⦁ West Coast tour shows off new Nissan ⦁ 450km – plenty to get to know a new bakkie ⦁ Highs, lows and doing it in the dunes
NISSAN SA and a large support crew spent last week (mid-March 2017) cruising some of the most beautiful – despite the drought – West Coast countryside to show off the latest addition to its fleet – the new and mighty 2.3-litre diesel Navara double-cab bakkie.
The Corner went along to the 5am start from the Protea Hotel in the upmarket suburb of Durbanville and within minutes the column of shiny new Navaras was being drowned in the first deluge of rain in the Western Cape in many months.
Which was a trifle unfortunate as we had just started up the steep and winding gravel-track ascent of Kanonkop, the 450m-high mountain that frequent flyers into Cape Town skim past during the final approach, its summit – our target – bristling with red warning lights and radio masts.
CHASING THE SUN
The bakkies’ all-wheel drive – well-known since its first use years ago on the Mitsubishi Pajero (now a Nissan partner) for its then revolutionary shift-on-the-fly-at-up-to-100km/h capability – was quickly invoked. It is, after all, a steep and potentially fatal roll down the mountain if you lose it on the one-way goat track.
The idea was to summit in time for sunrise over the Hottentots-Holland mountains. We were on time and the sun no doubt rose as usual but the Navara convoy was still in total darkness, buried in thick swirling cloud and torrential rain on top of an invisible mountain.
The schedule was tight and so was the parking area; the Navara has a reversing camera so I was only marginally terrified before the bonnet was pointing down the same rutted track towards the Vissershoek road and heading for the the soaring, sweeping, Contermans Klooftarred highway to the northbound R27, passing my probably still-warm bed 200m off to the left in Melkbosstrand.
The target for the next convoy roll-call was the Riviera Hotel in Velddrift 115km further north on the mostly dead-straight West Coast road and the first opportunity to test the Navara’s big twin-turbo diesel, fat leather seats, power-assisted steering and unusual – perhaps even unique – rear suspension with 120km/h dialled in on the autocruise.
The sun still hadn’t appeared, the Berg River estuary on which Velddrift stands looked particularly bleak in the mist, but it was warm and cosy in the Navara’s cab. The five-link coil-spring rear suspension (unique among bakkies, we were told) had indeed make the ride so far excellent – though somewhat less smooth than that of a half-million sedan you could buy for the same-ish price – they start at R514 900
The engine is a 2.3-litre four-cylinder aluminium-alloy unit capable of 140kW at 3750rpm and 450Nm from 1500-2500rpm, turns a six-speed manual or seven-speed auto gearbox, and Nissan claims 6.5 litres/100km is possible from its 80-litre tank.
It’s also a big bakkie and, at 5.25m long, won’t fit the standard streetside parking slow. There are five seats – cloth standard but leather an option, the latter) with heating and eight-way power adjustment, power windows, an array of interior lighting and driver-assistance information, USB socket, high-end sound system, satnav is standard, as is a hands-free Bluetooth phone connection.
An unusual twist is a power-operated sliding load-bed window. Couldn’t figure out why… but anyway there is also a power socket in the rubberised load bed (think fridge), heatable folding exterior mirrors, alloy sport bar (commonly called a rollover bar, but check on its strength, pse) and matching grille bar.
The whole kit rides on 16″ (entry model) and 18″ alloy wheel rims shod with 255/70 or 255/60 tyres.
While on the tech stuff, service intervals are 15 000km, there’s a three-year or 90 000km service plan and “class-leading” six-year or 150 00km warranty (Hyundai really did set the pussy among the pigeons on that front!).
So, back on the road… another 100km to some of the most shining, beautiful desert-style sand dunes I’ve seen – and that includes driving in the Sahara, the United Arab Republic, the Kalahari and the scary high dunes of Namibia.
SOFT GOLDEN SAND
The route took the convoy through Dwarskersbos (Note: Watch out for tortoises!) and then along the gravel track that parallels the Sishen-Saldanha iron-ore line (where we watched several kilometres of laden trucks and locomotives trundle by in the opposite direction) and then back on the tar for Elands Bay.
The eventual target, past Leipoldtville and Graafwater towards Lamberts Bay and The Dunes 4×4 estate for a too-brief excursion into the soft golden sand, our bakkie halted unfortunately by a too-soft right front tyre rolling off the rim. Really, we could have gone to the Atlantis dunes, I thought… but there was more countryside I’d never seen, some dorpies I’d never heard of…
Did I mention we still hadn’t been fed, and no snacks in the truck…?
