The latest Nissan Navara Pro-4X Warrior has big shoes to fill, but with Premcar’s knowhow and Nissan Australia’s blessing, the Warrior could be better than ever. We headed to the Coffs Harbour hinterland to find out
How do you follow up a great album? When you nail something the first time around, it always puts more pressure on its successor. Porsche’s GT division manages it generation after generation … but can Nissan do the same with its emerging Warrior series of Australian-developed off-road specials?
After a successful first N-Trek Warrior collaboration using the Series 4 iteration of the D23 Navara ute as a basis, Melbourne engineering outfit Premcar and Japanese carmaker Nissan are back at it, having developed a new Navara Pro-4X Warrior based on the recent Series 5 facelift of the popular ute.
The Pro-4X Warrior (from $67,490 before on-road costs) sets out to blend workmanlike usability with increased off-road ability, with the aim of being the ‘world’s toughest Navara.’
With the explosion of competitors in this ‘super ute’ segment – which comprises the Toyota Hilux Rugged X ($70,750) and Ford Ranger Raptor ($77,790) – the Navara Pro-4X Warrior certainly has its work cut out.
So, does Nissan and Premcar’s second Warrior live up to the hype? It’s off to a stronger start than before thanks to the Navara’s latest facelift (that hit the market in March ’21) with its bluff front end, taller bonnet and crisp LED headlights, that give a stronger base for Premcar to work some magic.
And magic has been worked – the intricately folded steel safari bar with its seamless light integration, and dealer-option winch is the standout. The rest of the ‘Stealth Grey’ ($650) package is set off by black badging with red accents for the Nissan script, and of course, a decal pack that calls back to the original.
To be fair to the first Warrior though, that vehicle was a looker too, but its timing was off. When it hit the market in December ’19, the Warrior was only given 9 months to sell, yet Premcar managed to crank out 1500 Warriors – a number the outfit hopes to improve with the new vehicle.
That’s because the latest Pro-4X Warrior is set to become a permanent model in Australia – with more Warrior spinoffs on the way.
But enough about where the Navara Pro-4X Warrior comes from. We headed up to Coffs Harbour, home of Australia’s WRC round, to test the new Nissan super ute’s mettle on and off the beaten track.
Moving on from what the Warrior means for Nissan and Premcar, the proof of any vehicle is really in how it drives, and there’s a long list of changes to the Warrior that will obviously improve its off-road performance, but there’s more to this ute than hitting mud ruts.
Utes are increasingly purchased by Australians for lifestyle purposes just as much as commercial ones – so the Warrior needs to be comfortable, secure and safe on the road, and Premcar knows that. So instead of pushing the Warrior’s focus to the extremes, choices have been made to instead make it better everywhere – not just off-road.
Rolling out of the carpark the added control of the Warrior is immediately obvious after the regular Pro-4X, the freeway exposes the greater control and simultaneously plusher small-bump compliance afforded by the 17 percent larger dampers tubes.
But accelerating up to the posted 110km/h speed limit from an on-ramp exposes the Navara’s most notable flaw in this class – the 140kW/450Nm 2.3-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine. Sure, the Amarok’s 190kW/580Nm diesel V6 makes that package more expensive, but even the Navara’s direct rivals like the 150kW/500Nm Hilux offer more mid-range grunt.
Outright punch aside, the improvements Nissan has made to NVH suppression and tuning of the seven-speed torque converter across the Navara range helps make it feel seamless when not ragged. While we didn’t get to test its towing capacity, we anticipate the Navara might struggle dragging a 3500kg load up steep hills.
Our convoy of Warriors exits the smooth safety of the M1, and it’s time to turn our attention to the real test that lies ahead, starting with corrugated forestry roads that twist deep into the Coffs Harbour hinterland.
If the added control was evident on the freeway, it’s even more so on rough and fast gravel roads. The spring rates have been softened in the Warrior, though this is counteracted by the 250 percent increase in high-speed compression at the rear which helps to control sudden movements while keeping harshness at bay.
Practically, the suspension polish works a treat for the Navara and inspires the driver to push on, as do the of 275/70 R17 Cooper Discoverer AT3 All-terrain tyres.
As we venture further up the mountain, the road narrows and water bars begin to appear. These blind crests are tricky to judge, and hide gnarly landings just out of sight. One catches me out, but the Warrior is unphased, its longer, progressive bump stops arresting body movement swiftly with minimal harshness.
The fact the new Warrior feels stiffer than the last iteration is no surprise either, with Nissan and Premcar addressing the old ute’s N-Trek Warrior’s 724kg payload to a much more competitive figure of 952kg for the auto.
While we weren’t warned ahead of time, the foreboding appearance of ‘The Widowmaker’ on the Warrior’s sat nav seemed like the next challenge. With a week’s worth of rain, the gravel roads were already sodden and turning the Navara’s slow steering rack towards the narrow goat track confirmed that the track was about to get wet and wild.
