Nissan Navara STX D40 2010

Track Tests      October 13, 2010      David Wilson

The D40 Navara has been a very popular ute in this country and around the world since its release in 2006. In fact we were so enamoured with the D40 that we paid real money for one to act as our principal training vehicle and since that time it’s clocked up nearly 140,000kms in some pretty hard terrain and with a demanding task as a demonstration vehicle, so we’re in a pretty good position to report on the current model.

The platform is a good one, a powerful 2.5L 4 cylinder intercooled turbo-diesel with full electronics for fuel management including common-rail and direct injection (see our discussion on why diesels rock), this 2010 version pumps out 450Nm compared to our original offering of 403Nm. Torque is the key to vehicle motivation, the more you’ve got and available at lowish engine speeds the better, so the new D40 answers the criticisms sometimes heard of the superseded model. It’s worth mentioning that if you’ve come from a petrol engined driving experience and you’re stepping into a diesel for the first time you probably won’t appreciate the benefits immediately, as there’s a different way of driving them.

Firstly maximum mumbo arrives at 2,000rpm so your optimum gearshift points should be planned between 1,800-2,500rpm. A petrol engine often needs significantly more revs to really get going, typically 3,500-4,500rpm, so by comparison in the diesel you learn the art of short-shifts pretty quickly to ride that sweet seam of “phat” diesel torque. Fortunately the Navara has a sophisticated 16V top end and the torque will hang on past 3,500rpm, but more often than not you just don’t need to rev it that hard, even when overtaking.

The transmission is a dual-range (HIGH/LOW) part-time 4WD system which we’ve been using daily with no complaint. The control is electronically activated by a simple rotary dial on the centre dash offering 2H (2WD), 4H (4WD HIGH) and 4L (4WD LOW), 2H to 4H and back again done on the move, no need to stop. 4L needs to be done stationary, in this case the test vehicle was an automatic, so shifted in neutral, flicked into 4L, wait a moment whilst the dash light indicates engagement, then grab a drive gear and off you go… simple. The ratios in HIGH range are typically tall these days to squeeze every last bit of fuel efficiency. If you opt for the manual and you do any towing you’ll appreciate the new motor’s ability to spin up faster with less turbo lag (if you’re a lazy tower I’d recommend you opt for the auto trans). The auto offers a “tip-tronic” option for a manual style of gear changing and there’ll be moments in the field where that’s useful.

Brakes are discs up front and drums at the rear with ABS and now with the added safety benefits of ETC (electronic traction control) and VSC (vehicle stability control). The ABS is well-tuned to both bitumen and dirt and is worth its weight in gold. It’s worth mentioning though that EVERY vehicle manufacturer making dual-cabs utes for Australia needs to take a quantum leap into the new millenia and offer discs all round. Drum brakes are CRAP. I’ve had a host of different makes over the years and every single one of them has required constant adjustment, shoes replaced way ahead of recommended service intervals, and always a really soggy response at the brake pedal. The test vehicle being brand new and with only road miles on it had excellent pedal feel and almost too strong a stopping power, but I wonder about the sort of service we undertake and whether again it’ll take its toll? If you’re driving on the blacktop all the time it likely won’t be a problem, but dirt, sand, mud and all the other junk we drive on… A drum-in-disc back axle like on a Patrol is the go!

VSC is a must. It makes the ute platform infinitely more safe. Utes have a nasty reputation of a loss of control, especially oversteer. We’ve been teaching for 20 years now the importance of using 4H on dirt roads to control this situation and now with stability control as a standard feature you’ve got a double-benefit, it’s ACE (Actually Corners Excellent)! VSC will save around 40% of casualty crashes, an extraordinary dent in the rate of injuries and the annual death toll, and all new vehicles are mandated to have it included as standard within two years.

How about the inside? The cab of a D40 is a pleasant place to be in. The front passengers enjoy good visibility, seats with plenty of adjustment and padding that doesn’t leave you sore even after a day behind the wheel. There’s plenty of creature-comforts like dual zone climate control, power windows, a decent stereo, a deep centre console, cup holders everywhere, power outlets, driver’s footrest and the back seat retains what I think is one of the great D40 exclusive assets, the ability to flip the seat base up to leave a huge carrying space behind the front seats.

The carrying potential of this vehicle is excellent. The tray is wide, deep and long, easily holds a Yamaha ATV and gear and the ingenious “Utili-Track” tiedown system in the tub makes securing the load a piece of cake. Nissan rate the D40 with a 3,000kg towing capacity too.

Driving the D40 off-road is pretty easy, the motor’s got plenty of torque to dispense with everything I’ve thrown at it in the past, so the new-found torque on the 2010 model will be better again. Using 4L for technical trail work is a breeze. The suspension uses a double-wishbone independent coil-over-shock front end and a beam axle rear with leaf springs. There’s reasonable travel with each that can be enhanced if you want to regularly carry heavy loads (like we do) and go 4WD’ing (like we do) courtesy of ARB’s Old Man Emu suspension kits. You’ll probably find the tubular side steps will take a bit of a beating (we took ours off) and will impinge on taller crests, but the approach angle is good, departure OK if the tow tongue is removed. The tyres are typically urban focussed and again if 4WD’ing is your bag you’ll want to replace them for some LT (light-truck) rubber. We’ve been using Bridgestone’s fantastic D694 on our Nav with zero punctures and plenty of grip.

One major advantage off-road now is the addition of ETC (Electronic Traction Control). Previously the D40 relied on an LSD (Limited Slip Differential) in the back axle to provide some drive when things were greasy or loose. Funny thing though, whilst the LSD in the old D22 Navara (since re-released and a pretty useful performer it is) was nothing short of kick-arse good, the D40’s was a let-down. All I can think of is that they don’t do a lot of 4WD’ing in Spain (which is where the D40’s design and European production started). The ETC equipped D40 though makes terrain tame. Gently increase the engine speed to induce the wheelspin to trick the brakes into action and voila, torque to the wheel on the opposite side of the axle drives the vehicle forward. In the classroom we call this 4WD’ing for Dummies!

So in summary the 2010 D40 STX is better in some significant areas, more torque, better safety, better featured and represents pretty good value at RRP $48,875 (auto STX for ABN holder at time of writing October 2010) plus on-roads. I still reckon the D40’s one of the best utes in the business. Mine’s still got plenty of life left in it, but the when the time comes round to replace it, a new D40’s likely to be on the shopping list.

Latest News 18th November 2010 – Navara 550

In what is probably the worst kept secret (we’ve known for around two months now) Nissan have announced last weekend that a new D40 arrives in February. The “550” Navara is a premium spec ute using the same body style as the existing D40 but, how’s this… a new V6 turbo-diesel (the same motor destined for new Patrol) with a mammoth 550Nm of torque making it by far and away the most powerful ute in this country. Accompanying the motor is a 7 speed automatic transmission, new interior trim and other features that will make the dual-cab scene very lively in the New Year!!! Price is around $60,000 + on roads

Many thanks to Jason Collins at Main North Nissan in Adelaide for the test vehicle (phone 0424788240 or (08) 83095000)

More pics here

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