He has a keen appreciation of Art Deco design, no bias for domestic versus foreign makes and loves competition - whether that be F1, IndyCar, Sports Cars, NASCAR or participating in Track Days at places such as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Thunderhill or Willow Springs. John lives in Dana Point, CA, and enjoys a top-down drive on PCH on an early Sunday morning.

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