Canada Markets closed

2016 Nissan Titan XD Diesel

MIKE SUTTON

From the March 2018 issue

There’s no easy way to say this: Our long-term Nissan Titan XD Diesel was one of the most disappointing new vehicles we have evaluated in recent memory, a distinction highlighted by our truck’s serious mechanical issues and grounded in its general inability to endear when it was healthy.

Spearheading Nissan’s then new second-generation Titan lineup for 2016, the XD leverages a near-heavy-duty build and an available Cummins turbo-diesel V-8 to serve a niche somewhere between established half-ton and three-quarter-ton pickups. While lesser, gasoline-fueled Titans have since joined the mix, the diesel XD is a brutish curiosity that, in theory, is ideal for the commuting and moderate workloads we ask of the trucks in our fleet. But therein lies this middling heavyweight’s paradox: For how massive and unwieldy this Titan XD is on the road, its payload and towing maximums of 2003 and 12,037 pounds, respectively, are eclipsed by those of some light-duty trucks.

While the XD’s ride is undeniably stiff when empty, its control-arm front suspension and leaf-spring solid rear axle offer a bit more compliance than a full-HD pickup’s. For the crew-cab-only 2016 model, we settled on the midrange Pro-4X trim with standard four-wheel drive and a six-foot, six-inch cargo box for a fair $52,165. (Subtract $5000 for the XD’s livelier 390-hp gas V-8 that Nissan added later in 2016.) Along with bountiful standard equipment—bright LED headlights, a towing package, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert—the off-road-oriented Pro-4X brings a locking rear differential, Bilstein dampers, 18-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, and a bevy of underbody skid plates. The Titan’s nonfunctional fender vents and grossly overhung snout are offered at no additional charge.

Adding the $3310 Pro-4X Convenience package (heaters for the steering wheel and four of the five seats plus leather hides all around) along with the $1100 Pro-4X Utility and Audio package (a Rockford Fosgate stereo, front and rear parking sensors, and a host of tie-downs in the cargo bed) was a sounder decision than our trim-level choice. Our Pro-4X’s lack of any assist steps for an as-tested $57,155 truck (Nissan offers cab and box steps separately as accessories) riled its detractors. And at more than 20 feet long and weighing 7280 pounds, the XD is simply too hulking to effectively tackle off-road terrain.

“Lacks the power of current HD rigs from major players but is more stable and easier to drive when towing than half-ton offerings from the same.”
—Josh Jacquot, Reviews Editor

Despite the modest 310 horsepower from the Cummins turbocharged 5.0-liter V-8, the diesel’s 555 pound-feet of torque pulls the Titan through traffic with determination. Early logbook comments noted the stability with which the Titan tugged about three tons of trailer and jalopy, albeit without much haste. Some niggles cropped up, too, including concerns about a numb and heavy helm that continued to groan at low speeds even after we discovered the power-steering system’s fluid was low and topped it off. A recalcitrant tailgate-release handle also plagued the Titan for much of its term, despite the dealer replacing a faulty electronic lock actuator at no charge.

The diesel XD was lethargic at the test track, plodding to 60 mph in 9.4 seconds after its 6000-mile break-in period and covering the quarter-mile in 17.3 seconds at 82 mph. Those times improved somewhat, to 8.9 and 17.0 seconds, once the XD had loosened up at 40,000 miles, as did its stopping distance from 70 mph (204 feet down to 197) and meager grip around the skidpad (0.66 g versus 0.71). But other diesel rigs from Ford, General Motors, and Ram churn out more than 900 pound-feet of torque, with some examples able to bolt to 60 mph in less than 7.0 seconds. The Cummins V-8 also sounds less refined in operation than its 32-valve dual-overhead-cam layout would suggest; the wavering growl that accompanied the 5.0’s clatter prompted technical director Eric Tingwall to scribble “Chewbacca is my co-pilot” in the Titan’s logbook.

The Wookiee under the hood also had a voracious thirst for diesel exhaust fluid—a urea-based solution injected into the XD’s exhaust system to limit nitrogen-oxide emissions. With our truck’s laborious duty cycle (DEF consumption is relative to engine load) and the XD’s small, 4.5-gallon DEF tank, the 44 gallons we fed the Nissan over 40,000 miles, at roughly $6 per, came in many small doses. The DEF monitor in the Titan’s info display also occasionally asked for refills when the tank was nearly full and flashed service alerts that quickly disappeared.

