DOUBLE THE FUN
Unashamedly macho, the Nissan Navara boasts a host of gadgetry as well as providing all of the space and convenience of a traditional pickup, says Neil Lyndon
The Nissan Navara double-cab pickup is unashamedly macho
“To be frank, you don’t meet many girls who thrill to the allure of the pickup
Picking a double-cab pickup used to be as simple as choosing between a Mars Bar or a Milky Way. Now the exercise has become so complex, you could spend a month swithering.
For decades, the choice was largely between one Japanese-built workhorse of the world, Toyota’s Hilux, and another, Mitsubishi’s L200. Both were much the same. Hardier and more durable than the stoutest brick outhouse, they were purely functional 4x4 vehicles which were purchased solely for work – on the farm, in the forest or on the building site. Nobody ever cared about the looks or the colour of a pickup and most owners left it to the rain to wash them clean. They were an attractive business proposition because they were cheap and they allowed purchasers to reclaim company car tax and VAT.
In recent years, however, many manufacturers have tried to worm their way into the market for pickups – not least because lots of people choose them instead of an SUV for lugging bulky kit for recreations like surfing, paragliding and such. Ford got into the game early with the Ranger; then VW with the Amarok and SsangYong with the Musso; more recently Mercedes has come out with X-Class. In the course of this competition, pickups have become increasingly gentrified with expensive accessories such as alloy wheels, leather upholstery, air-conditioning, top-notch audio systems, sound-proofing and flash chrome rodeo bars at the back. You can even get metallic paint.
They have also been made far more comfortable and less of an ordeal to drive. Pickups used to be built
on the chassis of a hay-cart, with leaf springs and agricultural shock absorbers; and they were as accurate to steer as a flat-bottomed barge in a hurricane. Now, all the kit and caboodle of advanced automotive technology has been brought to bear on the humble pickup with the result that some of them drive almost like a car.
These characteristics are to be found most completely in the Mercedes X-Class; but, for thousands of pounds less, you can buy largely the same box of tricks – including five-link rear suspension – in Nissan’s Navara which is built in the same Barcelona factory as the Mercedes.
The uncompromisingly macho appearance of our test car had been accentuated with a Safari Snorkel exhaust pipe sticking up beside the cab and making it look as if we were going to deliver supplies to a warzone when we were simply running out to the village shop. I liked this show-off device but the ladies in my household unanimously decried it as ridiculous. To be frank, you don’t meet many girls who thrill to the allure of the pickup.
The 2.3 litre twin-turbo engine in the AT32 Double Can version we borrowed generates a stout supply of torque or pulling power (enough to pull a 3.5 tonne towing load) and can push this large and heavy lump at perfectly respectable road speeds, with 0-60mph acceleration of around 10.5 seconds. More surprisingly, average fuel consumption is genuinely not far off the 40+ mpg the manufacturers claim. Off-road ability – with hill descent and hill start assist as standard – can be matched only by Land Rover products.
Our test car came with a flabbergasting list of equipment that covered an A4 sheet of paper in small, close-set type. I have driven pickups in the past that were fitted with heated seats and leather upholstery but never one with a reversing camera which projects its imagery in colour in the rear view mirror and all-round monitors that give a bird’s eye 360° view of the vehicle.
Cruise control has been a standard fitting in pickups for decades but this was the first I have found with a high resolution 7” touchscreen for the satnav and entertainment system. But then this was also the first pickup I have experienced which, at £45,225, I couldn’t easily afford to buy. What happened to the workhorse of the world?
Car or submarine: the Nissan Navara with its safari snorkel exhaust.