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      2016 Nissan Titan XD: Nissan aims to fill the 'white space' with new truck

      2016 Nissan Titan 1.JPG
      2016 Nissan Titan XD on display at the 2015 North American International Auto Show (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

      I'll admit it. I had a bit of a rocky start with the 2016 Nissan Titan XD. When I first tried to hop into the driver's seat, I bounced right back out. Then there were a couple of breathless moments as I tried to maneuver the full-size truck through a city alley.

      Undaunted, I was determined to make peace with the Titan XD during my test week.

      I fully realize that the Titan XD isn't made for an urban environment. But, after a week in this truck, I can tell you it's not completely out of its element there either.

      And with that realization, Nissan might just have accomplished what it set out to do: Create a fully capable truck that not only can tow 12,000 pounds but also is well-mannered enough for a night out on the town.


      Design

      The Titan XD has a maximum payload of 2,091 pounds and a maximum towing rating of 12,314 pounds, so this truck means business. Thus, it makes sense that the design means business as well.

      The Titan XD has a bold and aggressive stance, with large lights, grille and side mirrors. In fact, everything about this truck is large, which makes sense since it's more than 20 feet long (242.8 inches), 80.7 inches wide and 78.7 inches tall.

      What I really like about the exterior design, though, is the attention to detail - like the embossed TITAN on top of the grille. Titan offers running boards, and with a step-in height of just more than 2 feet, I'd recommend them. They are optional on the SV and P4X trims and only standard once you get to the SL and Platinum trims.

      A couple other nice available exterior features include a Utili-Track Bed Channel System that features aluminum alloy cleats that move and lock anywhere along the walls and a dual lockable in-bed storage box that are watertight and removable.

      Titan XD will be offered in Crew Cab, King Cab and Single Cab configurations along with three available bed lengths. At launch it is only available in a Crew Cab with the standard 5'7'' truck bed.


      The interior is where Titan XD really shines. It is a complete 180 from the previous generation with upgraded materials and a much more attractive overall design. The test vehicle was a Platinum Preserve model with the handsome black-and-brown leather seats. I thought the wood accent pieces on the steering wheel and dash were attractive and understated. I loved the orange stitching on the seats, wheel and armrest, which added to the general upscale feel of the vehicle.

      I do have a couple points of contention, however, one of which is the over-large shift lever on the steering column. It blocked my view of the HVAC and audio controls, and my hand smacked into it every time I tried to adjust the heat. Additionally, with the tilt of the info screen and shiny bits on the center stack, if the sun hits this area just right, the info screen is unreadable and the reflection can be blinding.

      Ride & Handling

      The Nissan Titan XD is a full-size truck, but it's not quite a half-ton truck like the Ford F-150, Ram 1500 or Chevrolet Silverado 1500. Nor is it a three-quarter-ton truck like the Ford F-250, Ram 2500 or Chevrolet Silverado 2500. It's somewhere in the middle.

      As Phil Lienert, Nissan truck communications specialist, put it during a phone interview: Titan XD fills the white space.

      He said there are about 140,000 full-size truck buyers who flip-flop between the half- and three-quarter-ton trucks, citing not enough capability or too much capability for the price as the reason for the switch. So the goal, according to Lienert, is to hit the sweet spot of capability and luxury amenities that will please someone who wants to use this truck for work and play.

      It can easily tow a 2,400-pound horse trailer with a couple of horses on board but then make the switch to a comfortable luxury vehicle for date night.

      My test period was 100-percent city focused, so I can say that Nissan was pretty successful in making the Titan into a truck that could be an everyday driver - even if it never goes off the beaten path.


      Equipped with a Cummins 5.0-liter, V-8 turbo diesel, the Titan XD has 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque. In city situations, that meant I was never the last off the line, and merging into highway traffic was a breeze.

      On the highway, the Titan XD was competent, smooth and quiet. With the aid of the larger-than-life side mirrors, I was able see all my blind spots and maneuver through traffic confidently.

      On the city streets and alleys, maneuverability was a bit trickier simply because of the vehicle's sheer size. It was also a bit rough and clunky over potholes - not quite as nice as a large SUV would be.

      Though the only engine option for Titan XD at the time of writing this review is the Cummins diesel, a 5.6-liter Endurance V-8 gasoline engine will be available this spring. It is rated at 390 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque.

      Fuel economy

      Because the Titan XD weighs more than 8,500 pounds, the EPA classifies it as a heavy-duty vehicle. Because fuel economy regulations do not apply, the EPA doesn't have to test the Titan XD, and Nissan doesn't have to release any specific fuel economy numbers. So there are none.

      But believe me, I asked.

      The only thing Brent Hagan, the product planning manager for Nissan North American, would say during an interview is that the Titan XD, equipped with the 5.0-liter 8-cylinder Cummins diesel engine, should get 20 percent better fuel economy than an 8-cylinder gasoline engine.

      Really, what I wanted to know was if my average of 15.5 mpg in mostly city driving was "normal." I did not get a definitive answer from Nissan, so I checked out Motor Trend's Real MPG testing of the Titan XD. Their testing returned a 15.8 mpg average in the city and a 20.8 mpg average on the highway.

      In all, these aren't completely awful numbers for a truck that's built to tow more than 12,000 pounds.


      Tech & gadgets

      From an urban driver's perspective, I thought the most useful feature on the Titan XD was the around-view monitor. It operates in forward and reverse gears at slow speeds and gives a really good view of what's going on at all four corners of the vehicle. Unfortunately this feature is only available at the P4X trim and then standard at the top Platinum Reserve trim.

