It’s ironic that in order to write about these beasts, I have to do the very thing I complain about with full-size pickups, namely use them as casual transportation. What I really should do with Nissan’s all-new Titan XD turbodiesel monster truck is hook it up to a 6-bay horse trailer and head for Newport, Rhode Island, but as luck would have it my polo ponies are in getting their manes permed. So instead I’ve been driving it around our little village, very carefully. This is the Crew Cab PRO-4X version, with a bed that stretches more than 6 feet and a four-door cabin with ample room for five. Overall, it’s more than 20 feet long and, with four-wheel-drive, it stands 6-foot-4. Boarding requires perching one butt cheek on the edge of the driver’s seat and doing a pull-up with the steering wheel and the grab handle. If my passenger-in-chief weren’t already 5-foot-10, I’d have to lift her in. (Running boards are available, and recommended.)

There’s a Cummins turbodiesel engine under this vast hood. Put one foot on the brake, punch the start button, and by the time we’re done fumbling with the seatbelt the glow plugs have warmed up and the 5.0-liter V-8 is rumbling. To reverse out of the driveway, select R with the column-mounted shift lever, release the parking brake and then watch the mirrors and the backup screen. Our truck has Nissan’s optional Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection, which scans all sides of the vehicle, as well as proximity sensors fore and aft. We’ll be warned, visually and audibly, well before we crush anything. With all that and what amounts to a flying-bridge helm, this vessel is easy to pilot and dock.

It can seem docile, too. At idle the diesel sends a deep pulse through its stainless-steel exhaust system, and the truck will placidly walk itself around under no throttle at all, like a team of oxen. The thumping smooths out as soon the revs build. At 1,600 RPM the engine makes 555 pound-feet of torque and the Titan feels much lighter than its curb weight of more than three and a half tons. In sixth gear — tops in this Aisin automatic transmission — 75 mph comes up at just 2,000 RPM, indicated. We expected 14 miles per gallon but instead averaged (according to the trip computer) 16.9. With its 23-gallon tank, the diesel Titan’s interstate range should be 400 miles or more.

Even with aggressive-looking all-terrain tires, the truck is quiet on the highway — the 12-speaker premium stereo sounds fine — and its ride is smooth and reasonably resilient. The nose dives under hard braking, but the Titan holds its line; sudden stops are worry-free. (Trucks don’t yet have the self-braking capability that cars are getting now.) Big wing mirrors with available blind-spot monitors make lane changes easy. If this is beginning to sound too civilized, never fear — with leaf springs and a solid axle at the rear, the Titan will step sideways on washboard surfaces just as pickup trucks have done since day one.

The XD — designed in California and built in Mississippi with engines from Indiana and Tennessee — is the heavy-duty version of Nissan’s new, second-generation Titan pickup. It’s available only in four-door, crew-cab style, but with a choice of the diesel or a 5.6-liter gas V-8 tuned for 390 horsepower and 401 torques, which gets a 7-speed automatic transmission. Both engines are available with rear-wheel drive or selectable 4WD with tow mode, two-speed transfer case and electronic locking rear differential. The diesel 4X4’s maximum tow rating is 12,000 pounds, but the gasoline Titan doesn’t fall far behind, at 11,000 pounds. Both come in five trim levels, from the base S (starting at $37,000) up through SV, SL and PRO-4X to the luxurious $60,000 Platinum Reserve.

Like Lamborghinis and Hummers, there’s always something slightly cartoonish about monster pickups, especially diesels. Nissan calls its new XD the “every duty” truck, but there’s no overlooking this much size and mass. They’ve done a fine job of civilizing the brute, but for everyday driving it’s like shooting an 8-gauge gun at sporting clays. Keep this one out at the ranch.

— Silvio Calabi reviews the latest from Detroit, Munich, Yokohama, Gothenburg, Crewe, Seoul and wherever else interesting cars are born. Silvio is a member of the International Motor Press Association whose automotive reviews date back to the Reagan administration. He is the former publisher of Speedway Illustrated magazine and an author. Contact him at calabi.silvio@gmail.com.

Plus
— Strong like bull
— Easy to drive, maneuver and park
— Easy up/down tailgate
— Well named

Minus
— Running boards (or a rear step) should be standard
— Must be 9 feet tall to reach storage lockers