2016 Nissan Titan Review

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Mitch McCullough Mitch McCullough Editor
June 27, 2016

The 2016 Nissan Titan XD is a smart pick for semi-heavy pulling power, but if you rarely or never tow big trailers, you're better served by a light-duty pickup.

The 2016 Nissan Titan XD heavy-duty pickup is now available with Nissan's all-new 5.6-liter V-8. This is in addition to the Cummins turbodiesel 5.0-liter V-8 that will power most of the new Titan XD models.

The semi-heavy-duty Titan XD is intended to split the difference between light-duty and heavy-duty pickups, offering greater hauling and towing capability than, for example, a Ram 1500, yet with a smoother ride and lower cost than a Ram 2500.

A thoroughly revised version of the light-duty Titan, sometimes referred to as a half-ton, will be introduced later this year as the 2017 Titan. The 2017 Titan goes on sale late summer 2016, starting with the popular Crew Cab, followed by a regular cab in the fall, and a King Cab at the end of the 2016 calendar year. The 2017 Titan will come with the new 5.6-liter V8, followed later by a V6 option.

Review continues below

The light-duty Titan and heavy-duty Titan XD look almost exactly alike, but that's where the similarities end. And though they look alike, they actually share few body panels. Park a Titan and a Titan XD next to each other and their size differential, especially height, is more noticeable.

Even more different is their basic construction: The Titan XD is built on a heavier chassis and frame than that of the Titan, and the XD uses stronger axles and a heavy-duty suspension. The XD is not just a light-duty pickup with a heavy-duty suspension, as what's been done in the past by other manufacturers. Nissan predicts slightly more than a third truck sales will be Titan XDs.

The new 5.6-liter V-8 is rated at 390 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 401 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Built near Decherd, Tennessee, the 5.6-liter engine runs on Regular gasoline, impressive given its high 11.2:1 compression ratio and dual overhead-cam head. The 2017 Titan and Titan XD will share the new 5.6-liter V-8 and 7-speed automatic transmission—the drivetrains are identical. The Titan XD gets it first, as a 2016 model.

The Titan XD also offers a Cummins turbodiesel 5.0-liter V-8 rated at 310 horsepower at 3,200 rpm and 555 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm, that last figure important for towing trailers.

The 5.6-liter engine delivers quicker acceleration performance and is less expensive both in terms of pricing and operating costs than the 5.0-liter diesel. And because it weighs about 500 pounds less, the gasoline engine offers a greater payload by about 500 pounds. For everyday driving, the gas engine provides a more responsive driving experience.

The diesel offers more torque for towing, however, which is the best reason for choosing the XD over the regular Titan. It's quiet, too quiet for some, but with a satisfying clatter that should please most diesel enthusiasts. Owners with 10,000-pound trailers may find themselves wishing for a little more pulling power, however.

Though the Titan wears a Nissan badge, it is an all-American truck, designed in California and engineered in Arizona and Michigan. The truck is built in Mississippi while the engine is manufactured in Tennessee.

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2016 Nissan Titan

Styling

Fresh styling and big chrome say there's a new truck on the block.

The new Titan is a handsome truck, with lots of chrome up front and muscular fenders. The new design offers better aerodynamics, with a front spoiler, roof and tailgate spoilers, underbody airflow covers, and other features for less wind resistance than the pre-2016 models presented.

Though the Titan and Titan XD look the same, the XD is substantially larger and they share few body panels. The XD is taller by about 1.5 inches, most noticeable by the height of the hood. And it's longer, by nearly 15 inches overall and nearly 12 inches in wheelbase, when Crew Cab versions are compared. The two trucks are the same width.

Specifically, the Titan Crew Cab is built on a 139.8-inch wheelbase and is 228.1 inches long, 77.2 inches tall, 79.5 inches wide. The Titan XD Crew Cab is built on a 151.6-inch wheelbase and is 242.7 inches long, 78.0 inches tall, 79.5 inches wide.

The Titan's styling makes it look smaller than its actual dimensions, so it's easy to think of it being smaller than the Fords, GMs and Dodges until it's parked alongside of one of them. Then, it seems to grow in size, slightly exceeding the other trucks in actual dimensions.

For example, a comparable Ram 2500 crew cab with a 6-foot-4 bed rides on a 149.5-inch wheelbase and measures 237.4 inches overall, 73.7 inches tall for 4x2, 77.7 inches for 4x4, 79.1 inches wide. Silverado 2500 Crew Cab with 6-foot-6 box is on a 153.7-inch wheelbase, stretches 239.4 inches in length 78.3 inches tall, and 80.5 inches wide.

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2016 Nissan Titan

Performance

All-new V-8 engine delivers better performance, while Cummins diesel provides pulling power.

