2016 Nissan Titan XD (Gas) V8 First Review

By Matt Degen on May 2, 2016 2:00 PM

The next step in Nissan's slow but steadfast rollout of its all new Titan lineup is now taking place with the addition of a V8 gasoline engine to complement the Cummins V8 diesel that launched this second generation of Nissan's full size truck.

To bring you up to speed, the 2016 Titan is initially launched in the heavier-duty XD trim. The diesel XD went on sale last year, and the all-new gasoline model is going on sale now. Nissan's strategy with the XD is to find a slice of buyers who want something beefier than a 1/2-ton truck, but not quite as robust as a 3/4 ton. Nissan sees an opportunity to reach some 150,000 buyers in this "white space" with the XD. In late summer, a standard half-ton joins the 2017 Titan lineup with gas V8 and V6 engines.

We've already spent time in the Nissan Titan XD, and Nissan now invited us to test the V8 gas version.

Like the outgoing Titan, this one uses a 5.6-liter V8 Endurance engine built at Nissan's massive powertrain factory in Decherd, Tennessee, our destination as we drove the new Titan from Nissan's U.S. headquarters in Franklin, then onto downtown Nashville. While the name and displacement are the same, this brawny V8 is all new. Power increases significantly to 390 horsepower from 317, and torque is up from 385 lb-ft to 401. Power is transmitted to the rear or all 4 wheels via a new 7-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel-drive models also receive a new transfer case.

Interestingly, the same V8 engine will be used in the 2017 Titan half-ton. In that respect, both the Titan half ton and Titan XD with the V8 gasoline engine will have the same power output. But similarities in capability end there. Like the Titan XD diesel, this gasoline version uses a tougher, completely different chassis and frame. The XD variants are over a foot longer than the half-ton crew-cab model, sit higher, and offer more payload (and towing) capacity. The Titan XD is initially being offered as a crew cab with a 151.6-inch wheelbase, 242.7-inch overall length, and bed length of 78.7 inches. Down the road, the Titan XD and Titan half-ton lineup will expand to offer single and king cabs along with the crew-cab that both the Titan XD and Titan half-ton are launching with.

Titan XD -- diesel vs. gasoline?

Compared with its diesel sibling, the Titan XD gasoline model is unique and also the least-expensive way to get into a Titan XD. With a starting price of $36,485 (including destination charge), the Titan XD gas truck is $5,000 less than a diesel. It's also less than a base Ford F-150 XL SuperCrew with a V8 gasoline engine and trailer tow package. The Ford’s max towing capacity of 10,800 pounds still trails the XD gasoline model's 11,270-pound stat. (That example of a Ford F-150 with a 156.8-inch wheelbase can, however, edge the Titan XD in payload capacity.)

We've now driven both versions of the 2016 Titan XD, and can now better address a question many potential buyers will surely ask: Should I go with the diesel or gasoline version?

At its most fundamental, think of the diesel vs. gasoline scenario as grunt vs. go. The 5.0-liter Cummins turbodiesel is slower off the line but feels like it could pull a house. Technically, that house wouldn't exceed 12,314 pounds, the XD diesel's rating. But let's just say it could pull that weight and feel like it has power to spare, especially when the straight road turns to a grade. At 2,091 pounds, the XD diesel's max payload, meanwhile, is less than the 2,594 figure put up by the XD gasoline model, which weighs less than its diesel counterpart.

Instant go, lighter steering, quieter cabin

The most notable difference in the XD equipped with the Endurance V8 is in initial acceleration. The 5.6-liter gasoline powerplant is a powerhouse that grants immediate responsiveness and great off-the-line performance. Where the diesel takes its time getting up to speed, the gasoline makes Nissan's big truck feel quick, even when hauling loads. In fact, while testing a model loaded with 850 pounds of sand in back, we forgot it was even there.

This XD's steering feels lighter, which makes this big truck easier to maneuver, especially in parking lots and low-speed settings. Asked why, Nissan’s product planning director and XD chief product specialist Rich Miller pointed to the several-hundred pound weight difference up front as the likely source.

Lastly, the XD Endurance gasoline model is quiet, surprisingly so for a big work truck. It's no shock that the diesel is louder, especially at idle, and while the Cummins' rugged heartbeat settles as you hit freeway speeds, the gasoline XD is quiet in both city and highway driving.

Comparing the two, the XD diesel just feels more, for lack of a better word, "truckish," like a mini big rig. The gas XD, while still huge in stature and with power to spare, is faster, feels easier to maneuver, and has a transmission that’s smooth and eager to kick down a gear or two when pressed. It's also a capable tow vehicle, and boasts a higher payload than that of the XD diesel. From a cost perspective, the $5,000 difference between the gasoline model and its diesel twin is nothing to sneeze at.

Expected tradeoffs come in fuel economy and pure grunt. While Nissan doesn't need to release EPA figures for the XD, in our hours-long drive back to back of the gasoline and diesel models, we averaged over 18 mpg in the diesel and under 15 with the gasoline V8.

Powerful omen

One final takeaway from the Titan XD and its newest-generation of Nissan's 5.6-liter gasoline V8: If this heavier-duty version of Nissan's full-size truck breezes along with gusto using this powerplant, the lighter and smaller Titan half-ton should fly. And this isn't the only application of this engine. The big V8 is already in the Infiniti QX80 luxury SUV, and will motivate the all-new 2017 Nissan Armada, too.