Impression: Nissan Endurance V8 Gas Engine for Titan, Titan XD

May. 03, 2016 By Josh Burns, Photos by Josh Burns and Courtesy of Nissan
Nissan invited us to Tennessee to drive its new 5.6-liter Endurance V8 gasoline engine that's now available in the Titan XD and will later be used in the 2017 Titan and Armada.

Back in the early 2000s, Nissan boldly entered the half-ton truck market for the first time with its Titan. The truck came on the scene powered by a 5.6L V8 engine rated to produce a solid 317 horsepower and an even more impressive 379 lb.-ft. of torque (later updated to 385 lb.-ft.), which at the time, was the most torque of any V-8 half-ton. The Nissan Titan, much like Toyota’s Tundra, had the uphill battle of challenging the “big three” of Chevy, Ford and Ram, but the truck carved out its own niche in the half-ton segment.

After a lengthy nap, Nissan has come out of its slumber making quite a bit of noise in the truck world again. The company teased a Cummins diesel engine (with bumper stickers hailing “Cummins Soon”) for a couple of years before finally unveiling its Titan XD last year. The XD not only made a bold statement with its V8 Cummins engine rated to produce 310 horsepower and 555 lb.-ft. of torque, but it also marked the first step in overhauling the company’s truck and SUV lineup.

The new Endurance V8 is constructed at Nissan's engine plant in Decherd, Tennessee.

The Titan XD, in true Nissan fashion, is an all-new truck that looks to create its own segment by straddling the line between half-ton and 3/4-ton trucks. The “heavy half” XD aims to offer the driving comfort of a half-ton while exceeding half-ton towing and payload capability (check out our most recent impression here. Nissan’s next step in the overhaul of its truck lineup is a new V8 gasoline engine that will first be offered on alongside the Cummins in the Titan XD. The company recently invited us to test drive this new Endurance V8 gasoline engine, which will later available on the 2017 Armada SUV and the redesigned 2017 Titan.

A plant worker puts together the new Endurance V8 in Decherd. The new 5.6L engine is rated to produce 390 hp and 401 lb.-ft. of torque.

Along with driving the new 5.6L Endurance V8 in the Titan XD, Nissan also gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the company’s Decherd, Tennessee, engine plant where the Endurance V8 is constructed – and which we learned is the largest engine manufacturing plant in the U.S.

New Endurance V8
The new Endurance V8 will be used in a number of Nissan’s truck and SUV models in 2017, but the first 2016 model that gets the honors is the Titan XD. The Titan XD can be ordered with that engine as we speak, with trucks making their way to showrooms pretty much any day now.

Although the new V8 is based on the same aluminum alloy block and features the same 5.6-liter displacement as the outgoing engine, that’s where the similarities end. Nissan managed to produce considerably more horsepower (390 hp) on the new Endurance V8 – 73 ponies, to be exact. Nissan also managed to squeeze another 16 lb.-ft. more torque on the new engine to bring its rating up to 401 lb.-ft.

The improvements in performance on the new engine can be directly attributed to advances in technology. Nissan’s use of Direct Injection Gas (or DIG, as the Nissan folks like to call it) is employed on the new V8 to provide better wide-open throttle performance, improved fuel economy and emissions. The Variable Valve Event and Lift systems  (VVEL), first unveiled on Infiniti sedans in the late 2000s, are a significant contributor to the improvement as well. The VVEL systems employ hydraulic-controlled variable valve timing and electronically controlled variable valve lift on the intake and exhaust sides, allowing Nissan to fine-tune timing for ideal airflow to the cylinder to increase the engine’s responsiveness (see our notes on acceleration performance below).

The new Endurance V8 features a new aluminum alloy head, and new pistons are employed to allow Nissan to run a higher 11.2:1 compression ratio (versus 9.8:1 on the previous generation Titan) to improve efficiency and performance. Nissan also opted for a Multi-Control Valve (MCV) versus a traditional thermostat for improved thermal efficiency. A new exhaust is fitted to the Titan XD as well, and we appreciate the nice grunt it provides.

A new seven-speed trans, borrowed from the Infiniti QX80 but tuned specifically for the XD, will replace the outgoing five-speed previously used on the Titan. Nissan also tells us that Titan XD 4x4 models feature a new transfer case for ideal power distribution regardless of terrain. The gas-powered Titan XD also features a different rear axle ratio of 3.36 compared to 3.91 in the Cummins version.

With a fleet of Titan XDs available to us, we were able to drive the new Endurance V8 and hop in a Cummins-powered Titan XD for comparison. Both are great engines but offer very different power delivery.

V8 vs. V8
A look at the performance numbers for the new next-gen Endurance V8 obviously shows a vast improvement compared to the prior generation. The more crucial comparison in our eyes is the difference between the gasoline V8 gasoline and the V8 Cummins turbo-diesel. 

When Nissan describes the difference between the two, the Cummins version is hailed as the “tow monster,” while the gasoline Titan XD is noted for offering “more capability” thanks to its improved payload. When properly equipped, the gasoline V8-equipped Titan XD has a max payload of 2,594 pounds, which is more than 500 pounds greater than the 2,091 lbs. max payload on Cummins, but it has a lower max tow rating of 11,270 pounds (vs. 12,314 lbs. on the Cummins model). So, 500 pounds more payload but roughly 1,000 less in towing.

The Endurance V8 gas engine offers much quicker acceleration and throttle response compared to the Cummins, which is no doubt due to its direct injection and VVEL upgrades.

In terms of the seat-of-the pants feel, the new Endurance V8 is clearly the more responsive off the line of the two. Certainly the gasoline engine benefits from being 500 pound lighter than the diesel, and it certainly feels a little lighter overall. But the Cummins also suffers from a delay in throttle response, as there’s a clear delay before the engine responds after pushing the gas pedal (and we’re not talking about any sort of “turbo lag”).

The low-end torque of the Cummins, especially while under load while towing, cannot be denied, which is no shocker considering its 555 lb.-ft. of peak torque is made at 1,600 rpm compared to the 401 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm on the Endurance V8. But the gasoline V8 is the snappier of the two.

While the Endurance V8 takes the cake in terms of quick acceleration, we wondered if the engine had enough power everywhere else. Our worries were laid to rest when we hit the highway, as the Endurance V8 has plenty of power and impressive acceleration on tap for every situation. We thought the seven-speed transmission clicked through the gears smoothly and effortlessly whether driving around town or on the highway.

The Endurance V8 is a great engine for the Titan XD, and we think it'll be even better in the 2017 Titan.

Final Thoughts
Nissan has another winner on its hands with the Endurance V8 engine. It performed great on the Titan XD, and its lower price tag will certainly make it more appealing. The premium for the Cummins compared to the Endurance V8 is $5,000. A quick example is the XD PRO-4X 4x4, which is priced at $45,970 when equipped with the Endurance V8. With the Cummins, the XD PRO-4X 4x4 has a sticker price of $50,970.

The new Endurance V8 is a great engine overall that offers buyers a slightly more inexpensive path into the light-heavy truck market. While it feels like a winner on the heavier XD, it leads us to believe the Endurance V8 will be even better the Titan. Newsletter
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