Anyway, we said farewell to The Dunes and, ‘Back on the Road Again’, headed for what must be one of the most remote wedding venues in the world – Bosduifklip. Willie Nelson woulda love it… rustic poles and thatch overlooking a reedy vlei and a tethered sheep cropping the lawn. And the beach not far away.
And it was only lunchtime – remember, we set off at 5am. The boerekos was great, the elderly host couple wonderful, the scenery amazing. if you’re up Lamberts Bay area and are thinking of a wedding, go take a look… (use googlemaps).
Now came the long haul back to our overnight, another 129km via Kardosie(refreshment stop on Piekenierskloof Pass, Porterville, Gouda, Wellington, Stellenbosch to a tented camp within the beautiful Rhebokskloof estate.
Time for a closer look at the Navara… now a partner of Mitsubishi, as mentioned about the rotary-switch for instant 4×4 at up to 100km/h derived from the Pajero and later the Outlander and now the lookalike Triton, which bears a resemblance to the Navara, and Renault.
SOME WORDS FROM THE BOSSMAN
Xavier Gobille, sales and marketing director at Nissan Group of Africa, told The Corner: “We’re very proud of the all-new Navara. It not only builds on – and improves – the workhorse capabilities of its predecessor but also introduces comfort features previously unheard of in the bakkie segment.
“The Navara is a crowning achievement for Nissan in its 80-year heritage of pick-up production.”
Initially, the Navara range will consist of three double-cab models with a choice of Mid- or High-specification and a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic gearbox. All models will be powered by the new 140kW twin-turbo diesel engine.
The truck has full LED-headlights with boomerang-style LED daytime running lights across the range. It also has the largest load bay yet on a Navara, better off-road capability and is much lighter than its predecessor.
LONGER RUBBERISED LOAD BAY
The load bay on double-cab versions has been stretched to 1503mm and been made deeper (474mm) resulting in a capacity of 1 061 litres. Load rating has also been upgraded – to 1002kg, depending on specification, and can tow a braked trailer of up to 3500kg.
The Navara has 229mm ground clearance but the new raised suspension set-up and smart design have allowed for a three-degree improvement in approach (33deg, ramp-over (25.2deg) and departure angle (27.9deg).
The suspension and drivetrain set-up also means this Navara has a lateral tilt angle of up to 50 degrees.
The package rides on a boxed ladder-frame chassis; the engine is new and has two turbos to optimise boost pressure at various engine speeds. The smaller, high-pressure turbo is used mainly at low engine revs, although neither turbo is disengaged fully at any engine speed.
At higher engine speeds the exhaust gas flow is channelled to the larger low-pressure turbo for more low-speed power and lower fuel-consumption.
NEW SUSPENSION TOPS ALL
The double-cab models for South Africa will all have the new coil-spring rear suspension with the promise of better road-holding, car-like ride comfort even over rutted gravel, and better tracking at speed through corners.
The all-wheel-drive combines a transfer case with a number of electronic aids and high- and low-range. Gradient control – climbing and descending – is standard and the driver has a new cockpit design whose focus is a touch-screen infotainment and navigation system standard across the range.
A secondary Drive Assist Display on the instrument cluster provides many features operated from the steering-wheel while high-grade models ad dual-zone aircon, keyless entry and a start/stop button.
LONG LIST OF ACCESSORIES
The range of accessories includes cosmetic additions such as head- and rear-light guards, decal kits, aluminium or moulded scuff plates and a choice of sport and nudge bars, heavy duty off-road suspension upgrade kit and custom black XD alloy wheel rims with all terrain tyres.
The list goes on: towball, roof rails of different designs, various load-bed covers and seat cover sets.
And, of course, the prices (inc VAT; more models expected):
Nissan Navara 2.3 DDTT 4×4 SE Double Cab MT – R514 900
Nissan Navara 2.3 DDTT 4×4 LE Double Cab –MT – R565 900
Nissan Navara 2.3 DDT 4×4 LE Double Cab AT –R597 900
Black leather seats with heater function optional on LE grade models R13 000.
The 4×2 double-cab range is expected towards the end of 2017 with prices likely to range from R450 000 to R520 000.