REPRINT OF THE ELLSWORTH AMERICAN ARTICLE by Tom Walsh Friday - Feb 26, 2016
Heading out Route 6 from Lincoln, traffic counts dwindle swiftly, but the view out the windshield reveals numerous wind towers across the hilltops here and in Lee. The road surface starts to deteriorate — the obvious effects of countless logging trucks supplying the local industries — and the houses become few and far between. Nissan’s new Titan XD and I are getting deeper into remote Maine while really sampling how this new diesel pickup performs, handles and drives in less than perfect environments.
The Nissan Titan XD is an all-new design. Built in Canton, Miss., the XD has been called a 5/8ths pickup, as it is larger and more potent than a regular half-ton pickup, while looking, and to some degree, driving like a larger, stronger ¾-ton pickup. Indeed, some viewers can be forgiven for thinking that the Titan XD was a new Ford Super Duty model.
Check out these numbers: 7,120 pounds weight in base crew-cab 2WD, 151-inch wheelbase, 242 inches overall length, 2,000 load capacity, 12,200-pound tow rating, plus a 310-hp 5.0-liter Cummins V-8 turbodiesel engine with 555-pound/feet of peak torque. Doesn’t sound like a half-ton pickup, does it?
In reality, this “tweener” offering has been seen before. GM did a 1500HD series truck for several years; it had the look of a heavy duty pickup, but not the ride height, stiff ride or maximum work numbers. Sales were decent, as smart buyers capitalized on getting a half-ton pickup with enhanced capabilities. Nissan hopes to tap into the same market niche with the Titan XD, while the conventional half-ton Titans (coming later this spring) will chase other pickup truck buyers.
Pickup truck sales are strong, so Nissan’s apparent strategy seems well timed after the first edition Titan (2004 debut) produced only lackluster showroom results despite wide initial acclaim. Ten days in the saddle of this bronco showed that this truck does indeed have great promise.
Farther out Route 6, and then north on Route 1, the vast majority of vehicles on this cold wintry day are logging trucks — lots of logging trucks. Despite the mill going down at Lincoln, the loggers are still moving wood in anticipation of changing markets, fulfilling contracts or supplying still active Baileyville. They rumble swiftly past as the Titan capably navigates the broken sections of pavement with aplomb.
In Brookton, the side of the road is littered with footprints crisscrossing the snowbanks. I haven’t seen a house for miles, so who would be out here wandering around in the snow? Dummy, you are driving with Bullwinkle, everywhere!! A short distance ahead, a new pickup with its front end all stove-in further reminds me to keep my eyes peeled for the lumbering moose that are apparently here, but not visible.
At over 7,300 pounds in 4X4 gear and top Platinum Reserve trim, the Titan XD moves down the road smartly. The cabin is hushed — conversation is easy, even with the XM radio supplying unlimited entertainment. The Cummins engine does not intrude — at all — even when you have your right foot buried for passing one of the logging behemoths up a long grade. Steering feel is very good, the double-wishbone independent front suspension delivering the kind of path steadiness that the Ford Super Duty’s solid front axle just cannot deliver. This is proven repeatedly on the highway, at all kinds of speeds; the Nissan holds your path perfectly, reacts smoothly to inputs and drives nimbly for such a large vehicle.
The diesel’s ample power is handled by a heavy-duty Aisin six-speed automatic transmission with tow-haul mode as well as manual-gear selectability. Pushing up the interstate earlier in the morning, the truck held a steady 2,100 rpms at 80 mph into a headwind — the transmission never shifting. Press the electronic throttle for more power, and the truck oozes forward with a rheostat-like efficiency that is the hallmark of turbodiesels.
Platinum trim gives buyers superb heated leather seats with chair-like comfort. The power tilt/telescoping steering wheel is heated too (as are the rear seats) while push-button ignition and access is among the various luxury features in this opulent cabin. Controls are simple, efficient and man-sized knobs, levers, buttons. Yes, there is a touchscreen with functions; no, it does not supersede common sense switches for truck operations.
By afternoon, the woods of Washington County have given way to the open fields of Aroostook County and heavy crosswinds are swirling large clouds of snow across the road. These winds have no impact on the Titan’s handling or stability. I wish for more traction from the all-season General Grabber 20-inch tires; they are no match for snowy intersections and frequently require engagement of the electric 4WD control to make swift entrances into traffic. I also wish that the Titan featured an auto-mode setting on this 4WD knob — there is only 2WD and 4WD, unlike rivals with automatic settings for temporary traction challenges.
