Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2016 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Reserve

I hadn't been this excited about a test drive of a vehicle in quite some time, not even for any sports car or luxury sedan. Nissan was offering me an extended test drive of their new foray into the truck market: the 2016 Nissan Titan XD with the much-anticipated 5.0L V8 Cummins turbo diesel engine.

The Titan XD was going to get a workout.

I had plans to test the Titan XD properly, not just any test drive where I take the vehicle around town on my normal daily commute and run some errands. No, the Titan XD was going to get a workout. In the end, I put 2,000 km on the XD over the course of my extended drive. I hauled a total of three cars for approximately 1,500 of those 2,000 km, I hauled engines and transmissions, picked up a door (the lightest task) and of course dealt with the daily grind as well.

A little background here -- I used to own a 2005 Nissan Titan, I enjoyed my Titan for four years and did a lot of towing and hauling with it. Introduced as a 2004 model, the Titan was Nissan's first real attempt at a full-size, half-ton pickup truck. On paper, it looked easily up to the task, but those first few years of the Titan were difficult in terms of sales and in the end reliability. There were many well-documented reliability issues with the Titan and my personal truck suffered them all.

From under-performing brakes, failed differentials, leaf-spring shackle failures (and eventually upgrades) and more, the Titan wasn't a dream vehicle to own. The 5.6L V8 on the other hand was never an issue and it was plenty powerful for the jobs I tasked it with -- perhaps not the most fuel-efficient of drivetrains though coupled with a five-speed automatic transmission.

Nissan clearly knows that in order to be taken seriously in the truck segment they need to bring to the market something more capable and more desirable and something different to draw the loyal buyers away from Ford, GM and RAM – and for some, Toyota – all trucks that have been around long enough to be proven as workhorses (brand loyalties aside).

By introducing the XD, Nissan is offering more than a half-ton pickup, they are offering a vehicle that is built on a chassis that is almost a 3/4-ton but not quite. I think I understand the marketing scheme here and I certainly understand the truck -- many truck buyers want the biggest truck on the block and stepping up to a rough riding 3/4 ton pickup for a daily driver is a little bit excessive. The Titan XD offers that niche macho huge truck feel without actually being that much larger than a 1/2 ton... if that makes any sense.

Quick Hits: 2016 Nissan Titan XD: 10 Things You Need to Know

What Nissan ended up delivering to me was the fully loaded Platinum Reserve edition Titan XD. A full (crew cab) four-door truck with a 6-foot 5-inch box, the most useful size for the daily grind – the 5-foot 4-inch boxes are just too small to hold anything and although an 8 foot box is a wonderful thing the few times you need the length, the truck would be nearly impossible to park.

The Platinum Reserve is loaded with options such as leather seating, dual-zone automatic climate control, front heated and cooled seats, rear heated seats, a heated steering wheel, navigation, around-view monitor system (360-degree camera), parking sensors and more.

The Daily Grind

Despite the plans to work the Titan to the bone I still had a daily grind to deal with and for two weeks I took the Titan XD everywhere I went.

Every time I started the 5.0L Cummins diesel up in the morning I was reminded why I love a diesel truck. Perhaps it's a little vain but the clankity-clank sound of a diesel working away in a truck is just so right.

Somehow, that simple sound makes you feel as though you can perform any task with your truck – it just oozes "I have a powerful truck, get out of my way, I got stuff to haul" attitude.

Once underway, you still hear the diesel engine clank away under the hood under acceleration but it is not intrusive; on the highway or once up to speed the engine noise is minimal and fades into the background.

The Titan XD is quiet and remarkably smooth for a truck with its capabilities. Road noise is basically zero and I could not hear a whisper of wind noise throughout my testing. You certainly never forget you are driving a large truck, though, with a fairly firm suspension that does hop a little over rough terrain or railroad crossings. The turning radius, or lack thereof, is also noticeable due to the sheer size and length but these are inevitable downsides to driving a capable and large truck and were never an issue.

In tight parking lots, you may have to do a two- or three-point turn to back into your parking spot, but the around-view camera and massive tow mirrors ensure visibility is excellent and you are never guessing.

Ergonomically, the interior of the Titan is top notch; the only button I had to fiddle for was the defrost, which happens to fall behind the column-mounted shifter when it is in drive. Interestingly enough, the cruise control does not work until the truck (specifically the transmission and torque converter lock-out) is up to operating temperature. I understand why the transmission doesn’t lock until it is warmed up, that’s pretty standard stuff, but I'm not sure why Nissan has decided cruise control cannot be used until that time. It was quite annoying to me as I get on a four-lane highway immediately after leaving my home, it's not like I went slower because I couldn't turn cruise on... odd.

The interior is a very nice place to be with wood trim, leather seating and even stitching along the dash, my only complaint would be the infotainment system is not up to par with the competition. The screen is too small, not very high resolution and is impossible to see when the sun is glaring on it.

The use of a column-mounted shifter results in a massive centre console, capable of storing a bag of McIntosh apples and a six pack of Gatorade for your road trip. More storage in front of the centre armrest as well as four front-accessible cup holders ensures you can make a mess in short order if you aren't careful to put things away.

The storage capabilities do not end in the front as the rear seats fold 60/40, with storage available behind the seats for smaller / flatter items like tow straps and jackets, while under the seats there are two lockable storage bins that also offer a neat flip-up fold-out parcel shelf that turn the second-row floor into a flat storage place for larger objects you need to keep level.

