Is the 2016 Nissan Titan XD Capable Enough to Seriously Compete with Chevy, Ford & Ram? [Op/Ed]


I’ve heard it said that at the U.S. corporate headquarters in Nashville, they ring a bell to celebrate every time a Nissan dealer sells the current generation Titan pickup truck. Yes, it is that old.

Now don’t get me wrong. I like the current Titan pickup truck. It is perhaps the most honest pickup truck you can still buy in America. It is everything that pickups customers once upon a time wanted out of their work and play trucks.  It is rugged, squared jawed, tough, capable, affordable, simple to operate and dependable. But it is also thirsty, basic, rough around the edges, and old. Time has moved on and new pickups have become extremely capable, powerful, refined, and even fuel efficient.  When former Ram CEO, Fred Diaz, moved to Nashville to head-up Nissan’s truck division and Nissan announced a new partnership with Cummins to build a new diesel powered Titan – the truck world took serious notice.


Because Nissan was breaking the traditional truck mold in America by building an “in between” or a “tweener” truck. In other words, Nissan decided to build a light duty “half ton” truck with a heavy duty frame and nearly HD-sized diesel Cummins engine.  In other words, a truck that fits somewhere in between the traditional light duty and heavy duty pickup truck categories.

The last time a Japanese manufacturer broke the truck mold in the U.S. – the Honda Ridgeline was born. This small truckster was built on a Odyssey minivan chassis.  As you all probably know, the Ridgeline did not exactly take the domestic truck market by storm.

2016 Nissan Titan XD towing
2016 Nissan Titan XD

TFLtruck’s Andre Smirnov recently flew to Arizona and got behind the wheel of the new 2016 Nissan Titan XD for the first time. The 5.0-liter V8 Cummins turbo-diesel produces 310 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm. Thanks to Andre here is a quick data table of maximum towing ratings.

S: 12,314 lbs (4×2), 12,038 lbs (4×4)
SV: 12,164 lbs (4×2), 11,888 lbs (4×4)
PPO-4X: 11,784 lbs (4×4)
SL: 11,915 lbs (4×2), 11,638 lbs (4×4)
Platinum Reserve: 11,836 lbs (4×2) 10,608 lbs (4×4)

The important number of course is 12,314 pounds of towing capacity.  In this recent story Andre points out the towing capacity of the domestic trucks when configured as 4X2 towing rigs.

The F-150 crew cab 4×2 is rated at 11,900 lbs of max towing when configured with the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost. The F-250 crew cab 4×2 is rated at 16,100 lbs of towing with the 6.7-liter V8 Power Stroke diesel.

The story is similar, when comparing to the GM trucks. The Silverado 1500 crew cab 4×2 is rated at 12,000 lbs with the 6.2-liter gas V8. The Silverado 2500 4×2 crew is rated at 15,800 lbs with the 6.6-liter V8 Duramax diesel.

The gap is a bit wider, when comparing against the Rams. The Ram 1500 crew cab 4×2 is rated at 10,360 lbs with the 5.7-liter HEMI V8. The Ram 2500 4×2 crew is rated at 17,510 lbs with the 6.7-liter I6 Cummins diesel.


That means that the new 2016 Nissan Titan XD is now the biggest and baddest light duty “half ton” truck in the land at least as measured by towing capacity. But of course it is not that simple.

The 2016 Nissan Titan XD is a tweener truck. And as a tweener truck it is also substantially heavier and beefier than the light duty domestic competition. The 2016 Nissan Titan XD has a curb weight of 7,480 lbs. If we compare that to the Ford F-150 3.5L Ecoboost curb weight of  5,577 lbs, the new 2016 Nissan Titan XD starts to look more like a Heavy Duty truck.  And there in lies the rub.

As a tweener truck, you would think the new 2016 Nissan Titan XD should tow in the neighborhood of 14,000 pounds with the Cummins diesel. It’s almost as if Nissan set the target towing capacity 5-years-ago and since that time the domestic truck competition has gone to the gym, pumped up, but not bulked up.

Of course, the other important part of this story is fuel economy. The 2016 Nissan Titan XD is exempt from EPA testing just like most heavy-duty trucks.

In the initial test drive we saw an average of about 17.6 MPG, which is similar to other news publications. In contrast, the EPA rates the new 3.5L EcoBoost Ford F-15o at 17 MPG in the city and 23 MPG on the highway. However, we’ve seen much lower numbers when towing up the Ike Gauntlet from the smaller 2.7L F-150, as you can see by the test video below:

The biggest unanswered questions are:

  1. Has Nissan done enough to compete with the domestic truck manufactures?
  2. Will the new truck buyers be seduced by a light duty sized truck with a HD diesel Cummins engine?

I suspect that answer to the second question is HELL YES! Soon, it will sound like a constant chorus of jingle bells at Nissan Nashville HQ.

But I wouldn’t bet the Nissan farm on the 2016 Nissan Titan XD. We have yet to take the truck up the Ike Gauntlet. In fact, no one has seriously and independently towed with the new 2016 Nissan Titan XD.

We only have Nissan’s claim that the Titan will tow 12,314 pounds. And let’s face it, that’s not too far of a stretch for the Ford F-150 and the Chevy Silverado light duty trucks towing capacity. In fact, it would not be a surprise to me if both Ford and Chevy and Ram engineers are even now busy cooking up some engine, chassis and brake magic to meet or exceed the 2016 Nissan Titan XD numbers.

Still, I have no doubt that it will be a happy, cheerful and loud Christmas at Nissan HQ this year—-but what about next year?

Roman Mica is a columnist, journalist, and author, who spent his early years driving fast on the German autobahn. When he’s not reviewing cars or producing videos, you can find him training for triathlons and writing about endurance sports for as our sister blog’s publisher. Mica is a former broadcast reporter with his Master’s Degree in journalism from Northwestern University.