5.0 cummins performance parts intercooler

The 5 Best 5.0 Cummins Titan XD Performance Mods

Chandler Stark

Meet Chandler

Chandler is an automotive expert that joined the DieselIQ and 8020 Media teams in 2022. He’s been working on and modifying cars from a young age and has a passion for JDM builds. However, Chandler is also a big fan of American muscle & diesel trucks. He delivers endless automotive knowledge and hands-on experience, and is a seasoned writer who spends some of his free time writing for The Grunge.

In hindsight, the 5.0 V8 Cummins inside the Nissan Titan XD did not live up to expectations. Nissan only produced the engine for four model years from 2016–2019, and it paled in comparison with their slightly larger 5.6 liter V8 gas engine. Power output was decidedly modest for a V8 turbo-diesel at just 310 horsepower and 555 lb-ft of torque. From the beginning, Titan XD Cummins customers have been looking to squeeze more power out of their truck, and that’s what we’re looking at today. Read on to find the 5 best 5.0 Cummins performance parts to get some more power out of the diesel-powered Titan XD. 

5.0 Cummins Engine Info and Vehicles

The Titan XD diesel powertrain used a 5.0 liter V8 Cummins turbo-diesel engine. There are two versions of the 5.0 Cummins, the industrial ISV Cummins and the version found in the Titan XD. The pickup version is much more powerful, primarily due to a larger turbocharger and different ECU programming. 

Cummins made the 5.0 block from compacted graphite iron and the heads are aluminum alloy. Like other turbo-diesels, the 5.0 Cummins uses direct injection with piezoelectric injectors. The turbocharger is a Holset M2 two-stage, sequential, variable geometry turbocharger (VGT), with an intercooler. Compression sits at 16.3:1, and it uses a forged steel crankshaft. The engine also uses dual overhead camshafts (DOHC), and is a 32-valve (4 v/cyl) motor. 

The 5.0 Cummins Titan XD uses three different emissions systems. There is an exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system, a diesel particulate filter (DPF), and a selective catalyst reduction system (SCR) that uses diesel exhaust fluid (DEF). The Titan XD diesel had a maximum payload of 2,000 pounds, but a maximum tow rating of 12,300 pounds. 

The 5.0 Cummins only appeared in the Titan XD from 2016–2019 before being discontinued. It is generally considered a reliable, if noisy and underpowered, diesel V8 engine. 

5.0 Cummins Power Limits With Mods

From the factory, the 5.0 Cummins makes 310 horsepower and 555 lb-ft of torque inside the 2016–2019 Titan XD. Cummins made the 5.0 block from compacted graphite iron (CGI) and the heads are aluminum alloy. The crankshaft is forged steel, and the pistons are made from aluminum. The connecting rods appear to be billet steel. 

As such, the CGI block is incredibly strong and will have no issue pushing well past 700 lb-ft of torque. The crankshaft is also very strong, leaving the connecting rods and pistons as the most vulnerable parts. The upper limit of these is closer to 500-600 lb-ft of torque before you will want to look at forged versions. 

5.0 Cummins Lift Pump Upgrade

While it won’t add any horsepower, upgrading the fueling system on the 5.0 Cummins is a very important supporting mod. One of the most common upgrades is the FASS Diesel Fuel System. This is a fuel pump that will outflow the stock pump and support up to 700 horsepower. It also removes air, water, and debris particles from the fuel, too. If you plan on installing 5.0 Cummins performance parts, a lift pump is practically a necessary upgrade. 

Top 5 Titan XD 5.0 Cummins Performance Parts

Our top 5 Titan XD 5.0 Cummins performance parts are:

  • Tune
  • Cold Air Intake
  • Intercooler Upgrade
  • Turbo Inlet Upgrade
  • Exhaust Upgrade

Below we’ll look at the 5 best 5.0 Cummins performance parts for the Titan XD. Previously, we explored this on our YouTube channel, so make sure to give that video a look, too.

1) Best 5.0 Titan XD Tuning

First on our list of top 5.0 Cummins performance parts is ECU tuning. For those of you who are familiar with our other mod guides, you’ll know that we frequently recommend tuning as one of the top performance parts for pretty much every engine. The 5.0 Cummins is no different, and tuning allows for some serious horsepower and torque gains. 

Tuning is a pretty easy install that allows for your truck to instantly gain huge amounts of horsepower and torque. By using an OBD II plug-in device, you can flash new software to your Titan that will make the engine output more power. Primarily, this is done by increasing boost pressure, advancing the camshaft and ignition timing, and upping the fuel pressure. 