Three different powertrains will be offered for the Titan. The new V-8 is available for both Titan and Titan XD. The Cummins diesel is exclusive to the Titan XD. A V-6 engine will be available for the Titan later, according to Nissan.

The new 5.6-liter V8 gas engine is smooth and powerful, delivering brisk acceleration performance to the Titan XD we drove. It's a delightful engine, quiet when cruising but with an aggressive growl when provoked with a stab to the throttle. The 7-speed transmission works well most of the time but was reluctant and slow to downshift when wanted, generating mild annoyance.

The Cummins 5.0-liter V-8 emits a pleasant rumble at idle, felt as a purr from the cab. From outside, a diesel clatter can almost be heard, a confident, satisfying sound, but not loud like the 5.9-liter Cummins inline-6 in early Rams. The 5.0-liter Cummins is smaller than the diesel engines in the heavy-duty pickups, but larger and more powerful than the light-duty diesels. Underway, the diesel feels smooth and sophisticated and responds to the pedal with strong torque. A clever two-stage turbocharger readies it for quick acceleration or effortless cruising with no lag, which makes it an enjoyable driving companion.

The Cummins 5.0-liter V-8 turbodiesel is rated at 310 horsepower at 3,200 rpm and 555 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm.

Compare those figures to 2016 crew cab models with 6.5-inch beds from Chevrolet, Ford, and Ram, all using the receiver hitch: The GM Duramax 6.6-liter V-8 turbodiesel that comes on the Chevy Silverado 2500 is rated 397 hp and 765 lb-ft of torque and comes with the brilliant Allison 6-speed automatic; trailer capacity for a crew cab with 6.5-foot bed is 13,000 pounds. Ford's 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 turbodiesel is rated 440 hp and 860 lb-ft of torque and is paired with a 6-speed automatic; the Ford F-250 Super Duty Crew Cab has a towing capacity of 14,000 pounds. The Ram 2500's 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel, an inline-6, is rated 370 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque, with a 6-speed automatic, for a towing capacity of 17,210 pounds.

Between the two Titan XD engines, the diesel seems the more compelling choice. Towing is the best reason to opt for an XD over a regular Titan, and the diesel is the better choice for towing. A Titan XD V-8 gas-powered pickup may make sense for snow-plow operation or perhaps construction work where heavy hauling is needed. The gas V-8 may be a bit more fun to drive on an everyday basis, but if that's the goal, then a regular Titan with the V-8 would seem to be the ticket.

By heavy-duty standards, the Titan XD steers and handles nicely. It steers more accurately and more responsively than other heavy-duty pickups, feeling much less truck-like than they do. It's very stable at higher speeds and does not require small steering corrections on the highway, and there's no dead spot in the center of the steering.

The Titan XD diesel is rated to tow up to 12,314 pounds, so it can comfortably handle the large number of trailers that fall in the 8,000- to 9,000-pound range.

The Titan XD's payload max is 2,000 pounds with the diesel, 2,594 pounds with the 5.6-liter V-8. A transmission cooler for the heavy-duty 7-speed automatic comes standard. XDs get their own chassis reinforcements to handle the extended-duty cycle. A reinforced front suspension and leaf-spring rear end, and twin-tube rear shocks are coupled with an American Axle differential with an available electronic locking rear differential. Hydraulic cab mounts like the new F-150 are factored in for better ride isolation, and the Titan comes with a choice of 17-, 18-, and 20-inch wheel and tire kits. Brakes are four-wheel discs, but steering remains a recirculating-ball setup.

The Titan XD handles payloads well. Using a Titan XD V-8, we hauled an 850-pound load of gravel neatly packaged in a square bundle on a pallet, secured with tie-downs attached to the utility track system. This with three of us in the truck amounted to a payload of more than 1,400 pounds over more than 100 miles of winding roads and highways. Acceleration was slowed, the transmission sometimes reluctant to downshift, and braking and turning for intersections called for a little more care and smoothness, but overall it was easy to forget the heavy load was back there and we were reminded only when we stopped, walked past the bed and saw it.

The four-wheel ventilated disc brakes on the Titan XD are indeed substantially larger than those on the light-duty pickups and we found them strong and reassuring yet precise.

In back-to-back driving in a Titan XD and Ram 1500 Ecodiesel V-6, the Ram felt smoother and more refined, while the Titan felt more prepared to go off road or pull a heavy trailer. Tow ratings for the Titan XD range from 10,608 to 12,314 pounds.

The heavy-duty pickups will bring a bit more stability to the towing effort, but the Titan XD should be quite stable with a 10,000-pound trailer, much more so than the light-duty pickups, and better able to handle tongue weight from a poorly balanced trailer. It comes with a trailer sway control system.

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2016 Nissan Titan

Comfort & Quality

Comfortable seats make this a comfortable truck, and this is one of Nissan's best interiors.

