The second stage of Nissan's master Titan XD pickup plan is now here in the form of the 390-horsepower, all-new Endurance 5.6-liter V-8 gasoline engine packing 401 pounds-feet of torque.
It wasn't that long ago when we first had the chance to drive the diesel version of the new , testing the all-new Cummins 5.0-liter V-8. We like the combination of a midsize diesel — it's smaller than the heavy-duty pickup choices but larger than the small GM's Duramax and Ram's EcoDiesel — along with what some are calling a "tweener" pickup because it sits squarely in between the half-ton and three-quarter-ton segments.
The latest iteration of Nissan's updated full-size truck strategy is the release of the all-new V-8 gasoline engine, set to replace the previous Endurance V-8 with more technology and capability in almost every way.
The New Gas Engine
The new V-8 will continue to be built at Nissan's Decherd, Tenn., engine plant and will use a similar aluminum block; however, that's where the similarities stop. The new engine produces 71 hp more than the old one as well as 16 more pounds-feet of torque, thanks in large part to the new aluminum, twin-cam, four-valve head, direct-injection design and a variable valve timing setup that works on both the intake and exhaust sides.
This new standard engine will provide the pickup with a little less towing capacity than the Cummins XD, a little more payload capacity, a slightly smaller gross vehicle weight rating and lighten the overall truck weight by about 500 pounds. The gas V-8 will be paired with a new seven-speed transmission with two overdrive gears that can be modulated by a tap-up, tap-down shifter button on the steering column found on all Titan XDs and the coming lighter-duty Titan half-ton. The transmission will stay in Drive when normally selected but automatically switch to the manual mode once the driver up- or downshifts the thumb selector. The Tow/Haul mode button, like with the Cummins engine and Aisin transmission, is at the end of the column-shifter stalk and engages a more aggressive upshift and downshift pattern in the transmission.
All gas-equipped Titan XDs will have a single ring-and-pinion choice, with a relatively balanced 3.36:1 axle ratio (Cummins axles have 3.92:1 axle gears) in the 9.84-inch rear end (same as Cummins XD).
This gasoline V-8 is the latest installment of a long rollout strategy Nissan is employing for the Titan XD, with King Cab and regular-cab models equipped with a new V-6 coming later. Likewise, Nissan's all-new crew-cab half-ton Titan (on a completely unique platform from the Titan XD but looking similar inside and out) will come out later this year; it also will benefit from the new V-8 engine and seven-speed transmission combination.
On the outside the gas Titan XD is almost identical to the diesel version with just a few exceptions.
The Titan XD with the Endurance V-8 gets its own badging on each side of the truck stamped inside the mock vents right behind the front fenders. The Titan XD's massive front end was designed to accommodate the Cummins engine and keep it within the proper temperatures; the front end doesn't shrink in the gasoline version.
How It Drives
The weight difference between the two engines is responsible for many of the subtle differences between two pickups. The gas engine is about 300 pounds lighter than the diesel. The gas truck sheds another 200 pounds because it doesn't require diesel exhaust fluid (and the tank to contain it), and its exhaust system is lighter. So when driving, the front end feels a touch lighter and the steering feels a touch faster. We verified that the steering gear and ratios are identical to the heavier Cummins model, but the tighter steering feel cannot be denied.
The biggest difference between the two is the new seven-speed transmission; it's smart and quick. The throttle is responsive, exhibiting no lag or pause when you give it a touch more or a foot-stomping amount of throttle. The gears run strong and hard up the ratios, providing a throaty exhaust note.
Our only complaint with the setup is that the transmission would only tell us what gear we were in when shifting through the numbers manually; when in Drive, you never know what gear you're in.
Neither version of the Titan XD (gas or diesel) are required by the EPA to provide fuel economy numbers on the window sticker because they have a gross vehicle weight rating more than 8,500 pounds. All Titan XD gas crew cabs have a GVWR between 8,600 and 8,800 pounds; the Cummins version has a higher GVWR between 8,800 and 8,990 pounds.
We had the opportunity to run both Titan XD versions on country highways through the farmlands and small towns of Tennessee, so we kept track of our mileage.
Over the course of our 120-mile route, our gas XD truck averaged about 15.5 mpg combined, but we saw closer to 18 mpg when feather-footing on bigger highways. Make no mistake, the diesel is a heavy, thirsty pickup because of its significant weight. During our Texas Truck Showdown 2016: Max Towing comparison test, we took along a Titan XD equipped with the Cummins. It weighed 1,000 pounds more than the 2016 Toyota Tundra CrewMax and 2,000 pounds more than the 2016 Ford F-150 SuperCrew, and gave us a combined fuel economy number of 19.9 mpg
We're disappointed that Nissan will not offer a larger fuel tank (26 gallons is standard) available for the XD for several months, but the calculated tank range in our Platinum Reserve test truck was just more than a respectable 400 miles.
Endurance V-8 Titan XDs will be the more cost-effective choice, starting at $36,485 for a 4×2 S crew cab and running up to $56,715 for a fully loaded 4×4 Platinum Reserve (prices include destination charges). Pricing differentials between trim levels will vary slightly but the gas/seven-speed choice for any trim level of the Nissan Titan XD will be about $4,000 less than the Cummins/six-speed.
All Titan XD pickups will be offered in the same five trim levels: S, SV, PRO-4X, SL and Platinum Reserve. Each trim level will offer the same features and options, and customers will be able to choose between the standard gas engine or the diesel. Nissan expects the mix between the two engines to be 70/30 in favor of the Cummins. After driving the gas version, we're not so sure about that.
The addition of the new, more powerful 5.6-liter V-8 and smooth-shifting seven-speed transmission pushes the Titan XD into the heart of the luxury full-size pickup segment while straddling the heavy-duty/light-duty divide. The Endurance XD is definitely a more comfortable package for daily driving than any other three-quarter-ton gas pickup, but it doesn't quite have the towing and hauling capabilities of a heavy-duty.
But make no mistake: In its crew-cab configuration, this is a big, heavy truck, and even with all the lightening done by the all-alloy V-8, the steering wheel feels heavier and slower than any half-ton we've test-driven. It took us some time to get comfortable with it.
The gas V-8's unique look and daily driving comfort paired with the high-tech transmission should help the Titan XD's sales numbers to continue to climb as more people discover this new entry. How well this new package compares to the two segments it splits — the half-ton and three-quarter-ton arenas — remains to be seen since the Titan XD does not fit in either slot. However, if you're looking for something that stands out in a crowded field of full-size pickups, the gas Titan XD's capability and refinement is ready to impress.
Cars.com photos by Mark Williams; manufacturer images