The 2016 Nissan Titan XD is a vehicle we have tested briefly on a number of occasions. But this week we attended a drive event held in Phoenix, Arizona that gave a full experience of on and off-road testing for the new pickup, which makes its debut powered exclusively with a 5.0 liter Cummins turbo-diesel V8.

A gas V8 powered Titan XD and a lighter duty Nissan Titan pickup with both a gas V6 and V8 will be introduced later in 2016. But for now, it’s all about this new diesel. And that engine produces 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque, through an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission.

This puts it between the RAM 1500 EcoDiesel’s 420 pound-feet of torque and the diesels found in three-quarter ton trucks from the Big Three which live in the upper 800-900 pound-feet range.

And to get right to the point, the new diesel engine offers up a considerable feeling of power accelerating onto the highway. You don’t get the drama and theater of a kick in your back and jerky shifts, rather a smooth fat power band that is more akin to a passenger jet thrust on take-off.

This is simply a matter the refinement level of this powertrain, doing a good job and shifting smooth and delivering power that you don’t sense a lot of its actions going on in the basement.

We tested it under load with both a 750 pound pallet in the bed and towed a 9,500 pound trailer up and down a 6% grade. Here the engine and transmission continued to impress like the big boys, dutifully churning out power without a lot of shifting around. Just getting to work.

Going down a 6% grade with the trailer, the Nissan Titan XD uses the transmission’s tow mode programming to substitute for an exhaust brake which it doesn’t have. Here you tap the brake and it down shifts, holding it there until you hit the accelerator again. It worked well, keeping speed as the two mile grade unfolded.

As to mpg, there won’t be published EPA estimates as this truck is over the capability line in weight to where they don’t have to. Nissan says the Cummins powered variant can achieve a 20% improvement over a comparable gas engine under load.

In our short drive with the 750 pound pallet in the country, we observed 15 mpg according to the instrument cluster’s trip computer. This is however not a scientific measurement by any stretch.

The chassis of the Nissan Titan XD is a step up from what will be the base grade Nissan Titan pickups, with a heavier frame, suspension and running gear. It’s front suspension for instance is derived from the NV2500 and 3500 series commercial vans.

It also have a beefed up rear frame section for goose-neck and fifth-wheel towing capability direct from the factory. But while toughness and capability were key, refinement was also a goal with things like hydraulic cab mounts and generous helpings of sound deadening materials.

The work they’ve done here is impressive. It rides quiet on the highway with a solid and stable behavior against cross winds and dips, even under load. Diesel sound is distant, road noise to a minimum. There was some level of wind noise in our pre-production tester however.

Off the road, the suspension impressed with its isolation from the rough bucking that rocks and ruts can bring. We were given the opportunity to test it back to back against GM and Ford ¾ ton trucks on an off-road trail. The difference here was obvious, the Titan having a much softer ride than the heavy duty trucks.

Our extreme off-road test course was actually somewhat challenging for a change, so many of these test events soft pedal it. But here we had a genuine need to put it in four-low, lock the rear differential, and experience it’s hardware features.

Driven in the Pro-4X, it proved of course very capable in crawling up steep hills with the traction and ground clearance to impress. I particularly liked the throttle mapping which softens response to your pedal inputs in four-low to make it easier to smoothly crawl over rough terrain.

This is where the torque of the diesel engine really comes through, enabling you to virtually idle through this stuff without having to throttle the thing much at all. But alas, life in a truck like this isn’t all about off-roading. It is sometimes about work.

When it comes to styling, we’ll the pictures speak for themselves. This is a truck that from watching your comments in our previous drives, elicits a lot of love and hate reactions. I will tell you this, when I first saw pictures I didn’t care much for it, but in time and in person I have come to like it both for its exterior and its interior design.

The interior is I think quite well done. It’s simple in its layout, down to business in fact. Nissan didn’t clutter things up with a lot of form over function. Buttons are large enough and well marked to learn easily. Materials are up to the price point with perhaps the upper door sills.

Regardless of your opinions on style, the 2016 Nissan Titan is without question something different in the truck market. It goes on sale in just a couple weeks from the publish date of our video. That’s just in time for Christmas.

Pricing will start around $40,000 for the base grade S and range up into the $60,000 for a fully decked Platinum Reserve. At launch the XD comes only in the crew-cab configuration but offers both two and four-wheel drive, and more importantly will offer a 6.5′ bed.

Overall we feel the new 2016 Nissan Titan XD with the Cummins will offer something entirely unique in the market, slotted between ½ ton and ¾ ton trucks. That gap right now is vast, with Nissan seeming the only manufacturer headed straight into the middle of it.