The idea of coming out with a special edition isn't particularly new to us. It's a time honored and effective marketing practice done by car manufacturers to boost the appeal of their models in the showroom; an activity usually done towards the middle or the latter stages of a particular model's production run.
And so I perfectly understand the why Nissan came up with the Navara Sport Edition; an extensive accessory package that significantly elevates the truck's character, something I would find out at our local, friendly neighborhood carwash. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The truck is now entering its third year since it made its global debut in 2014, followed by the domestic release in early 2015. Given that the model update is not yet due in the immediate future, it made sense for Nissan to give the Navara their own facelift of sorts, especially with so many new trucks in the market since it was launched.
The “Sport” moniker is not uncommon in the industry, but the way Nissan applied it is quite befitting the Navara, especially since they wanted to highlight the truck's abilities as a great lifestyle vehicle. On the outside, we can clearly spot the new grille, the the new front skirt (or chin, depending on your preference), the prominent 18-inch wheels, as well as the color-matched sports roll bar. Nissan even added a bedliner, finishing off the new look for the Sport Edition. And what's more is that there are two kinds of Sport Editions: the mid-range Navara EL Calibre 4x2 and this top-of-the-line 4x4 VL.
Inside, it's still the same, save for a few enhancements like the leather wrapped steering wheel, shift knob, and center console box lid. It's all quite nice, though I did find it surprising that they didn't specify full leather seats given that they've applied leather on the primary controls.
There are no mechanical upgrades to the Navara VL and that's fine. It comes fully loaded anyway and the 2.5-liter turbodiesel has plenty of power at 190 PS and, more importantly, 450 Newton-meters of torque at 2000 rpm. All that is channeled by a seven speed automatic to either the rear or all four wheels with the twist of the 4WD selector knob.
The unique thing about this truck is its use of a multi-link rear suspension with coil springs instead of the expected leaf spring suspension. Sure, it's still a rigid axle, but the rear suspension does give the Navara better stability than its leaf sprung contemporaries and definitely much better comfort. The use of a multi-link, coil sprung rear suspension also paves the way for the upcoming SUV version of the Navara, but we'll get to that much later.
Acceleration is great, as the power and torque of the engine come in to play nicely and smoothly. Cruising is great too, and I particularly liked the way the Navara handles our “ribbed” concrete; you don't really feel as much of it as you would most other pick-ups. There's also a good deal of silence inside; again, trucks aren't known for great NVH management.
As a hauler, yes, the Navara does it very well. There is a perception that because the Navara comes with coil springs that it won't be able to carry as much as the competition, but it can easily handle 1000 lbs in the back without breaking a sweat. The Navara's rear suspension can take the same weight as the other trucks yet maintain a level ride.
And of course, there are the off-road manners. On fast off-roading, it performs excellent and is able to maintain speed and keep up the confidence of the driver. On slower off-roading (trails) the torque is an great ally to have at your foot's command, easily allowing the Navara to surmount and surpass most obstacles in the way. Of course a bit part of it is being careful and focusing on technique and control, but with the Navara, it's all manageable.
But perhaps the final seal of approval came from those who wanted a closer look at the Navara Sport Edition when I was finally washing off all that mud. Judging by the reception and by the fellow customers who wanted to get a closer peek at the Navara's new groove and sample the clean interior and comfortable seats that were designed for very low fatigue, the Sport Edition is certainly hitting the right notes for Nissan.