AskTFL: Is a Heavier Truck Better for Towing? Ford F-150 vs Nissan Titan XD

We have yet another truck buyer trying to make a decision based on a trailer, and we’re here to help!

The question for this addition of AskTFL comes from Charles, and he does give a thorough description you can read here:

The information below outlines my needs:

Travel Trailer – Dry Weight of about 6,800 lbs. (Will likely be closer to 8,000 lbs loaded).  It has a hitch weight of 774 lbs.  It’ll just be my wife, the dogs, and myself (of course) with likely a very light load in the truck.  I’m estimating about 600 lbs max, as most of our gear will be in the trailer.  The trailer is about 33 to 34 feet long.  I’m not sure this matters, but plenty of opinions suggest that the longer the trailer the longer the tow vehicle or at least a longer wheel base.  Still no hard data seems to be evident on that one.  

  • So, to recap:
  • 8k lbs behind the truck
  • 774 lbs. trailer hitch weight
  • roughly 600 lbs. in truck

I saw an awesome 2015 F-150 3.5L Ecoboost Lariat for sale that has the right rear axle ratio (3.55), towing capability at just over 12k lbs, and payload over 3k lbs. So, it looks to me that it can easily handle my requirements. 

Just before I saw the F-150, I had been leaning towards the 2017 Nissan XD SV (I did see the great video you all did on the comparison of the two trucks, while great stuff, it still left me wondering a bit as my situation is slightly different).  According to the numbers, the XD is a heavier truck, but as far as towing capacity and payload, it is actually less than the Ecoboost.  We are planning on a full-time RV lifestyle for likely no more than a year (starting next year).  So, I’ll be towing a good bit, however, we plan to stay at each place long-term, roughly a month.  The Ecoboost, due to the power, trim, and potential gas mileage is where I’m leaning.  The Ecoboost seems like the option to have my cake and eat it too, based upon enough power, fuel economy (as we’ll want to use it for non-towing too), luxury trim, and it’s only about $1K more than the XD that I’m referring to. 

I suppose my main concern is what I’ve heard from the conservative nay-sayers about towing that much, with that length with any 1/2 ton truck is a bad idea.  Again, I’ve yet to see hard data on trailer length towing capacities.  Also, not all 1/2 ton trucks are created equally.  Thanks for any advice that you can provide, and please let me know if you need more data.  Thank you!

Well it seems that Charles has done his homework. And you are correct on the numbers: both trucks will be able to handle you truck and trailer, but I do believe one will feel better than the other. Some of this is a matter of preference, so first lets look at some facts.

F-150 vs Nissan Titan XD

ALSO SEE: Nissan Titan XD Fuel Economy Testing

The 2017 Nissan Titan XD SV with the 5.0-liter Cummins diesel weighs in at 7,140 pounds, compared to a 2015 F-150 Lariat with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost which weighs in around the 5,000-pound mark, depending on configuration. Wheelbase on an F-150 SuperCab comes in at 163.7 inches, while the SuperCrew models have a 156.8-inch wheelbase. On the Titan XD, the wheelbase is 151.6-inches, regardless of trim or engine.

2016 Ford F-150

So the Ford offers the longer wheelbase which will have a positive effect on the way it tows. But weight is also an important part of this discussion.

At close to 9,000-pounds, a heavier tow vehicle would bring a more solid feeling to your towing experience, negating side winds better than a lighter vehicle would do. The Titan XD’s curb weight is one of its strengths and weaknesses, as it certainly feels like a lumbering brute after driving the light-on-its-feet F-150.

But with that much weight behind you, the Nissan should return a more planted feeling, where the Ford will feel like the trailer and wind are pushing it around a little more.

In the power department, both the 3.5L EcoBoost and big 5.0L Cummins V8 offer more than enough to get your job done, but they will certainly do it differently. The slow and lumbering nature of the Titan is matched by its Cummins diesel, though it will move your load with little to no drama, as compared to the EcoBoost which will have to dig in and rev up to deliver its power.

Fuel economy is a tough call between these two. The Cummins is not officially rated by the EPA, though our testing here at TFL puts the truck around 19 mpg on the highway when it’s empty.

The F-150 comes in with the better fuel economy unladen, rated by the EPA at 17 mpg city, 23 on the highway and 19 mpg combined.

At the end of it all, it comes down to a subjective choice: would you prefer the slower, heavier but likely safer-feeling option? Or do you want the truck that will drive excellent unladen, tow with plenty of power, but require a little more finesse at the wheel and concentration to keep it moving down the highway with a trailer?

The Titan XD is the former and the F-150 is the latter. Now the choice is yours!