There are truck buyers looking for something that tows more than most 1/2-ton trucks, yet for them a 3/4- or 1-ton truck is too big or too expensive. Their conundrum is whether to get one that has just barely enough towing capacity or end up with too much truck and lose the comfort and ride of a smaller vehicle. Now there's an answer that falls in between: the 2016 Nissan Titan XD.

Nissan isn't the first to recognize this problem, but is the only automaker that currently offers a solution slotting between 1/2- and 3/4-ton trucks. And the Titan XD offers things that light- and heavy-duty truck buyers can appreciate: ride quality and interior noise levels more like a 1/2-ton, and a proven turbodiesel V8 and the tough capability of 3/4- and 1-ton trucks.

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Tough Workout

The Titan XD does initially feel like a big truck when you drive it, but that goes away after a few minutes on the road. The interior of the off-road-biased PRO-4X model is very quiet; listening carefully, we could hear a muted lub-lub-lub of the diesel engine, but the excellent work Nissan did on this interior meant that we couldn't really hear the Cummins diesel at work until we rolled down the windows. While we wish the navigation system was the newest-gen, which you can find in the current Maxima and Murano, the Titan XD's nav does a fine job. The midgrade PRO-4X we drove came nicely equipped with optional heated power seats, NissanConnect, push-button start and a cool driver information display that showed useful off-road data. The cloth seats proved quite comfortable, though quilted leather seats can be had in the luxury-oriented Platinum Reserve model.

The 5.0-liter Cummins turbodiesel is the optional engine in the Titan XD. Nissan hasn't released much information about the standard gas V8 yet, and the turbodiesel was the sole engine we experienced. Its 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque made the power thrust off the line steady and linear, but decisive. The 6-speed automatic transmission's shifts are fairly good, but it takes its time to downshift when towing up a grade. Ride quality is closer to that of a 1/2-ton than a heavy-duty truck, which is impressive considering this truck is designed to tow more than 12,300 pounds, can carry nearly 2,100 pounds of payload. The suspension and axles use larger components to handle hard work, a prerequisite if 3/4-ton buyers are going to accept the Titan XD as a valid alternative. The brakes work well, too: predictable response with no trouble stopping this near-7500-pound truck in a relatively short distance.

Driving off-road at low speed gave us the chance to use Nissan's excellent Around View Monitor to see low obstacles on the trail. That same camera system makes it easier for someone to connect a trailer without another person spotting for them. Next, we drove the Titan XD with 750 pounds of payload, and it didn't make any notable difference in ride or acceleration. Towing a 9,500 trailer was also an easy task for the XD, and the integrated trailer brake controller made it easy to set up gain and brake feel. There are other key work-related features the Titan XD offers, such as running boards that extend to the rear wheels to make it easier to reach gear in the bed; Utili-track rail system; integrated gooseneck hitch, and trailer sway control. There's also a spray-in bed liner; a 120-volt power point in the bed and another in the cab; downhill speed control; LED bed lighting; and available lockable bed storage boxes. 

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Why a Titan XD Instead of a 1/2-Ton?

Some of you may have noticed that the Titan XD's towing capacity is similar to that of the best towing capacity in the 1/2-ton segment, which is 12,200 pounds. But this is precisely where it's most important to decide your needs. If your trailer weighs close to 12,000 pounds and you tow on a regular basis, the Titan XD will feel stout and steady as you tow, and even though it is exempt from posting fuel economy numbers on the window sticker, the turbodiesel is expected to have 20 percent better fuel economy when towing than its gas-powered competition. However, half-tons have quicker acceleration and feel more agile around town, so if you don't tow 10,000 pounds or more on a regular basis, you may want to stick with a light duty model.

The other piece of this puzzle is value. While Nissan hasn't yet announced official pricing on the Titan XD, here's what we do know: with the turbodiesel, the 2-wheel-drive base S Crew Cab is expected to have an MSRP around $40,000. The PRO-4X Crew Cab (4WD only) should cost around $50,000 and the 4-wheel-drive Crew Cab top-of-the-line Platinum Reserve should have a price in the low $60,000s. That lines up with pricing on upper trim levels of 1/2-ton trucks and lower than some heavy-duty units.

There are five trim levels -- S, SV, PRO-4X, SL and Platinum Reserve -- and regular, King (extended) and crew cabs with a choice of 8-, 6.5- and 5.5-foot beds. This means that the Titan XD lineup now caters to about 84 percent of truck buyers. It also means that with the turbodiesel, it shouldn't be hard to find bed and cab combinations that cost less than the aforementioned prices. Keep in mind that with the gas engine, the Titan XD should cost even less. We expect the Titan XD to go on sale in the coming months.

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