The Titan will come in three cab styles—Single Cab, King Cab, and Crew Cab—and three overall lengths. XD Crew Cab models ride on a 151.6-inch wheelbase, or roughly 20 inches longer than other Titan trucks.

At first glance, the Titan XD looks smaller than the domestic-brand full-size pickups. Park them closer to one another, however, and Titan looks just as large. In fact, it is about the same width as the other full-size pickups.

And it's taller than most of the other trucks, by 1 to 3 inches. Climbing into the Titan XD takes effort, especially if running boards are not used. Step-in height is a couple of inches higher than that of a Ram 1500, but it feels like a mile. From the driver's seat, the Titan hood seems higher than that of other trucks. Two- and four-wheel-drive Titan XD models are the same height, barring tire differences.

Inside, the Zero Gravity front seats are supportive and comfortable and covered in handsome leather that is pleasing to the touch, in the case of the Titan XD Platinum Reserve. Seats and steering wheel are power-adjustable.

A column shifter is used for the heavy-duty 7-speed automatic, preferable to a space-hogging floor shifter. A rotary dial is used to switch among rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, and low range, if so equipped.

The center console is big enough to hold a laptop. The navigation screen is on the small side but the rearview camera works well. A driver information center appears in the instrument cluster but can initially be challenging to figure out.

The crew cab's back seats are nearly as comfortable as the front, with plenty of head room, leg room, knee room and hip room. A storage compartment under the second row is provided along with a fold-out flat floor for cargo. That flat floor is relatively high for ingress and egress of all but the most athletic of dogs, however.

A utility-track system is available for the bed and bedsides that works very well for securing cargo, complete with movable cleats tie-downs. Also available are watertight locking storage boxes in the bed accessible without removing a cover. The tailgate is damped and lowers easily instead of slamming down with a thud and it closes easily with one hand, thanks to a strut behind the right-rear taillight assembly. Lights mounted low in the bed illuminate the bed contents, even when a cover is installed.

For towing, the Titan XD comes with a built-in gooseneck tow hitch structure that allows converting from receiver hitch to gooseneck in less than three minutes. The gooseneck hitch can be quickly removed as stowed returning the bed to a smooth cargo floor. Gooseneck hitches dramatically reduce trailer sway and improve maneuverability by putting the attachment point for the hitch ahead of the rear axle.

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2016 Nissan Titan

Safety

Crash-test scores are not available and, in the past, have not been great.

Along with its new four-wheel-drive electronics, the 2016 Titan gets an available rearview camera, one with guides that help with hitching a tow vehicle to the truck.

Nissan's pioneering surround-view cameras will be an option as well. So will blind-spot monitors, and front and rear parking sensors.

We expect much better crash-test performance from the new Titan; the current one hasn't been subject to the latest small-overlap crash test implemented by the IIHS over the past couple of years.

The Titan XD offers good outward vision; its towing mirrors are small but effective for towing. 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 surround-view camera compensates to maintain the same view whether the mirrors are extended.

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2016 Nissan Titan

Features

Useful new features propel the new Titan forward.

The Titan XD is aimed squarely at buyers who tow trailers, and it comes ready for a gooseneck trailer. It takes less than two minutes to plug in the ball and hook in the chain anchors. Then, back up to the gooseneck trailer and a camera shows the way. Pressing a button on the dash switches off all parking alerts.

Towing features the Titan XD offers include an integrated trailer brake controller, trailer sway control, a Tow/Haul mode with downhill speed control, a trailer light check system, and cameras pointed every which way to help with hookups.

The best surprise-and-delight feature for Titan XD owners who tow trailers is the trailer-light check: Walk to the rear of the truck with the remote key fob, press the lock button three times, holding it down on the third press, and the truck walks the owner through a check of all the lighting, flashing each turn signal, the brake lights and the running lights of trailer and truck. This is extremely useful when no one is around to help and beats the various tricks experienced towers use to check brake-light and turn-signal operation. And, of course, it's safer than giving up on the process and hoping all the trailer lights work, since they often do not.

Options include LED headlamps, LED bedrail lighting; a damped tailgate; a bed-mounted power point; a Rockford Fosgate audio system; remote start; and a spray-in bedliner. A navigation system with smartphone connectivity is available. Running boards are available and most will want them to get in and out: As it is, when climbing in and out images of the Hillary Step come to mind.

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2016 Nissan Titan

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy is not what this truck is about.

The Nissan Titan and Titan XD haven't yet been rated by the EPA. In our real-world testing, we've found the diesel-powered XD to be particularly thirsty—but every truck in its class is the same way.

In combined city and highway driving, we managed roughly 18 mpg. That's not as frugal as a Ram 1500 turbodiesel, which can top 20 mpg, but it's marginally better than many diesel-powered heavy duty competitors.

We haven't had a long enough sample in the 5.6-liter V-8 to draw a meaningful conclusion. We'll update this space when we do.

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