And yet, the extra 30mm track width, and 40mm lift (15mm of which is from the springs, and 25mm from the larger wheel and tyre package) meant there was no need to be worried. The Warrior descended the claggy clay with aplomb.
Locking the Warrior in low range 4WD kept the speed down without having to use the brakes to halt the mass, though one issue cropped up with the Navara’s unchanged transmission refusing downshifts when crawling.
What goes down must come up, and with the rear diff-lock engaged the Warrior continued its no-fuss approach to off-roading. Here, at low speeds, the 2.3-litre turbo-diesel ’four proved easy to modulate, and with adequate power to winch up steep inclines.
Though we didn’t encounter any deep water, it’s worth noting the PRO-4X’s 600mm wading depth is unchanged from the regular Navara’s as there is no snorkel fitted.
Approach angle and ground clearance are improved to 36 degrees (from 32) and 260mm respectively, though the Warrior’s departure angle is slightly worse 19 degrees (from 19.8) owing to its rear bumper with integrated tow bar.
Safety systems are unchanged from the standard Pro-4X and despite adding frontal protection systems, AEB with pedestrian and cyclist functionality is included. There is also a lane-keeping assist feature, though no adaptive cruise control. The Navara retains its five-star ANCAP safety rating from 2015.
Subtle changes were made to the underlying Navara ute to coincide with its major Series 5 exterior facelift – but at its heart, this is still the same cabin that has served Nissan’s dual cab since the initial release of the D23 in 2014.
Right off the bat, the Navara lacks storage space. There’s only one glovebox, no clever rubberised area to store a modern phone with a USB plugged in, but most importantly there’s no shelf to keep your invoices. Cabin plastics are ultimately cheap too, workmanlike to be generous, but not lush or flashy.
At least the driver and passenger door bins are generous in size, and under the soft (but too low) centre armrest you find a USB-C fast-charging port, two further USB ports and one of two 12-volt sockets.
The headrests are embroidered with a big ‘WARRIOR’ logo and look sporty, but are ultimately not hugely supportive which manifested itself in a rather sore lower back after six hours of driving. The manual adjustment (vs. the old car’s electric adjustment) simply doesn’t allow you to dial in that maximum comfort.
It’s worth noting the odd spec quirk that afflicts the Warrior (and regular Pro-4X Navaras) – apparently due to production limitations, both variants miss the heated seats that the ST-X ($55,770) does get.
The tech, although simple, is easy to work and more powerful than you expect, with wired smartphone mirroring, graphically dated but effective navigation and a 4.2-inch central TFT screen that gives tyre pressure, speed, fuel consumption, and allows the driver to adjust safety feature settings.
The rear seat is also better than expected, certainly less compromised than dual cabs used to be. Kids old enough to get out of booster seats will be happy as the rear bench is elevated over the fronts with a supportive the squab and even enough room for six-foot-two adults.
Additionally, niceties like a single USB port, doorbins that take a 700mL bottle, privacy glass, flip-down armrest and – most importantly – adjustable air vents are all fitted to the rear quarters of the PRO-4X Warrior.
Finally, the tub measures 519mm tall, 1509mm long and 1134mm wide between the arches and has a plastic bed liner to protect the paintwork. There’s also a black sports bar and four tie-down points.
Servicing the Navara Pro-4X Warrior is the same as any twin-turbo variant, with 12 month/20,000km intervals and a five-year package costing $2589.
The beauty of the Warrior is its factory backing means despite the frontal protection systems and lifted suspension Nissan still covers the Pro-4X Warrior with a five year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
Chasing Cars understands reliability and warranty is one of the chief reasons Premcar left the engine outputs alone.
Fuel consumption is rated at 8.1L/100km combined in the ADR cycle, yet our 160km test loop that took in short bursts of highway and mainly slow off-road work saw the Warrior return 10.9L/100km on the trip computer.
Everything that Premcar has touched on the Warrior is excellent, and for that they should be applauded. The new Pro-4X Warrior takes everything that was great about the original, and refines the recipe with greater payload, winch compatibility and even tougher looks.
Yes, there are some things we’d like to see evolve: namely the interior, which is feeling old in presentation and lacks comfort. Aussie buyers will also always want more grunt, but that’s off the table for now.
Regardless of these criticisms, the Warrior venture that brought Nissan and Premcar together keeps Aussie knowhow ticking away, and gives employment opportunities following the demise of local vehicle manufacturing.
What’s even better is that the tweaks made are not token, and see the latest Navara Pro-4X be the best Warrior yet. We look forward to the expected next instalment: a Premcar-fettled Patrol Warrior V8.
The best-driving ute on the Australian market gets even better thanks to Australian Walkinshaw know-how.
Variant tested PRO-4X WARRIOR (4x4)
Key specs (as tested)
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Nissan Navara PRO-4X Warrior 2022: more grunt to rival the Amarok would be possible, but at what cost?
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