Hauling and Working

Nissan offers a bumper step accessory and if you plan on using the bed of your new Titan XD often I would recommend it. The truck is extremely tall and it is quite the hike up into the bed if the tailgate is down. It isn't too bad with the tailgate up, as you can use the bumper step or the trailer hitch to reduce the step-up height.

Also available as an option are in-bed storage boxes, which take up some space in the bed but make good use of mostly wasted space in the wheel arches. Perhaps not as handy as the RAM box which sits on the outside of the truck bed – here you have to climb in to use them – but handy enough for storing tools, booster cables or road trip gear. These boxes are lockable and maybe more importantly, removable!

Second opinion: 2016 Nissan Titan XD Test Drive Review

As mentioned, the 6-foot 5-inch bed is a very useful size; it was able to swallow a full engine and transmission, some spare parts and an engine hoist easily. I picked up an outside main door for a shed I’m building as well – door and frame together measured about seven feet long so it did not quite fit but propping it against the tailgate worked and I was out of there in a jiffy.

The bed of the Titan XD comes standard with a full spray-in bedliner and handy cargo tie-down system on the floor and along the rails. Also in all four corners are strap anchor points for cargo, dirt bikes, skidoos, etc.

Towing Stuff

Although the Titan XD boasts a towing capacity of 5,460 kg (12,037 lb) and a payload of 909 kg (2,004 lb), the Platinum Reserve model is bound by its extra curb weight and rated to tow 4,819 kg (10,623 lb) with a payload of 667 kg (1,471 lb). It is still quite capable and certainly was more than capable enough for my needs.

The first thing I did after the Titan XD was delivered to my home was hook up my 20-foot car hauler and head up to Calabogie Motorsports Park to pick up a friend's new-to-him race car. I hauled that car another 150 km to his home and on return picked up our Dodge Neon chumpcar in anticipation of our trip to Mosport for the race weekend coming up.

With the trailer empty and loaded with the 1,200 lb formula car, the Titan didn’t even flinch and the trailer was barely noticeable behind the truck. The 5.0L V8 Turbo Diesel Cummins engine produces 550 lb-ft of torque at just 1,600 rpm and a healthy 310 hp at 3,200rpm, and as a result, loaded or not, the trailer didn’t seem to make much difference on acceleration.

Loaded completely full, including a spare engine block and transmission for the race, I’d estimate my trailer was weighing in at close to 7,500 lb. Even with my load distribution hitch, the back of the Titan sagged a little but nothing out of the ordinary for this much weight hanging off the back bumper.

Out on the road, I did notice that the Titan XD now accelerated slower, as expected, but even with the huge wind sail that is my trailer and the heavy load, getting up to and maintaining highway speeds was never an issue.

And then came stopping – and a revelation. My old 2005 Titan had horrible brake feel, even after upgrading the pads to a towing compound and installing new rotors, the truck never felt confident on the brakes. The new Titan XD is another story and another realm altogether. The front and rear vented disc brakes are massive: 14.17" x 1.5" front and 14.37" x 1.2" rear. But isn’t just the size of the brakes but how they are tuned – the pedal feel is excellent and they are really easy to modulate.

The biggest shocker about the brakes is the instant grab they provide – stopping the Titan XD almost feels like stopping a sports car. With the heavy trailer behind I could turn off the brake control and still stop the trailer without issue which proves that the brakes on the Titan are sized for more than the rated towing capacity! Of course, the integrated brake controller was used and the brakes on the trailer as well for safety and when adjusted properly the trailer was not noticeable at all.

The heavy-duty suspension benefits from weight – whether in the bed or towed behind in a trailer – and the ride becomes luxurious and supple. In fact, chatting away on our return from our failed chumpcar battle at Mosport, my friend and I nearly forgot we were towing a heavy race trailer at all. I was so at ease; the absence of pull, push or drama was such that I actually forgot my brain was supposed to be in “tow mode”.

How do I live without a pickup?

I had the Titan XD for two weeks and I honestly do not know how I live day-in and day-out without a pickup truck. Although it wasn’t in constant demand, it seemed like I needed that truck bed nearly every day over the past two weeks. I picked up tires for our race car up at the track, I picked up our spare engine, I picked up that door for my shed and also various other items.

Also, the tailgate is wonderful to use as a workbench at the race track for holding tools, people, parts … oh, the joys of fixing the race car at the track.

I wish I had these plans for every truck I test drive but it just isn't always in the cards. But the Titan XD was subjected to a proper challenge and in the end, it took everything I threw at it like a champion and I was impressed. Of course, the answer to the question everyone has is “13.5 L/100 km”. That was my average fuel consumption on my typical test route. In pure highway driving, I saw an average of 11.5 L/100 km and while towing our heavy trailer it was around 18.5 L/100 km. With the price of diesel currently in the mid-eighty-cent range I was happy with those numbers, as it only cost me about $50 to tow our car from Peterborough to Ottawa and only $75 to fill the 98L tank from empty.

At over $73,000, the Platinum Reserve model may be a little bit of a tough pill to swallow for some but the Titan XD starts at $44,900 for the 5.6L V8 and $52,400 with the Cummins Diesel.

3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 3 years/60,000 km roadside assistance

Chevrolet Silverado HD
Ford F-250 SuperDuty
GMC Sierra HD
RAM 2500

Model Tested 2016 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Reserve
Base Price $73,900
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,795
Price as Tested $76,295
Optional Equipment
Deep Blue Pearl Two-Tone Paint $500