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.
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.
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.