Attention, pickup buyers: Nissan wants to sell you a brand-new, 13-year-old truck.
Well, not literally -- philosophically.
See, in the course of developing the business case for its next Titan, Nissan says it found a common thread in its market research. When surveying serious truck users, it discovered many drivers of half-ton pickups like the Ford F-150 and Toyota Tundra feel like they routinely ride up against the edge of their vehicle's capabilities. Conversely, owners of three-quarter-ton jobs like the Ram 2500 and GMC Sierra 2500 often feel like they own too much truck, leaving them stuck with comfort, cost and fuel-efficiency penalties in exchange for excess capability they don't use.
Nissan's research suggests that what these customers want -- at least in terms of sheer hauling and towing strength -- is a rig a lot like the HD trucks domestic automakers sold over a decade ago, before they went all steroidal. As Nissan sees it, the domestics' ever-escalating torque wars of the last decade or so have unwittingly created a sizable void between the industry's light- and heavy-duty models - a gap literally big enough to drive a truck through.
That truck is this 2016 Titan XD, a semi-heavy-duty hauler powered by a burly diesel Cummins V-8 that Nissan hopes will become the Goldilocks of the pickup world, capturing some of the estimated 75,000 buyers who flow between light- and heavy-duty trucks in each direction every year. Considering both categories are among the auto industry's biggest segments by profit margin and volume, the potential upside for Nissan is massive.
That makes a vehicle like the XD sound obvious, but this tweener strategy is actually among the auto industry's boldest bets this year, if only because it's a rational approach to a segment that traditionally hangs its hat on bigger-is-better numbers. Well, that and the fact that the HD truck market has long been a domestics-only preserve -- no Asian automaker has ever attempted to enter the segment. In other words, the strategy behind the 2016 Titan XD is either genuinely brave and incredibly smart... or it's completely nuts.
After a couple of days in Arizona spent towing, hauling, and generally pummeling a number of different Titan XDs, I'm beginning to think it's the former.
In part, that's because while the XD's power and capability metrics may most closely align with HD trucks from 2003, you don't have to do anything more than clap your eyes on this Titan of industry to realize it's a thoroughly modern pickup.