Only 1 Full-Size Pickup Truck Is Advertised as Medium Duty

You may be familiar with the heavy-duty pickup truck class. In addition, you may be familiar with full-size, light-duty trucks (often called half-ton). But did you know that the Nissan Titan XD is the only pickup truck advertised as “medium duty” here in the U.S? This is not a real class, but Nissan made this decision for an understandable reason.

Who decides pickup truck classes?

Automakers advertise their trucks as compact/midsize, full-size light-duty (half-ton), and heavy-duty (3/4-ton and larger). These are essentially agreed-upon marketing terms, not official truck classifications. The government does classify trucks, but using very different terminology.

Promo photo of a Nissan Titan XD parked in front of a bright red barn.
2020 Nissan Titan XD | Nissan

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Market demand has created several distinct classes of pickup trucks. Some people don’t need a ton of towing capacity but want a smaller, easier to park truck. Other people want a full-size truck but would prefer a smoother ride and lower price to a heavy-duty towing and payload capacity. Others need a heavy-duty truck with a payload capacity of 3,000 pounds or more.

The United States classifies commercial trucks based on the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). This is the combined weight of the vehicle and its maximum payload. Because this classification system includes dump trucks and tractor trailers, all pickup trucks fall into light duty or medium duty categories.

Every truck that automakers advertise as compact (Honda Ridgeline FWD, etc.) or midsize (Toyota Tacoma, etc.) actually falls into the “Light duty” Class 1. This is because they all have a GVWR of 6,000 pounds or less.

All of the full-size, light-duty pickup trucks (often called half-ton) group neatly into Light Duty Class 2a. This class has a GVWR between 6,001 and 8,500 pounds and includes the F-150, Ram 1500, and GM’s Silverado/Sierra 1500.

Automakers advertise their next class of truck (F-250, 2500, etc) as “heavy-duty” or “super duty.” In truth, with a GVWR between 8,501 and 10,000 pounds, these trucks are all officially Light Duty Class 2b. Medium duty, or Class 3, doesn’t begin until the 10,000+ pound GVWRs of the F-350 and 3500 trucks.

What class of truck is the Nissan Titan XD?

Nissan beefed up its Titan with stiffer suspension and a better payload capacity, and named it the Titan XD. With a GVWR of 8,650 to 8,800 pounds the Titan XD is officially in “Light Duty Class 2b alongside the F-250 and 2500s–but barely. Therefore, Nissan advertises it as “Medium Duty.”

The rear end of a Nissan Titan XD medium duty truck, parked in a barnyard of a farm.
2020 Nissan Titan XD | Nissan

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The government officially classifies the Nissan Titan alongside Ford’s F-250 Super Duty and the heavy-duty 2500s from Ram, Chevy, and GMC. But this has created a marketing dilemna for Nissan. If it advertises its Titan XD as a “heavy-duty” pickup truck, it will come in at the bottom of its segment in every metric.

Nissan came up with an ingenious solution: it advertises its Nissan Titan XD as the only “medium duty” pickup truck. This effectively manages buyers’ expectations by communicating that the Titan XD is in a class of its own.

Is the Nissan Titan XD better than a half-ton truck

The Nissan Titan XD is very good at one thing: carrying payloads up to 2,435 pounds. This capacity plants it at the bottom end of the heavy-duty pickup truck segment. But at the same time, many half-ton pickup trucks have a higher maximum towing capacity than the heavy-duty Nissan.

Nissan Titan XD medium duty pickup truck showing off its towing capacity by pulling a camper trailer down a rural road, mountains visible in the background.
2020 Nissan Titan XD | Nissan

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Do you want a Nissan Titan XD or a half-ton pickup truck? The best truck for you depends completely on what you plan to do with it.

Nissan built a very unique truck when it created the XD. It upgraded the half-ton Titan’s suspension, lifting it and beefing it up. In certain configurations the resulting truck can haul 2,435 pounds in its bed.

At the same time, the Nissan Titan XD shares its engine with the regular Titan: a 5.6-liter naturally-aspirated V8 and 9-speed automatic transmission. With no heavy-duty engine options, the Nissan Titan XD’s towing capacity is limited to a maximum of 10,920 pounds. This towing capacity is nothing to scoff at, but still puts the Titan XD behind the half-ton Toyota Tundra and every half-ton offered by the Detroit Three.

Read more about the Nissan Titan XD’s class or see it reviewed in the video below:

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