Power Trip

The new Navara comes with plenty of kit, new technology and some much-improved stats behind it too. By Cameron Officer.

Despite the revised grille, the brightwork and the sumptuous cabin, the big headline surrounding Nissan’s latest Navara is actually to be found around the back and underneath.

The new Navara features a trick five-link rear suspension set-up that provides for a more settled ride, but doesn’t eat into tray space. It’s a clever advent and no doubt signals something of a sea change in utility vehicle engineering architecture. Although of course if you’re not carting gear in the new Navara’s tray it’ll still ride like a ute across New Zealand’s coarse-chip road surfaces.

Nissan Navara NP300 ST-X

Engine: 2.3-litre four cylinder twin turbo diesel
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Power: 140kW
Torque: 450Nm
Fuel economy: 7.0L/100km
Tow rating: 3500kg (braked)
Payload: 930kg
Price: $64,990 + ORCs

Nissan says the new suspension set-up improves handling and ride comfort. I’d hesitate to call the Navara completely ‘car-like’ though; that terrible cliché that, despite trying to skirt around it, is actually relevant when talking about the on-road manners of rival Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50.

While many Nissan Patrol and Nissan Pathfinder owners have decried the softening up of those vehicles in their latest iterations (the Pathfinder in particular has gone from a ‘ute with a boot’ to an SUV of a very different stripe), on the highway the Navara still feels like the work truck it is.

And while the five-link rear suspension adds something to proceedings, the newly developed turbo diesel taketh away. Well, sort of.

The smaller headline surrounding the new Navara is that it’s actually less powerful than the outgoing model; not the sort of equation you usually see from generational model to generational model, especially in the hotly contested ute market.

The new 2.3-litre four-cylinder DOHC turbo diesel can be bought in two distinct states of tune; one with a single turbo charger in lower RX spec which pushes out 120kW and 403Nm, and a twin-turbo version which produces 140kW and 450Nm (and is available in both ST and ST-X grades).

But, while the paperwork shows us that the new 2.3-litre diesel produces less power, it doesn’t really feel any less powerful in normal driving conditions.

In fact, Nissan says the new engine in twin-turbo format improves the linearity of the power delivery and lowers the peak torque sweet spot to 1500rpm (from 2000rpm), while increasing the peak power to 3750rpm (from 3600rpm); factors which will prove especially useful while towing or in off-road scenarios.

Our test Navara ST-X 4×4 features excellent combined fuel economy of 7.0-litres/100km. In ST 4×2 trim with a manual gearbox it’s even more frugal; just 6.3-litres/100km.

But, wait … no V6?

That’s right; the 170kW six that boasted a colossal 550Nm of torque and gave Nissan the “most powerful ute” tagline to bandy about, has disappeared from the range. Apparently it will not meet tougher Euro 6 emissions regulations so, with utes having far longer shelf-lives than their passenger vehicle brethren, Nissan’s engineers have decided to drop it altogether.

There is one petrol among the diesel line-up; the same 2.5-litre unit that features in the X-Trail mid-size SUV. In the Navara it pushes out 122kW of power and 238Nm of torque. It’s only available in entry DX trim as a two-wheel drive, six-speed manual though, so if you don’t want to bother with Road User Charges you’ll also be forfeiting a fair bit of other stuff.

In top-of-the-range ST-X trim like our tester, this is the best-specified Navara ever. It features a host of creature comforts onboard including all the toys even the least fussy subbie on the site has come to expect; Bluetooth hands-free, powered and heated front seats, keyless start, dual zone climate control, NissanConnect smartphone integration and even a satellite navigation system. There’s a sunroof and powered partition in the rear window too; handy for hearing your mate yelling contradictory instructions at you while you’re reversing the boat down the ramp.

Another improvement is the Navara’s off-road capability; the engineers claim it’ll wade to a depth of 450 millimetres (no we didn’t test this) and angles of approach between 29.5-32.5 degrees and departure between 24-26.7 degrees mean the Navara will handle a range of conditions, with all components concealed under the frame for better ground clearance.

In 4×4 models (there are two-wheel drive versions of every grade), the shift-on-the-move 4WD system lets the driver switch between 2WD and 4WD (4H mode) with a twist of a dial in the centre console at speeds of up to 100kmh.

Where some utes look a little lost wearing entry-level 15” and 16” steelies, the Navara in RX form still looks right on its 16” wheels (our ST-X tester features 18” alloys as standard).

Another bonus in opting for the top trim level is the ST-X’s Utili-Track tethering system in the tray. Heavy-duty forged aluminium cleats lock anywhere along channels running the length of the tray floor to help secure loads.

In all the Navara remains a damn honest truck. A bit like Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger owners, Navara drivers tend to be pretty loyal to their chosen brand; at time of writing it has been about a month since the model’s arrival in Nissan showrooms and there are already plenty of them visible on our roads.

So clearly the deficit in horsepower this new Navara carries over its predecessor isn’t worrying many. After all it features many other excellent attributes.

Perhaps more worrying however – for Nissan dealers at least – might be the fact both the Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 are about to launch their mid-life updates.

While it no longer appears to be solely about horsepower, the battle in the ute segment rages on.

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