Drive

The little Nissan truck that could

When the all-new 2016 Nissan Titan XD truck comes to market later this year, it will have something not currently found in any other pickup truck in its segment: a 5.0-litre V8 diesel engine.

Ram offers a V6 diesel in its half-ton pickup, but at 555 lb.-ft. of torque, the Nissan’s engine is far more powerful.

And while you can get diesel trucks that make even more than that, they’re rated as heavy-duty models, while the Titan XD will be rated as a lighter-duty truck.

“Some customers want a truck that is in-between,” says Rich Miller, director of product planning for Nissan North America. “They have a 13,000-lb. trailer, and trucks in the upper segment are more expensive and half-ton trucks aren’t enough. There was an unmet need.”

Diesel engines are a popular choice for trucks because they make more power at lower speeds than gasoline engines do, better enabling them to move heavy loads.

However, just as with gas versions, the ability to handle the job depends on the engine’s configuration. Nissan makes several diesel engines for its cars and small trucks in other markets, but the company determined that none of them were heavy-duty enough for the Titan. Instead, the new truck will use an engine built by Cummins.

Diesel engines differ from gasoline engines in that they don’t use spark plugs to ignite the fuel.

Instead, once the pistons compress the air in the cylinders, the resulting heat is enough to do the job.

To get the process going when the engine is first started, glow plugs warm up to provide the necessary heat. These could take a while to heat up on older diesel engines, and the driver would have to wait before the engine could be started. Modern diesel engines can be started almost immediately, and Cummins says the ceramic glow plugs in this one can reach full heat in two seconds.

The new Titan will also be available with a gasoline V8 engine as before, along with its first V6 engine, and these will be intended more for consumers who plan to use the truck for lighter duty.

The V8 diesel version is intended to bridge the current gap in the truck market, offering capability that’s closer to that of a heavy-duty truck, but priced closer to a lighter-duty model.

“This is the space that we were looking for,” Miller says. “We could have gone with a (six-cylinder diesel), and we studied them, but it isn’t as efficient and it didn’t fit with those customers.”

Engine specs

• To meet federal emissions standards, diesel engines use diesel exhaust fluid, which is automatically injected into the exhaust system to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.

• A truck’s towing and payload capacity depends not just on the engine, but also on such factors as its transmission, frame strength, and overall weight.

• Diesel engines are named for Rudolf Diesel, who developed his first one in Germany in 1897.

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