Another new arrival for 2015, the Navara NP300 – also known as the D23 – replaced both the (two generation old) D22 and the last generation D40 in Nissan’s ute line-up.
The NP300 stands out here for a number of reasons. Firstly, all bar one come with coil springs at the rear, and the NP300 is the only ute here to have two turbos rather than one — a smaller and a larger turbo are arranged sequentially on a 2.3-litre engine of Renault origin.
You can get a Navara dual-cab 4x4 with leaf springs at the rear, but only in the base-spec RX cab-chassis, and only with a single-turbo version (120kW) of the 2.3.
The Navara has adjustable tie-downs, but the eyes need to be bigger. The rear dropped by 100mm with the 800kg pallet in the back, a lot more than all the other utes here bar the Triton.
Like the Triton, the 800kg pallet also causes problems for the Navara’s legal payload when you take into account the extra weight of the driver, observer and towbar. The lighter ST is okay, but the heavier ST-X is not.
Underway and up the winding hill, the Navara doesn’t feel great chassis-wise with the 800kg on board. It bottoms out frequently over the bumps, and the sway from the rear is far more an issue than with the leaf-sprung vehicle. All in all, it doesn’t feel happy.
Far better news with the engine, however, which dismisses the 800kg in the tray, readily getting on with the job in more than admirable fashion. It’s still a bit noisier under load than what you expect of a modern-design European diesel, but, then again, it was originally designed for commercial-vehicle application, which will hopefully bode well for longevity.
The Navara is also unusual here with a sevenspeed auto, which does most things well. No auto downshifts, however, on the descent with the load on board, which means resorting to the tip-shift function as the engine braking from the small, low-compression diesel isn’t great.
The coil sprung multi-link rear end of the Nissan was the subject of much speculation in the leadup to the tow test. The NP300 was launched with an emphasis on towing prowess, but our worst fears were confirmed when its rear plummeted with a 3500kg load behind it.
The twin-turbo 2.3-litre engine is another donk that does a lot with what it’s got. Sequential turbocharging makes the most of the relatively small engine capacity. Again, it has to be held back to stop rpm running away downhill, but with enough right foot it has the grunt to have a go. But the biggest area of concern is the chassis. I don’t say this lightly, but this suspension should not be rated at 3500kg towing. It’s dangerous. Under load, the NP300 bump steered like no other vehicle in this test. The nose points skywards and the rear end squirms. I wouldn’t want to head to the local Bunnings like this, let alone around Australia.
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 load at
3.5 tonne. Luckily, using a forklift and pallet as a counterweight meant we could move it around to get downforce and weight distribution to its optimum level.
The single-cab and extra-cab N300 in the
Navara range sit on leaf springs and are solid workhorses. There is one dual-cab variant that sits on leaf springs, but it is only available with the lower-output single-turbo engine.
Most dual-cab buyers are leaning towards the higher-spec variants of all these utes, and it stands to reason that punters wanting to tow are going to head towards the higher-output engine.
Given the loaded performance of the coilsprung rear end, I’d suggest its tow rating should be downrated and leaf springs offered across the range as a heavy tow pack option. The coils are way too compromised for hard work under load. It’s also worth mentioning the NP300 doesn’t feature trailer sway control.
All Nissan Navara NP300 dual-cab pick-ups, bar one base-spec variant, have coil rather than leaf springs at the rear