Every once in a while an automaker proves us skeptics wrong, and this was one such case for sure. I’ve always felt that a majority of ‘lifestyle’ pick-up trucks out there today are mainly built for the ‘urban’ jungle, rather than an actual jungle, seeing as how most who buy these trucks for personal use are city-dwellers anyway. Case in point the Toyota Hilux. It had the strongest reputation for toughness and versatility of any truck ever made, and that abruptly ended after the last Hilux SR version, with the famed double rigid-axles.
The current Hilux is more a luxury SUV with a cargo bed than a tough and rugged 4×4 pick-up truck. I’m not kidding, I drove one recently and it felt nothing like a truck! After a while I thought I was in a VW Toureg. Well recently, Edaran Tan Chong Motor, the importers and assemblers of the Nissan brand here in Malaysia, decided to prove to us once and for all, that despite also feeling like a luxe-SUV rather than a burly pick-up truck, that its Navara was more than up to the task of tackling more than just the urban jungle.
I’m not sure if this started on a dare or ETCM’s management agreed on this during an overtly rowdy Friday night after-work party, but what they had in store for the Navara – and in turn, us – was nothing short of biblical. It would first involve a flight to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
We pretty much hit the ground running upon getting to our destination and after a very quick briefing, we found ourselves in a newly updated Navara, facing a drive that according to the itinerary would last all day, with a majority of it being conducted on B-roads and you guessed it, inside a jungle. And here I thought ETCM actually liked us. Just kidding.
First a bit about the Navara. It’s a very nice truck, one that I wouldn’t mind personally owning actually, for in addition to excellent interior ergonomics (for a truck), there’s also that little matter of 174bhp and a very impressive 403Nm of torque from its common-rail direct-injection 2.5L turbo-diesel engine with variable-nozzle turbine. While most of the time when driven daily it’s used in 2WD mode, it’s a proper 4×4 too, with 4H and 4L gearing.
Based on public opinion and suggestions, ETCM decided to come out with this updated Nissan Navara 4×4. It features a newly-designed bumper with lower intake and more angular corners. Internally it has also been upgraded with a 6-inch Infotainment Touch Screen Navigator with DVD playback, USB and Bluetooth connectivity. A reverse camera has also been installed, which is a God-send when it comes to backing up a truck.
In terms of safety, in addition to ABS, EBD and dual front airbags, the Navara also has Xenon headlamps now, and as always, two variants are available; the 6-speed manual SE and 5-speed automatic LE, priced at RM94,834 and RM105,834 respectively.
One thing about the Navara though, it’s not a very tall 4×4, but it is wide, and thus, it looks a lot more squat and planted when driving on asphalt. But it’s not all looks either, for a truck it has excellent highway manners, and despite being leaf-sprung in the rear, it returns a relatively comfortable ride. NVH is also very good, it’s only the roar of the YD25DDTi up front in the upper reaches of the rev range that permeates the cabin at times.
Pretty soon though we bid farewell to the highway and began hitting a series of twisty B-roads; not the kind of area that pick-up trucks are usually comfortable with. Again, the Navara proved more than capable of tackling the twists and turns, and thanks to this gratuitous 403Nm, powering out of corners actually enabled a modicum of point-and-shoot drivability, something unheard of in something this large.
But it was the next sector of the drive when we left the beaten path that made us all see the Navara in a new light. Despite our unit being shod with ‘highway-terrain’ tyres, not even ‘all-terrain’ tyres, the Navara was able to traverse the off-road section with ease. The second part of the jungle trail was no unpaved parking lot either, it was bona-fide jungle path to get to the second stop, after Pukak.
The second and final stop of the day was Kokol, at the foot of Mount Kinabalu. It was a perfect setting to end the day. A full moon, the gorgeous mountain the background and a bunch of Navaras that made it through one of the toughest media drives we’d ever been on. Throughout though, the Navara never put a wheel wrong. It was perfectly at home on asphalt as it was going through the jungle or B-road, and while it may not look the part, make no mistake, thanks to this extraordinary drive, the Navara proved itself a very capable and tough off-roader.