Other logbook entries expressed wonderment at Nissan’s approval of the XD’s uncouth Aisin six-speed automatic. Even after two computer reflashes under warranty, the Titan’s transmission lurched through its ratios under acceleration and, with equal abruptness, clunked into gear at slower speeds. “It’s hard to believe someone could sign off on this transmission calibration,” noted assistant technical editor David Beard.

Virtually every driver agreed that the Pro-4X’s cosseting Zero Gravity front seats were its best attribute, with the crew-cab interior itself stocked with amenities and storage options for long voyages and a range of work. But the cabin’s vibrations, chintzy materials, and outdated 7.0-inch touchscreen that washed out in sunlight never impressed its occupants. Deputy online editor Dave VanderWerp summed it up well: “This new Titan feels a generation or more behind full-size pickups from the Detroit Three.”

The Titan XD provides all the weight of a heavy-duty pickup but without the HD performance or capability. At least the front seats are comfortable.

Despite its many faults, our Nissan racked up miles hauling furniture and yard debris, towing off-road toys around Michigan, and fetching cars from both coasts. While the thousands of miles our truck covered with a trailer lowered the fuel-economy average to 15 mpg overall, the unladen Titan returned 18 mpg on our 200-mile highway loop. (As a heavy-duty truck, the XD is exempt from EPA fuel-economy estimates.)

Basic maintenance for the diesel Titan was substantial. Nissan’s service schedule calls for regular checkups every 10,000 miles unless the oil-life monitor in the cluster asks for it sooner, as our hardworking truck’s did. We spent $1634 on four routine stops, plus a fifth and final $298 visit for new brake and transmission fluids that should have been changed by two separate dealers as part of the Nissan’s 20K- and 40K-mile jobs.

The XD’s logbook reached peak negativity when the Cummins engine started acting up around 27,000 miles, ultimately stranding us several times. While en route from Ann Arbor to Santa Barbara, California, to retrieve C/D’s flame-painted Mitsubishi Eclipse “GT-R”, the XD limped into an Iowa dealership down on power and illuminating a check-engine light for low coolant levels. The service desk, determining nothing serious was amiss, replaced the coolant and erased the codes before clearing us to carry on in the now seemingly healthy truck.

It was 2400 miles later, on the return trip in the California desert with the Mitsu in tow, that the same check-engine alert reappeared, which we confirmed with an OBD II scanner purchased from an auto parts store (the closest Nissan shop was 60 miles away). With the last dealership experience proving uneventful, we felt reasonable in repeating the previous fix until the issue could be further investigated back home. In hindsight, given the now chronic coolant loss, we would have been wiser to seek a second opinion from another Nissan store.

Our optimism ended in Nebraska when the truck’s problems went into overdrive, the Titan consuming more coolant before limping into another dealership with white smoke spewing from its tailpipe. A kaleidoscope of check-engine warnings pointed to a leaking exhaust-gas-recirculation cooler, which is a heat exchanger that uses engine coolant to reduce the temperature of exhaust that is routed back into the combustion chambers to curb NOx emissions. A fuel injector in our truck’s engine had also failed—a separate, known problem with the Cummins V-8 engine—which the dealer replaced under warranty along with the Titan’s full exhaust system. The service techs also pressure-tested the Cummins’s cooling system and EGR heat exchanger but curiously found no evidence of leaks.

Fender badge is not a vent but a branding opportunity.

We retrieved the truck from Nebraska a week later, returned home, and then dispatched it to Virginia International Raceway in support of our annual Lightning Lap event. The Titan made it to VIR, but the 5.0 began to run rough while at the track, and more engine repairs and inspections parked the XD at various Nissan outlets in Virginia, Ohio, and Ann Arbor. The truck’s troubled running finally subsided when a new EGR cooler was installed under warranty at 36,000 miles—the sixth pit stop related to the original problem. While Nissan says that construction of the EGR cooler was beefed up on diesel XDs built after September 2016, we have since read of other EGR-related issues from Titan owners on the internet.

Although the malfunction of its Cummins engine and the subsequent trouble it took for Nissan’s service network to correct it were enough to earn our long-termer an F on its report card, that problem was merely the final straw for drivers already frustrated with the Titan’s many day-to-day issues. As an extra-large tweener that can disappoint even on its good days, Nissan’s big rig left us unconvinced that its quasi-heavy-duty niche is really in need of filling.

