Which power plant is best in an off-road pickup truck: diesel or gas V8? Here are the pros and cons on one versus the other. Helping us answer the question are a 2017 Nissan Titan XD with the 5.0L Cummins V8 and a 2017 Nissan Titan with the 5.6L gasoline V8. Both of these trucks are dressed with off-road specific PRO-4X packages.
These two trucks are quiet different, but they are great examples of how diesel and gas engines compare for off-road driving in pickups. Naturally, there are two schools of thought on this subject. Some people love the low-end torque of a diesel to get over tough obstacles. Other prefer the lighter weight of a gas-powered truck.
Torque vs. Weight
The 5.0L Cummins V8 in the Titan XD is rated at 310 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque. It’s backed by a 6-speed Aisin automatic transmission and two-speed transfer case. Four wheel drive crawl ratio in 4-Lo is over 39-to-1. The Titan XD can generally just idle up a steep mountain trail with ease. The gas-powered truck may have to work just a tiny bit harder. The 5.6L gas V8 in the Titan 1500 is rated at 390 hp and 394 lb-ft of torque. This is also a very powerful engine.
On the flip side, this particular Titan XD diesel weighs 1,500 lbs more than the Titan 1500 with the gas engine. Granted, the Titan XD has a heavier frame, a heavier engine, and a heavier transmission among other components. These are very different trucks, but the point about the weight still stands. A lighter truck (especially with less weight over the front axle) will climb over obstacles easier. This is especially useful when crawling over rocks or going over sand or other loose surfaces.
A diesel-powered truck will get better fuel economy in a variety conditions. This is one of the major reasons why many off-road adventure or overland vehicles choose a diesel-powered chassis as the platform.
A diesel-powered truck, such as the Titan XD is overall taller and longer than its half-ton counterpart. Both trucks have the same width. The obvious answer is: it’s easier for a smaller vehicle to navigate narrow trails.
Check out both trucks climb the Gold Mine Hill trail and also participate in a friendly drag race.