In the morning, Presque Isle offers up its usual winter starkness; below zero temperatures and a persistent north wind, again. Click on the Titan’s remote starter and the truck fires right up, the dual batteries handling whatever chills a northern Maine winter can offer. The Cummins turbodiesel thrums away and the cabin quickly warms for another day on the road.
The Titan XD sits high, really like a Super Duty or GM Heavy Duty truck, rather than a regular half-ton pickup. Running boards are optional, and missing here, which seemed odd given the list price of the Platinum model. Standard features include an integrated Gooseneck hitch in the pickup bed as well as a Class IV receiver, LED bed-lights, fixed and movable tie-down anchors, an easy-lift/easy-lower tailgate, plus dual rear sockets for trailer lites. The Titan has a trailer sway control system, trailer brake controller, plus a monitoring system for your trailer lights, telling you which ones work, and which ones do not. Surround-view monitoring — cameras on all four sides — help fit the Titan in tight spots as well as find trailers at the rear.
Side mirrors are dual-panel, foldable units; power panel up top, manually adjustable lower panel at the bottom with perimeter lighting and turn signal lamps.
Available pieces include Titan Boxes, an assortment of tool and cargo boxes that can slide on rails in the bed for access front or rear. Inside, there is a locking box under the folding rear seats.
Just south of Van Buren, those snowbank tracks come to life with a large cow moose waiting to cross traffic. Other drivers motor by, oblivious to this dangerous obstacle capable of destroying you and your car in one swift leap. I pull to the side for some photos. Out of the roadside brush lurks another brown creature — a much larger bull moose. They apparently do not admire the Titan; they quickly retreat into the woods to haunt other drivers later.
At a business stop in this border-crossing town, lots of people are quickly enamored with the Titan XD — male and female alike. With their thick Acadian accents expressing admiration for both the truck’s stance and the Cummins emblem on the front fender, it is clear that Nissan’s efforts have many fans in this American/Canadian community.
After the last stops in Fort Kent, it is time to head home down hilly Route 11, back to the highway at Sherman. Again, I am joined by whole series of logging trucks, Kenworths, Western Stars, and International-cabbed log-haulers working the Maine woods — heading both north and south to their various customers. Route 11 is another good test of the Titan’s driving portfolio; holding a selected pace over the undulating hills, how it handles the winding, rough patches of pavement, and how it grips the snowy surface on this windy winter day. One curve caused a pucker moment — too much snow, too much truck coming at us — yet the Titan XD proved to be a polished performer in every regard.
The EPA has not rendered a mileage rating for the new Titan XD — as of this writing. My mileage ranged from a low of 16.0 mpg to a high of 18.0 mpg, with intervals indicated of 20 mpg or better on the trip computer. The Titan XD’s fuel tank could be larger for serious travel — only 450 miles was the multi-panel info-screen interval. These mileage numbers reflect lots of cold idling, lots of wintry driving, as well as the newness of the diesel engine, so buyers should expect greater efficiency with more miles on the clock and more digits on the thermometer.
By late spring, Nissan will have conventional half-ton versions of the Titan on sale, including a Raptor-like Warrior off-road oriented model with a long travel suspension. These trucks will have the 5.6-liter V-8 gas engine, plus another undisclosed optional powertrain. Nissan will also build a regular two-door Titan, plus extended cab and crew-cab models of these trucks.
The Titan XD earns high marks. It is a unique offering in the pickup segment and will attract buyers; how many is uncertain, but sales should exceed the previous offering by a wide margin given the current positive outlook in the whole pickup truck segment.
The 5.0-liter Cummins turbodiesel makes 310 hp and 555 pound/feet of peak torque. Maximum tow rating is 12,200 pounds.
Ground clearance is 8.7 inches, the bed length is 67 inches, the fuel tank is 26 gallons, and the wheelbase is 151.6 inches.
CHECKOUT THE ALL NEW TITAN AT YOUR LOCAL SAN DIEGO MOSSY NISSAN OR SHOP ONLINE NOW AT MossyNissan.com