Tough newcomer to the ute scene put to family test
The days of salivating over low-slung sedans powered by honking V8s are over.
Glance at the bestsellers list, and you'll find Australians love a ute and riding high on the road. Combine the two and you have hot property.
Toyota's HiLux and the Ford Ranger have been at the forefront of popularity in recent years and their dominance shows little sign of abating. Dual-cabs have become the ultimate family transport and paved the way for a new hardcore breed.
Rather than spending their hard-earned on body kits, stereos and bigger alloys, ute buyers are harnessing a sense of adventure with lift kits, rolls bars and spotlights.
Manufacturers are looking to sway buyers from heading straight to an aftermarket accessories provider with buffed versions of their macho machines.
Ford has the Ranger Raptor. Now Nissan has added expanded the tribe with its Navara N-Trek Warrior.
Enhanced and fortified, the Warrior is product of a collaboration with engineering consultancy Premcar. Designed for heavy-duty off-roading, it's primed to shred the toughest of conditions.
Manual versions are $62,990 drive-away, with the automatic derivatives an extra $2500.
Aggressive all-terrain Cooper tyres that help increase the ride high by 40mm combined with beefed up suspension, black external features and a body-colour steel bullbar with an integrated LED light bar ensure the Warrior stands out from a Navara crowd.
Other key features carry-over from the N-Trek model, including partial leather accented seats with orange seat inserts, heated front seats, eight-inch touchscreen with smartphone apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and side steps.
No need to stare at the colour palette for hours - there are just three options: black, white or grey.
Warranty coverage remains the same as all Navaras at five years and unlimited kilometres, with servicing about $3865 for six years with an automatic transmission (slightly more with the manual).
While retaining a five-star rating, the Navara has fallen behind some rivals with the latest technology. There's no sign of autonomous emergency braking which can help avoid or lessen the impact of a frontal accident, or blind spot warnings to stop the driver spearing into other vehicles.
Among the positives, it has a great bird's eye view to make parking easier and rear sensors.
Utes have come a long way. The N-Trek variants of the Navara take luxury up a level.
While most of the changes in this variant are under the skin, the "Warrior" embroidered front headrests showcase this variant's additional off-road ability to those climbing aboard.
The eight-inch touchscreen is one of the best inclusions, and delivers the Navara with a much-needed tech boost. Having the smartphone mirroring applications improves functionality and ease of use compared to an otherwise ageing system.
Ride quality remains similar to the standard Navaras, although the big all-terrain rubber does generate additional noise on the bitumen.
Rugged is the Warrior's middle name. Those with little intention of stepping off anything more than gravel or fire trails would be better suited to the standard models, this is for the adventure crowd.
Power comes from the same 2.3-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder punching out the familiar figures of 140kW and 450Nm. Transmission options are six-speed manual or optional seven-speed auto.
It's a smooth and reliable unit, just don't expect anything crazy in a straight line.
With a 3mm stainless steel front underbody protection plate, ground clearance of 268mm, an improved approach angle of 35 degrees courtesy of the redesigned front bumper, the Warrior is most at home in the bush.
Feeling better the quicker you go on gravel and loose surfaces, the Cooper tyres grip nicely, while the big bumps and lumps are handled well courtesy of the reworked suspension.
When it comes to the urban jungle, those bigger wheels translate to a greater turning circle. U-turns often become three-point turns.
Heading straight for the aftermarket shop after leaving the showroom doesn't appeal, I'm keen for a Tonka-truck straight out of the box.
The beaten track beckons. More than hardcore looks, I'm walking the talk and this is no Toorak tractor.
FORD RANGER RAPTOR $84,669 D/A
Jump sand dunes in a single bound. Possibly the coolest dual-cab on the market, with ample ability off road as well as impressive manners on the bitumen. Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre 4-cyl twin-turbo diesel mated to a 10sp auto.
TOYOTA HILUX RUGGED X $63,990 D/A
Doesn't have the same off-road credibility, but possesses brilliant resale and rock-solid reputation. Stands out on the road, good comfort features, and powered by a 2.8-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel good for 130kW/450Nm.
A new member of the dual-cab Top Gun club has arrived. While not perfect, those chasing a factory-backed hardcore off-roader will find the Warrior a tribe leader.
AT A GLANCE
PRICE $65,490 drive-away (expensive, but fair)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5 years/unlimited km, $1816 for 3 years (OK)
ENGINE 2.3-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 140kW/450Nm (steady)
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags, rear camera, 360-degree parking aid (few of the new gizmos missing)
THIRST 7.0L/100km (good, but 8.7 on test)
SPARE Full-size (awesome)
TOWING 3500kg (fine)