'Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose" from "Me and Bobby McGee," a Kris Kristofferson song.
In 2014, Nissan sold 15,000 Titan full-size pickups. That's a minuscule chunk of the market. Ford alone annually sells something on the order of 750,000 big pickups.
So, Nissan has taken the freedom that comes with nothing left to lose, and cleverly developed a truck that should significantly increase its share of the very profitable big-pickup pie.
That all-new truck, which begins arriving in the showrooms this month, is a nifty niche vehicle called the Titan XD.
Just as Dodge once split the difference between a compact and full-size pickup with its midsize Dakota, Nissan has hatched a tweener that dwells in that hitherto unpopulated border country between light-duty and heavy-duty big pickup. Capable of hauling up to a ton and towing up to six tons, XD is considerably more heavy-duty than the redesigned light-duty Titan that will follow it into the showrooms early next year.
The idea of this new truck, said Rich Miller, the high priest of Titan HD product planning, is to provide a pickup for customers whose towing and hauling needs require something stronger and more powerful than a light-duty, but who don't need the strength and guts of the heavy-duty trucks offered by the domestics.
The potential for that untapped market, he said, is underscored by the apparent number of borderline customers out there. Each year, he said, 75,000 customers trade their light-duty trucks for heavy-duty ones - and 75,000 go from heavy-duty to light.
With this Nissan nichemobile, he said, they get the towing and hauling capacities to do their jobs without the heavy-duty's higher initial cost and lower fuel economy. They also get a nicer ride, which I noticed during a recent regional press introduction.
Offering this truck with a newly developed Cummins 5-liter turbo diesel V-8 is particularly smart, since it not only provides substantial pulling ability (the 555 pounds of torque allowed me to readily tow a 9,600-pound trailer), but also ingratiates the vehicle with those diesel-loving big-pickup aficionados.
The new XD will be offered initially with only the Cummins diesel and a crew cab. Late next spring, a gas V-8 and regular and extended cabs will be added to the mix. The light-duty Titan will be available with a gas V-8 and V-6, but not the Cummins diesel.
The XD is a handsome truck in that obligatory macho way. And while it looks a bit like its light-duty counterpart, the resemblance ends there. Miller said that everything in the bigger XD chassis, from the rugged, fully boxed ladder frame to the big, 14-inch disc brakes, is unique to this vehicle. The truck will be available in three flavors: the S model, with an estimated base price of $40,000; the off-road-equipped Pro-4X ($50,000), and the top-of-the-line Platinum Reserve ($60,000).
I got to test the Platinum Reserve on the road and the Pro-4X off road. The Platinum Reserve featured the rich interior you would expect at this price point, a quiet and comfortable ride, good oomph from the turbodiesel, decent handling, and a sense of solidity. It also boasted clever storage wrinkles in the cab and cargo bed, as well as a host of electronic safety and trailering aids.
Equipped with a plethora of off-road gear, ranging from protective skid plates to a locking differential, the Pro-4X acquitted itself quite well off road.
The XD is essentially an American show. It was styled, engineered, tested, and is being built in this country.