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NEWS – 2019 Nissan Titan XD essentials: Extra bulk, limited payoff

The Nissan Titan XD is basically a beefed-up version of the Titan. It sits somewhere between full-size and heavy-duty territory, though capacity-wise it’s closer to the former. Features like a very useful Utilitrack channel system and lockable in-bed boxes make tying down and tucking away precious cargo easy. This truck is also able to accept a gooseneck trailer hitch.

Key Competitors: Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, Toyota Tundra

Base Price: $55,775 As-Tested Price: $62,590

Full review: Nissan Titan XD Pro 4X

Highlights: This Titan XD is equipped with the Cummins 5.0-liter turbodiesel V8 and the off-road-oriented Pro-4X trim. That means that, once you hoist yourself into the cabin, there’s no step bar, so consider keeping a small step-stool in the back — you’ll be able to tow up to 12,430 pounds (or 12,550 with the gooseneck hitch).

Our Opinion: My 2019 New Year’s resolution is to stop complaining about how big and heavy and expensive pickup trucks have become. I get it. You get it. Everybody gets it. Seeing as I drove this Nissan Titan XD in the last few days of 2018, though, and that it is big, heavy and expensive, I could probably get away with it one last time …

But in the interest of self-improvement, I’ll try to frame my chief criticism differently: The Titan XD — especially when equipped with the 5.0-liter Cummins turbodiesel — asks you do without much of the refinement of today’s current crop of well-behaved, full-size pickups, yet it doesn’t give you the full range of benefits and capabilities of a heavy-duty truck in return. That makes it a questionable value proposition, especially at $62,590 as equipped.

The Titan XD was never going to be a mass-market truck. By design, it’s a sort of midway point between a full-size and a heavy-duty pickup. The XD gets an ostensibly heavier-duty Aisin six-speed versus the regular Titan’s seven-speed, bigger brakes, the ability to accept a gooseneck trailer and so on. One of its marquee features is an available Cummins diesel engine and the corresponding Cummins badges on the side (a 5.6-liter gasoline V8 is standard).

You can theoretically tow 12,550 with this truck as equipped. That may well be overkill for most buyers, but even so, encroachment from the full-size side makes the ride and comfort sacrifices of the Titan XD that much harder to justify. A properly configured Ford F-150 with an EcoBoost V6 can supposedly tow up to 13,000 pounds, for one extreme example. With its bumpy ride over anything but smooth pavement and a 53.8-foot (!) turning diameter, the Titan XD feels more like a something in the full-on HD class. If I had to describe the sensation of nudging it through suburbia, I’d say it’s a bit like waddling around wearing a vehicular fat suit. The around-view monitor, part of the $1,545 Premium Package, is absolutely mandatory if you drive (and park) anywhere more populous than Wyoming. Your average full-size Ford/Ram/Chevy, or even the non-XD Titan, isn’t sports car-nimble, but it’s generally easier to live with.

The 2017 Nissan TITAN XD Crew Cab is available in five well-equipped trim levels – S, SV, PRO-4X, SL and Platinum Reserve. All are offered with a choice of 4×2 or 4×4 drive configurations, except for the PRO-4X model, which is available exclusively as a 4×4.

Ah, but what about the 5.0-liter Cummins turbodiesel V8? It has the right numbers on paper and sounds suitably diesely from behind the wheel. I don’t doubt that it can tow what Nissan says it can tow. Trouble is, I found it very easy to bog the truck down while cruising around at lower speeds with no load (e.g., routine around-town driving). Whip around a corner at 15-20 mph, put your foot down and … hey, where’s the grunt? The specs say the engine kicks out 555 lb-ft of torque from just 1,600 rpm, so I have to assume it’s all getting lost somewhere in the guts of that six-speed auto. Once you get it up to speed, it’s all good.

It wouldn’t be fair to call the Titan XD a bad truck. It just has a somewhat baffling mission profile. In building it, Nissan must be betting that some nontrivial number of buyers want almost, but not all of, the capability of an HD truck in a slightly, but not too much, smaller package. Given the size of the truck market, there is likely some number of buyers who need this exact combination of features and figures.

For everyone else, you’re going to give up much of the ride refinement of today’s full-size trucks for a little bit more towing capability and a lot of bigness. A full-sized pickup, including the non-XD Titan, can do more than majority of buyers will ever ask of it. Those that need more will find a range of HD trucks to suit their needs. What edge-case users are caught in the middle? I’m not exactly sure, but that’s where the Titan XD is parked. Probably taking up two spaces.

–Graham Kozak, features editor

Options: Pro-4X Convenience Package including leather seats with contrast stitching, four-way power passenger seat, heated front and rear seats, power, heated, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, memory function for steering wheel, driver’s seat and outside mirrors, compass on navigation display, remote engine start, remote engine start, auto-dimming outside mirrors with reverse auto tilt, Nissan Connect, auto-dimming rearview ($3,545); Premium Package with ventilated driver and passenger seat, Around-View Monitor, Titan box ($1,545); Pro-4X Utility Package including Utilitrack Channel System with tie downs, front and rear sonar, tailgate area illumination, 120-volt outlet in bed, LED under rail lighting, power slide rear window, premium audio with 12 speakers, electronic locking tailgate, rear utility bed step ($1,445); gooseneck ball, anchors and bag ($280)