Will this Warrior be victorious? Navara PRO-4X Warrior Review

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Adding some badges or hyping a product with a funky name is a marketing trick that we’ve all seen before. Given the promise of something greater is usually accompanied by a price hike northward, it usually takes more than a name to impress me. When it comes to something that is supposed to deliver better performance, I like to have a thorough look under the hood.

So, what did Nissan do when they created the Navara PRO-4X Warrior? Is it worthy of a title reserved for individuals of strength, endurance, and integrity?

The standard Navara PRO-4X is a head-turner, especially when finished in burning red duco with black rims and highlights. Its styling is an appealing balance of rugged good looks with a smidge of performance street appeal. But it mainly delivers cosmetic enhancements rather than power gains or performance enhancements over its Navara siblings. If you want to read my detailed review on the PRO-4X, you can check it out here.

On this new Warrior, the vehicle features, power performance, safety and even aesthetics for the interior are pretty much standard PRO-4X spec, apart from the decals and the embossed Warrior nameplate on the headrests.

But don’t despair, there is more to the Warrior than the window dressing of its distinctly more buffed “bring it on” stance. It’s what’s underpinning this vehicle, and what you won’t find in the standard PRO-4X, that makes a wealth of difference.

The Warrior is the result of a partnership between Nissan and Premcar. Some folks may remember Tickford Vehicle Engineering, who set up in the late 1990s in the UK. They changed names in 2012 and remain a highly respected product development and engineering consultancy firm that applies world class engineering in helping develop new and exciting products for the automotive, mining, marine and aviation industries. And Premcar collaborated with Nissan on the N-Trek Warrior released in late 2019.

Thanks to the combined efforts of Nissan and Premcar, this latest Warrior takes the PRO-4X to a new level of comfort and control for both on-road and off-road driving dynamics. Premcar has also enhanced the Warrior’s suitability for off-road excursions with pragmatic upgrades, including tyres and vehicle protection.

Not to mention the very attractive proposition of Nissan’s comprehensive five-year factory warranty for all manufacturer components, being matched by Premcar with a similar warranty on all Warrior enhancements. So, you can address any issues through your local Nissan dealer without needing to tag team between the dealer and an after-market company.

Let’s start with what this beast looks like parked in the driveway. From the front, the muscular hoop-less front steel bar sets the tone, integrating seamlessly with the vehicle to retain a clean OEM look. It’s winch compatible for those who require additional recovery capability on more challenging off-road expeditions. A 470mm 16-LED lightbar is incorporated into the design rather than fixed to the bar as per previous models.

Underneath is a bold red skid plate proudly branded with the Navara insignia, and an additional 3mm steel underbody protection plate to protect driveline componentry. The 17” black alloy rims fitted to the Warrior are specifically designed to accept the larger 275/70/R17 Cooper Discoverer All Terrain AT3 tyres, which are known for having a deeper tread pattern than a Highway Terrain (HT) equivalent.

The AT3’s I’ve run previously on my vehicle advertise a 70/30 split, which provides a quiet on-road response while offering a good balance of 70% road and sand and 30% mud and dirt. Good for chewing through deep gravel, driving over rock shale or aired down to plough through soft beach sand or crest a dune. With these tyres, the Warrior showed less strain over obstacles that the standard PRO-4X had struggled, a direct result of better grip to maintain traction.

I love the chunky wheel arch flares as they really add to this vehicle’s rugged, robust good looks while covering the wider track afforded by the increased tyre width from 255 to 275mm and maybe the slight change in rim offset to ensure suspension component clearance when at full turn or suspension travel. Premcar also modified the tow bar assembly to accommodate the new 17-inch alloy wheel.

Sadly, there’s no value in being pleased by the Warrior’s 100kg upgrade to the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) as it doesn’t improve your payload. It’s consumed by the additional weight of the extra kit bolted on. In fact, your available payload is down from 1,004kg for the standard Pro-4X auto to 952kg for the Warrior. But I’d be happy to forgo a smidgin of weight-carrying capacity for the gains in ride comfort, control, and off-road suitability.

