The new Nissan Navara is redefining the pickup segment in South Africa by combining next generation technologies with innovative engineering.
At the heart of the new range of technologies is a unique suspension set-up that, when combined with the sturdy ladder frame chassis and traction-enhancing systems, provides one of the most capable and comfortable pick-ups on the market.
All Navara models currently available in South African are fitted with a multi-link rear suspension with coil springs. This system is relatively new to the mass market pick-up segment and is unique in its application in the all-new Navara.
Packaging and design
When Navara won the 2016 International Pick-Up of the Year Award, judges remarked on the intelligent way that Nissan designed the next-generation ladder frame chassis to accommodate both the coil sprung five-link suspension on high-end models and a more traditional leaf spring set-up for workhorse and mid-range pick-ups.
The set-up uses heavy-duty coil springs and shock absorbers mounted in front of the solid axle for the main damping. The use of this system allowed Nissan to locate the central damping point right on top of the rear axle, which benefits not only the ride and handling characteristics, but also allows for heavier loads.
In addition, five-link systems are longer than normal suspension links and heavy-duty mounting bushes. This means there is less pivoting between the wheel-mount and the chassis-mount and subsequently less friction on the main mounting points. This system also allows for improved lateral rigidity of over 300% when compared to a standard leaf-spring suspension.
Apart from the obvious benefit in ride and handling, the use of a five-link rear suspension allowed engineers to shave 20 kg of the suspension weight, which is a major contribution to the overall weight saving of 176 kg over the previous generation Navara and contributes to the exceptional fuel economy.
Owners of off-road SUVs have for many years lauded the benefit of a coil rear suspension set-up. On the all-new Navara, many of those benefits apply without any compromise on load-carrying capability.
The primary benefit of the new suspension is the significant improvement in ride and handling over a traditional pick-up. The five-link system gives the Navara a more sure-footed feeling on loose gravel, travelling at very high speeds and on slippery roads.
This sure-footedness translates into less bobbing of the rear-end, especially when un-laden, rear wheels that track the front wheels more accurately, especially at speed, and the way in which the rear-end rapidly regains its poise when it hits a mid-corner bump or pothole at speed.
This improved road holding is not only the result of the coil and shock damping on each rear wheel, although this system plays the most important role. Nissan engineers also drove more than one million miles (1,6 million kilometres) testing the combined effect of the suspension, steering set-up, wheel and tyre choice and the use of electronic aids.
In the all-new Navara, the wheelbase has been shortened by 50 mm for an improved turning circle of 12.4 m curb-to-curb, while the steering has been calibrated to optimise the suspension and ensure that the Navara is less prone than traditional pick-ups to understeer at speed or in challenging road conditions.
The suspension set-up further allowed engineers to tweak the damping rates more accurately. This is thanks to the up-and-down motion of the rear of the vehicle which is controlled more directly by shock absorbers with this suspension, than on a leaf-sprung suspension where the shocks are mounted on different sides of the rear axle.
As well as testing the overall performance of the Navara suspension, engineers from various continents also conducted their own driving, durability and destruction tests. This ensured that the suspension set-up is suited to the local environment. In South Africa, Nissan has fine-tuned the set-up to allow for a higher load and ride height for more regular off-road and gravel driving.
Mechanical muscle, electronic brains
Using its new suspension and chassis as base, Nissan engineers matched the electronic driver aids perfectly to the mechanical benefits of the chassis.
Chief among the electronic driver aids for off road use, is Nissan’s ABLSD system. The Active Brake Limited Slip Differential monitors and controls each wheel individually, allowing for greater traction in off-road conditions.
Combined with the differential lock on the rear axle, the Navara will not only transfer maximum power to the wheels with traction, but it will brake slipping wheels and allow these wheels to regain traction as quickly as possible.
Unlike other pick-ups that offer similar electronic aids, the all-new Navara will not disengage ABLSD completely when the rear diff lock is engaged in low range mode. Rather, the system will continue to operate on the front axle to offer the best possible traction. All Navara models currently available on the market also offer vehicle dynamic control (VDC) and traction control (TCS) as standard.
By the numbers
While the benefits may appear convincing on paper, the real test is in the all-new Navara’s performance figures.
Fitted with the new five-link coil rear suspension, a slightly shorter wheelbase but longer load bay and its unique new design, the Navara boasts an improved approach angle of 33 degrees, a breakover-angle of 25.2 degrees and a departure angle of 27.9 degrees. This is an improvement of no less than 3 degrees in each case.
The Navara also offers greater rear wheel travel than its predecessor, thanks to its combination of coil springs and a solid axle. This helps the Navara’s off-road abilities and ensures improved traction in challenging environments, such as cross-axle off-road sections and deeply rutted roads.
Similarly, the ground clearance on the LE model with 18” alloy wheels improve to 229 mm, while the SE model with its 16” alloy wheels offers an impressive 226 mm ground clearance as standard.
Finally, the weight saved in the suspension and chassis and the powerful engine means that Navara models can now tow an un-braked trailer weighing up to 750 kg and a braked trailer of up to 3 500 kg. Navara LE versions can also load no less than 1 002 kg on the load bay, breaking the all-important one-tonne barrier for luxury double cabs.