2016 Nissan Titan XD Driving Impressions

The Cummins diesel fires up quickly, even on cold mornings, by pressing a start button after inserting a traditional key. The 5.0-liter V8 diesel is heard as a pleasant rumble at idle from the cabin with the windows up and is felt through the seat as a slight purr. From outside the truck, an almost-imagined clatter can be heard, a confident, satisfying sound, but not loud like the 5.9-liter Cummins inline-six engines in early Rams. It is smaller than the diesel engines in the heavy-duty pickups but larger and more powerful than the light-duty diesels.

The Cummins V8 feels smooth and sophisticated and responds to the pedal with strong torque. A clever two-stage turbocharger setup means it’s ready for either quick acceleration performance or effortless cruising with no lag to throttle changes, which makes it an enjoyable driving companion. It feels precise at steady throttle, purring up a steep grade like a roller coaster train cranking up the first big hill. By heavy-duty pickup standards, the Titan XD steers and handles nicely.

A column shifter is used for the heavy-duty Aisin six-speed automatic, with a rotary dial for 2WD, 4H, and 4LO. Seats and steering wheel are power-adjustable. The navigation screen is on the small side but the rearview camera works well. A driver information center appears in the instrument cluster than can initially be challenging to figure out.

A movement-detection system beeps to alert the driver when someone walks up close to the truck. A DEF gauge allows the driver to monitor levels of diesel exhaust fluid, an improvement over a warning light; DEF can be found at truck stops and convenience stores.

The Titan XD suspension uses double wishbones and coil springs in front with a rigid axle and leaf springs with twin-tube shocks in the rear. The springs are hefty to tow and haul more effectively than light-duty, though softer than what’s used on the true heavy-duty pickups to reduce ride harshness when empty. An electronic locking rear differential is available, useful in mud.

The Titan XD comes prepared for towing a gooseneck trailer. It takes less than two minutes to pop out the plugs in the bed, plug in the ball, and hook in the chain anchors. Then, back up to the gooseneck trailer and a camera guides the setup. Pressing a button on the dash switches off the parking alerts. Pressing a button on the key fob initiates a trailer-light sequence, allowing the driver to walk behind the trailer and watch as the system cycles through the turn signals, brake lights and running lights to ensure everything is working correctly, a useful safety feature. The only thing that’s easier is hooking up a conventional bumper-pull trailer where the rearview camera has been redesigned to be a more effective aid.

The mirrors are relatively small but effective, stacked with the convex mirror below the flat mirror. They can be extended manually, by standing outside the truck and yanking on them, neither as convenient nor as effective as the big, power-extendable mirrors on the Ford Super Duty. The flat mirrors automatically tilt when reverse is selected, sometimes more hindrance than help.

Some buyers need more capability than light-duty but don’t want to pay for the off-the-chart capability of heavy-duty. The Titan XD is an alternative for them. And that’s exactly what Nissan had in mind when it produced this truck.

The EPA does not rate heavy-duty pickups, including the Titan XD. We saw 16.7 miles per gallon on a 14-mile drive that was two-thirds rural roads, one-third 70-mph Interstate. A Ram with the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 and two-wheel drive got 22.3 mpg on the same run back to back and is EPA-rated at 23 mpg Combined, or 20/28 mpg City/Highway. Nissan estimates the Cummins diesel will be 20-percent more efficient than comparable gasoline engines when towing.

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