Steane Klose | Feb 17, 2012 | 11 Comments


The 4x4 Dual Cab ute market is on the boil, growing at a steady three percent per year, year on year, and it’s not looking like letting up.

And, with the 'new guard' of model releases - like Ranger/BT-50 and Amarok - offering car-like levels of comfort and features, it's the best of times for buyers wanting to combine comfortable family transport with off-road and load-lugging abilities.

The pressure though is now on the dominant players in the 4x4 Dual Cab Market, Toyota and Nissan.

Of the 75,000 Dual Cab utes that were sold in 2011, Toyota’s Hilux was the choice of 25 percent of buyers and Nissan’s Navara an almost line-ball 24 percent.

There is a lot at stake here for Nissan Australia; the Navara accounts for 30 percent of its sales.

Toyota’s response has been to upgrade the Hilux inside and out while sharpening the pricing (when Toyota drops the price of Hilux you know the competition is making waves).

Nissan's response is to add more standard features across the range, powering-up the 2.5 litre four-cylinder turbo and making the ‘big-gun’ V6 diesel a permanent fixture for ST-X buyers.


Driveability - Towing Test

To give us a taste of the new models on offer, Nissan put us to work towing trailer-loads of sleepers to a property in Buxton, where Habitat For Humanity were working to repair damage from the Black Saturday fires.

The V6 diesel Navaras (ST-X and ST-X 550) did the towing - rated to tow 3,000kgs.

We took the Navaras through the hills of Eltham, up through Healesville and Narbethong and on to Buxton. The mix of hills and winding roads and a two-tonne load highlighted the V6’s strengths.

When it comes to towing, it has the edge over all others in the segment with its abundance of torque (550Nm) available low in the rev-range. Only Ranger and BT-50 can come close.

There is less lag off the mark as well, and this alone makes a huge difference to the V6’s driveability.

Caress the pedal and the V6 responds enthusiastically, even with two-tonne on-board. Do the same in Amarok or Triton and you are left waiting for the turbo(s) to spool.

Both the six speed auto (ST) and seven-speed auto (ST-X and ST-X 550), are smooth operators. Manual mode produces fast, smooth changes within set parameters.

Get carried away though and your gear selection request will be overridden.

But, in general use, the manual mode allows more control, and makes accessing the natural engine-braking characteristics of the diesels easy - something especially useful when towing.


Refinement and liveability

The V6 isn’t the quietest diesel out there (interestingly the ST-X 550 seemed quieter than the ST-X despite being the same engine), but when it comes to hard graft, the V6 Navara is the most effortless.

We also sampled the 2.5-litre turbo-diesel Navara, which is now only available in ST guise. Notably, engine outputs are up; the 2.5-litre now producing 140kW and 450Nm (previously 126kW and 403Nm).

The extra grunt is immediately noticeable in the 2012 ST. It proved a reasonably spirited performer on the trails around Narbethong.

The ST is as easy to drive as any large sedan, with only the load-carrying rear spring rates revealing its more utilitarian origins.

The Navara’s ride is tuned to on-road use, it's firm but nicely compliant and quite well controlled for a big work rig.

There is none of the rear-end jiggle that you’ll find in a D-Max or Hilux, and it’s more sure-footed than the softer sprung and under-damped Triton.

Off-road, the firmer ride works against it a little; here, Hilux and Triton claw back some ground, but it still acquits itself well.


Our First Drive Verdict

We’ll wait for some extended test drives before passing final judgement on the MY12 Navara range. For now though, if it’s V6 diesel power you want, then the Navara is your only choice. No other manufacturer currently offers a V6 diesel in their 4x4 ute range.

From there, it will depend on your intended use.

The new features are a genuine step forward for the Navara range. Whether it now has the firepower to match the Ranger only a longer test over more-varied conditions will tell.

If you're in the market, you're spoiled for choice at the moment. For that gutsy diesel and on-road comfort, the Navara is certainly a contender.


D40 Navara MY12 - 4x4 Dual Cab Model Range

Navara RX Dual Cab 4x4

  • Built - Thailand
  • Features - bench seats have been upgraded to bucket seats, and vinyl floor to carpet, with rubber mats.
  • Engines – A 2.5 turbo-diesel producing 126kW/403Nm.
  • Safety – 4-Stars ANCAP
  • Pricing – Starts at $39,600 for the manual (auto is a $2,250 option).

Navara ST Dual Cab 4x4

  • Built - Spain
  • Features – Standard features now include 17 inch alloys, 5 channel Utili Track system, six airbags, 60/40 split-fold rear seats, three child seat anchor points, dual-zone airconditioning, choice of six speed manual or five speed automatic (with manual mode) and CD player with USB connectivity.
  • Engines – 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo now produces 140kW/450Nm
  • Pricing – $46,800 for the manual (auto is a $2,250 option).

Navara ST-X Dual Cab 4x4

  • Built - Spain
  • Features – Standard features now include a 7-speed automatic (with manual mode), CD player with USB connectivity, alloy sports bar, fog lights, rear under-seat storage and privacy glass in the rear doors.
  • Engines – 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel with 170kW/550Nm
  • Safety – 4-Stars ANCAP
  • Pricing – $56,990

Navara ST-X 550 Dual Cab 4x4

  • Built - Spain
  • Features – In addition to the ST-X standard features the ST-X 550 gets leather trim, heated front seats, a Bose audio system, satellite navigation, reversing camera (with predictive path technology) and a satin black sports bar with integrated LED stop light.
  • Engines – 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel with 170kW/550Nm
  • Safety – 4-Stars ANCAP
  • Pricing – $62,990, $2000 less than the previous ST-X 550 (with the premium Option package).


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