COILED NISSAN

All Navara NP300 dual-cab 4x4s have coil rather than leaf springs at the rear, the only ute here that does.

4 x 4 Australia - - Driven -

LOAD TEST

THE Navara NP300, an­other new ar­rival in 2015, and com­monly known as the D23, has re­placed both the (two gen­er­a­tions old) D22 and the more re­cent D40 in Nissan’s ute line-up.

In­ter­est­ingly, the NP300 will also pro­vide the ba­sis for up-com­ing utes from Re­nault and Mercedes-benz.

The Nissan stands out for a cou­ple of rea­sons. Firstly, all NP300 dual-cab pick-ups come with coil springs at the rear, and it’s also the only ute on test to have two tur­bos rather than one. The so­phis­ti­cated bi-turbo ar­range­ment fea­tures smaller and larger tur­bos ar­ranged se­quen­tially on a 2.3-litre en­gine of Re­nault ori­gins.

You can get a Navara dual-cab 4x4 with leaf springs at the rear but only in the base-spec RX cab-chas­sis, which comes with a sin­gle-turbo ver­sion (120kw) of the same 2.3-litre en­gine.

The Navara has ad­justable tie-downs on the sides of the tub but the hook eyes need to be big­ger to be truly use­ful. With the 800kg pal­let in the back the Navara’s rear dropped by 100mm – more than any other ute tested bar the Triton.

Also like the Mit­subishi, the 800kg pal­let caused prob­lems for the Navara’s le­gal pay­load when the ex­tra weight of the driver, ob­server and tow bar was taken into ac­count. The lighter ST is okay, but with the heav­ier ST-X you’re tech­ni­cally 40kg over pay­load.

Un­der­way with the 800kg on board and head­ing up the wind­ing hill, chas­sis-wise the Navara didn’t feel great. Over the bumps it bot­tomed out fre­quently and the sway from the rear was far more of an is­sue than with the leaf-sprung ve­hi­cles. All in all it didn’t feel happy.

The bet­ter news is the en­gine, which dis­missed the 800kg and goes on with the job in ad­mirable fashion. It’s a bit nois­ier un­der load than you’d ex­pect of a mod­ern Euro­pean diesel, which is a re­minder that it was re­ally des­tined for com­mer­cial-ve­hi­cle ap­pli­ca­tions.

The Navara is also un­usual in this com­pany for its seven-speed au­to­matic, which does most things well and en­hances what the punchy en­gine has to of­fer. No auto down­shifts, how­ever, on the de­scent, which meant re­sort­ing to the se­lec­tor’s tip-shift func­tion dur­ing our test, given en­gine brak­ing from this small diesel isn’t great.

TOW TEST

THE coil-sprung multi-link rear end was the sub­ject of much spec­u­la­tion be­fore we even got to the tow test, and our worst fears were con­firmed: the Navara’s rear plum­meted when we hooked up the 3500kg trailer.

Now for the good news: the bi-turbo 2.3-litre en­gine at the other end is a mill that does a lot with what it’s got. Se­quen­tial tur­bocharg­ing kept the com­bustibles flow­ing at a de­cent rate, ex­tract­ing plenty of power from the rel­a­tively small ca­pac­ity and bestow­ing the Navara with the grunt to have a de­cent go. With seven speeds there was a lot of gear chang­ing, but the auto still helped to get the most out of the en­gine.

As with most of the oth­ers, the gear­box needed to be man­u­ally shifted to stop run­ning away on down­hills, es­pe­cially given the lack of en­gine brak­ing from the smaller unit.

The chas­sis is an­other thing al­to­gether. I don’t say this lightly, but this ute should not be rated to tow 3500kg. Un­der load the NP300 bump-steered like no other ve­hi­cle in this test. The nose pointed sky­wards and the rear end squirmed more than a politi­cian dur­ing a travel-ex­pense audit. I wouldn’t want to head to the lo­cal Bun­nings like this.

The Navara’s hitch had a ball down­force rat­ing of 300kg, less than the 10 per cent of load usu­ally used as a yard­stick for a towed 3500kg. Luck­ily, us­ing a fork­lift and pal­let as a coun­ter­weight meant we were able to move it around the get down­force and weight dis­tri­bu­tion to op­ti­mum lev­els. It would be hard to find a more bal­anced load to put be­hind a ve­hi­cle than the one we used!

Given the per­for­mance of the coils it would be in­ter­est­ing to test the leaf-sprung RX dual-cab cab-chas­sis, even if it does have a less pow­er­ful 2.3-litre sin­gle-turbo en­gine, to see if the leaves re­store con­trol. It’s also worth men­tion­ing that the NP300 doesn’t fea­ture trailer-sway con­trol.

Bump steer and squirm­ing rear end didn’t in­spire con­fi­dence tow­ing 3500kg.

Nissan’s adustable tie downs would be great if the eyes were big enough to ac­cept the hooks.

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