• Clash of the Titans: Diesel or Gas Off-Roader? Which Truck is Best for You? (Video)

    2017 nissan titan xd 1500 diesel gas
    2017 Nissan Titan XD Diesel or Nissan Titan Gas V8?

    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.

    Vehicle Size

    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.

    Andre Smirnov
    Andre Smirnov
    Andre Smirnov is an Automotive Enthusiast, Producer, Reviewer, Videographer, Writer, Software Engineer, Husband, Father, and Friend.

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    33 thoughts on “Clash of the Titans: Diesel or Gas Off-Roader? Which Truck is Best for You? (Video)

    1. Humm… lots of weight and torque or lighter… for me I’d go with a gas if I was buying an off-road specific vehicle. I currently have a diesel since reality says I don’t get to buy a vehicle for each day of the week.

      1. Cummins should have made an inline 5 liter 4 cylinder diesel for this vehicle. Just chop off one or two cylinders off the straight 6 and redesign for that change Maybe go forged aluminum or graphite block.
        Then you would get the mileage and power and modern benefits.
        That’s where GM went wrong on their 4.5 v8 diesel. Great graphite block, but 8 cylinders in a V. At lest do a v6 4.5 liter. Everything else about that 4.5 diesel is amazing and modern, except for the 8 cylinders.

        1. I’ve been working with 5L 4cyl. diesels lately. You wouldn’t want one in a pickup, if you can help it. Sure 4BT swaps into half-tons are neat, but the end result is nowhere as nice as a 4.2L I6 TD. Not a thing wrong with the V8 configuration for this case, but everything is built for a MD application- that’s why it has that monster trans. Not because Nissan though they needed a trans a big as the one RAM puts behind their str4ongest Cummins, but because that one was already integrated. There are several smaller, lighter transmissions from Aisin that would handle the output from the little ISV. Hopefully Nissan will change.
          The Problem with the GM4500 Duramax, The 4.4L Lion V8, the Cummins ISV, and even the Toyota 4.5L VD wasn’t the V8 configuration- that was the good part (packages the same, sounds good, good rev range/hp). Problem wa that these engines would have come online when gas priced peaked, and fuel economy was a bigger concern. Ultimately, the 3L V6 diesels coupled to 7-10 speed transmissions will get the job done perfect in a half-ton. The can make a decent amount of HP (close to 300) while delivering flat torque at the design limit of the driveline.

    2. You get the same or better torque from Eco Boost gas motors down low in the rpm range. If this was a Ford mashup this question would not exist. I would rather have HP and Torque when I am off roading. Hence the only choice is a Ford and not a Titan. The 2.7EB destroys the Ram 3.0 and the 3.5HO puts another bullet in the grave to an already dead animal. Then there is the Tacoma Pro that ties the ZR2 Diesel in mpg but the Tacoma is not boosted, but we have proof from Ford that the 3.5EB gets the same mpg as the non turbo 3.5 V6. So if the other dumbasses realized that boosting a gas motor has worlds of advantages we would actually move forward in life instead of backwards. Diesels are dead. Good for now in heavy hauling and thats it

      And for further advancement my hopes are high. Bollinger Motors is releasing their truck in 39 days. Its all electric though and I prefer Generator-Electric for now until we get infrastructure in place for fast charging for range, but this truck will have class leading HP, Torque, Ground Clearance, Best power to weight ratio. And maybe not perfect just yet but at least it will bring real advancments instead of this junk we are forced to buy.

      The gas Titan in this case can do the same thing with low gears but its a problem in the mud when you need wheel spin, same for sand. Then you need torque down low and HP and these engines then both fail. An EB gas motor passes.

      1. That Bollinger vehicle reminds me of the Axial RCs my sons and I have. Obviously the RC is simplified, but when I look at it I just think to myself that this is the future of off-roaders.

        1. Ya i had them awhile ago in the 90’s Cost 1000 dollars for one back then. I bought the Gallop MK 2 and it had 4×4 and 4 wheel steering and a battery powered the motor. Always had another battery ready to go. Get about 15 minutes out of it. Needed 4 batteries and 4 chargers to keep it going on swap outs. It was all possible long ago. Just forced to buy junk because the fuel industry controls what we buy. They control the market. Hopefully that is changing.

      2. If this were a Ford mashup, you wouldn’t even have the medium sized diesel to choose from. And the transmission would not be as good quality as that Toyota transmission with the diesel.
        That said, too many cylinders on that v8 Cummins. And the Ford won’t last like the diesel Titan will, at least the major parts, which are the most important of course.

      3. I wouldn’t hesitate to take a 1/2 ton Titan over an F150. That 5.6 sounds awesome and they have a great warranty.

        I don’t think your last paragraph makes any sense Rambro. Either one of these Titans has the HP and TQ to get through mud and sand. Also good ground clearance and approach angles, which low chin dragging F150s are lacking.