Rants & Raves

“It is just too big for its own good and really shows Nissan’s inexperience with this class of vehicle.” —Joseph Capparella

“Just over 8300 miles on the odometer and the power-steering pump feels as if it’s failing.” —Drew Dorian

“This truck is just shockingly bad. Previously, I had only been in the Titan with a trailer attached. Sadly, it drives like it’s towing even when it’s not.” —Jeff Sabatini

“Over the last two days, I’ve spent 30-plus hours driving the Titan and have found the seats to be quite comfortable.” —Maxwell Mortimer

“Never have I jumped into a vehicle this new and been this unsure of its capabilities to make it home issue-free.” —Nathan Petroelje

“This truck feels as if it’s already falling apart—lots of rattles and vibrations from the interior and we’re not even at 10K miles yet!” —Joseph Capparella

“The Titan makes noises that should have given Nissan’s NVH engineers fits.” —Josh Jacquot

“Overall, an underwhelming-from-the-ground-up effort on a new full-size pickup.” —Dave VanderWerp

“This transmission is horrible. It feels like it has a street racer’s shift kit.” —Rusty Blackwell

“I often find myself surprised at how easy it is to fit a Ford F-150 or Chevrolet Silverado into my daily life. This truck just feels unwieldy.” —Annie White

“Access to the bed is difficult for people of average height; the easiest way up is to use the rear tire as a stool and try not to rip the crotch out of your pants.” —Rusty Blackwell

Specifications >

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-/4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door pickup

PRICE AS TESTED: $57,155 (base price: $52,165)

ENGINE TYPE: sequentially turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve diesel V-8, iron block and aluminum heads, direct fuel injection

Displacement: 305 cu in, 4997 cc
Power: 310 hp @ 3200 rpm
Torque: 555 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase: 151.6 in
Length: 243.6 in
Width: 80.7 in Height: 78.4 in
Passenger volume: 120 cu ft
Curb weight: 7280 lb

PERFORMANCE: NEW
Zero to 60 mph: 9.4 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 28.9 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 10.1 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 5.3 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 7.0 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 17.3 sec @ 82 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 104 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 204 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.66 g

PERFORMANCE: 40,000 MILES
Zero to 60 mph: 8.9 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 28.3 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 10.2 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 5.4 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 7.3 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 17.0 sec @ 82 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 104 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 197 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.71 g

C/D FUEL ECONOMY:
Observed: 15 mpg
Unscheduled oil additions: 2.5 qt

WARRANTY:
3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper;
5 years/60,000 miles powertrain;
5 years/unlimited miles corrosion protection;
3 years/36,000 miles roadside assistance




WHAT WE LIKE: That we can dispatch our Nissan Titan XD to far-flung places where it can undertake the heavy lifting and hauling that it was designed for—that is, when it is working properly.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: Being stranded multiple times in far-flung places with a wounded truck that is down on power, belching white smoke, and lighting up its bank of warning lights like a Christmas tree.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The Titan was operating properly at 26,100 miles when we picked it up from a routine service visit, called for via the truck’s onboard oil-life monitor. Consisting of a tire rotation, inspection, and oil change—plus new filters for the engine oil, fuel, and air entering both the engine and the cabin—it set us back $503. Since then, however, a serious malady has befallen our XD, and we’re still in the midst of investigating what caused it. The problem started at about 30,000 miles with a check-engine light (CEL) and a reduced-power notification early in a cross-country trek from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to California and back. A Nissan dealer in Iowa investigated, determined nothing serious was amiss, and then cleared the fault code (P2560, low coolant) and topped off the engine coolant, some of which had curiously vanished on our drive, before giving us the okay to carry on. That fixed the symptom, but this was just the beginning of a long, cantankerous journey to uncover the cause. That same warning illuminated two more times on the return trip with a loaded trailer in tow—one that carried this multicolored Mitsubishi and weighed well under the truck’s six-ton towing capacity. But given the all-clear from the Iowa dealer and experiencing no additional drivability issues with the truck, each time the warning popped up we continued on after performing the same code-clearing and add-coolant routine. (In our haste to complete our cross-country mission, and to avoid having to find another Nissan dealer every time the alert returned, we purchased a code-reading tool from an auto-parts store, which plugged into the truck’s OBD II port and allowed us to clear the faults as the service technicians in Iowa had. In hindsight, we shouldn’t have followed that dealer’s lead by continuing to drive while our Cummins was consuming coolant and should’ve instead stopped for a second opinion.)

