Nissan’s muscled-up Navara turns heads. 

Story Bruce McMahon

Four-door, 4WD utes are big business in Australia. Once only a vehicle of choice for farmers, tradesmen and perhaps hard-core fisherfolk, these utilities are now major sellers from Bondi to Birdsville. They’re bought by customers from those traditional owners through to caravanners and suburban families. 

There’s a swag of choice in the category, with large ‘pick-up’ offerings from North America alongside a variety of one-tonners from Asia and Europe. Ford’s Ranger, now in its second Australian-designed generation, and the ubiquitous Toyota HiLux have ruled sales charts for some time. All these utes (once known as ‘tillys’ in some parts) have become safer, more comfy and more family friendly. At the top of the line-ups, most makers offer a vehicle packed with creature comforts and driver aids – from heated seats to lane departure warnings.

Now another niche has emerged – hero utes with more dirt-track, hill-climbing and water-splashing performance, thanks largely to higher ride heights, increased suspension travel and bigger tyres. Some, like Ford’s Raptor, are ex-factory. Others, such as Nissan’s Warrior, are fettled by specialist companies with the blessing of the Australian distributor. These flagships – hard to miss on the road – have become aspirational vehicles.

 The Nissan Navara PRO-4X Warrior, reworked by Melbourne company Premcar, is tailor-made, say the engineers, for local conditions. Based around Nissan’s well-equipped PRO-4X, the Warrior rides 40mm higher, with wider track, more underbody protection, beefy 17-inch (43cm) Cooper tyres, plus a new, high-riding front bumper that improves approach angles. There’s plenty of muscle in the style and substance, although the side decals may be too cowboy for some. The elaborate sports bar is a hindrance when loading the tray – perhaps that could be swapped out for a snorkel?

The four-door ute’s cabin remains much as it left the factory, aside from seats with Warrior embroidery. Most ergonomics – access and control legibility – are fine, and there is a load of driver aids to help keep the Nissan on the straight and narrow. These include forward collision warnings and rear cross-traffic alerts. Some can be switched off and configured to individual needs, which is a plus. The driver’s seat is comfortable enough, but sits a touch too high for taller drivers and it’s a fair way down to the centre console lid if chasing an armrest. 

Interior features include an 8-inch touchscreen for navigation, hooking up mobile phones and music. The instrument cluster also has displays for the likes of the tyre pressure monitoring system – a sensible addition in a 4WD.

Most of Premcar’s work on Nissan’s PRO-4X lies beneath the bodywork – revising suspension rates for front and rear coil springs, plus new damping rates for shock absorbers and larger bump stops for improved ride control, sharper steering and more ride comfort in the rough. 

The Warrior has Nissan’s twin turbo 2.3L diesel engine, and a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic, with two-speed transfer case engaged by a console switch. The powerhouse produces 140kW and 450Nm of torque, and can appear a tad lazy from standstill compared to some rivals, but there are few complaints once it hits its stride. Average fuel consumption for the auto will be around 10L/100km according to the trip computer.

The off-road biased tyres give off some mumble-grumble at suburban speeds, and may be noticed when turning in tight spots, but along with Premcar’s suspension work make for a competent and comfortable tourer. On bitumen, the ute’s steering responses, body control and road-holding are very good in the dry, but those tyres need consideration on wet roads. In the wilds, the extra ground clearance, more controlled suspension and bigger tyres allow for better traction, providing extra confidence and comfort. Helping here is a drive mode switch for standard, sport, off-road and towing. 

The extra Warrior gear adds some 150kg to the Navara, but a GVM upgrade, through reworked suspension, brings the payload capacity back to 952kg. Towing capacity remains at 3.5 tonne.

The Nissan Navara PRO-4X Warrior is a good ute, well-sorted for Australian conditions with five-year factory warranty covering the upgrades. It is not cheap, although Premcar have another Warrior option with similar capabilities on the books – one based on the cheaper Navara SL ute. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #145

Outback Magazine: October/November 2022