Car reviews - Nissan - Navara - Pro-4X Warrior
Hugely impressive suspension tune, off-road ruggedness, brawny visual appeal, sub-$70K price tag, go-anywhere capability
Room for improvement
No power-ups under the bonnet, hardly any changes to interior, slight drop in payload
It’s take-two for the Warrior as Nissan chases the booming off-road enthusiast market
6 Dec 2021
By TONY O'KANE
Aussies are buying more utes than ever – no great revelation there. However, while many might still think of the humble dual-cab body-on-frame ute as being little more than a sparsely equipped tradie chariot, the truth is that private ute buyers are transacting ever greater sums to get the ute they want onto their driveway.
What’s more, once said ute is in their possession, they’re spending big on accessories to make that vehicle more capable, versatile, rugged, and theirs. Outside of company fleets, utes are getting the kind of attention from their owners that would make a sportscar jealous.
And it’s these recreational ute owners that are squarely in the sights of Nissan’s Navara Pro-4X Warrior.
Following on from the Navara N-Trek Warrior that launched in late 2019, the Pro-4X Warrior repeats a familiar template but with numerous revisions to add even more off-road capability – not to mention all of the other factory-issue upgrades that came with the Navara’s facelift at the start of 2021.
Converted locally from standard Navara Pro-4Xs by Premcar in Melbourne, the Warrior treatment is largely focused within the wheel wells – bespoke suspension using larger-diameter Monroe shock absorbers, unique spring rates, a bit of suspension lift and a unique wheel and tyre package all contribute to giving the Warrior improved off-road credentials, while meaty bolt-on fender flares, an aggressive metal front bumper and an underbody bash guard add both protection and visual aggression, in equal measure.
Under the bonnet, there’s nothing new to report. The standard twin-turbo 2.3-litre diesel Navara engine gets no tweaks from Premcar, meaning the standard 140kW and 450Nm outputs are all you get to play with.
However, in the world of low-range mud-pluggin’ and rock-crawlin’, does that actually matter? Also, at $67,490 as a manual or $69,990 for the auto (plus on-road costs), does it represent value relative to the standard $58,130/$60,630 Navara Pro-4X that it’s based upon?
We went off the beaten path with the new Warrior in the Coffs Harbour hinterland to find out.
Walking up to the Warrior, it’s obvious that the DNA deviates a little from that of a standard Navara. You do get the same side graphics (as a child of the 80s and 90s, I particularly appreciate the “TWIN TURBO” stickers on the doors) and chunky metal sports bar, but the wider track, fender flares and meaty sidewalls that are Warrior exclusives give it a far more purposeful presence.
The front bumper is also a clever piece of functional design: being made from thick folded steel sheet, its toughness is obvious. However, it actually ties in nicely to the Navara’s front end, gives plenty of airflow to the radiator, seamlessly integrates the LED light bar and plastic foglamp bezels, AND has provision for a Warn winch – something the previous Warrior lacked.
The Navara’s recent facelift was a good one, and it works particularly well when paired with the Warrior’s exterior extras.
Underneath, the bright red steel bash guard protects the engine and radiator, and also overlaps the front bumper to provide continuous steel protection all the way to the front crossmember. That new front end hardware also improves the approach angle from the standard Pro-4X’s 32 degrees to 36 degrees. So far so good.
By comparison, the interior is a let-down. It’s almost entirely standard Pro-4X furniture, with the only exception being some ‘Warrior’ embroidery on the front headrests.
You do at least get the more modern infotainment system with smartphone mirroring, extra USB charge ports and new steering wheel that were brought in with the facelift, but the standard front seats lack under-thigh support and are a major shortcoming for cabin comfort – not just for the Warrior, but for the Navara in general.
Granted, seats are not something that would be within Premcar’s purview to modify, but some extra branding or unique trim treatments throughout the cabin would have been nice-to-haves for Nissan’s flagship off-roader.
But all is forgiven when the wheels start turning. Even on the blacktop, the improvements to suspension are obvious. The chunky tread of the Cooper all-terrain tyres don’t impinge much on road noise or vibration, while the new locally-tuned suspension feels dramatically different to the standard Navara hardware.
Spring rates are softer versus the Pro-4X, by seven per cent at the front and six per cent at the rear, while the damper settings are significantly revised. Not only are the damper bodies and rods thicker to improve durability and heat dissipation, but the damper tuning applied by Premcar now provides greater compliance while also boosting body control.
On the compression stroke at high damper piston speeds, such as just after hitting a harsh bump, damper forces are 250 percent stronger at the front and 20 percent softer at the rear axle, relative to the standard Pro-4X.
However, what makes a greater difference to ride and handling is the rebound damping, which for the new Warrior is 44 per cent softer at the front and 62 per cent stiffer at the rear on low-amplitude movements (such as those experienced during general driving around and on long undulating roads), while high-speed rebound forces are 55 per cent stiffer at the front and 60 per cent stiffer at the back.
On the road, it feels planted and less fussed about not having a load in the tub – that stiff-legged feel of an unladen Navara has been attenuated somewhat. However, the real test is off the tarmac, and steering onto some challenging dirt trails is really where the Warrior distinguishes itself from the rest of the Navara family.
In short, it feels supremely confident on trails – and it’s a confidence that quickly infects the driver.
Hitting the pronounced humps of a dirt drain at a decent clip barely troubles the Warrior, which absorbs the impact smartly, the thicker bumpstops progressively taking up much of the force and limiting shock transfer to the chassis. The recovery is brilliant, that honed rebound damping adeptly controlling wheel movement and stopping the car from porpoising along as it tries to manage all of the energy from that big initial compression.
It’s not quite as astonishing as how the Ford Ranger Raptor performs on the same kind of terrain, but it comes awfully close. Let’s not forget either that the Warrior retails for around $10K less than the Raptor…
There are no tricky off-road electronics beyond a basic hill descent control system (which we didn’t really need to use), so the twist-dial transfer case selector and a rear differential lock are all the traction aids you get. To be honest, they’re all you really need.
With incessant rain throughout our drive there was plenty of mud encountered along the way, but the all-terrains provided enough grip to get the Warrior through it and there wasn’t a point where we felt that we might start spinning tyres.
Nor was there really a point where we worried about underbody contact. The Warrior has 40mm more ground clearance than a standard Pro-4X (for a total of 260mm), which doesn’t sound like terribly much, but with the improvement to approach angle and ramp-over angle there was no evidence of undercarriage scrapes despite the plethora of deeply-rutted trails we drove down.
Negatives? Few, besides the interior qualms mentioned earlier that aren’t really any fault of Premcar’s conversion, and the lack of a powertrain upgrade that is similarly outside of their control.
The only real complaint is a slight reduction in payload capacity that makes the Warrior a sub-tonner. Able to carry 961kg as a manual or 952kg as an automatic, the Warrior totes 52kg less than the Pro-4X does thanks to its heavier hardware soaking up some of the standard car’s payload capacity (and that’s even with a 100kg GVM upgrade for the Warrior).
Still, consider that the Ranger Raptor and Toyota Hilux Rugged X can only carry 748kg each and the Navara comes out on top as the most Sherpa-like in the ‘factory-modified’ ute category.
A power increase would help provide some showroom appeal as well as appeal more to those who tow – an off-road camper trailer saps a lot of power after all – but does the Warrior really need more grunt? Not when it’s out in its element, doing what it was designed to do.
It’s a cheat code for off-roaders. It makes challenging terrain look like a garden path, and Premcar deserves credit for making the most of the Navara’s platform in this way.
If you’re considering buying a dual-cab to modify, then don’t. Just get a Warrior – the hard work has already been done for you.
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