Unfortunately, our trek ultimately came to a halt in Nebraska with the Titan limping into another Nissan dealership, plumes of white smoke billowing from its tailpipe, the Cummins V-8 diesel down on power, a clatter emanating from under the hood, the CEL again illuminated. More than 20 fault codes and warnings were logged in the Titan’s computer, most of which indicated an issue with the engine’s exhaust-gas-recirculation (EGR) system. We completed our mission in a rented U-Haul truck while the Titan received one new fuel injector and the entire exhaust system, including its accompanying emissions aftertreatment components—all under warranty. The dealer explored several possible problem areas, including pressure testing the engine-cooling system and removing and bench testing the EGR heat exchanger for leaks. Both systems checked out, and the dealer was unable to re-create any of our coolant-loss issues or provide us with a root cause for the breakdown.

Back in Ann Arbor and cautiously hoping the problem to be fixed, we sent it off to Virginia International Raceway to support our annual Lightning Lap event. But the Titan began running rough again, throwing similar warning codes as before and necessitating another dealer visit, this time in Danville, Virginia. There, the service techs replaced the engine computer’s wiring harness and, curiously, the same fuel injector that had just been replaced. After we made a separate trip back to Virginia to retrieve the truck, supposedly once again with a bill of good health, the check-engine light lit up on the way home in Ohio. It was another EGR-related fault code, but this time the dealer reflashed the powertrain control module and resolved the issue. That reflash apparently didn’t completely erase the computer’s memory, though, as a previous fault code triggered the CEL again at around 34,000 miles, which our local Nissan dealer investigated and cleared from the XD’s brain.

Now with the 40K-mark approaching and the truck, at the moment, in proper working order, we’re still searching for the cause of our Titan’s woes—and, more importantly, wondering whether they have actually been fixed. A quick scan of online owners’ forums turned up only a couple of cases like ours, with owners reporting similar experiences where, at least initially, the dealer is simply topping off the coolant and sending them on their way. Unreliability in any vehicle is a drag, but it is especially troubling to deal with in a new workhorse of a vehicle that you depend on to help get jobs done. Thankfully, our long-term Ford F-150 Raptor is around to pick up some of the Nissan’s slack while we continue to evaluate its health. Watch this space for a full rundown of the Titan’s troubles once we hit 40,000 miles.

WHERE WE WENT: Along with local commuting duties, our Titan XD chugged to VIR and sunny Santa Barbara, California. And it graced the service bays of Nissan dealerships in Ann Arbor; Davenport, Iowa; North Platte, Nebraska; Danville, Virginia; and Lima, Ohio.

Months in Fleet: 12 months Current Mileage: 34,636 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 15 mpg Fuel Tank Size: 26.0 gal Fuel Range: 390 miles
Service: $1273 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0 Urea-Solution Additions: 38.5 gal

Specifications >

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-/4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door pickup

PRICE AS TESTED: $57,155 (base price: $52,165)

ENGINE TYPE: sequentially turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve diesel V-8, iron block and aluminum heads, direct fuel injection

Displacement: 305 cu in, 4997 cc
Power: 310 hp @ 3200 rpm
Torque: 555 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase: 151.6 in
Length: 243.6 in
Width: 80.7 in Height: 78.4 in
Passenger volume: 120 cu ft
Curb weight: 7280 lb

PERFORMANCE: NEW
Zero to 60 mph: 9.4 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 28.9 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 10.1 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 5.3 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 7.0 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 17.3 sec @ 82 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 104 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 204 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.66 g

PERFORMANCE: 40,000 MILES
Zero to 60 mph: 8.9 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 28.3 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 10.2 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 5.4 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 7.3 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 17.0 sec @ 82 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 104 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 197 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.71 g

C/D FUEL ECONOMY:
Observed: 15 mpg
Unscheduled oil additions: 2.5 qt

WARRANTY:
3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper;
5 years/60,000 miles powertrain;
5 years/unlimited miles corrosion protection;
3 years/36,000 miles roadside assistance




