2016 Nissan Titan XD: A Titan, a Terrier and a Big Tow
by Dan Frio, Automotive Editor
We were nearing the end of our term with the 2016 Nissan Titan XD and I hadn't driven it once. That's almost like a dereliction of duty. After all, we're supposed to drive these vehicles, form impressions and share them with you, the reader.
But this truck was big, and I didn't relish the idea of squeezing it into my small driveway. I didn't have any home improvement projects going on. Plenty of others had driven it and it didn't lack for miles, thanks to Travis' and Kurt's respective drives to and from the Detroit Auto Show in January. I didn't worry about what I might be missing.
Then a family vacation loomed on the horizon, a houseboat trip to Lake Powell, Utah, that required a ski boat. Suddenly, I had a great reason to try out the Titan XD.
My brother volunteered his boat and even his GMC Sierra 1500 to tow it. But with four occupants, a load of supplies that we'd agreed to drive out for our other boatmates, plus our own gear and a Jack Russell terrier, the Sierra started looking a little tight and overmatched. Our Plan B was to rent a heavy-duty or dually pickup. Then I remembered the Titan XD and its unique proposition as a middle ground between light- and heavy-duty pickups.
Max Payload but Towing to Spare
With around 1,700 pounds of payload capacity, an 11,800-pound towing capacity and, most importantly, a roomy crew cab, the Titan XD looked like the perfect truck for the job and the perfect reason for me to finally take the Banana's wheel.
I'll share more observations in subsequent posts, but here are a few of the highlights.
We drove the Titan a total of 1,250 miles, most of those towing. Some miles were accrued in transit before and after hitching the boat and cargo, but for the most part these are towing miles. My brother actually weighed all of our cargo before loading it into the bed, and we estimated that with all cargo and five bodies in the cab (three adults, one 11-year-old and one terrier), we were at the limit of the payload capacity. We knew we'd be lighter coming back home, but for the trip out we'd be maxed. We used plywood sheets, rope and ratchet straps to contain the mound of cargo.
The ski boat, too, was loaded to capacity with ski- and wakecraft, and everything else that wouldn't fit in the truck. The boat itself weighs about 3,000 pounds dry. It was empty of gasoline, but with engine fluids and all the gear, we estimated it at around 3,500 pounds. Add another 1,000 pounds for the trailer and 1,700 pounds of payload, and we estimated the Titan was carrying about 6,200 pounds, maybe a bit more. With just 4,500 pounds behind the hitch, the Titan XD was well below its towing threshold but strained on its payload.
The truck was unflappable. Plenty of power when and wherever we needed it, even up the gradual grades outside of Las Vegas heading into Arizona and Utah. It was impressive. Any trepidation I had about it initially, thinking that we'd have to drive gingerly and thus adding a few more hours to our travel time, were dispelled almost immediately. Once we throttled up onto the first freeway on-ramp, it was clear there was no reason to worry. The truck felt solid and effortless, as if carrying a 15-pound pack into the backcountry.
My brother, an avid lifelong water-skier, has pulled various boats in his life with all manner of vehicles, from trucks to station wagons to VW Bus. He repeated over and over, almost like a mantra, "This is a great truck."
Over about 1,250 miles, we averaged 11.8 mpg. We averaged 11.5 mpg on the way out and 12.3 mpg on the way back. (We and our boatmates ate and drank much of that cargo weight during a week on the lake.) For the whole trip, the onboard mpg meter was about 2.5 percent more optimistic than reality, claiming 12.4 mpg for the whole run. Our best range was 293.4 miles.
We added the contents of one 2.5-gallon box of diesel exhaust fluid, during a fuel stop on the way out to the lake (1.5 gallons) and after we'd returned home (the remaining gallon).
Dan Frio, automotive editor