2016 Nissan Titan XD First Drive – What a HD Tundra Could Be?

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Last week, I had a great opportunity to spend time with the all-new 2016 Nissan Titan XD, Nissan engineers and designers around Phoenix, Arizona. After spending hours driving, towing, hauling and off-roading, I learned a lot about this truck. Here is what I discovered.

2016 Nissan Titan XD First Drive – What a HD Tundra Could Be?

This is the setup where the 2016 Nissan Titan XD excels. With the 9,600 lbs load and a luxurious, comfortable cabin in the Platinum Reserve, consumers who tow a lot will be taking a close look at this package.

Before I get to comparing the trucks and explaining my thoughts on the Titan XD, I should first step back and give some background. First, the new Titan XD is one of two new Titan trucks for Nissan. There will be both an XD and non-XD version (different frames, engines, suspension setups, etc…) . It is also important to understand what you are reading here only applies to the XD (heavy-duty half-ton model) with the 5.0L Cummins diesel engine. Nissan plans to release an updated 5.6L gasoline engine with the XD as well as in previously mentioned non-XD Titan.

Second, this truck was developed with three goals in mind – ride comfort like a half-ton, towing capability similar to a 2003-2005 ¾-ton truck and a significantly lower price point versus a ¾-ton. That’s it. Fuel economy? Not really important (8,500 gross lb rating means they don’t have an EPA test for it either). Towing and payload capacity that is miles better than half-ton trucks? Not important. What is important then? Simple, this truck hits the in-between area of the ½ ton and ¾ ton market with a goal of obtaining the three goals mentioned above.

2016 Nissan Titan XD First Drive – What a HD Tundra Could Be?

Off-roading with the Nissan Titan XD is a unique experience with its capability paired with the large Cummins Diesel engine.

Ride Comfort

When developing the truck, Nissan held focus groups around the country to determine how they wanted to proceed. One of the key messages from these focus groups was to deliver better ride comfort than normally found in heavy-duty trucks. If you have ever driven a HD truck, you know ride comfort is sacrificed for the towing and hauling capacity. This is simply due to truck makers adding heavier leaf springs, tuning the shock rates and beefing up the frame to deliver more and more towing capacity.

Bucking this trend and rolling back the clock, Nissan decided it didn’t want to have loads of towing capacity. Instead, their team felt they could deliver the capacity the customer really needs without going overboard – when’s the last time you towed 17,000 lbs with a ¾ ton?

With this mindset, Nissan reduced number of leaf springs, changed the shock return rate and even added hydraulic cab lifters in order to deliver ride comfort akin to a ½ ton. During my day of driving, they accomplished that goal quite well. Unloaded, loaded and towing, the Titan XD had a surprisingly good ride comfort considering the robust frame.

2016 Nissan Titan XD First Drive – What a HD Tundra Could Be?

One of the real benefits of these kinds of trips is hearing first-hand from truck guys within their company. The engineer to my right, Nissan Marketability Engineer Ryan Regehr, played a big role in the development of Titan and helped work on how it tows. His perspective is critical to understanding more about the truck.



Reducing the leaf springs, changing the spring rates and making other tweaks brings up the next question – how does it tow then? This is an interesting question and one in which I want to tackle from a different perspective. Why? The Nissan Titan XD challenges conventional thinking.

Stay with me here for a minute. I’m going to assume that many of my colleagues, sales people and consumers will point to towing capacity as a measurement of how well it tows. When you look at the Titan XD numbers (12,314 lbs of towing capacity and 2,091 lbs of payload), they aren’t that impressive when you say compare it to the Toyota Tundra with 10,500 lbs and 2,060 lbs respectively (depending on configuration). Yet, Nissan isn’t so worried about the numbers. Rather it is HOW the XD tows, not how much it tows, that is the big difference.

The fact is if you don’t get a chance to tow with the Titan XD, you won’t understand it and I certainaly didn’t understand it either until I got the chance to tow a load. Driving it around at the Texas Auto Writers Association Truck Rodeo in October, I couldn’t figure the truck out. I mean it didn’t really stand out to me just driving it on the roads. Now, towing with Titan XD, it becomes much clearer.

The best way I can explain it is to think about towing with the 5.7L V8 Tundra versus say any turbo-charged engine. While the turbo-charged engine may say it can tow a similar amount on paper, getting behind the wheel, the Tundra’s 5.7L engine makes the load feel like it isn’t even there while the turbo-charged engine really has to work to keep it moving. Towing with both trucks over long distances really puts this into perspective with the turbo-charged engine causing a considerable amount of driving fatigue versus the Tundra engine.

This same feeling of towing comfort and reduced driver fatigue is the BIG key of the Titan XD. While in Arizona, I experienced the truck with a 9,600 lb bumper-pull trailer attached and a two-lane highway with a 6 percent grade climb in the middle. The Nissan Titan XD pulled this load like it wasn’t even there thanks to the big 5.0L Cummins engine and its “triple nickel” (555 lb-ft of torque) and 310 HP. Certainly, I could feel the load behind me (9,600 lbs is nothing to joke about), but the truck handled the load with confidence.