WHAT WE LIKE: With 120 cubic feet of interior space and more than six tons of towing capacity, our long-term Nissan Titan XD is an accomplished companion that has served us well for stricken-vehicle retrievals, sundry moving jobs, and being an all-around workhorse. During snowmobile season in Michigan, the XD also handily shouldered the weight of enclosed trailers on northward adventures, and, as previously noted, its remote starter and heated seats and steering wheel let us savor our morning coffee on the couch while the Cummins diesel comes up to temperature. The Pro-4X Utility and Audio package’s thundering Rockford Fosgate audio system has entertained the audiophiles among us as well, even if it lacks the refined clarity of competing higher-end stereos.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: Single-digit fuel economy when towing a decent-size trailer, but that’s to be expected with any heavy-duty truck. What continues to really grind our gears is the Nissan’s stubbornly uncouth Aisin automatic transmission, which abruptly clunks into each forward ratio and is easily caught out by quick, stop-and-go accelerator inputs—despite having yet another software update performed by the dealer under warranty. We’ve previously derided the 5.0-liter Cummins V-8 for its lack of thrust versus the larger engines in other big trucks, yet combined with the clumsy gearbox, the pairing’s lethargic response is an even greater annoyance when trying to move the Titan’s immense bulk through traffic. Servicing this beast also hasn’t been cheap, with the truck’s second 10K visit (oil and filter change, fuel-filter change, tire rotation, and inspection) costing us just shy of $400. Various other complaints have been logged for the difficult ingress and egress due to the Pro-4X’s lack of side steps, the poor resolution of the rearview camera, and for how easily the central touchscreen washes out in direct sunlight.

WHAT WENT WRONG: While it’s not really a malfunction, the diesel V-8’s emission-control system continues to irritate for how quickly it consumes its diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) solution. We’ve added about 21 gallons thus far—or one about every 1100 miles—at roughly $6 per via the 2.5-gallon jugs we’ve most often purchased at auto-parts stores. And while that outlay would be considerably cheaper if we filled up at the DEF pump at a truck stop, where the fluid can run closer to $2 per gallon, the Titan’s filler tube is too small to accept the pump nozzle used by semi trucks. The Nissan’s remote tailgate-lock actuator also quit working on us, which the dealer replaced under warranty.

WHERE WE WENT: Other than a jaunt to Chicago, the Titan’s only far-flung adventures since our last update have been two journeys to somewhat-frozen northern Michigan in search of proper snowmobile conditions, both times with a trailer in tow. The XD was generally unfazed by the modest load (about 3500 pounds), and despite the workouts, our average fuel economy has held at a so-so 15 mpg.

Months in Fleet: 8 months Current Mileage: 21,203 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 15 mpg Fuel Tank Size: 26.0 gal Fuel Range: 390 miles Service: $770 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0 Urea-Solution Additions: 21.2 gal

Specifications >

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-/4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door pickup

PRICE AS TESTED: $57,155 (base price: $52,165)

ENGINE TYPE: sequentially turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve diesel V-8, iron block and aluminum heads, direct fuel injection

Displacement: 305 cu in, 4997 cc
Power: 310 hp @ 3200 rpm
Torque: 555 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase: 151.6 in
Length: 243.6 in
Width: 80.7 in Height: 78.4 in
Passenger volume: 120 cu ft
Curb weight: 7280 lb

PERFORMANCE: NEW
Zero to 60 mph: 9.4 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 28.9 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 10.1 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 5.3 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 7.0 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 17.3 sec @ 82 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 104 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 204 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.66 g

PERFORMANCE: 40,000 MILES
Zero to 60 mph: 8.9 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 28.3 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 10.2 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 5.4 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 7.3 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 17.0 sec @ 82 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 104 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 197 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.71 g

C/D FUEL ECONOMY:
Observed: 15 mpg
Unscheduled oil additions: 2.5 qt

WARRANTY:
3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper;
5 years/60,000 miles powertrain;
5 years/unlimited miles corrosion protection;
3 years/36,000 miles roadside assistance




