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Car reviews - Nissan - Navara - D40 range

Our Opinion

We like
Brilliant pulling power of V6 diesel, ESC now on all 4x4 crew cabs, comfortable ride
Room for improvement
Some models are expensive, four-cylinder diesel is noisier than most, chassis feels old

Nissan logo17 Feb 2012

By MIKE COSTELLO

THE Navara ST-X 550 already has a cult status. “Is that the 550?” is a question this writer has often heard when testing a Navara.

The 3.0-litre V6 diesel’s torque figure of 550Nm, which Nissan wisely promotes in its name, is at the heart of the excitement.

The first V6 diesel Navara arrived early last year, but Nissan is now capitalising on its status as the strongest engine in the class by dropping it into the ST-X as well.

We expecting the V6 to be much like the 2.5-litre ST-X four-cylinder, which belts out the power and torque but is not the smoothest or quietest engine around.

Expectations the V6 would be a gruff monster are dashed from the moment the accelerator is pressed. It is far smoother and quieter than its four-cylinder counterpart, although it generates a satisfying deep exhaust note, and does not need to work hard at all.

Nissan hooked up the V6 Navaras to trailers loaded with railway sleepers to be delivered to a Habitat for Humanity charity building project in an area ravaged by Victoria’s 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

Each load was about 2000kg, (counting the trailer), but you would not guess that from the driver’s seat.

This author has towed a rally car (1600kg with trailer) using the existing ST-X four-cylinder, which was impressive. It lugged the load with ease generally, although the engine worked hard when accelerating from a stop.

In the case of the V6, the Navara did not break into a sweat, acting as if nothing was attached to the tow ball, even up the demanding uphill Black Spur run.

Official figures suggest the V6 is not much thirstier than the four-pot (which is quite economical in real world driving), but for true figures, we will have to wait for a longer test.

The competent seven-speed torque-converter-type automatic transmission changes cleanly and avoids hunting, aided by the copious torque.

Nissan’s best-selling model, the ST, gets the upgraded ST-X version of the 2.5-litre four-cylinder.

This diesel pulls extremely well, but is not as refined as newer-generation diesels. On and off the throttle, the sound of the turbocharger spooling down can be quite intrusive, but at light throttle, the racket reduces.

The five-speed automatic does the job, but the changes can be a bit jerky.

While the exterior of the Navara has not changed in the seven years it has been around, the interior dates back only two years and stands up pretty well to the newer offerings, although the Mazda BT-50 and Ford Ranger lift the bar.

The ST and ST-X have a clean and tidy instrument cluster and centre console, and all the controls are easy to use.

There are enough features here to match the price, including Bluetooth phone connectivity and dual-zone climate control.

Some people might expect more luxury inside the ST-X, given its $56,990 price tag, but these dual cabs are not cheap, especially with an in-built premium for V6 diesel.

The ST-X 550, however, has all the comforts such as heated leather seats, satellite navigation and reversing camera, making the top-shelf Navara a comfortable cruiser.

All the Navara 4x4 crew cabs have fairly cushy suspension, which is helpful for bumpy roads and off-road driving.

Unlike the Ranger and BT-50, the Navara’s ladder frame can be felt wiggling over imperfect roads. This was once just par for the course, but the new Ford-Mazda machine makes this far less noticeable.

In corners and tight maneuvering, the Navara is also a bit clumsier than the newest members of the one-tonne workhorse club.

The pricing is a real mixed bag. Features are more plentiful now, but some prices have risen on models that were already pricey. However, cheaper models from other brands (including the great value BT-50), as well as more expensive ones in the class.

The Navara is getting-on in a class that is flush with new product, but it is still one of the best workhorse utes about. The design is rugged and tough and has aged well. It is comfortable and appears on-par in terms of value.

Its ace card is the potent V6, which is a stand-out in the class, and well worth considering – if you can afford it.

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