Changes to Navara will carry it through 2018

Selwyn and Ashburton Outlook - - MOTORING - DAMIEN O’CAR­ROLL

When Nis­san launched the NP300 Navara back in 2014, much was made of the five-link coil-spring rear sus­pen­sion.

It could han­dle the same weight as the leaf-spring set up, but brought sig­nif­i­cant ride and han­dling ben­e­fits to the ute seg­ment.

Ex­cept it didn’t re­ally.

While the Navara was one of the bet­ter-han­dling utes when un­laden, the ride qual­ity wasn’t any­where near the top of the seg­ment, and both only got worse as you added weight.

Nis­san has now re­leased an up­dated ver­sion of the Navara fea­tur­ing lit­tle in the way of visual change, but a lot of un­der­the-skin tin­ker­ing with said sus­pen­sion.

The sus­pen­sion re­vi­sion was un­der­taken at the in­sis­tence of Nis­san Aus­tralia, which saw much test­ing done in that coun­try, specif­i­cally in the cen­tral Vic­to­ria ar­eas around Bendigo and Kinglake (where the re­vised ve­hi­cle was launched), mean­ing that the roads are ac­tu­ally rather sim­i­lar to our own here in New Zealand.

The new sus­pen­sion setup has been de­vel­oped specif­i­cally for the dual-cab SL, ST and ST-X mod­els (the big­gest-sell­ing vari­ants in both coun­tries) and fea­tures a new dual-spring-rate sys­tem.

The first stage of the sys­tem is a slower spring rate that al­lows for a more com­fort­able ride ei­ther un­laden or with a light load, while the sec­ond stage has a higher spring rate that al­lows for heav­ier loads with­out com­pro­mis­ing ride or han­dling.

Nis­san has also in­cor­po­rated a dy­namic re­bound damper.

When fully loaded the damper is de­signed to con­tact the chas­sis rail which causes the damper to com­press and the re­sis­tance to in­crease – re­duc­ing lat­eral body move­ment and, ac­cord­ing to Nis­san, im­prov­ing the Navara’s han­dling and sta­bil­ity.

The most ob­vi­ous visual re­sult of the new sus­pen­sion is the fact that the rear of the Navara now sits 25mm higher than the pre­vi­ous ver­sion when un­laden, while not drop­ping any­where near as much as the old truck when car­ry­ing a full load. Along with the me­chan­i­cal tweaks, the Navara gets a load of new safety and driver as­sist sys­tems for 2018, in­clud­ing a 360-de­gree Around View mon­i­tor (stan­dard on the ST-X), sec­ond row Isofix child seat mount­ing points (on all dual cab ver­sions) and ex­panded avail­abil­ity of rear view cam­eras (now stan­dard on all pickup vari­ants) and satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion (added to King Cab ST).

From June 2018 all SL, ST and ST-X mod­els will also fea­ture a new dig­i­tal speedome­ter and ex­tra (or repo­si­tioned, de­pend­ing on the model) tie-down points to help bet­ter se­cure loads.

En­gines and trans­mis­sions re­main the un­changed across the range, with the RX re­tain­ing its 120kW/403Nm sin­gle-turbo ver­sion of the 2.3-litre diesel en­gine, while ev­ery­thing else keeps the 140kW/450Nm twin­turbo ver­sion, with a choice of ei­ther a six-speed man­ual or a seven-speed au­to­matic.

What ex­actly are the ef­fects of these sus­pen­sion re­vi­sions on the Navara?

Well, Nis­san launched the 2018 ver­sion with a drive out of Mel­bourne around the Kinglake area, with a num­ber of dual-cab mod­els ei­ther un­laden, car­ry­ing a 650kg pay­load or tow­ing var­i­ous trail­ers with up to 1600kg on them, giv­ing us three dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios to try out.

First up, the un­laden Navara had a no­tice­ably bet­ter ride on the ex­tremely bro­ken roads of ru­ral Vic­to­ria.

Far less busy and brit­tle, the Navara now eas­ily sits up there with the Holden Colorado and Mit­subishi Tri­ton in terms of un­laden ride, and ever-so-slightly short of the Ford Ranger.

It still doesn’t match the VW Amarok, al­though the gap is now far less ob­vi­ous.

Han­dling is im­proved as well, while the sharper steer­ing (and sur­pris­ingly good steer­ing feel for a ute) makes for a pleas­ant up­grade as well.

But it is when ei­ther car­ry­ing or tow­ing a load that the new Navara im­presses the most.

With 650kg on the back the Navara was even more com­posed and com­fort­able, par­tic­u­larly on some of the rough gravel sec­tions of the drive route.

On the gravel sec­tions it re­ally shone with a hefty trailer on the back.

Here it re­mained nicely com­posed and com­fort­able, un­fazed by the loose sur­face and roughly 1200kg out the back.

Even go­ing into one cor­ner un­in­ten­tion­ally too hot didn’t bother the Navara.

The changes Nis­san has per­formed on the Navara’s rear sus­pen­sion have cer­tainly im­proved both ride and han­dling, but par­tic­u­larly its abil­ity to carry or tow a load with­out com­pro­mis­ing that ride and han­dling in a sig­nif­i­cant way.

While it looks the same as be­fore, the 2018 Navara is a far bet­ter ve­hi­cle than it was, mak­ing it well worth another look if you pre­vi­ously dis­missed it on the strength (or lack thereof) of its ride.

The 2018 Navara range starts at $37,990 for the 2WD RX sin­gle cab chas­sis man­ual and tops out with the 4WD ST-X dou­ble cab well­side at $64,490.

Same look as pre­vi­ous model, but the new Navara has ma­jor changes to steer­ing, sus­pen­sion and safety equip­ment.

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