WHAT WE LIKE: Our big 2016 Nissan Titan XD long-termer shines brightest when it’s working hard towing a trailer or carrying lots of heavy things—but that hasn’t often been the case lately as we settle into a Michigan winter. Yet it’s still good to know that such capability is there, even if we’re just trudging through snow with an empty bed. The giant side mirrors are particularly helpful for maneuvering in traffic, and Nissan’s Zero Gravity front seats (touted as being inspired by the weightlessness of space, where one has no pressure points) are all-day supportive. Despite its bulky dimensions and ponderous driving dynamics, the Titan’s remote start, four-wheel drive, and heated seats and steering wheel make it a relatively popular commuter as temperatures plummet below freezing.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: The rest of the Nissan’s logbook has been less flattering. The Cummins diesel V-8 is unpleasantly noisy—and even took multiple tries to start on a recent not-that-cold morning—and the six-speed automatic clunks and shudders in stop-and-go driving, despite having received a software-reflash update at the dealer. The Titan’s immense size, both real and perceived from the driver’s seat, combines with its lackluster performance to make it cumbersome around town. (And that’s before you try to park it.) A general lack of refinement manifests in the truck’s cabin, with some panel vibrations being noted, some drivers describing the materials as “chintzy,” and the dated and slow infotainment system drawing brickbats from numerous users.

Our truck also continues to have a powerful thirst for diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), which is stored in a 4.5-gallon reservoir and is injected into the exhaust system to reduce oxides of nitrogen emissions. We may have worked our Titan pretty hard during its first couple of months with us, as we did plenty of towing, but the $125 we’ve already spent to add about 16 gallons of DEF over 15,000 miles seems exorbitant. Nissan doesn’t give a suggested range for the DEF tank—the refilling of which in many other diesel vehicles is tied to regular service intervals—instead relying on a digital gauge in the instrument cluster and a series of “Low DEF” warnings that pop up all too frequently.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Our greatest expenditure to date was $352 for the Titan diesel’s first scheduled service at the 10,000-mile mark, which included changing the engine oil and filter, a new fuel filter, a tire rotation, and an inspection. A recall action for the fuel tank’s breather tube—consisting of securing it to the bed rail and removing a temporary cap that was accidentally left on at the factory—was performed as well. We also heard some groans from the hydraulically assisted power-steering system. Upon investigation, the cause turned out to be low fluid level, which was topped off. During that visit the dealer also secured a loose hose for the air-conditioning system, which eliminated an annoying underhood rattle.

WHERE WE WENT: Despite its capacious interior and decent highway ride, our Titan has remained close to home since our last check-in, venturing only as far as Chicago and northern Michigan. Commuting locally means that our meager 15-mpg average hasn’t budged, but we expect the Titan to embark on a few longer trips as soon as snowmobile season ramps up in the northern parts of the state.

Months in Fleet: 5 months Current Mileage: 14,873 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 15 mpg Fuel Tank Size: 26.0 gal Fuel Range: 390 miles Service: $373 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0 Urea-Solution Additions: 15.7 gal

Specifications >

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-/4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door pickup

PRICE AS TESTED: $57,155 (base price: $52,165)

ENGINE TYPE: sequentially turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve diesel V-8, iron block and aluminum heads, direct fuel injection

Displacement: 305 cu in, 4997 cc
Power: 310 hp @ 3200 rpm
Torque: 555 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase: 151.6 in
Length: 243.6 in
Width: 80.7 in Height: 78.4 in
Passenger volume: 120 cu ft
Curb weight: 7280 lb

PERFORMANCE: NEW
Zero to 60 mph: 9.4 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 28.9 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 10.1 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 5.3 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 7.0 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 17.3 sec @ 82 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 104 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 204 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.66 g

PERFORMANCE: 40,000 MILES
Zero to 60 mph: 8.9 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 28.3 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 10.2 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 5.4 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 7.3 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 17.0 sec @ 82 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 104 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 197 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.71 g

C/D FUEL ECONOMY:
Observed: 15 mpg
Unscheduled oil additions: 2.5 qt

WARRANTY:
3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper;
5 years/60,000 miles powertrain;
5 years/unlimited miles corrosion protection;
3 years/36,000 miles roadside assistance




An available Cummins V-8 diesel engine and near-heavy-duty capabilities make Nissan’s new-for-2016 Titan XD a unique beast, one that the company hopes will afford certain buyers an attractive middle ground between conventional half-ton pickups and full-on heavy-duty behemoths. Yet, the XD’s gargantuan size and substantial mass call into question its tweener status, while some smaller, half-ton rigs can actually match its tow rating of more than 12,000 pounds. To see for ourselves how the XD fares in a real-world environment—serving as both a commuter and a general carryall for our various playthings and detritus—we ordered a 2016 Titan XD Pro-4X for 40,000 miles of servitude.