With tuning on the 5.0 Cummins, you can expect gains of more than 100 wheel horsepower and torque without any other bolt-on mods. If you do you plan on adding more, like an intake or exhaust, you can add even more power through tuning. 

Best Titan XD 5.0 Tuners

For the Titan XD, the only real solution for tuning is to use EZ Lynk. EZ Lynk is an OBD II device and smartphone app combo that allows you to flash your car by using your smartphone. Basically, you put the EZ Lynk into your OBD II, connect it with your smartphone via bluetooth, and use the downloadable EZ Lynk app. With the app you can change between tunes, look at the various monitors for your car (temp, fuel pressure, boost pressure, EGT, etc.), and datalog. 

There are two primary types of tunes for the EZ Lynk, either canned or custom tuning. Canned tuning is a one-size fits-all tune, and there have been very mixed reviews on them for the 5.0 Cummins. Most people recommend you just skip canned tunes altogether and go with custom tuning instead. Custom tuning allows for precise adjustments to be made that are tailored to your specific car, fuel, and atmospheric conditions. 

Finding a reputable local tuner is your best bet for a custom dyno tune, and dyno tunes usually perform the best. The other option is E-tuning, which is the same process but done on the street with data logging and email instead of on a dyno. The most prominent Titan XD tuners are Proven Diesel and Synthetic Offroad. Both of them deliver high-quality tunes using the EZ Lynk system that result in more than 100 wheel-horsepower in reliable gains.

2) Best 5.0 Cummins Performance Parts: Cold Air Intake

Our next suggestion for 5.0 Cummins performance parts after tuning is a cold air intake. Technically, the OEM Titan XD intake is a “cold air intake,” because it routes the filter away from the engine toward the fender. However, you can still add performance to your truck by going with an aftermarket intake. The name “cold air intake” is somewhat of a misnomer, so really you should be thinking of them as performance intakes instead.

A performance intake will use larger and less restrictive piping combined with a larger air filter to increase the flow and volume of air passing through it. More air allows your turbocharger to work more efficiently, and can equate to more power. Cold air intakes also lower the intake temperature compared to short ram intakes, but since the stock intake is already a CAI, it doesn’t change with an aftermarket unit.

In addition, the 5.0 Cummins uses a large intercooler post-turbo to cool the boost (which we’ll get into below). This makes the temperature decrease somewhat useless, as the air is going to be heated up in the turbo and then cooled down in the intercooler, anyways. 

S&B Titan XD Cold Air Intake

Best Titan XD Cold Air Intake

There are a few different cold air intakes for the 5.0 Cummins, and we recommend either the S&B 5.0 Cummins intake or the AFE Power Momentum HD 5.0 Cummins intake. Both of these intakes deliver more than 20% in flow increase over stock, and they will add about 10-15 wheel-horsepower and torque with tuning. The AFE and S&B intakes are both closed-box, and they both perform about the same as each other. The S&B is however a little cheaper.

Also available for the AFE intake is the Momentum HD dynamic air scoop. This connects to the side of the Momentum airbox and allows for air to be drawn in from closer to the front of the vehicle. The intake temperatures will be a little bit lower, and it might increase overall flow a few cfm, too.

3) 5.0 Cummins Intercooler Upgrade

For our third 5.0 Cummins performance parts upgrade we’re looking at upgrading the OEM intercooler. Intercoolers are very important for turbo-diesel engines, as they can increase horsepower and prevent detonation. The purpose of the intercooler is to cool the boost or “charged air” after it has exited the turbocharger.

Air gains heat as it becomes compressed, so by the time non-intercooled air hits the engine it can sometimes be up to 200° in temperature. An intercooler helps reduce the amount of heat in the air, which also improves its oxygen content. The more oxygen in the air the more horsepower and torque the engine will ultimately make.

The OEM intercooler is an air-to-air intercooler, which means it uses ambient air for cooling. The stock intercooler is mounted just behind the radiator, which unfortunately cuts it off from airflow. As of now, there are no front-mount intercoolers that put it in front of the radiator, as there is just not enough room without also moving the radiator.

Best Titan XD Intercooler Upgrades

There are two main 5.0 Cummins intercoolers on the market: The Mishimoto Titan XD intercooler and the AFE Power BladeRunner GT Titan XD intercooler. Both of them use much larger cores than the OEM unit, which allows for much better cooling. It also allows for the intercooler to perform better in hotter climates, while towing, and after heavy use. 

