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"Dirt", December 1, 2012

NAVARA NIRVANA

APPROACHING 20,000KM, WE CHECK IN ON THE UTE THAT GETS US WHERE WE NEED TO GO

WORDS BY DAMIEN ASHENHURST

PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAMIEN ASHENHURST

It’s going to be interesting to see whether other manufacturers will be offering a V6 turbo diesel dual-cab in 2013. As it stands, the Nissan is the only one and, having mowed down a tonne of kays in the last few months, I can tell you it’s a big selling point for me. The three-litre V6 is so good for towing it’s almost a no-brainer choice for the moto market. The four-star ANCAP safety rating is a plus as well (side and curtain airbags would have given it a five-star rating, a score that’s rare in this market). There aren’t many sports that involve as much road travel as ours does and a vehicle built for performance and safety is essential, especially with groms on board. ABS and VST work to make the car better and safer at all times.

The Navara does big business for Nissan and is taking big bites out of Toyota’s market share. To even think a few years ago that the HiLux could be overtaken in the sales department was tantamount to insanity. The Navara is making waves and taking sales that many others have failed to capture.

A 4WD with that much grunt can sometimes be a handful in the bush when some subtle power delivery is needed. I’ve found that the bottom-end delivery of those 550Nm is pretty easy to handle and I’ve certainly put it to use a fair bit. While we’ve got the ST-X we’ve been using it to find good out-of-the-way places for new tracks and even rediscovering old ones in the process.

The soundtrack to the past month’s exploration has come from my rediscovery of Nirvana’s Nevermind CD and so the Nissan was briefly rebranded the Nirvara. Catchy, hey? That’s why I get paid the big bucks.

GONE TREKKING

One of the tracks I frequently use has about four kilometres of dirt road leading up to it with a couple of deepish waterholes and one loose and steep hill to climb.

When I go in by myself, I have no problem getting up or through anything in the way and never upset the bike in the back. When I take other blokes into there now, though, a couple of them have to take their utes the long way around on the tar road. They can get in eventually on the rough road but they get tossed around so much and the bikes and gear in the back have to be tied down like King Kong. I honestly never noticed it was getting that bad till it was pointed out because the Nirvara (smells like ute spirit) didn’t have any problems and didn’t buck around much at all.

The ease of driving off road coupled with the brilliant drive characteristics on road highlights the dual-purpose role the Navara plays so well. It feels like a car — not a lumbering, rear-end-sliding, unbalanced beast (sounds like a mother-in-law).

LOOK MA, NO HANDS

Some of the little things that make the Navara such a cool car are the very good stereo which accepts Bluetooth, stereo jack and USB connectivity, plus the ability to switch to the seven-speed manual mode.

The stereo gets a workout and given the huge amount of time we spend driving it’s no small thing that it sounds good. The soundtrack to a six-hour drive can mean the difference between a good drive and a miserable one, particularly on the endless, dead-straight highways we have so many of in Australia.

The Bluetooth connectivity means I have full hands-free mobile use with the calls coming in through the stereo. The iPod goes in via the USB input and there’s one more input left for whatever you might have left. That USB also charges your device so it’s easy to have two things running and charging at the same time.

I’ve really only used the manual mode in the bush when I was looking for more engine braking than the auto selection would give. Towing a trailer into the bush can be tricky at the best of times but this gives me a little more control over everything.

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