    3. For the love of god, don’t buy a Nissan Titan XD!!! Nissan bought mine back 3 weeks ago under the lemon law for multiple issues, one of which being a serious safety issue. These trucks, at least the XD with the Cummins, need to be recalled and taken off the road. When the regional rep came to look at my truck, he asked me to take him out and try and replicate the problem with the dead accelerator pedal, which I was able to easily do. We immediately returned to the dealership and he said he wanted to take a new 2017 out to compare. We did and I was able to replicate the problem on it. Please, heed my advice, and stay away from the Titan XD!!! If you want to know specifics, including all the paperwork I have from the truck and this issue, please email me at jaybone69698@gmail.com

        1. No I did not lose money. VA makes the mfr pay full price back to the buyer to include taxes and fees. They also had to compensate me for my time. I drove it for 13k painful miles. They ended up only deducting around $300 for use of the vehicle. So I drove it for 8 months basically for free. Thank god I am out from under that POS. Biggest mistake of my life.

      1. Tsb just issued for dead pedal equipment update and people that have had it done say it is no longer an issue. Should have held on a few more days.

        1. @CMAC
          That TSB ecm update was tried on my tuck as one of the first in the country and it did not fix the issue. And, it made the shifting issue worse. Nissan is in over their heads. These are garbage. Stay as far away as you possibly can!!!

          1. Considering it was only released a week ago I don’t think your talking the same thing. The tsb you mention was the trans shifting. Anyways. I have one and it’s been a workhorse so far. No regrets. I’ve worked around the “dead pedal” as I’ve never found it to be that bad but there is a hesitation if slowing then gas it it hesitates due to the torque management programming which they have now apparently fixed. Anyways reports are the new tsb which addresses that specific issue has solved other people’s dead pedal. But there is always a lemon or two from all manufactures.

            1. @Cmac: Yes, lemons happen and it’s how the manufacture addresses it–or doesn’t address it as in my case. Do a google search for “tundra qdr expectations changed” and follow the link to collecting dust THQ. It’s a good read, especially the response from MS.

            2. Yes it may have been released only a week ago but 5 weeks ago it was under development and my truck was used as the first to try it on the road. Epic fail. The transmission shifting rough has nothing to do with the dead pedal. I wish you the best with yours but I know I can’t spend 63K for a truck to have to learn to drive around a dead pedal and make excuses for it. Just accept it is a POS and move on.

    4. Good god those vehicles are heavy.

      A gas vehicle is better in every respect I can think of for offroading, particularly if properly geared. The one exception being range.

    5. Pick ups may be for dirt roads.
      But not for off-road.
      Get a jeep or simular vehicle for off-road.

    6. I really like the Titan gasoline. Very good truck. Engine has power and sounds great. 7 speed transmission is good enough.
      I would consider it, if they refresh the front end.
      Diesel is a flop. Ugly, useless and expensive.

    7. I haven’t read the other comments but just reading the title. Let’s see…800 more lbs over the front axle…balance is affected. Turbo lag…bad you need instant throttle response off road. Furthermore most tractor trucks are for towing which is 100% opposite of what you need in an off-road situation.

    8. Rambro you must be on Fords payroll. No I don’t like the look of the new Titan because it looks like every other Ford on the road, ugly as hell, all plastic interior, but I would always take their powertrain over that POS Eco turd 6 cylinder weedwacker sounding motor. I’d simply add a CAI and exhaust and tune and blow the doors off your Eco turd motor. You couldn’t give me a Ford…

      1. Marc my point is you cant beat the EB for the strong torque and HP throughout the rpm range. I agree the V6 is an abomination to the truck. But if the boosted an 8 cylinder like they have already done in several SUV’s we would at least have something better. But nothing beats the power of a battery motor. Bollinger will soon be here. I have high hopes. Workhorse already set the bar. Not even the Raptor can touch it.

    9. Then I’d add simply add a CAI, exhaust and tune to my ECO and blow the doors off of yours… HA HA..

    10. I believe tfl did a fuel mileage test between the two and if remember correctly. The DSL xd didn’t give hardly much of fuel mileage advantage over gas. It just wasn’t that impressive.

      1. Not much mpg advantage for the diesel when unloaded. But when loaded, there is no comparison. The Diesel is the way to go. Longevity advantage for that diesel too.

        1. Stanford do you drive truck to work everyday with a ld or trl on it’s back? My guess probably not. So yes they do get better fuel mileage lded , but most people don’t drive around with LDS everyday. It’s just not practical. Neither is buying a DSL if you only towing handful of the times of year.
          I have 350,000 miles on v-10 with over half them miles with a trl on it’s back. With out any major problems. There some DSLs couldn’t pass a dealer with out being worked on. Gas engines of today are far more better than they was yesterday.

    11. This is a ridiculous article. The gas or diesel powered trucks both have more than adequate power and torque to conquer whatever off reading they are capable of. Maybe the diesel has a more useful range…

    12. many thanks to you’all with comments about the gas or diesel on the 2016 Titan XD. I’m about to purchase an 2017 Titan XD, so I chose gas, just because the 5.6 has proven themselves. I have a 2008 Titan with 258,000 miles, w/ no serious problems yet. Can’t beat that engine… for me.
      Tks, BB

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