2016 Nissan Titan XD First Drive – What a HD Tundra Could Be?

On the way back to the hotel, Nissan had a 750 lb weight added to the bed. While you could feel it, the truck did quite well with it and 4 passengers.

Driving around with this load and also a 750 lb weight in the bed during another part of the day, it becomes immediately clear to me. On paper, half-ton and gasoline-powered trucks will tow similar numbers to the Titan XD, yet in the real-world it isn’t even close to a fair comparison.  The Titan XD with the 5.0L Cummins diesel engine will blow them away head to head.


Finally, the last goal is price for the Nissan Titan XD. I’m going to skip this discussion for now since final pricing hasn’t been officially announced. I know Nissan is hoping to hit the $40k for the base, $50k for the Pro-4X and the $60k mark for the top-grade Platinum Reserve. Yet, without exact numbers plus the fact it is in its own category, it is going to be really hard to judge if they hit this mark. I’m going to reserve judgement until we get more data.

My Take

Like I said earlier, I drove the 2016 Nissan Titan XD in Texas and now in Arizona. I didn’t write about my impressions from Texas on purpose and I’m glad I did not write anything. Driving it a second time, with towing, hauling and going off-road, I have a much better idea on what Nissan is trying to do. Frankly, I like it. I like it a lot. Why? It is really what consumers have been telling me they want.

I can’t tell you the number of customers I’ve talked with who are upset over the current lineup of heavy-duty and half-ton trucks. They really just want a truck that tows like their 2003-2005 truck, is offered at a fair price and is heavier-duty than a half-ton. Fuel economy? They don’t care. Enough towing capacity to tow a small Semi truck? Nope. They just want a truck that tows comfortably what it says it will – comfortably being the key word there. They also want a truck that won’t break the bank and this could be that truck. Finally, they spend a considerable amount of time driving around empty and are tired of feeling beat up when they are done for the day. This again is that truck.

For all of these reasons, this truck reminds me of a Toyota Tundra. The Titan XD, like the Tundra, will likely be panned by reviewers and dismissed by sales people (our truck tows X lbs less/more!!), but when you really need a truck to do the job these trucks shine. Toyota should take a lot of notes on what Nissan is trying to do and should follow suit.

Finally, I would bet money this truck will be a slow seller out of the gate. Why? Nissan’s marketing is going to have its work cut out for them. Not only do they need to sell the truck, but they need to educate the consumer why they need it. This is going to take a lot of time and effort. I think thousands of consumers need this truck since they overbought capacity in their current trucks, but getting them to understand this could take a really, really long time. Look at me, it took me driving it twice and then really thinking about it to understand it and I think others will need to do the same.

Filed Under: TundraHeadquarters.com


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  1. Breathing borla says:

    Nice write up Tim!!

    I still think Nissan missed the mark if that thing is 60K for the upper trim, they won’t discount it as much as the Big three and you can get a loaded Ram 6.7, loaded GM 6.6, etc for that price and then have way more capacity.

    I get what they are trying to do but my bet after an initial decent sales since it’s a brand new truck, the amount they will sell will not be many at all.

    I think what is getting a bit lost already is the updated 5.6 gasser in the normal 1/2 ton. What are we looking at for specs? engine trans, ect?

  2. Randy says:

    I think the XD will be a home run.

    For people that have been doing a lot towing in the 6,000 to 12,000 range for the last 15 years, they know (just like you mentioned); ¾ tons in the 2004-2008 model years did a great job.

    I think this truck will take a lot of sales from GM, Ford, and RAM ¾ tons. The XD appears to have a very nice interior like the RAM’s, maybe better. If it has QDR like Tundra, then the Big Three will take a big hit in their ¾ tons.

  3. ricqik says:

    My opinion is Nissan built a 3/4 and gave it a mid level diesel and softer suspension then rated it at 1/2 capacities so it doesn’t break a sweat.

  4. Don says:

    Very nice review. Thanks for writing about it. One thing that really sticks out of your review is what you said about fatigue when towing. It is true and since my toyhauler is fairly heavy when loaded my Tundra makes it less tiresome. The 5.7 works much much better than some little V6 with a turbo and light weight rear because of aluminum skin and a small dana gear.

    Here is what I think just on reading the specs alone and no first hand experience as of yet. Ram 2500 base curb wt goes from 6500 or so to 7500lb or so. Based on the wt of the XD we have a 3/4 ton. Based on the frame and size of the American Axle & gear diff (front and rear) we have a 3/4 ton. Nissan designed a heavy truck because they know how important that is to stability of towing especially if you bumper pull with heavy tongue wt like a toy hauler.

    I dont know if they are going to have 5th wheel prep like the Ram but that would be very crucial for me if I decide to change my 2008 SR5 next year. I think we still have to understand that diesels can be and mostly likely will be more expensive to own over the long haul. After 40 plus years with CAT and Cummins tractors I said I would never go back to diesels…hense I still am looking at the Ram 6.4 Hemi….but maybe Cummins did a solid build with the XD???

