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2016 Nissan Titan XD V8 Review - Next Step For Nissan Trucks By Thom Cannell

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By Thom Cannell
Senior Editor
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

With the introduction of the latest Titan, Nissan calls it the “American Titan” referencing its design, engineering, and production base in the United States, the 2016 Nissan Titan XD gasoline engined truck continues their redefinition of what a not-2500 truck can be. So this is a story about an engine first, a truck second.

Last fall Nissan finally put the Cummins engined 2016 Titan XD Crew Cab on sale, a truck designed to be a tow workhorse for the many who need “only” 12,000 pounds of towing power. They equipped it with the aforementioned Cummins engine, a powerhouse with 555 pounds-feet of torque, a vehicle that easily tows rigs weighing up to 12,314 pounds, a truck with great quietness, pleasing road manners and handling that necessarily surpass the tow-monsters which 2500s have become. Along with their stupendous tow capacity those very heavy duty trucks have very stiff and uncomfortable suspensions that must cope with massive loads or hauls.

So Nissan built a truck designed to work, to haul and tow things that haven’t changed weight, to be a perfect “between” truck, one precisely in the Goldilocks “just right” zone. Horse trailers, garden tractors, construction materials, homes on wheels. However everyone doesn’t want a diesel, which necessarily costs more than a gasoline engine. Nissan needed a new motor; this is its story, and a bit about how strongly it performs.

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Nissan has built V8 engines in the United States for 13 years. Their engine plant in the rural farming country of Dechard, Tennessee has built 10 million V8, V6, and I4 engines and is the largest engine manufacturing facility in the US (Toyota does surpass, but in three geographically separate facilities). Dechard sends engines or forgings to other facilities and supplies Japan, Russia, Germany, South America to name a few destinations for their products. It builds engines for Mercedes Benz, a very new I4. The plant forges iron, casts aluminum, and assembles engines with 1,711 parts from 124 global suppliers. They also recycle metal, particularly aluminum which they recast, paper, everything they can towards a zero landfill profile.

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Titan’s V8 gasoline engine–there is a V6 soon to come–now makes 390 horsepower and 401 lb.-ft. of torque across a very flat torque curve. That flattened and elongated torque curve means instant power when it’s needed, and the JATCO 7-speed automatic transmission downshifts with nary a hiccough when the throttle is pressed. The Endurance engine, as it is known, remains based on the block Nissan has used for Titan since 2004 which has always been considered a stout engine.

Loaded with three people and 850 pounds of gravel and driving on a slight uphill stretch of road we clocked just under 10 seconds 0-60. It is a very strong engine. And unladen it’s even quicker, well under 10 seconds 0-60 for a Platinum Edition we were driving at that exuberant moment.

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We think the most fundamental change to the new engine is the addition of Direct Injection. Now commonly replacing traditional fuel injection, DI injects specific amounts of fuel directly into the combustion chamber at precisely timed moments; there can be more than one such injection of fuel and this is for emissions as well as power. The second factor in making more power, more quietly and with decent fuel economy (remember, trucks over 8,500 GVW don’t have to report fuel economy numbers) is variable valve timing and lift for all 32 intake and exhaust valves—four per cylinder. While variable valve timing isn’t new it is effective and adding variable valve lift to the intake is a big step into state-of-art.

Without getting too technical, way back, air flowed through a carburetor or throttle body and fuel was introduced in an atomized spray. To govern the amount of air (and fuel) flowing in to each cylinder, what amounted to a garden gate swung open or closed. This disrupts air flow velocity (think a bunch if first graders going through a swinging door—a focused stream followed by chaos).

Nissan is following some big names (BMW for one) by using the intake valves themselves to govern how much air flows into each cylinder where fuel is directly injected, leaving the air passage free of obstructions. So, in operation, the timing of air entry and exit is controlled by hydraulically variable camshafts and valve lift on both the intake and exhaust are electronically controlled. The result is near-instant response, more sports car than what you’d expect from a truck.

Two other additions are interesting, one is a multi-control valve that creates several zones of engine warming to speed warmup, thus lowering emissions, and keeping the engine in a better thermal condition. The other is a cooler/warmer for the 7-speed JATCO transmission; if you tow you may have purchased an aftermarket transmission cooler to prolong its life. You won’t need to, and the tranny will now shift better as the fluids will have appropriate viscosity earlier.

This Endurance engine, designated K1, is subject to many tests during the manufacturing process as is common in the industry. Of interest, at one text station, the “VVEL motoring bench” lasers are shined on each of the 16 intake valves as they are actuated. reflection of the laser beam from the lifter cup crown is measurable and is used to provide feedback to valve adjustment machines and ensure valve lift tolerances are within spec.

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Nissan also cold tests every engine. Without starting the motor the crankshaft is revved up. Sensors attached to the engine deliver information on internal crank and cam sensors critical to fuel economy and basic operation, as well as testing oil pressure, ignition, timing of the exhaust valves; over 500 tests are automatically performed. Further, every engine is hot tested where over 300 quality tests are performed, very rare indeed. Finally, random engines are pulled from the line and run on a dynamometer at Wide Open Throttle, 5800 RPM, for 100 hours. The test is interrupted for routine oil changes and other processes but it’s a truly wicked hard test. Engines are then torn completely down and evaluated.

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Dyno engine after testing. Note the minimal wear.

These new Titans are all XD models with crew cabs. Soon there will be regular cabs and double cabs, as well as a variety of bed lengths from 5.5’ to 8’. Compared to the Cummins diesel powered Titan XD we tested earlier, the gas powered model retains the same capability for multiple towing hitches including a gooseneck engineered into the frame. Assisting hookup for traditional hitches are the rear view camera that let us place the hitch within 1/4” on the first try, trailer sway ad brake controller, a unique light check system that allows a single operator to check all trailer light functions, and Nissan’s Around View birds eye 360° view.

The V8 Titan XD also continues with all the other features we’ve described previously, like the sprayed-in bed liner, available and removable lockable storage bins that don’t decrease ability to haul standard 4’x8’ materials, and the Utili-track bed channels that, alone, offer downward cinching as well as to-the-box channels.

We really could go on several more pages describing this truck but will leave that to ongoing tests as we obtain production samples for week-long testing. What you want to know most is that Nissan now offers a compelling alternative to the Detroit Three, a truck that has more than half-ton capability yet doesn’t have the costs associated with three-quarter ton models, nor does it have the rough ride and noise we think of for them.

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We’ll leave you with a note from our test drive: “What would impress you most if you were with us? That you can, at 70 MPH on a two-lane back road, hear the swoosh of fingers on the leather wrapped steering wheel? That we barely noticed the 850 pounds of gravel strapped to the bed of our Pro4X, or that acceleration seemed barely affected by that weight? The cabin is as silent as most upscale sedans, only a hint of A/C noise and pleasing sounds from the V8 engine on Wide Open Throttle acceleration. Titan XD is a very accomplished and robust truck, one worthy of your next test drive.”

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