battleoftitans

You might not know it, but this is the “Year of the Truck.” Nissan has given 2016 its own title in honor of all of the SUVs and trucks it’s rolling onto the market for the 2017 model year. Those include the significantly updated Rogue, refreshed Pathfinder, and all-new Armada. Nissan launched the second generation of its Titan pickup with the 2016 Titan XD. For 2017, that’s joined by its gas sibling, the Titan.

Nissan recently invited me out to Fort Worth, Texas to drive some of that new metal. The Pathfinder was an attractive family hauler and the Armada was a comfortable and luxurious rig, but this is the “Year of the Truck.” If I was going to celebrate it properly, I had to drive those – its trucks. I did just that.

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The Trucks

Beefier than a half-ton yet less hardcore than a heavy-duty, the Titan XD is what I call a “‘Tweener Truck.” Nissan offers buyers making the transition between those two vehicle classes a pickup with a fully boxed frame, massive brakes, a commercial-grade rear differential, and a robust suspension. Pricing starts at $36,290 for the gas-powered XD in the base S trim. The XD can also be ordered in SV, PRO-4X, SL, and Platinum Reserve configurations.

The regular Titan competes in the light-duty segment against rivals such as the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, and Ram 1500. It’s available in the same trim lines as the XD. The base MSRP for the Titan S is $34,780.

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Let the diesel versus gas battle begin!

Both versions of the Titan can be ordered with two- or four-wheel drive and Crew Cab body styles. The Titan and Titan XD will be available as Single Cab trucks. Eventually, a King Cab layout will be an option. Even better, the Titan and Titan XD are covered by 5-year/100,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranties.

The thing that sets the XD apart from its more conventional sibling is that little extra. It’s bigger and has a more powerful available engine that allows it to tow heavier loads and haul more stuff in its longer bed.

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Exterior

The Titan XD looks more 2500 than 1500. The macho grille is flanked by massive headlights. In Crew Cab form, the XD is more than 20 feet long. More than half (151.6 inches) of that is just wheelbase. Out back, there’s a 6.5-foot bed.

Exterior styling cues are very similar on both trucks.

The Titan has the same basic looks, but the dimensions of them are slightly smaller. There’s less sheet metal ahead of the front wheel arches than there is on the Titan XD. The Crew Cab’s wheelbase spans more than 11.5 feet, the bed is 5.5 feet long, and total length is 19 feet.

The bed is big enough for work or play.

Despite the differences in their front and back ends, the Titan XD and Titan share the same cab.

Interior

Nissan’s use of a column shifter frees up room in between the two front seats, which can be occupied by cup holders and a spacious center console storage compartment, depending on trim.

I’ve had the good fortune of being able to drive a variety of high-line Titans and Titan XDs in the past several months. Every time I’ve gotten behind the wheel, I’ve noticed how small and sedan-like the controls for the infotainment seem relative to the huge truck around them.

Both versions of the Titan can be stuffed with a long list of available technologies. Those include voice recognition controls for the audio and navigation systems, the vision-enhancing Around View Monitor, keyless push-button starting, rain-sensing wipers, and heated seats.

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Powertrain

Nissan offers the Titan XD with a 5.0-liter Cummins turbo-diesel V8. That’s good for 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque, all of which are transmitted through a heavy-duty AISIN six-speed automatic. It would be misleading to say there’s no lag, but I can say without hesitation that once the boost builds up, the Titan XD shoots forward like a 3+ ton bullet.

The Titan XD can also be equipped with Nissan’s Endurance V8. It cranks 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque out of 5.6 liters of displacement. While a seven-speed auto handles shifting duties. That same engine/gearbox setup gets the half-ton Titan down the road.

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As you would imagine, the Cummins diesel gives the Titan XD an edge when it comes to getting work done. Maximum trailer towing capacity is 12,314 pounds. With the gas V8, it’s 11,270 pounds. However, the gas Titan XD can carry a higher max payload of 2,594 pounds. The diesel model can only manage to haul up to 2,091 pounds. On the plus side, it’s designed to get significantly better fuel economy than a gas-powered truck when it’s towing, which is one thing diesel trucks are made to do.

The regular Titan is limited to 1,610 pounds of payload and 9,390 of towing. The EPA says it can cover 18 combined mpg. The diesel Titan Pro-4x we drove back in February got 15.7 real-world mpg.

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On-Road Driving Impressions

Certain large trucks have a vague, almost disconnected feel to their steering. The Titan XD is not one of them. That sense of the steering wheel actually being linked to the rubber on the road makes the XD feel a little smaller than it is. Just be prepared for a workout in parking lots because the steering is heavy at low speeds.

Another surprising thing about the XD is its composed ride quality. It didn’t shimmy or shake when I took it over rough pavement.

The half-ton Titan’s smaller dimensions made me more comfortable when maneuvering around other vehicles, especially while parking – which was when the lighter low-speed steering was most helpful.

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Off-Road Driving Impressions

Late last year, I took a Titan XD PRO-4X up and down the rugged terrain of a ranch. Its ground clearance and approach/departure angles kept its body work and vitals out of nature’s reach; its torque-rich Cummins powered it up steep grades.

What a better way to test the trucks articulation than to climb up a berm.

At the Nissan event in Fort Worth, the Titan didn’t jostle me around when I drove it over a stretch of sand-covered lumber. The Hill Descent Control worked flawlessly when I was coming down from a manmade peak.

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Final Verdict

Nissan has a lot to celebrate in its “Year of the Truck.” Its 2017 Titan and Titan XD cousins cover a lot of ground in the pickup market. They have their flaws, but they also have plenty to offer to conventional half-ton buyers as well as those looking for a little extra.