Words by Grant Spolander, photographs courtesy of www.quickpic.co.za
My first impression of the Navara, some years back, wasn’t very favourable: I faulted its off-road abilities and criticised its squishy-squashy suspension. But, after a recent Navara-driven trip to the Kalahari in this vehicle – plus now having more comprehensive experience of other DC bakkies – I feel obliged to revise my opinions.
We can’t compare every DC’s suspension system without evaluating them simultaneously; but, (and I’m going out on a limb here,) when it comes to dirt, the Navara’s suspension is the smoothest and most comfortable of all the DCs I’ve driven. What’s more, the Navara is extraordinarily surefooted on fast-paced gravel tracks, even through tight turns and trodden potholes.
Sure, it’s a subjective view, informed by my own perceptions of what is comfortable; but the point is that even if it isn’t SA’s most comfy bakkie, it’s certainly up there with the best of them. And that’s a point worth making. So, while the Navara may not be the most capable rock-crawler or donga-diver around, it is remarkably comfortable and relaxing when driving on every other road type – which is where we spend most of our time travelling.
This brings me to my second criticism: the 2.5 DCI engine, which I’m still not fond of. However, since driving the automatic version for the first time, I’m warming to this diesel. Or, to put it more clearly, if mated to the auto box, the 2.5 dCi is a motor I could get used to.
This has a lot to do with an automatic’s ability to ‘hide’ turbo lag, thus making the Navara feel more refined and less finicky to drive. That said, I’d still rather have Toyota’s 3.0 D-4D under the hood, or better yet, Ford’s new 3.2 TDCi. Yes, you could opt for Nissan’s V9X engine, which is a vast improvement over the 2.5 dCi; but, as far as we know, this motor is not yet rated for 500 ppm diesel – still the predominant fuel available when travelling up north.