By raising the suspension height 40mm, through a subtle combination of tyre diameter and spring height, Premcar has improved the Warrior’s ground clearance from 220 to 260mm, increased its ramp over capability of 22.9 to 26.2 degrees and, thanks in part to the new front bar, the approach angle has also improved from 32 to 36 degrees. Interestingly, the departure angle remains much the same at 19 degrees. While it may seem subtle on paper, those changes are significant enough to be the difference between getting hung up or dragging the underbelly over rocks when negotiating challenging undulating terrain. There were a few gnarly tracks where I had to ease the standard PRO-4X through, but the Warrior stepped over without the hint of a scrape.

When I jumped into the Warrior and hit the blacktop on cold tyres, my first impression wasn’t favourable. It felt like I was driving a vehicle wearing studded footy boots rather than round rubber. But with a few k’s on the trip meter, things settled, and I noticed the subtle nuances in the way the Warrior responded to driver input.

It did nothing radically different to the PRO-4X, it just did everything better. Ride comfort was improved, with less road vibration entering the cabin. The typical tail shimmy and bounce of an unladen ute is already better controlled in the Navara thanks to coil springs, and it was further subdued in the Warrior. The on-road handling, feel of the steering when turning into a corner, and body lean were less pronounced.

This can be attributed to the emphasis Premcar put on calibrating the suspension. They changed both front and primary rear spring rates, plus installed larger diameter shock absorbers calibrated to improve both low and high-speed compression and rebound response. This refines on road handling, reduces body roll during cornering and provides greater off-road control and stability over uneven surfaces. And the larger bump stops help reduce impacts into the cabin during maximum suspension compression.

When driving along a forestry trail and encountering a series of offset moguls, the suspension showed its true capability, easily absorbing the rapid change in direction as each wheel compressed and rebounded alternatively through the dips and bumps. Yet at no stage did the Warrior become unsettled, buck or jump. It showed impressive control and suppression of each wheel oscillating in quick succession. Of course, get too aggressive on the throttle and you’ll feel those bump stops come into play.

Presented with a series of deep corrugations over a long stretch of soft sand, where a little momentum would be required to get through the deep powder, we aired down to extend the tyres’ contact patch and distribute the Warrior’s weight over a larger surface area.  Moving off, the suspension worked in harmony with the lower tyre pressures to absorb and suppress the impacts of the corrugations. Thanks to the Warrior’s greater control, the tyres remained in contact with the ground rather than bouncing over it.  The improvement we gained in traction was immediately evident; it allowed us to drive at a slower pace, improving comfort, reducing vehicle effort and minimising impact on the track.

On a vehicle with this design brief and intended use, it’s not a bad offer to include a 5-year warranty, including 24-hour roadside assist for that period, with up to six years of capped price servicing at intervals of 12 months or 20,000k (whichever comes first). By comparison, Toyota matches the 5-year warranty and provides an additional 2 years of coverage on the engine and driveline—which is where most of the strain and effort will occur for a vehicle of this calibre. Toyota’s capped servicing is only for three years but includes all GPS map updates over the same period.

The pointed question you’ll have to ask yourself is whether the $9,000 price hike over the standard PRO-4X is worth paying. But if you value improvements in vehicle ride comfort and driving dynamics, off-road stability and control, vehicle protection, plus rims and tyres then remember you’d be hard pressed to modify a standard PRO-4X to achieve the same quality result at that price point, and you’d be doing it without the benefit of a factory-backed warranty.

At the end of the day, the Navara PRO-4X Warrior is a vehicle that looks impressive and will attract admiring glances from other 4WDrive owners, whether it’s parked in your driveway, at the office or tackling the dirt. More importantly, it has both the capability and credentials to stake its claim as a robust, rugged 4WDrive that’s ready for work or play.

Fast Facts:

Price: $74,755

Engine: 2.3L twin turbo diesel engine

Output: 140kW/450Nm

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic

Fuel: 8.1L/100km

Safety rating ANCAP 5 Stars.

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