Nissan Titan XD challenges Detroit 3 HD trucks

2016 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Reserve 4WD

Four-wheel-drive five-passenger medium-duty pickup

Price as tested: $60,000 (excluding destination charge)

Specifications as tested

Engine: 5.0-liter 32-valve V-8 diesel

Power: 310 horsepower at 3,200 rpm; 555 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 151.6 inches

Length: 242.9 inches

Width: 79.4 inches

Height: 78.7 inches

Curb weight: 7,480 lbs.

The 2016 Nissan Titan XD pickup is likely to be the perfect truck for a few buyers. Its success depends on just how many or few. Nobody knows which.

The similarity of their names notwithstanding, the Titan XD is a completely different truck from Nissan’s Titan full-size pickup. It’s bigger, more capable and more expensive. It has a unique frame that can tow and haul more, and offers an engine from peerless diesel maker Cummins Engine. The Titan XD is the first medium-duty pickup built by an automaker other than the Detroit 3.

The EPA classifies the XD as a medium-duty pickup because its weight and hauling capability push it into a class above full-size pickups like the Titan, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra. It can haul more than those trucks, but less than the D3’s heavy-duty pickups. You can identify D3 heavy-duty pickups because their names include the letters HD or the numerals 250, 350, 2500 or 3500.

Those trucks used to be solely for ranchers, plumbers and people whose work carried with it serious towing demands — generally 6 tons or more. Those heavy- or medium-duty trucks — don’t obsess about the names as they’re don’t mean much; the defining factor is the pickups’ weight — are a large and profitable part of the pickup market. They have grown from their original use as commercial vehicles to include luxurious trucks that get mostly personal use. If you live near an upscale mall, you’ve probably cursed the trucks and their owners for straddling multiple parking spaces outside Neiman Marcus or McCormick & Schmick’s.

About 75,000 owners every year move from full-size pickups up to medium-duty, or vice versa.

That’s chicken feed to Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler, which sell hundreds of thousands of HD pickups every year, but it spelled opportunity to Nissan. Nissan was the first Japanese automaker to make a U.S.-style full-size pickup, but its Titan never gained traction versus the F-150 and company. The XD is Nissan’s attempt to reestablish itself as a capable and competent pickup maker.

The Titan XD should start arriving in dealerships shortly. Nissan hasn’t announced official prices yet. They will run from about $40,000 to $62,000.

I tested a loaded and luxurious Titan XD Platinum Reserve 4WD crew cab. It stickered at about $60,000 and had a roomy and luxurious interior, navigation, backup camera, voice recognition, Bluetooth compatibility and more.

It cost a few thousand dollars less than comparably equipped 2500 pickups. It’s also smaller, with a maximum towing capacity likely a few thousand pounds less than those trucks. Nissan hasn’t announced final figures for towing capacity, but confirms it’ll be between 12,000 pounds and the D3 maximum.

Nissan will certify towing capacity with the Society of Automotive Engineers’ J2807 test standard.

The XD’s interior was roomy, comfortable and trimmed in high-end materials, including low-gloss wood and tufted leather upholstery. Storage includes a big bin in the center console.

The controls are simple and easy to use. The voice recognition for phone calls and navigation was very slow, however, and the touch screen lacked elementary features, like a display to show what radio station was stored on each memory setting.

The brand-new Cummins 5.0-liter V-8 provides 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque from 1,600 rpm. That should equate to fine towing performance. The six-speed Aisin automatic transmission shifted smoothly.

There are no official fuel-economy ratings. The Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t rate medium-duty pickups, a legacy of the days when the vehicles were used mostly on farms and construction sites and considered essential to the economy.

I got around 18 mpg in primarily city driving. That’s a good result for a big, capable pickup like the XD.

The XD Platinum Reserve has muscular lines and a bold chrome grille. Badges on the fenders proudly announce the presence of the Cummins diesel. My pickup was about as long, but slightly narrower and easier to park than the competition.

If Nissan got the equation right, the XD’s combination of power, towing capacity and fuel consumption will land this big, comfortable pickup in a sweet spot between the D3’s light- and medium-duty trucks.