The big Nissan is the latest in a line of full-size trucks to grace our long-term fleet, including 40,000 miles with the first-generation Titan when it debuted back in 2004. The XD is the first diesel example since our 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 Mega Cab 4x4. These workhorses are in high demand around C/D HQ, accumulating their requisite miles in short order. Although we usually introduce new long-term vehicles soon after they arrive, our XD’s 6000-mile break-in period meant we had to wait a couple of months before visiting the test track, during which time it racked up an impressive 7600 miles.

Although Nissan now offers a 390-hp 5.6-liter gasoline V-8 as standard in the Titan XD, and also in the conventional half-ton Titan, the optional turbocharged 5.0-liter Cummins V-8 ($5000) is a better match for moving the truck’s significant 7280 pounds (its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, or GVWR, in excess of 8500 pounds technically makes the XD a heavy-duty pickup, exempting it from EPA fuel-economy ratings). Backed by an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission, the Cummins has 310 horsepower and 555 lb-ft of torque, positioning it between the 420 lb-ft offered in the Ram 1500’s EcoDiesel V-6 and the heavy-duty class of diesel engines that top the 900 lb-ft mark.

Similar to General Motors’ stillborn 4.5-liter Duramax V-8 diesel, the Cummins 5.0 was originally envisioned as a powerplant for half-ton pickups—a combination only Ram currently offers, although Ford has a diesel F-150 in the works. It’s also thoroughly high tech, with an iron block, aluminum cylinder heads with composite valve covers, dual overhead camshafts, a 16.3:1 compression ratio, and Cummins’ M2 sequential-turbocharger setup for minimizing lag. A particulate filter and selective catalytic reduction (urea-based, diesel-exhaust-fluid injection) remove soot and oxides of nitrogen from the V-8’s exhaust. Despite the inherent advantages in efficiency provided by energy-dense diesel fuel and compression ignition, the Nissan’s porky curb weight has kept any gains from materializing in the real world. Our test truck’s 15-mpg average thus far is similar to the returns we’ve observed from other large-engine pickups (both gasoline- and diesel-fueled). And our best stint barely returned 20 mpg, which is still less than the 21-mpg figure we’ve recorded with the much-lighter Ram 1500 EcoDiesel.

How We Spec’d It

While you can get either a single- or crew-cab Titan XD for the 2017 model year, 2016 versions came only in the latter configuration, riding on a 151.6-inch wheelbase with a 6.5-foot cargo bed. Base, rear-wheel-drive S models start at $36,485 for 2016, with four-wheel drive adding about $3000, depending on the specific trim. The mid-level Pro-4X we chose, however, is four-by-four-only and begins at $47,165. Along with a two-speed transfer case, 3.92:1 axle ratios, and an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential, the Pro-4X includes Bilstein monotube dampers, dark-finished 18-inch wheels shod with LT275/65R-18 tires (General Grabber APTs on our truck), and skid plates for the oil pan, 26-gallon fuel tank, transfer case, and lower radiator.

Additional standard equipment ranges from a spray-in bedliner to a gooseneck-hitch mount in the bed to a conventional Class IV receiver out back. An integrated trailer-brake controller also is included. Nissan’s Zero Gravity captain’s chairs coddle front-seat occupants, while the 60/40-split rear bench folds up to reveal more hauling space (extensions are there to create a flat floor, if you need it) and underseat storage. There’s also dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry and start, a rearview camera, a 5.0-inch color information display in the cluster, and a 7.0-inch central touchscreen with navigation, satellite radio, and USB and Bluetooth connectivity.

Along with the Cummins engine, our Cayenne Red test truck came with the $3310 Pro-4X Convenience package (leather upholstery with contrast stitching and Pro-4X embroidery, remote start, power for the tilting-and-telescoping steering column, a heated steering wheel, and heated front and rear seats); the $1100 Pro-4X Utility and Audio package (Rockford Fosgate audio with 12 speakers, front and rear parking sensors, a power sliding rear window, Nissan’s Utili-Track tie-down system, LED bed and tailgate lighting, and a 110-volt outlet in the bed); a $345 electronic tailgate lock; and $235 splash guards for a sizable as-tested total of $57,155.