As we stated, a front-mounted intercooler would be the best, but the engine bay limitation of the Titan XD makes it a very difficult fit. Both the AFE Power and Mishimoto intercoolers are air-to-air like the OEM intercooler, and both perform very well. 

4) 5.0 Cummins Turbo Inlet

For our next 5.0 Cummins performance parts upgrade, we suggest a turbo inlet. The turbo inlet is what connects the air intake to the turbocharger. The OEM inlet is made from plastic, and is not very durable. It also has the tendency to flex or bend under heavy boost pressure, which hurts airflow. 

The turbo-inlet is one of the most important parts of the air intake system. If you have an aftermarket intake, you’ll definitely want to consider a larger turbo inlet to take advantage of the extra air volume and flow. The gains are only around 5-10 horsepower, so they aren’t drastic. Still, if you have already upgraded the air intake, a turbo inlet is another relatively cheap way to ensure the highest cfm for flow. 

Best Titan XD Turbo Inlet

The best unit on the market is the CFT Performance Titan XD turbo inlet. CFT’s unit is a full 3.5 inch in diameter and made with 6061 aluminum steel. On the stock intake, a turbo inlet probably won’t help very much, but with a performance intake and tuning it will be good for a few extra ponies. 

5) Titan XD Cummins Exhaust Upgrade

For our final 5.0 Cummins performance parts upgrade, we recommend upgrading the Titan XD exhaust. The exhaust of the 5.0 Cummins is incredibly restrictive, but most of this is due to the emissions systems. As we mentioned earlier, the Titan uses three different emissions systems. There is an exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system, a diesel particulate filter (DPF), and a selective catalyst reduction system (SCR) that uses diesel exhaust fluid (DEF).

The DPF and SCR/DEF systems are located in the exhaust, and they choke off flow by quite a bit. However, they are also necessary for emissions, which makes things a little bit more interesting for diesel trucks. For street driven trucks, the only option for upgrading the exhaust on the 5.0 Cummins is a DPF-back exhaust. These exhausts retain all of the factory emissions equipment, but they also don’t add a lot of horsepower.

The other option is a downpipe-back exhaust, also known as a race pipe. A race pipe replaces all of the emissions equipment from the downpipe-back, which removes a ton of restriction. It is however only available for non-street driven trucks, because it removes emissions equipment. There are no downpipe upgrades for the Cummins currently available on the market. The downpipe connects to the turbocharger, but it is not a huge restriction on the Cummins compared with the DPF/SCR/DEF systems. 

Best Titan XD Exhaust Upgrades

For those looking to upgrade their Titan XD 5.0 Cummins exhaust we have both DPF-back and downpipe-back options. For the DPF-back exhaust, the AFE Power DPF-back exhausts are the best choice. AFE makes both 5 inch and 4 inch versions, and they offer them in either aluminized or stainless steel. A DPF-back exhaust will add about 5-15 horsepower.

For non-street driven vehicles, we recommend the Flo Pro Performance race pipes. Flo Pro offers both 4 and 5 inch versions, like AFE. Due to the elimination of the emissions equipment, the Flo Pro will make a lot more horsepower and torque than the AFE. With a race pipe, you can add more than 25 horsepower and torque easily. To get the most out of your race pipe upgrade, and to get rid of any check engine lights, you will need custom tuning. 

Top 5.0 Cummins Performance Parts FAQ

How much horsepower can the 5.0 Cummins handle?

The 5.0 Cummins can take 500-600 lb-ft of torque before the internals need to be replaced. The 5.0 Cummins block is much stronger and can probably take more than 800 lb-ft of torque reliably.

What are the best 5.0 Cummins Performance Parts and Upgrades?

The best 5.0 Cummins performance parts and upgrades are tuning, cold air intake, intercooler, exhaust, and turbo inlet. You can add more than 100 wheel-horsepower with these mods to your Titan XD.

What are the best Titan XD performance parts and mods?

The best 5.0 Cummins performance parts and upgrades are tuning, cold air intake, intercooler, exhaust, and turbo inlet. You can add more than 100 wheel-horsepower with these mods to your Titan XD.

How can I add horsepower to my 5.0 Cummins and Titan XD?

The best 5.0 Cummins performance parts and upgrades are tuning, cold air intake, intercooler, exhaust, and turbo inlet. You can add more than 100 wheel-horsepower with these mods to your Titan XD.

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