Just what are we doing in Australia driving a Navara that seemingly looks the same (sans the accessories) as the one that Nissan has in the Philippine market?
Were we brought here to just enjoy the view? We wouldn't fault them for that; Australia, after all, has some incredibly picturesque scenery. Were we brought here to just enjoy the food? Australia has some great cuisine, all of which are fresh from their farms, ranches, and seas.
Knowing Nissan, a company that knows how to communicate something so very well, all hints point to something more. They wanted to tell us something with the Navara we're behind the wheel of, and Australia, it seems, has the best roads to make that message rise to the surface.
To get the technical stuff out of the way, the D23 is the second Nissan model to carry the Navara nameplate from its long history of tough and durable pickups. We found it strange for Nissan to code back from the D40, as it was preceded by the D22. Initially labeled NP300, a common nomenclature found in Nissan LCV and CV models such as the NV350.
But while this looks the same (at least once you remove the accessories), this is actually an updated version. It just so happens that the upgrades weren't made to the body or the interior, but to the mechanical bits and pieces.
Nissan brought us here to try out the new Navara which now has an upgraded steering system and a new, dual-rate progressive rear coil spring set up. And we're going to test the enhancements on some pretty incredible roads... paved, or not at all.
Starting off from Perth, we drove south and played in the sand by the coast of Bouvard in Mandurah and further to explore the many forests, and down to Margaret River. We drove on clay, light mud and gravel roads, all to get to a campsite.
The new steering update does give the Navara a much better response and feedback, even on the loose surfaces. It does give that extra level of confidence in the various terrain we drove on. The steering feel, a normal Nissan LCV trait, might need a bit of tuning, as it still is on the heavy side. That, it seems, was the common experience we all shared by the campfire at the night.
The next day, we took the Navara out by the coastline to the lighthouse of Cape Leeuwin, as we drove along the coastal highway. It is interesting to note that Cape Leeuwin is where two oceans meet (Indian Ocean and Southern Ocean). From the sea, we went up the mountain through a rather rocky and sandy trail better appreciate the toughness of the Navara.
The new rear coil springs have managed to deliver on the promise of better comfort and stability. While I was seated mostly in front, or the driver’s seat, you could still feel the rear was more ‘attached’ and stable. Vehicle control was also much better on and off road. There was a very slight improvement of comfort in terms of the ride at the back, but that’s because it was already good before the change.
However, the biggest improvement on the rear suspension is that it doesn’t dip that much anymore with the bed loaded. And this matters a lot for many pickup truck owners who use their vehicle as workhorses or for work and play.
On the tricky terrain, we also were able to try out the around-view monitor package, something that has been available in the Philippines since March. The around-view monitor proved to be just as helpful a tool for navigating uncertain terrain (i.e. rocks) with precision as it is for maneuvering into tight spaces. It really is an extra set of eyes; something useful for long vehicles. Although, I was honestly looking for the off-road mode of the around view monitor, as experienced on the Terra.
The Navara we drove was also fitted with the 2.3-liter twin-turbo diesel engine, a completely different powertrain from the 2.5-liter Euro-4 turbodiesel that we get. The Euro-6 engine proved to be smooth throughout the rev range, though it did lack a bit of low-end punch off boost; that's something about displacement that you just can’t replace.
On our last day, we set off from serene and scenic Empire Retreat through some hills down to the coast to see the waves of Yallingup beach which attracted a good number of surfers that morning. After about half an hour, we then set off north to the charming port city of Fremantle.
The improvements while seemingly minimal, are quite significant. However, the steering and rear suspension upgrade are currently available only for the Australia and New Zealand markets. Nissan Philippines has yet to confirm whether they will be made available for our market, but having experienced the benefits personally, I really think they should.
The driving experience truly exemplified the tough and smart character of the Nissan Navara. A workhorse for the working man and a steed for the occasional woodsman who has a good eye for appreciation of life.
Driving pickups across Western Australia imbibed images of sun, surf, and sand. But as it turned out we got a lot more than we bargained for, sans the surfing, on our three-day adventure from Perth all the way down to the southern coastline of this massive continent, all while behind the wheel of the Nissan Navara.