Nissan manages the rough, with a tougher than tough Navara AT-32
With memories of ‘Let’s off-road!’ ringing in his ears and worries that our snowflake generation has developed male appendage issues, Iain Robertson contemplates a manlier transport proposition intended to lay waste to local unmetalled tracks.
In trying to get my head around the whole concept of urban warrior, whereby hordes of well-intentioned, slightly overweight, bushy-bearded chaps wearing camouflage clothing and CAT boots tackle local crime problems, when they really should not, I truly wonder about the temerity of some carmakers. Never having thought about it before, it became more abundant to me last summer, when I first drove the Ford Ranger Raptor pickup truck.
Before I elevated myself into its amazingly well-equipped cabin, I felt aware of the testosterone building in my fundament. While accepting that vehicle dynamics and associated electronic management systems are more closely linked in the pickup truck scene than they need to be in the typical family car, one look at its mildly terrifying, bespoke (oversize) tyres and aftermarket dampers, coiled and awaiting action, hints at levels of off-roadability that give credibility to Icelandic lava and glacier yomping. Yet, this is a touristic attraction best kept on that island, probably.
In the intervening period, Elon Musk, EV adventurer, space-freak and PR nightmare, has introduced his Tesla Cybertruck to the world, complete with electric drivetrain and notionally bulletproof windows. As ugly as sin, the extremely angular and truly odd truck, which is a complete counterpoint to the same firm’s svelte and ludicrously rapid electric motorcars, has attracted a hefty tranche of deposits from wide-eyed Americans, whom feel clearly that protection from ordnance is a near future survival tactic.
Now we have Nissan’s own go-anywhere truck, which hopes to lean on the rights of AK-47, with its AT-32. Coincidence? Yes. Absolutely. Yet, who needs to shoulder the blame? Clarkson and crew, that’s who. Although growing in popularity, trips to Iceland remain at a low ebb, mainly due to the high costs associated with residing on that constantly changing, if beautiful island. This is a location, where a can of Coke costs around a Pound. Hotel accommodation is at least twice the price of elsewhere in Europe. However, its appeal to adventurers and danger seekers is substantial.
If you have ever seen (on TV) Icelandic off-road racing, you will be aware that every Viking cliché is exercised to extremes. From ginger beards and slightly mad facial expressions, let alone Valhalla shrieking at every available opportunity, to watch specially constructed ‘cars’ haring up vertical cliff faces, V8 engines spouting flames and screaming almost as loudly as their drivers, can be a remarkably exciting thing. Barking but exciting.
When BBC Top Gear wanted to tackle the Arctic, it inveigled Toyota to produce a vehicle of unbreakable heft. Toyota went to the specialists in Iceland. Arctic Trucks (AT) has been drawn into Nissan’s frame for the second generation of Navara AT-32. To be fair, the Navara pickup truck base is an eminently capable and owner pleasing means of transport, or workhorse. The AT modifications factor in a full-length aluminium alloy skid-guard and 31.6-inch Nokian tyres to rival those fitted to the Raptor. The satin-black alloy wheels are fitted with dual valves, which are said to enable speedier and more accurate adjustments of tyre pressures, when moving across different terrains.
It is worth pointing out that this is not Nissan’s first foray into the urban warrior segment and there are some carryover items, such as the beefier wheel-arch extensions and the all-terrain Bilstein suspension pack, from the previous variation on the theme. Among a host of optional extras is an electronic locking front differential, for added tractive talents, and, as you might spot on the test example, an air intake snorkel, which helps to raise the Navara’s wading depth to a substantial 800mm.
Naturally, as a WLTP-compliant model, the customary round of Nissan active and passive safety addenda is part of the standard equipment (hill-start, hill-descent, autonomous braking and 360-degree camera monitoring systems). Trimmed in leather, with a fully equipped dashboard and Nissan’s latest touchscreen technology, the Navara AT-32 retains its links to production normality.
Navara has always been a solid performer and is sold in 109 territories worldwide, which underscores its market strength. Powered by a bi-turbodiesel, 2.3-litre, 4-cylinder engine that develops a modest 187bhp but a whopping 331.9lbs ft of torque from a lowly 1,500rpm, it is enough to whisk the 2.1-tonne truck from 0-60mph in around 11.0s and onwards to a top speed of 114mph. Although unconfirmed at this stage, as the standard Navara benefits from a 1.1-tonne payload, there is no reason to presume that the AT-32 does not. It is an important criterion, as every Raptor buyer is hit by a massive tax bill, which runs for five years, because of its £47k price tag and sub-tonne payload. Pickups acquired by businesses will understand the relevance of that statement.
Of course, the pickup truck scene is still popular, not just around the building site and utilities sectors. The outdoor sports market acquires all manner of them, from the surfboarders of Newquay, to the slipways of ports and leisure harbours around our coastline and the ski and trekking fraternity in the Cairngorms and Snowdonia. In many ways, the Navara AT-32 fits comfortably with those sectors. Yet, it is worth highlighting that it is primarily a workhorse and its dynamic talents are severely compromised, which can make daily life an unpleasant chore.
If you really have to exercise your inner off-roader, there are plenty of 4×4 vehicles that are significantly more competent than a Nissan Navara AT-32. Yet, if you really need to ‘make a statement’, consider the options very carefully.