The last time I drove an all-new Nissan Titan, I was making calls on a Motorola flip phone. It was 2004 and Apple’s sleek, game-changing iPhone was three years down the road.

I’ve finally had a chance to drive my second all-new Titan, called the XD. Like my phone, the Titan’s gotten a whole lot smarter, refined and more capable. But will the second-generation Titans prove as indispensable as a smartphone in the tough-as-nails pickup segment?

To that end, Nissan’s tried a little game changing of its own. The Titan XD is something of a cross between a regular full-size pickup and a heavy duty — or what used to be called half-tons and three-quarter and one-tons. Nissan is going after a segment sweet spot: light-duty truck users who want more capability and, on the flip side, heavy-duty pickup owners who pine for the more agreeable nature – especially in parking and refueling – of a light-duty.

The XD’s underpinnings underscore that Nissan is well aware that pickup owners are not only fiercely brand loyal, but expect durability and reliability day in and day out.

The big Titan’s fully boxed ladder frame utilizes high-strength steel and gets extra reinforcements. The wheelbase measures 151.6 inches – roughly 20 inches longer than the non-XDs that will be arriving next year.

The front suspension is double wishbone while the back suspension uses large leaf springs.

Under the XD’s hood is a Cummins 5.0-liter turbocharged diesel rated at 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque and coupled to a stout Aisin six-speed automatic transmission. Depending on configuration and drivetrain, a properly equipped Titan XD can carry 2,000 pounds of payload in its 6.5-foot bed or tow up to 12,314 pounds. Stopping power comes from 14-inch rotors at all four corners.

As the flagship of the new Titan family, the XD comes only as a crew cab. There are, however, five grades: S, SV, PRO-4X, SL and Platinum Reserve. Nissan has not revealed pricing.

The entry-level S has standard remote keyless entry and push-button ignition, hill-start assist, Bluetooth streaming audio and phone.

The SV adds trailer sway control, lockable, dampened tailgate, heated power mirrors, electroluminescent gauges and, on 4×4 models, skid plates for the oil pan and fuel tank.

The Titan XD PRO-4X is tailored for the off-roading enthusiast. The major goodies added include Bilstein shocks, electronic locking rear differential, dual zone automatic climate control, front captain chairs, Class IV tow hitch receiver, GPS navigation with 7-inch monitor, 120-volt AC outlet in the bed, LED headlights and daytime running lights, wheel arch moldings.

Highlights of the SL include leather, power and heated driver and front passenger seats, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel power sliding back window, tailgate illumination, 12-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio, step rails, LED headlights, remote start and 20-inch wheels.

The Titan XD Platinum Reserve will be the top (over the top?) choice of luxury lovers. On that score, the rear seats are heated, the fronts are heated and cooled, a better grade of leather and wood trim. Functional goodies include mirrors that tilt down when the column-mounted shifter (maximizes utility of the large console), trailer brake controller, and integrated gooseneck hitch.

Maneuvering this plus-sized truck is a breeze thanks to another standard item: Nissan’s Around View Monitor that provides a birds-eye vantage point. At the touch of a dashboard switch, the right-front camera can be used at very low speeds to monitor placement of the right front tire.

Anyone contemplating picking up the torquey Titan XD should spring for the tow package, which differs slightly depending on trim level. The tow packages bundle extendable tow mirrors, integrated gooseneck hitch in the bed, trailer brake controller and Trailer Light Function Check, Nissan’s nifty new technology that lets a driver – by him or herself – confirm that all lights, including brake and turning, are working properly after hooking up a trailer. The sequence is activated by pressing one of the key fob buttons three times.
A colleague and I drove several versions of the 2016 Titan XD in the deserts and mountains in and around Scottsdale, Ariz. On rocky off-road trails the PRO-4X soldiered on like a mountain goat. But we were also impressed by its manners on the road. Even with the tough suspension the PRO-4X rode smoothly and quietly. Later, in a Titan XD Platinum Reserve, there was no drama pulling a trailer loaded with a Bobcat skid steer up grades.

We’re looking forward to a longer test of the Titan XD, putting it to work and reporting on its real-world fuel consumption. Starting in the spring, the Titan XD and Titan will be offered with Nissan’s new “Endurance” V8, a 5.6-liter, direct-injection gasoline engine that delivers 390 horsepower and 401-pound-feet of torque. The gas engine will be paired with a new 7-speed automatic transmission that features downshift rev matching.

2016 Nissan Titan XD

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