A Nissan Titan XD Pro 4X on display at the Indianapolis Autoshow, Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis, Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017. The show, featuring 2018 models, runs through New Year's Day and includes cars from the U.S., Japan, Korea, Italy, and Germany.
Robert Scheer/IndyStar

TUNICA, Miss. — Parked in this old cotton town beside the Blue & White, a traditional roadhouse diner on U.S. Highway 61 right out of the 1950s, stands a gray Nissan Titan XD pickup truck.

It looks right at home.

Some critics contend Nissan missed the mark on the light-duty Titan. Truck loyalists, they say, prefer the Detroit truck brands’ tougher look. One reviewer approvingly noted the XD's recent redesign conveys a more menacing appearance, a review that seems to me oddly citified. Maybe it looks menacing in a suburban parking lot.

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Out here on U.S. Highway 61, where another Titan XD with Louisiana tags passes by, pulling a four-horse Lakota Colt trailer toward the horse show at the local fairgrounds, the vehicle looks like a proper hardworking truck.

Make that a tall hardworking truck — long, too. The pickup stretches 20 feet and a few inches nose to tail, making it over three feet longer than one of those old Chevrolet Impala police-car sedans. The truck weighs about 7,200 pounds. That outweighs a pair of Impalas.

Looking at the truck you have to wonder not whether it looks appropriately American but, “Why buy it? This thing is so big.”

Well, we borrowed this $63,000 Mississippi-made Titan, the XD Pro 4X Crew Cab diesel model, and put it through its paces. With my daughter riding shotgun, we came up with this answer: You don’t buy it to simply run out to the old roadhouse for a lunch of seasoned catfish and pecan pie, though it handles that mission pretty well.

Drive the truck in the mud on a wet country morning in the Mississippi Delta, and it seems serenely indifferent to whatever the big river has cast up on its banks.

Parked at the Blue & White, this truck looks big. Out here on the edge of the relentlessly flat Delta, where the dome of sky stretches forever like on the Great Plains, and the industriousness of the American farmer is in abundant view, this mud-spattered truck looks right.

You buy it for what you do before and after lunch: haul fuel through the mud to the diesel pump at the back of the rice field, pull the 1,000-gallon-tank fertilizer applicator to the next 4,000-acre piece of cotton land, splash over to the duck blind, check on the deer camp.

A Nissan Titan XD is parked outside the company's manufacturing plant in Canton just after the pickup's local unveiling last month.
Joe Ellis/The Clarion-Ledger

Driving the XD for a few days in the Mississippi Delta and the nearby Hill Country, we never towed or carried any weight, but judged the truck otherwise competent and comfortable, luxurious even, and fairly easy to park and back out. The roof vision sensor giving a 360-degree sweep around the vehicle provides the driver a touch of confidence.

What we didn't get used to was the transmission howl in high four-wheel-drive. Or the prodigious distance between the ground and the cabin floor. I'd have liked a bit better fuel economy than the 16 mpg we averaged. And oncoming full-size pickups on the two lanes made you want to inch to the right wondering whether there is more truck than road. The side mirrors on the big pickups set up for towing really stick out.

The cabin is up high, sound-proofed, serene and well served by a fine stereo system. We have the blues channel tuned in.

Will it sell? That remains to be seen. American drivers never have flocked to Nissan pickups. This year through March, 12,724 new light-duty Titans were sold, up 10% compared to the same period last year, reports market researcher Autodata.

The gain appears sizeable for Nissan. Still, the Titan accounts for barely more than 2 of every 100 full-size pickups of all makes moving off dealer lots.

“Nissan has struggled with their trucks,” said analyst Anand Akshay of Kelley Blue Book, an automotive research firm. ‘‘They’ve been fighting, but it hasn’t been that successful.’’

Nissan launched the truck in 2017 as a heavy-duty model packing less punch than heavy duties from rival brands but more muscle than light-duty models such as the top-selling Ford F-150.

What could give the XD a boost is its engine. Nissan carries the Indiana-made diesel in the big pickup at a time when the Detroit brands are looking anew at diesel.

General Motors has just launched a diesel version of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup. Ford is getting a diesel version of the F-150 ready now. The 3-liter engine is rated for 250-horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque. Fiat Chrysler has had a 240-hp Dodge Ram diesel pickup turning out 420 lb-ft of torque.

There's something fitting in all this — driving a Mississippi-made truck in the delta and hearing the blues. It may not be a Detroit pickup. Yet this feels like the right truck at the right time.

What Stands Out

Looks: Not as menacing as you'd think

Power: Could use more

Gas mileage: Not great, but pickups seldom excel in fuel economy

Nissan Titan XD Pro 4X Crew Cab

What: A big, brawny diesel-powered pickup

When: On sale now

Where: Made in Canton, Miss.

What makes it go: A 5-liter V-8 Cummins turbo diesel producing 310 horsepower

How big: Up to 20.2 feet, depending on the version

Overall: A solid truck — and American made