Driven: All-new Nissan Navara

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navara20150303Nissan Philippines Inc. (NOI) took the motoring media to the sand dunes of la Paz, Ilocos Norte to show what the all-new Nissan Navara has got. It is their opening salvo to the truck wars.

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To begin with, NPI sent us on a fuel-economy run. The drive saw us flag off from Laoag, then drive to the windmills at Bangui, before doubling back to Paoay in Ilocos Norte. The drive covered a total of 141 kilometers. During the entire drive, our team soaked up the scenery and drove a leisurely pace between 60 and 80 kph and still managed to consume only 8.2 liters of fuel for the entire route—translating to17.1 kilometers traveled for every liter of fuel. Not bad for a automatic transmission 4WD vehicle. For those who are familiar with this route, this is mostly highway straightaways and flat, so do expect numbers to be lower on mountainous roads. But overall, the Navara will give you some pretty good numbers due to it 2.5-liter turbo diesel engine with 450 Nm of torque. Needless to say the 4X2 variant would do better economy due to the lack of the 4WD drivetrain’s weight.

For long highway drives, the ride quality of the rear multi-link coil-spring suspension was tops. It’s no wonder why premium 4WD makers have been using them for decades. The substantial lack of back pain form a rear sprung suspension is very noticeable after the long drive. I would say, near sedan-like, but not like a sedan, after all, these vehicles need to perform their primary task as haulers of thi ngs that only a true pickup truck user can imagine.

After a hearty lunch, it was time to put the Navara 4WD through its paces at the La Paz sand dunes, just outside of Laoag City.

After a briefing ,we where let loose on a track laid out on the dunes. As expected some airing down of the road-rated tires was necessary to again the necessary flotation needed on very loose sand. The 18-inch wheels of the Navara means lower profile tires which translated to better road handling. This also translates to a more controlled behaviour of the vehicle on the dips and undulations on the sandy surface at speeds. Another advantage of the multi-link rear coil-spring is the lack of tendency to fishtail the vehicle when on straightline speeds, giving the driver an extra sense of stability and confidence. Truly the new rear suspension will play a pivoting role in how pick up trucks are to be chosen by the lifestyle segment of the pick up truck market. The only downside of the low profile tires is that road imperfections are now more noticeable to the driver and passengers. Fortunately, the rider was not as harsh with its rear coil springs.

The automatic transmission used on the Navara is the same transmission used on the GTR sports car which translates to a technological leap in driving the new Navara. It is so intelligent that it may even surprise even the most seasoned off-road drivers. When driving the all-new Navara, my advice is to keep it in auto, stomp on the trotthle and enjoy.

Nissan truly has every right to scream out to the market that they are the truck to watch out for. Historically, the Nissan brand has been a leader in technological innovations ever since they introduced ABS braking the early 1990’s. It seems they intend to do the same now, and also in the future.

Most 4WD pickups in the market are now blistering with electronic driver aids that make the vehicles more safe to drive. Armed with a myriad of features including stability control, traction control, hill hold and hill descend controls, Nissan upped the ante in the mechanical side by equipping the entire Navara product line with rear multi-link coil-spring suspension, which in theory, will give the driver more controlled handling of the vehicle nboth on and off-road.

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