Not a Track Star

In terms of performance, the Titan XD failed to impress on its initial outing at the test track. Its leisurely acceleration to 60 mph (9.4 seconds) and through the quarter-mile (17.3 at 82 mph) make it one of the slowest full-size trucks we’ve tested recently, regardless of size or engine. Not helped by its chunky all-terrain tires, the XD needed 204 feet to stop from 70 mph and circled the skidpad with just 0.66 g of lateral grip, both numbers that put it near the bottom of the segment. Nor is it especially quiet, generating slightly more noise at idle and full throttle (48 and 74 decibels, respectively) than most of the diesel pickups we’ve tested. The unusual warble of noises that the Cummins produces above 3000 rpm prompted one driver to declare, “Chewbacca is my co-pilot.”

That’s not to say the Titan isn’t capable, what with 2003 pounds of payload capacity and a tow rating of 12,037 pounds. In addition to hauling various tires, people, and junk near home, the XD’s break-in period included voyages to western Michigan, Illinois, and New Jersey. Notes in the logbook so far praise its respectable ride quality and the stability afforded by its long wheelbase and considerable mass. The cushy front seats also have earned fans for their long-haul comfort, and all drivers have appreciated the excellent visibility afforded by its massive, extendable towing mirrors.

While the Titan has never struggled with the heavier chores it has been tasked with, several drivers—perhaps accustomed to the greater outputs of heavy-duty diesel pickups—wished for more passing and towing power. Others have complained about the unassisted climb up into the cabin and the poor maneuverability of its 20-foot-long bulk in traffic and parking lots. The electric tailgate release also stopped working for one driver, who resorted to removing the inner panels of the tailgate to access the latch mechanism manually.

Although the 4.5-gallon diesel-exhaust-fluid system was supposedly filled at the factory, a 20-percent-remaining notice illuminated at just 1200 miles, prompting us to add 2.5 gallons ($15.57) to the reservoir. Another 3.8 gallons ($28.37) were added at 5200 miles when the same warning returned; we’ve yet to determine whether the significant consumption is the result of our driving or if this is just one of the thirstier setups we’ve experienced in a modern diesel engine. In between, at 3000 miles on the odometer, the Cummins V-8 also ran low on oil, which cost us $21.39 for a 2.5-quart top-up.

With the Titan’s first service not scheduled until 10,000 miles, our only visit to the dealer was at 2170 miles for a software reflash for the transmission, which seemed to be slipping as it shifted into third gear. The fix appears to have worked, although the six-speed isn’t as deft in its gearchanges as we’d like, and it occasionally shudders if the driver abruptly lifts off the accelerator. The dealer also adjusted the front-wheel alignment and inspected the steering column, which produces an intermittent groaning sound when the driver twirls the wheel. The latter was deemed to be working properly, but the noise can still be heard occasionally, so we’ll keep investigating the cause. While we remain uncertain of the true value of the Titan XD’s mid-level position in the pickup world, our test truck has been immensely capable in the short time it’s been with us, and we expect more of the same over the next 32,000 miles.

Months in Fleet: 2 months Current Mileage: 7771 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 15 mpg Fuel Tank Size: 26.0 gal Fuel Range: 390 miles
Service: $21.39 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0 Urea-Solution Additions: 6.3 gal

Specifications >

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-/4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door pickup

PRICE AS TESTED: $57,155 (base price: $52,165)

ENGINE TYPE: sequentially turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve diesel V-8, iron block and aluminum heads, direct fuel injection

Displacement: 305 cu in, 4997 cc
Power: 310 hp @ 3200 rpm
Torque: 555 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase: 151.6 in
Length: 243.6 in
Width: 80.7 in Height: 78.4 in
Passenger volume: 120 cu ft
Curb weight: 7280 lb

PERFORMANCE: NEW
Zero to 60 mph: 9.4 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 28.9 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 10.1 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 5.3 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 7.0 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 17.3 sec @ 82 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 104 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 204 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.66 g

PERFORMANCE: 40,000 MILES
Zero to 60 mph: 8.9 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 28.3 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 10.2 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 5.4 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 7.3 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 17.0 sec @ 82 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 104 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 197 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.71 g

C/D FUEL ECONOMY:
Observed: 15 mpg
Unscheduled oil additions: 2.5 qt

WARRANTY:
3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper;
5 years/60,000 miles powertrain;
5 years/unlimited miles corrosion protection;
3 years/36,000 miles roadside assistance