On the Road Review: Nissan Titan XD Pro4X Crew Cab



Everybody now knows that pickup trucks are not only big business for automakers, but also big margin business, especially in America, where auto dealers suffer without some form of a pickup truck to offer consumers.

Honda, the dominant small carmaker in our market, has reintroduced its midsize Ridgeline. Hyundai is soon to sell a Ridgeline knock-off. Ford is looking at bringing back the compact Ranger, or maybe calling it the F-100. Even luxury maker Mercedes Benz has a midsize pickup truck in the offing.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense for Nissan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to recreate the Titan pickup that debuted in 2004. After stumbling through too many years without modifications or various renditions of the Titan, getting whipsawed by the economic collapse of 2008, then being rebuffed by a faltering Chrysler to share a pickup design, Nissan finally doubled down on an all-new truck.

The result is the Titan half-ton pickup, which will debut late this summer, and the Titan XD, the 5/8ths scale pickup that slots between regular half-ton trucks and the larger, heavier-duty ¾ ton pickups offered by Chrysler, Ford and GM.

Back in winter, a Titan XD visited. This week, we get the Pro4X crew cab sample — still powered by the 5.0-liter Cummins turbodiesel engine and featuring a new Aisin heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission.

All early editions of the Titan XD are so equipped and the 310-hp, 555-pound/foot Cummins engine impresses once again. It is smooth, quiet at road speeds, and delivers a solid wallop when you ply the right pedal. The Titan cruises effortlessly, maintaining a steady highway pace without ever shifting up or down for hills or curves plus an early summer tow of my 21-foot boat proved to be a light-duty exercise for the Cummins engine. Teamed with the Pro4X chassis, the Titan was an excellent tow vehicle and smoothed out the traditional yee-yawing of truck and heavy trailer, producing a smooth, balanced ride. The Titan’s extra torque and slick transmission made towing the boat seem like child’s play, revealing a key virtue of diesel power. Engage tow-haul mode, check the dual-pane mirrors, and light the wick on the diesel and the Titan plain motors.

In addition, with warmer temperatures, the turbodiesel produced about 15 percent greater fuel economy than our winter sample, reaching a peak of 18.7-mpg on a truck that barely had 5,000 miles on the odometer. In my mind, the Titan diesel has to reach 20 mpg in daily running to make sense for the price premium over the 5.6-liter V-8 gas engine that will soon become the default powertrain on future XD versions. My experience suggests that is an attainable goal.

My towing session revealed two contrasts. The center-mounted rear camera made “finding” the trailer hitch a piece of cake; the interior screen could be larger, but it was still easy to back the ball under the trailer hitch. But once the inflatable and all of my auxiliary gear was added, the tailgate was down. Engaging reverse at this point produced an outstanding view of — the license plate and the trailer tongue. I would suggest that — for pickups anyway — perhaps two rear view cameras mounted in the taillight assemblies would be more appropriate for users that want to do heavy hauling. Maybe even brighter back-up lights to illuminate nocturnal paths with big trailers.

In the other working end of the Titan, things are fine. There are movable anchor points, top ones on a track, plus a rear three-prong power socket, LED bed lamps, as well as a spray-on bedliner. Both outlets for trailer lights are mounted above the bumper, but there is no bumper step or any other aid to assist with accessing the elevated truck bed.

From the helm, operators get a full-size seat (with heating, cooling and memory available) plus there is a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column assisted by a leather-clad heated steering wheel. Big knobs and buttons populate the dash, including a large dial for high-and-low-range 4X4 action. Sorry, no auto-mode.

The aforementioned back-up screen, info, and entertainment display could certainly be larger given the scope of competitors offerings, while the nav setup looks dated — and small. The reported info was, however, accurate and encouraged consistent use, so these complaints are peeves rather than shortcomings.

The console is huge and quite functional. The sliding power rear window is most welcome; it’s great for venting the cabin on sunny days when you don’t really need A/C, plus it is good to hear your trailer behind you, or rather, not hear your trailer making strange noises.

One operating situation that arose repeatedly could reflect my driving style, or, perhaps a programming glitch in our sample diesel. After hard braking for turning traffic or some other impediment to progress, a big jump on the throttle produced a prolonger hesitation in the truck’s throttle response. While winding my foot into the pedal, it felt like the delay in acceleration was pronounced, with a wind-up to a larger dose of go-forward movement occurring in what felt like too long a period. If I was less urgent with the right foot, using more progressive throttle, acceleration felt more normal.

Titan XDs with the 390-hp 5.6-liter gas V-8 will start around $36,500 in just a few weeks. Titan XD trucks with the 5.0-liter Cummins diesel and Pro4X treatment begin at just over $50K. Our handsome Cayenne Crew Cab, with heated rear seats, rear interior cargo retaining system, Around View monitoring, remote starting, and Rockford-Fosgate audio stickered for $57,820. Regular half-ton Titans also will be available to consumers in a few weeks; these trucks will carry the redesigned 5.6-liter gas V-8 engine and use a 7-speed automatic transmission.

The new Titan proved to be a great tow companion, a good commuting truck, and a credible highway road warrior making one hasty highway trip from Massachusetts in a breeze. Nissan has bet heavily on this Titan climbing the sales charts much higher than the last Titan. It seems like an easy goal to reach in a market thirsty for comfort, performance and pickup versatility.

 

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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