      But, for those who are going to put Titan XD through its paces, Nissan has also adds some new available towing aids, including an Integrated Trailer Brake Controller, Trailer Sway Control, Tow/Haul Mode with Downhill Speed Control and a Trailer Light Check system that allows one-person hook-up operation.

      Another nifty feature: The available rear-view monitor with trailer guides.

      Trims

      At launch Titan XD will be available in 4X2 and 4X4 configurations but with only the Crew Cab, 5'7'' truck bed and Cummins 5.0-liter V-8 turbo diesel engine. Additional truck bed, cabin configuration and engine options will be coming later in 2016.

      S: This base level Titan XD comes standard with features such as remote keyless entry, NissanConnect with mobile apps, push-button start, Easy Clean vinyl flooring, Bluetooth phone pairing, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, manual-folding outside mirrors and LED cab-mounted bed lights. The only package available at this trim is the S Convenience and Utility Package ($800). Base price is for the Titan XD Crew Cab S is $41,465.

      SV: This trim adds standard towing equipment, an advanced drive-assist display, chrome exterior trim, SiriusXM Satellite Radio with a 3-month subscription, interior welcome lighting, 17-inch silver-painted styled steel wheels, dual outside mirrors, an integrated gooseneck hitch, trailer brake controller, trailer light check and trailer sway control. There are two packages available at this trim: The Comfort and Convenience Package ($2,590) and the SV Utility Package ($1,120). Base price for the Titan XD Crew Cab SV is $45,255.


      SL: At the SL trim, you start adding the luxury amenities. Standard features include remote start, leather-appointed seats, a Rockford Fosgate Audio System, heated front seats, power sliding back window with defroster, memory driver's seat, 20-inch alloy wheels, a Class IV tow hitch receiver, running boards, oil pan and fuel tank skid plates, Utili-track Channel system with four tie-down cleats, in-bed LED lights and a 120-volt outlet in the bed corner. Base price for the Titan XD Crew Cab SL is $53,225.

      Platinum Reserve: This top-tier trim adds pretty much every amenity you could possibly want as standard fare. This trim includes 20-inch dark chrome-clad aluminum alloy wheels, premium leather-appointed seats, around view monitor Titan Boxes, open-power wood tone trim with dark chrome accents, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and heated steering wheel. Base price for the Titan XD Platinum Reserve is $58,665.

      Safety

      The Titan XD comes standard with dual stage front airbags, roof-mounted curtain side impact airbags, front seat-mounted side impact airbags, antilock brakes, vehicle dynamic control, traction control and a tire pressure monitoring system.

      Included in the SV Comfort and Convenience Package, you will also get safety features such as blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. But at present, there are no advanced safety systems -- such as forward collision warning, lane departure warning or emergency braking - available on Titan XD. Hagen did state that the autonomous-like features will be coming at some point in the future as a part of Nissan's "Cross Car Line Strategy," which ensures that features are consistent across product lines.

      What really irks me, however, is that the rearview camera isn't standard across the lineup. It isn't offered at all on the S Trim, and it only becomes available as a part of a package in the SV Trim.

      Because of its "Heavy Duty" classification, Titan XD is not subject to crash tests.

      New for 2016

      Titan XD is completely new for the 2016 model year. Some of the more notable features on this truck include available dual lockable in-bed storage boxes, a backup camera with trailer guidelines, a trailer light check, integrated trailer brake control and an integrated gooseneck hitch.

      A few of my favorite things

      I really appreciated all the luxury amenities the Titan XD had to offer in its Platinum trim. My faves included leather seating surfaces, heated front and rear seats and navigation.

      The available around-view monitor in the Titan XD, however, was the key to a successful test week in an urban space. It operates in forward and reverse gears at low speeds, and it shows you exactly how close you are to obstacles surrounding the truck. I used this feature when I was crawling through alleys, parking in my space and making tight turns. Even with the large dual mirrors that give an excellent view of the rear of the vehicle, I could not have made it through the test week without this camera.

      Titan XD has really nice interior space. At one point during the test week, I transported three passengers that ranged from 5'10'' to 6'6'', and everyone fit comfortably in front and rear seats. I also want to give kudos to Nissan for creating a driver's space that could be adjusted for someone who is 6'6'' as well as someone who's 4'11, like me. That can't be easy.

      What I can leave

      While the Titan has a lot of great features, there were a few things I found curious. First, I thought it was odd that the heated steering wheel button was located on the center stack closer to the front passenger than the driver. I know buttons come and go based on package options, but it just seems that this was a peculiar location for that particular button.

      The heated steering wheel has quickly become one of my must-have features in a vehicle. So that's always the first thing I look for if the vehicle has heated seats. In addition to having the button in an odd location, the heated steering wheel itself in the test vehicle didn't work very well. The leather bits on the wheel were quick to heat up, but the wood remained frigid, which left me with a weird hot-cold sensation on my hands.

      The last thing I could totally leave is the larger-than-life shift lever. It sticks out way too far, and every time I tried to reach for the HVAC controls, my hand smacked right into the shifter. This is one of those problems that may not affect taller drivers, but it was a bit annoying for this petite one.

      The bottom line

      I'm not sure I quite understand the "white space" that Nissan is trying to fill with the Titan XD, but it definitely has the fixings to be a "just right" vehicle for someone who needs an everyday driver that can also tow some big stuff.

      I thought it was comfortable on the highway as well as manageable in city situations. Unless you plan on off-roading, I would absolutely make sure you get the running boards - even my 6'6'' passenger said the step-in height was a bit unwieldy without them.

      Overall, Titan was a comfortable vehicle - even if it was a bit nerve-wracking at times to maneuver.

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