First Drive: You Won’t Miss Diesel With Nissan’s Gasoline Titan

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Nissan Titan XD
Nissan Titan XD | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Shifting gears and hopping into a big-ass truck really puts the old “variety is the spice of life” statement into perspective. Fortunately, the pickup you see here is an easy beast to tame, and although it may not be as insane as some of the badass trucks we found at this year’s Chicago Auto Show, it still stands as a solid reminder of why there is such a massive market for vehicles like this today.

Nissan calls the Titan XD an “Every Duty Truck,” and for good reason. It’s big, powerful, practical, well-built, and nicely appointed, even before all of the luxury, convenience, and utility packages come into play. From towing heavy payloads and loading gear in and out of the attached bed box to the heated rear seats and sonar detection systems, there’s an everyday approach to practicality here that balances upscale luxury appointments with work truck attitude.

Goose neck trailer hitch and bed boxes
Goose neck trailer hitch and bed boxes | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

While the Sierra Denali was outstanding in almost every way, “Cadillac on stilts” pretty much summed up how I felt about taking it off road. Even though it was capable enough to tackle some serious terrain, it felt entirely too nice to muck about in the mud, leaving me to surmise that towing boats was its true calling.

But the Titan more handily blends refinement and ruggedness, and when it came time for some off-road adventuring, there was no hesitation from truck nor driver. The only real issue that I encountered with the Titan was its size, because in crew cab form, this 3.5-ton beast lives up to its name — it even overshadows the unwieldy Ram Rebel both in breadth and length. Despite this, the Titan doesn’t feel cumbersome or overly disconnected from the terrain beneath it, and it offered a surprisingly rewarding driving experience both on and off the asphalt, earning it a top spot in my book for an excellent everyday pickup.

PRO-4X | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Over the course of two days, I was able to explore the 5.6-liter gasoline V8 variant, and came away quite impressed. While the Cummins diesel substitute continues to get all the attention, not everyone needs 12,300 pounds of towing capacity on tap all the time.

This truck lands right where it needs to be in the powertrain department, with 390 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque enabling owners to tow up to 10,740 pounds, while jumping between rear and all-wheel drive on the fly. It also comes standard with a two-speed transfer case, hill descent control, a locking rear diff, and a seven-speed automatic transmission. On or off the beaten path, the Endurance V8 felt confident and controlled, making a strong argument for its virility when pitted against other trucks.

Trailer control
Trailer control | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

While cabin appointments on this particular model were not the most eye-catching color combos, the quality and comfort found within proved just how good Nissan has gotten over the years. Once equipped with the aforementioned packages, buyers get a 12-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio setup, some sharp contrasting stitching, a heated steering wheel and seats, ventilated front cushions, memory settings, and more leather than a clothing outlet in Texas.

Everything about this interior felt well laid-out and engineered. From callused-hand-friendly buttons and switches to deep storage compartments and a surprisingly quiet cabin, Infiniti luxury and Titan practicality work side by side to give drivers the best of both worlds.

Tech features in a truck are typically a bit different than what you will find in the average commuter car. While the MID may show you the average turn-by-turn directions, tire pressure monitoring, and fuel economy, it also shows some unique 4×4 stats as well. The MID in the Titan wasn’t as sharp looking or as detail oriented as the Sierra Denali, but it did show things like wheel geometry and terrain grade, and Nissan’s “Around View”camera system on the 7-inch touchscreen was a life saver when confronted with tight off-road turning points.

Zero gravity seats
Zero gravity seats | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

The Titan performs the way you would expect when driving, with V8 ferocity on the highway and steady and sure-footed control when under hill-descent control. While the Bilstein monotube off-road shocks offered better ride comfort than expected, it was the way in which the Titan behaved on the blacktop that really got my attention. Unflappable and surprisingly hushed, it brakes, accelerates, and corners like a vehicle half its size when not under heavy throttle, and with massive mirrors alongside windows the size of elevator doors, all around visibility was quite good.

Not surprisingly, everyone in attendance seemed impressed by how spacious the rear bench was, and not a complaint was heard regarding legroom or cushion comfort. If you have never experienced one of Nissan’s “Zero Gravity” seats, you probably should try them out; they have to be one of the most comfortable things you will ever encounter in a car south of a Jaguar. The same goes for soft touch materials as well, because even though this is a dyed-in-the-wool truck, overstuffed armrests and supple steering wheel leather are marvelous Nissan features that set its vehicles apart from the pack.

Terrain gauges
Terrain gauges | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Back in the bed, LED lighting, locking stow boxes, a standard gooseneck mounting point, and Nissan’s adjustable Utili-Track System for tying things down all get the thumbs-up, as do integrated cupholders in the tailgate for football season fun. Granted, with its ride height, it does take a bit of effort to climb in and out especially without assistance from something like GM’s CornerStep or a set of side boards, but it’s by no means unmanageable either.

A few other small downsides to the Titan are that it doesn’t have adjustable ride heights, nor does it have various terrain selection options for increased traction control. It also has a few minor design flaws like that massive antenna, which only picks up unused AM radio waves, and those badged plastic fender ports, which are sadly just for show. But outside of that, the new Titan is a sharply styled truck, with its LED lighting, imposing presence, slick 18-inch alloy wheels, and nicely lined and painted lower plastic trim pieces making the loudest statements.

Regardless of whether you are out on the highway in rear-wheel drive mode or descending a hill in muddy conditions, the Titan handles itself like a champ. Nissan was right: This is the ultimate “Every Duty Truck,” and it sits right where it should in terms of cost, which starts out at $45,970 and climbs up to a reasonable $53,085 once outfitted with additional packages. So if you want some 4×4 prowess and are thinking about the diesel variant, but don’t need that extra ton of towing capacity, check out the PRO-4X gasoline version instead because it’s about as ambidextrous as it gets.