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      I tried to hit all the highlights, but your comment makes me see I missed a key one. There is an integrated gooseneck ball built into the frame. They will also have a 5th wheel prep kit ready to go with a B&N adapter.

      Like I said, this truck is something Toyota should seriously consider. It is really built to tow and haul unlike any other 1/2-ton I’ve ever seen.


  5. Rick says:


    Imagine this diesel in a 5400lb. Tundra? I’d wager it would garner 22-25 mpg hwy and present over 500 ft. lbs of torque. Toyota is cautious with its product to its own detriment. It takes them too long to upgrade even their electronics (navs and screens, etc.).

    I still like my Tundra (2012) and enjoy driving it daily. But if Toyota had a diesel like a Duramax, i’d be hard pressed not to get one because it’s that good in every aspect.

    Ford and Chevy already have a small block diesel that they shelved years ago before the price of gas went through the roof. Recently, Toyota had the advantage to be the first to get one in a 1/2 ton and they passed on that opportunity. I really hope Nissan is successful because it will perhaps nudge the bean counters in Toyota, and the execs at GM and Ford for that matter, to act.

    I had a 3/4 ton 4WD Duramax and that engine was robust in torque though it weighed a lot (7700 lbs?). I added a chip and a pipe and it was silly fast. I used to nervously look at my side view mirrors because I couldn’t feel the weight of the trailer back there. I had to make sure it was still behind me! My only regret was selling that diesel as diesel fuel went to $5/gal.

  6. GoBig says:

    Tim, I can’t find any specs on the new XD. Is it bigger than the old Titan? Is it close to full size now such as the Tundra? It’s hard to tell in photos without another truck next to it for scale.


    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      It is much bigger than the old Titan. It is on par with all other full-size trucks.


  7. Don says:

    My experience with diesels has taught me some lessons in reality of these motors we cannot forget for first time buyers or anyone for that matter. Somewhere down the road after warranty is expired you will have to have financial resources for replacement of parts. Cummins has not released part cost of things like a turbo, emissions, egr cleaning and replacement etc. Dont think things wont happen on a diesel….because you will be wrong.

    They are not a turn key motor by any stretch. Education is key on a diesel to help offset repair cost that very well may average two to three hundred dollars a part and holset turbo well over 1500 dollars for sure and of course your DEF cost. Nissan is putting on a good show of things but when you get a chance go over to your Nissan dealer and ask them how many Cummins certified techs are on staff. Good luck with that one.

    These are just a few things to think about. This is not a knock on Nissan is just is a reality check from someone who has had diesels for to many years. I hope it is a good motor that bleeds over to other trucks, but at the same time I know these small block diesels will be better evaluated over 100,000 miles of use by a private owner.

  8. cort says:

    The problem with me for Nissan is that since Ghosn took over this one time leader in reliability is now in the pits. Until they take pride in producing reliable products I’m staying away. Thanks for the review though

    • TRDSmokedU says:

      I’ve owned three titans. All have been flawless. The new Maxima and Murano are doing well in terms of reliability. Where they really messed up was the Pathfinder and putting a CVT in a vehicle rated to tow 5,000.

  9. Rick says:


    I agree that this truck promised to be something we all talked about enthusiastically a year ago and then it delivered. A modern V8 diesel in a half-ton pickup is hard to beat. If the Ram’s Ecodiesel numbers are a benchmark, then the Titan, which has gone a step further, will sell well.

    However, at $60k for a Platinum, I’m concerned they didn’t set the price to be commensurate with what guys who drive trucks daily are expecting to shell out. I don’t see many $60k trucks out there but I’d guess that the majority of pick-ups are within the $25K-$45K range. I could be wrong as I don’t have the stats in front of me and Nissan might sell a bunch of the higher end Titans.

    Back in ’02 I made sure I didn’t pay more than $38k for my loaded Duramax – not a Platinum level truck but still expensive, though I didn’t break the bank. I wish Nissan luck for sure for taking a gamble on a truck that I felt was needed in this segment. Their vehicles are well made too. The Titan was a cool looking truck that needed to be redesigned.

    It’ll be interesting to see how they redesign the 5.6L gas engine. It was sorely in need of more power.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      The “luxury-truck” segment or those selling over $45-50k have seen the largest growth out of all the price points. Granted they still make up a smaller segment of total models sold (15-20%), they are growing quickly. Odds are you don’t see a lot of them based on the 15-20 percent rate of all pickups sold.

      One of the interesting things about the Platinum model is that it doesn’t have the badging similar to other luxury trucks. Take a close look and you won’t see a separate badge announcing its grade level ala King Ranch, 1794, Laramie Longhorn. The story goes Nissan executives told the truck guys no way on the additional badging. I’ll have other tidbits on this truck as I catch back up from the holidays.


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