Nissan Titan XD: refined yet rugged
MARICOPA, Ariz. — Picking their way through the dusty sagebrush, two wild horses suddenly appeared by the roadside, bachelor colts by the look of them, juvenile stallions who’d probably been run off by the herd’s leader once they’d reached puberty. There’s zero tolerance for teenage behaviour among equines, so these two were free to live a life of play-fighting and lazy debauchery in the Sonoran Desert, until they are mature enough to start their own bands.
As surreal as this encounter seemed, it was also fitting, as most of my experiences with pickup trucks involve horses. Whether it’s on the backstretch at the racetrack, while wrapping legs at the stable or sharing tailgate lunches in the hunt field, the topic of conversation invariably turns to truck preference. When I picture the old-timers — blacksmiths, feed men, veterinarians, trainers, with their large, chapped hands wrapped around warm cups of coffee — I can’t help wonder what they’d think of the rig I’m currently driving.
Naturally, for the big stables and international shippers, nothing but a heavy-duty pickup would do. But the amateur competitors, small trainers and recreational riders have an ongoing dilemma: Would they opt for the comfort and economy of a lightduty truck or the powerful solidity of a big, diesel-powered rig?
Most of the time, a regular-size pickup fits the bill nicely; it’s powerful enough to handle a bumper pull but often used as a daily driver. But the growing trend for larger, heavier competitive horses led many of my friends to trade up to larger pickups that can tow more. Sure, the ever more powerful half-ton pickup segment is more than capable of pulling increasingly large weights, but are they heavy enough to handle a moving load and, more importantly, stop it?
For these folks and thousands of others — contractors, hunters and campers — there’s a gap between their needs and what’s available. Nissan calls that gap the “white space” between segments and is convinced the new Titan XD has filled the gap.
Powered by a 5.0-litre Cummins V-8 diesel, the Titan XD is the first of its kind to offer heavy-duty capability in a more manageable light-duty-size package. While Ram was the first diesel-powered 1500-series pickup, the Titan XD takes it much further. Half-ton trucks are now posting tow ratings exceeding 4,500 kilograms — numbers once seen only in the threequarter ton segment — but they don’t trim. For off-road aficionados, there’s the Titan PRO4X, complete with a locking differential, underbody skid plates, Bilstein shocks and a unique paint scheme.
Depending on trim level, there’s quilted leather and an optional seveninch infotainment system with GPS navigation, along with a 12-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system and the same Zero Gravity seats found in the Maxima. Nissan’s Around View Monitor uses cameras to provide 360 degrees of awareness using audible warnings and an onscreen display. Rear seats flip up to reveal a lockable storage box.
On road, it’s an extremely well-mannered vehicle — even when unladen. The level of quiet within the cabin is remarkable for a pickup truck. This is the result of many factors, including the use of laminated sandwich glass normally found in luxury sedans and a 45 per cent improved level of body sealing and hydraulic bed-to-frame mounts rather than the typical rubber “hockey pucks” used in many pickup trucks
In an off-road comparison test against the Ford F-350 and Chevrolet Silverado 3500, the Titan XD was considerably more refined. Not available for comparison was the Ram; it would have been interesting to compare the Titan XD back-to-back against the Ram’s excellent air suspension.
The crew-cab Titan XD 4x4 has a max tow rating of 12,300 lbs (5,443 kg) and a payload of 2,093 lbs (949 kg). Towing a 9,000-lb (4,082-kg) enclosed car trailer, the Titan felt really solid and the engine brake, Downhill Speed Control, trailer brake and sway controls add to the sense of security.
Anyone who tows alone will appreciate the backup camera that clearly aligns the ball with the trailer’s hitch, and the new Trailer Light Check system: simply hook up the electrical, walk behind the trailer, then press the key fob. The system runs through the light check sequentially, then honks when done. As a horse owner who occasionally leaves at a ridiculously early hour for the show ring, the idea of independent autonomy is exciting; I can hook up, by myself, with confidence.
While Canadian prices won’t be available for a while, the Titan XD is expected to start at around US$40,000 for a base crew cab 4x4, up to US$60,000 for the Platinum Reserve. No fuel economy numbers are available as yet and the expected arrival date in Canada is in early 2016.