Six Degrees of Separation

Six Degrees of Separation image

Text: Jude Morte / Photos: Brent Co, Jude Morte | posted July 17, 2008 00:00

The Navara 6Speeds Challenge

The idea of six degrees of separation refers to the notion that any two individuals or things are connected by at most six others. Similarly, Universal Motors Corporation's (UMC, exclusive distributor of Nissan light commercial vehicles) idea of six degrees of separation refers to the fact that six automotive ideas are connected purely to the Nissan Frontier Navara.

Or something like that.

Buoyed by the success of its wildly popular pickup, UMC decided to create additional awareness for the Navara brand with an activity known as the Navara Six Speeds Challenge, highlighting the notion that at least six automotive features have reached its zenith in the beast of burden.

The first idea featured was the exterior, which made itself known within the UMC headquarters along Chino Roces Avenue. With a front resembling its larger Titan sibling, plus a side and rear profile that combines utility, technological advancement (particularly in the computer aided design department) and lifestyle elements, it isn't any surprise that the Navara 4x4 variants are all sold out, according to UMC senior vice president (marketing group) Elizabeth Lee. In fact she extolled the pickup's virtues - exterior included - right before scribes took turns checking out the Navara's numbers crunch for a "pop quiz" of sorts re UMC's newest product. "The Six Speeds Challenge is meant to demonstrate to you the technological superiority of the Frontier Navara, as well as the lifestyle that only a true sport utility truck can enable," said Ms. Lee in a privileged speech before the event proper.

The second feature highlighted was the interior. Breaking new ground with a light khaki colorway, a steering wheel similar to its 350Z sportscar sibling, lighting between the front visors and in the middle of the ceiling, relaxing fabric seatcovers and the opportunity for rear occupants to sit comfortably (instead of squatting), the resulting ambience was one of relaxation. Couple the aforementioned features with the trademark cold Nissan air conditioning and this writer (along with Top Gear Philippines off road guru Beeboy Bargas and Auto Review producer Ronald de los Reyes) were very much loose for the trip from the UMC showroom to Subic.

The third feature emphasized was the Navara's strong 2.5L engine. Effortlessly getting off the line to beat a bevy of utility vehicles (like the Toyota Hilux and the Isuzu D-Max) and a number of passenger cars throughout the metro and the highway, the Navara made use of all its 142 hp, 356 NM of torque and its fat powerband to move this writer, Bargas, de los Reyes and the team's gear throughout the Makati area, EDSA and the North Luzon Expressway en route to Subic for fuel consumption measurement. Waking up the turbo (2,250 rpm for partial boost) and getting into the powerband (1,900 rpm) were relatively easy due to the robust curve.

Fourth was the Navara's six-speed transmission. Arguably the biggest focal point of the pickup, one exercise in the challenge required participants to remain in sixth gear as long as possible, running the length of the SCTEX (Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway). Coupling with the strong torque to move nearly 1730 kg of pickup at 50-70 kph, the pickup's extra gear enables the engine to exhale a little bit more at the top end pep before reaching its power curve plateau - an advantage when it comes to highway emergency lane changes and fuel consumption.

Next was Navara's ability to get power and torque to the ground anywhere. One drill required journalists to move through an off road course - chock full of knee deep ruts, a virtual mud bowl (roughly 200 meters in diameter) and a 38-degree incline - in one minute and fifteen seconds exactly, with time penalties meted out to those who have to put the vehicle in reverse, arrive too early or too late at the finish line. The Navara's mechanical limited slip differential and even gearing worked closely with the engine to move it successfully through the muck, with Bargas the only driver to successfully run through the course in the exact prescribed time.

Lastly, the Navara's suspension and eight cross member chassis showed that the Navara is now more lifestyle than utilitarian. Whether it was on tarmac or mud, the Navara's ride comfort now rivals its Patrol sibling, giving Bargas, de los Reyes and this writer great opportunities to relax or discuss strategy within the cabin. And all that happened without any load at the back of the pickup bed, normally a problem with vehicles that have leafspring-mounted rear suspensions.

There's a chance that the memory of the rest of the tasks in the Navara 6Speeds Challenge may be forgotten - along with the winners - but this writer will always recall the six degrees of separation. Six degrees that make the Navara different - in a very positive, sales-generating way - from the rest of the pickup lot.