Mountain Wheels: Nissan’s Titan XD plays well with its heavy-duty competitors
2016 Nissan Titan XD SL 4WD Crew Cab
MSRP: $55,030; As tested, $56,505
Powertrain: 310-HP/555 lb.-ft. 5.0-liter turbocharged diesel V8; six-speed automatic transmission
EPA figures: N/A (observed combined mileage, 15.5 MPG)
In the aggressive world of much-larger-than-life trucks — spend a weekend in a place like Greeley or Cheyenne to get an eye- and earful of that — perhaps the most marvelous reinvention in years is a new Nissan that towers above its domestic competitors.
Brawny, even more chrome-laden than many, and gruntingly powerful with a 555-lb.-ft. of torque producing Cummins turbodiesel V-8, the Titan XD gets the unofficial award for most imposing truck.
It’s a tall, unbelievably long and wonderfully well-composed, Mississippi-assembled tower of metal that effectively and authoritatively delivers all of the expected largesse, capability and car-like comfort we have come to expect from these new $50,000-plus colossuses.
But unlike the Rolling Coal/numbskull behavior one also sees among the diesel-eaters up on the Northern Plains, this all-new Nissan has got a level of sophistication and politeness that might earn it the love that the Toyota Tundra has been trying to find, competing with Ford, Ram and GM’s heavy metal.
Titan XD’s sheer mass (nearly 243 inches overall, on a 151.6-inch wheelbase, standing 78.8 inches tall, with a curb weigh — in my tester — of some 7,388 pounds) and its towing and hauling capability (12,314 pounds of trailer, and a maximum gross combined weight rating of 19,450 pounds) mean it really can do the big jobs and carry the big loads you’d expect in this class of battleship.
Nissan went about things in a slightly unusual fashion, releasing the most macho and powerful of its various future truck iterations long before a more standardized, F150/Ram/Silverado-competing normal truck; the XD, initially available only with its 333-HP diesel, can now also be powered by a 390-HP 5.6-liter gasoline V-8, the newest version of the kind of engine found in the Armada or Nissan’s previously large-seeming automobiles.
And much like the way I misspoke last week in not realizing the prescience I had in guessing that a nearly 500-HP version of the Lexus GS really did exist — one cannot know what they cannot know, or are no longer told in advance by one’s auto connections — I also cannot speak much to the more civilian model.
Here’s what I can tell you about the gleaming XD, however: That diesel package is quite the deal, as the engine does put out some big noise but very few inky clouds of visible particulates (they’re still there, mind you, though the pollutant-mitigating urea anti-diesel-juice can be easily added next to the gas cap), with super-spectacular cranky goodness at startup, for those set on irritating their neighbors on early mornings. Running steady at idle, the engine and exhaust noise is actually rather civilian, a reality that might be good or bad, depending on your intentions.
There’s discernible turbo lag and ample evidence of the truck’s three-Leaf-equivalent body weight, but that torque allows you quite admirable acceleration once underway. I was capable of effortless 80 mph cruising way up north and discovered that 15.5 MPG was the normal result, overall. I experienced a bit of bumpiness working through the six-speed automatic’s gears, and there was a bit of uneven idle at rest; I also suspect the early issue model I drove had been not-so-gently tested by others, pulling mobile homes up Loveland Pass or pulling stumps, so I would not fear those issues in real life.
Steering can be very heavy at times and parking is tricky with 12-plus feet of vehicle, though the audible and video parking assist systems and the oversized trailering mirrors helped a great deal.
The Titan XD’s looks certainly mine from the rest of the HD truck world and the results are massive but surprisingly clean lines, with details like an aerodynamic flap under the front bumper, a bit of angle on the giant tailgate topper and tail lights that mostly live on the outside flanks. My SL model came with a bed liner, a cargo system and handy LED lighting inside the bed, with the tailgate sitting at chin height.
Wilt Chamberlain-knee-height running boards and huge A-pillar handholds make boarding relatively easy, revealing a pleasantly modern, utilitarian cabin, with just a few radical modern angles and those deep trailer-spotting cuts in the bottoms of the front windows, like a Ford Super Duty.
There’s a microwave oven-sized center console storage box with a leathery cap the size of home plate on the top — the center console showed signs of being easily susceptible to scratching — with lots of oversized round control knobs and more faux wood trim than an upscale apartment in Denver.
Seating was impressively expansive and legroom positively gigantic in the large crew cab setup in the back, with perforated and highlight-stitched leather, and some 100 or so different beverage holders strewn throughout the cabin.
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