What's Nissan really doing in the full-sized pickup game?
They have accomplish a lot through the first generation Titan pickup after its introduction in 2003. Though only a half-ton, Nissan was innovative when other relied on design alone. Decades of truck making experience translated into a full-sized pickup that responded to customer's needs with a choice of V6 and V8 power and a one-spec per driveline. It was also leading edge in design, something the domestics tried their hand on for a minute.
Over time, the Nissan Titan became irrelevant. Only a mid-cycle refresh was mild enough to keep people's interest, but it was beset with more problems than it could handle. Poor fuel economy dogged the Titan over the years, as well as a reputation for poor quality. The biggest threat to the Titan was the rest of the full-sized pickup segment. Everyone else got better, more stylish, more capable and offered more performance options with an improvement in fuel economy.
Nissan had to go back to the drawing board. It did not just do so with one pickup – but two. It also helped to have the former CEO of Ram Trucks roaming the halls of Nissan's Franklin, Tennessee headquarters.
Welcome to Fred Diaz's new baby – the 2016 Nissan Titan XD.
Normally when a full-sized pickup debuts, they roll out the big seller – a half-ton, crew cab version with a V8 driveline and a few goodies. Nissan went big on introducing the Titan. They rolled out what is considered a "heavy half," a pickup that slots between a half-ton and a three-quarter-ton Heavy Duty model. They call this the Titan XD.
Consider this a super-sized version of the upcoming 2017 model year half-ton.
Being super-sized , it needed a super-sized engine. Cummins provided Nissan with its 5.0 liter V8 turbocharged diesel, spewing out 310 horsepower with 555 pound-feet of torque. This power band alone slots the XD in the middle of the two traditional pickup sizes, which yielded comments from within the truck buying and using contingent. The XD and the regular 2017 Titan 1500 also comes with a 5.6 liter Endurance V8 now pulling 390-plus horsepower.
I had a chance to take a brief drive in a Titan XD four-wheel drive crew cab with the Cummins diesel, adorned in a solid black paint job and the top-of-the-line Platinum Reserve trim. I would call this an achievement since I never drove a Nissan pickup before. But, I did get enough information to know where this pickup stands in this highly combative market.
To distinguish the XD from the upcoming half-ton model, the wheelbase is longer at 151.6 inches with an overall length of 242.8 inches and stands 78.7 inches tall. Size-wise, this is about the same as a long wheelbase F-150 SuperCrew. Yet, the Titan XD looks more substantial than the F-150 – more imposing of a beast. If that was what Nissan intended, then good job!
For the Platinum Reserve, Nissan lathers on the chrome up front and all around. The big chromed front end greets you with authority, capped by two complex headlamp units full of various lenses and beams. The rest of the Titan XD is simply large, even down to the details. The front fender vent is chromed with Cummins' logo encased in its. The rear end is flanked by huge tail lamp units and a chrome finish that shines up the universe.
The cabin is huge, but rear seat room seems a bit short in comparison to the F-150 SuperCrew and Toyota Tundra CrewMax. The driver enjoys huge dials with a decent TFT information screen in the middle. This is the opposite of every truck out in the market, and a very shrewd move by Nissan to emphasize basic information than flood the truck with a huge screen in-between the speedometer and tachometer.
Luxury is the key to enjoying the Platinum Reserve, with its two-tone black and brown leather motif. Seats are huge and comfortable up front. NissanConnect is controlled by a huge touch screen in the middle. The screen also houses the output for the Round View Monitor. Every control and switch corresponds to Nissan's standard switchgear. Shifting is done by a huge column-mounted lever, which helps in freeing up console space for storage.
Power-wise, the Cummins diesel is a strong engine. It felt just fine attached to the larger XD's frame. Initially, there is some turbo lag before it gets into a smooth cruise. You can feel the torque on the move, which is a vote of confidence here. A six-speed automatic transmission connects the Cummins to its four-wheel drive system, easily switchable by a knob on the center stack.
In driving the Titan XD, I did notice a bit of a bounce to the suspension. Though it has double wishbones up front and multi-leaf set-up in the rear, one would hope for a smooth and balanced ride. It can be, but it appears to be reactive to road surfaces a bit too sensitively. The turning radius is large, which makes maneuverability a bit of a chore. Brakes are very solid with good stopping power.
Currently, pricing for the Titan XD starts at $40,290 for a Cummins-powered crew can in the S trim level. Select the Platinum Reserve, and that base price jumps up to $57,470.
When Nissan delivers all variants of the Titan and XD to their showrooms, it will generate a lot of interest. Will people actually buy? One thing to know about the truck market is brand loyalty. Among full-sized pickups, Ford, GM and FCA have a lock on their loyal customers. Thought it is not difficult for the Titan to be considered by potential conquest buyers – it certainly has the looks and specs to do it. It is matter of keeping them with Nissan for the next several generations of Titans.
This reboot of the Titan, especially the XD "heavy half," is definitely in the right directly. The XD hits right where customers really want to be without going into a heavy duty pickup. Not everyone is doing, which gives Nissan an advantage. As long as the quality is there, the Nissan Titan and Titan XD will become relevant in this high volume, traditional market segment. That is how you stay in the game.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Coon Rapids Nissan, Coon Rapids, MN