First Drive

Nissan turns up the power on the 2016 Titan XD Crew Cab


Endurance 5.6L V8 makes 390hp, making this gas-powered XD a fine choice for those who need more towing ability than a ½-ton pickup but less than a heavy-duty.


By Bruce W. Smith

(Photos by Bruce W. Smith & Manufacturer)


Looking at two 2016 Nissan Titan XD 4x4 Crew Cabs sitting side by side requires a close look at the fender emblem to tell which one is diesel and which is gas. But when you drive them on the road, it’s like comparing identical twins trained for different sports.

The 5.0L Cummins V8, the first model Titan XD out of the Nissan gate, is the weight-lifter, with more brawn than any of the smaller competitors, yet a bit slow getting out of the blocks. The new gas model is the sprinter, 500 pounds lighter in curb weight and overall capacity, but far quicker accelerating and responsive than its #2 diesel-burning twin.


Although the 2016 Titan XD 5.6L Endurance gas V8 has the same displacement and block as the previous model, it’s an entirely different animal from the crankshaft out. The ZH K1, as Nissan engineers refer to the new engine, is built to support direct fuel injection, higher compression (11.2:1 verses 9.8:1), and a state-of-the-art variable-valve system.


This badge (below photo) on Titan XDs signifies the engine is the 390h 5.6L Endurance V8 under the hood. The new engine uses the same block and crank and the old engine. But everything else is new technology and parts, giving the XD excellent performance. The gas Titan XD weighs 500 pounds less than the same version with a Cummins diesel.


The end result from the driver’s seat is smooth, rapid throttle response that brings 390 horsepower to bear without hesitation right up to 5,800rpm redline, accompanied the entire way by a satisfyingly deep rumble from the exhaust.


The performance is a far cry from the “old” 5.6L and places the new 5.6L power on par with the Ram 5.7L Hemi and ahead of the Ford Triton V8 and 5.3L Chevrolet/GMC. The added muscle gives the heavy Triton XD similar throttle performance to the ½-tons – and provides Nissan pickup buyers a far less expensive engine option than the Cummins diesel.  



American-Built Endurance

I spent the better part of a full day driving a couple different trim levels of 4x4 Crew Cab Titan XDs in Tennessee, with one stop being a tour of Nissan’s Decherd engine manufacturing plant located about 60 miles south of Nashville. Its where the Endurance V8, along with just about every other engine found in Nissan vehicles in the U.S. and around the world, are forged, assembled, tested and shipped.


Part of the testing included a 100-hour dyno run at full throttle to see how the new V8s would stand up to such a brutal assessment. The engines were disassembled and every part scrutinized. The internals looked like new, which brings a new meaning as to why Nissan call them Endurance V8s.     


Another difference between the Cummins –powered XDs and the Endurance V8 gas models is transmission. While the Cummins models use a six-speed Aisin automatic, the gas model is running a new seven-speed automatic from Nissan transmission supplier Jatco.


The automatic has closer ratios in the first five speeds for better towing and city driving performance than the old automatic and slightly higher overdrives for better fuel economy out on the open road. (I saw consistent mid-17s while rolling along the Tennessee interstates at 70-plus.)


Built To Work

The primary reason Nissan built the Titan XD is to fill a void they perceived between half-ton pickups and heavy-duty pickups. They wanted to give pickup buyers a middle ground. That’s why the XD underpinnings are that of a heavy-duty pickup with curb weight to match.


The XD’s maximum tow ratings are higher than ½-tons, lower then ¾- and 1-tons. Some XD models can tow up to 12,314 pounds and carry a payload up to 2,594 pounds, numbers lower than the Big Three’s ¾-tons, but higher than any of the half-tons.


This in-between placement of capability makes the XD a solid choice for buyers who push the work and recreational towing aspects a little harder than the typical ½-ton pickup buyers, but not as hard as full-time RVers or construction-type commercial applications where towing 10,000-pound-plus trailers on a regular basis is the norm.


(Photo right)  In addition to power, the Titan XD’s with the Endurance V8 get a new 7spd automatic (the diesel model has a six-speed.). In tow/haul mode the transmission provides grade-braking and smart up/downshifts. Maximum towing capacity is 12,314 pounds with 2,594 pounds cargo capacity, depending on model.


Whether gas or diesel model, landscapers and home builders, ranchers and farmers, outdoorsmen and recreational users who tow trailers in the 7,000- to 10,000-pound range, or haul one-ton loads in the bed on frequent basis, will find the Nissan XD a fine fit.


All XDs can be equipped with factory-installed gooseneck hitches, with built-in trailer brake controller, integrated trailer sway control and trailer light check system. (The Pro-4X is the only XD model that comes with an electronic-locking rear differential.)


XDs are priced between light-duty pickups and their heavy-duty brethren within the same cab configurations and engine type. For example, a 2016 base model 5.6L gas XD S Crew Cab 4x2 lists for $35,290, while Nissan’s top-of-the-line XD Platinum Reserve Crew Cab 4x4 sells for $55,520. The mid-priced XD Pro-4X Crew Cab 4x4, which would be a great choice for those who really need and use four-wheel-drive, is $45,970.


The Cummins V8 diesel versions adds $5,000 to the above prices. (The typical heavy-duty diesel option in Ford, Ram Truck and GM pickups cost about $9,000.)


Comfort Plus

Driving both the top-tier Platinum Reserve and Pro-4X Crew Cab gas 4x4s along Tennessee’s intertstates and country roads, with the bed empty and loaded with 800 pounds of materials, is a pleasure. Either model would be welcome in my driveway.


What I noticed with this second-generation Titan is the interior feels larger with a lot more storage space and features that the previous version. It’s also quieter on the road, tracks straight-and-true, corners nicely, and overall, makes the previous generation Titans feel really old.


The XD gas has plenty of power, making passing and climbing hills a breeze. The snappy shifts of the seven-speed automatic gives the 390hp 5.6L Endurance V8 an even greater feel of power, and the downshifts while braking in tow-haul mode come quickly.


Thirst for Power

The trade-off for the Titan XD’s greatly improved performance is at the gas station. Fuel economy may be the Endurance V8s only shortcoming. The Titan XD falls in that grey area where its weight doesn’t require Nissan to reveal EPA fuel economy numbers.


However, my observations suggest highway mpg is going to be less than 18mpg, while city driving will give numbers in the low-teens. Those numbers are very similar to those of the 5.0L Cummins diesel I’ve tested, and well below the mpg of competitor’s ½-tons.


If those numbers hold true, the Titan XD isn’t quite up to par with the mpg GM has been able to produce from the 6.2L gas V8 offered in both the Chevrolet and GMC heavy-duties and half-tons.


What Nissan has been able to do with the new gas V8 is compete strongly against the Ram Hemi and Ford Triton V8s on both power and fuel economy.  


That’s great news for owners of older Titans—and those who are looking for a new pickup to tow a larger boat, smaller tow-behind or gooseneck/5th wheel trailer, or an equipment trailer, but can’t decide if they should buy a half-ton or an HD. The 2016 Titan XD, powered by the second-generation 5.6L Endurance V8, gives a viable third option.—GCN