Off-Road Test: Nissan Navara PRO-4X

Bold, new-look Navara gets even tougher with the PRO-4X. We drive it off-road.

2021 Nissan Navara PRO-4X
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NISSAN Australia has sought to give its Navara range of mid-size utes a boost in sales with a 2021 update centred on a bolder new look. The front end takes styling cues from its big brother in the USA, the Nissan Titan full-size pickup, to give the previously stylish Navara a muscled-up look. Think of it as going to the gym for pickup trucks.

The bigger radiator grille is backed by a taller bonnet line and this added height is taken through to the back of the truck with a taller cargo tub.

Nissan has taken the tougher look a step further with the introduction of a new PRO-4X model that is now the top-spec in the extensive Navara range. The Navara PRO-4X is only available as a 4x4 double-cab ute and starts at $59,790 with the 6-speed manual gearbox or $61,290 with the 7-speed automatic. We’ve got the Navara PRO-4X with the auto here for review.

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POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE

NISSAN has carried over its powertrains for the 2021 Navara update and that means the 2.3-litre, 4-cylinder diesel engine in either a single or bi-turbo induction configuration depending on the model specification. The PRO-4X gets the bi-turbo engine that makes 140kw of power and 450Nm of torque which are middle-of-the-road figures for cars in this class.

Despite the modest numbers, the 2.3 gets along sprightly with linear power delivery through the range of throttle applications, working well with the 7-speed auto to keep things moving along. The engine is smooth and responsive when asked for more and it does so with a minimum of engine noise.

A minor gripe with the auto transmission is one that applies to other Nissan 4x4s as well; the conservative calibration of the manual selection never lets the driver shift down a gear when he or she wants to. When driving off road in low range, you need to come to a complete standstill before the transmission allows you to select first gear before a descent when you expect to be able to make the selection at a crawling pace.

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ON ROAD RIDE & HANDLING

THE Navara is almost unique in the mid-size ute class in that it is offered with a choice of traditional leaf-spring rear suspension or coil springs depending on the variant spec. The SsangYong Musso is the only other vehicle to offer such a choice.

As the top-spec model the PRO-4X only comes with the coils which provide a softer and more comfortable ride than the leafs which are best suited to load carrying. The coil-sprung Navara exhibits none of that harsh, jittery ride that is so typical of leaf-sprung 1-tonne utes with no added weight on the back end which, for most drivers, is most of the time.

Nissan has revised the suspension and steering calibrations several times since the launch of the D23 model to varying degrees of success and this latest setting is the closest yet to getting it right. It is compliant and well-balanced but still gets a bit upset over uneven roads where it feels like the back end isn’t working in situ with the front of the car. But that’s really come to the point of nitpicking as this is the best all-coil Navara to date, short of the aftermarket-tuned Navara N-Trek Warrior; a new version of which Nissan is yet to confirm. Fingers crossed!

We are yet to drive the 2021 Navara with a load or trailer on the back but in previous tests, we found the leaf-spring rear end is still the pick if you want to regularly haul some weight behind it. It all comes back to what you need most from the ute, comfort or carrying capacity.

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OFF ROAD

THE compliance of the coil rear suspension works well off road as well as delivering a slinky ride over uneven terrain until the suspension runs out of travel and it lifts a wheel. We did notice that the PRO-4X showed less wheel lift on a small rutted track where other 1-tonne utes lift them spectacularly, much to the disappointment of our photographer.

The 4x4 Navaras get a rear differential lock to back up the electronic traction control, however the PRO-4X failed to get up one particular section of track that we drove a Ranger FX4-Max up the week before. The calibration of the ETC could be sharper and the ETC remains active on the front wheels when the rear locker is engaged to rectify this.

The only performance effecting change to the Navara for the PRO-4X model over the other variants is the fitment of all-terrain tyres, however the Yokohama ATs are some of the tamest all terrains we’ve seen and certainly wouldn’t have helped the Navvie up that tricky pinch. The tyres are 255/65R17 in size.

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CABIN & ACCOMMODATION

PERSONALLY, I’ve always liked the cabin of the D23. It’s a comfortable and well-configured cabin with all the controls easily falling within the driver’s reach. Changes for the 2021 update are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but it all still works well. There’s an 8-inch AV screen with built-in sat-nav and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

New to the screen is an around-car view for off roading. When in low range the screen shows the terrain directly in front of the vehicle and normally hidden by the bonnet, as well as down the sides of the vehicle. On road, the screen gives a 360-degree view which is great for parking.

The PRO-4X’s interior is dolled up with black accents and red badging. The leather seats are model specific but are manual adjustment with no heating function; you need to go to the lower STX grade to get power adjustment and heating where they are available as an option. The seats themselves are flat and very comfortable with plenty of adjustment to get the driver in the ideal position. This is helped by a steering column that’s adjustable for height only, not adjustable for reach.

Dual-zone climate control is standard and for auxiliary power, there are a UBS point and 3mm input at the front of the console, another USB inside the console and another one at the rear of the console for rear-seat passengers. There are also two 12-volt ciggie outlets. A novel feature is the power-opening rear window, which would be handy if you had a canopy fitted to the tub. The Navara is also available with a power sunroof, which is a rare option in modern utes.

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PRACTICALITIES

NISSAN upped the Navara’s safety equation in this 2021 update with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure and blind-spot warning, trailer-sway control, lane-departure intervention and most important of all, safety features, as well as a tyre-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) to keep the driver in touch with the status of the tyres.

LED headlights are still a rarity in the ute segment and not only do the PRO-4X’s quad LED lights look cool but they boost safety with a solid beam that is better than any OE halogen lights we’ve used.

The company also upped the load capacity so that all Navaras have at least a 1-tonne payload. For the PRO-4X it comes in at 1004kg, which is handy for a top-spec double-cab variant. Maybe that’s why the PRO-4X misses out on the heavier power-adjustable seats, to maintain that 1000kg-plus payload. Towing capacity is the industry standard 3500kg.

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The cargo tub is deeper than in the past so there’s more capacity there. The side walls of the tub feature Nissan’s Intelli-Track adjustable lashing points, while there are four fixed lashing points down low. There’s no 12-volt power outlet in the tub. The rear bumper now has a step in it to make accessing the tub easier.

The black PRO-4X sports bar serves no purpose other than looks and in fact, can hamper access to gear in the tub.

The air intake to the engine faces forward, above the off-side headlight, and Nissan quotes the wading depth as just 600mm, so it’s below some other utes in the class.

Nissan has launched the 2021 Navara with an extensive range of factory accessories including winch-compatible bullbars, a Warn VR winch, underbody protection and an intake snorkel (no change to wading depth). Important here is that all the genuine Nissan accessories work with the updated safety features and their cameras and radar.

The Navara has always been a popular model so you can bet the aftermarket will have new accessories to fit the revised front end any time now.

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VERDICT

WHILE most of the changes to the 2021 and the PRO-4X are aesthetic, the new safety equipment is a worthwhile addition and brings the Nissan up to spec with the latest and safest utes in the class.

Things like the LED headlights and TPMS might seem gimmicky but are important, practical features to improve the overall safety package. The revised suspension and steering feel better than previously, with improved driver feedback and a more integrated package.

 

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