Keep on truckin’

MISS TECH - Kathy Moran - The Philippine Star

There are test drives and there are test drives — but none tickles my fancy more than being able to test drive muscle cars — just like the recently launched Nissan NP 300 Navara.

With Metro Manila traffic the way it is (never letting up) and sudden downpours that cause major flooding on my regular route to and from work — a pickup, such as the Navara NP300, is definitely heaven-sent.

A history of good truckin’

Nissan has been into engineering pickups for almost 80 years, with its first small truck Nissan (nee Datsun). Recently, Nissan introduced its 12th-generation Navara pickup, the D23 series. This year, Nissan has set its sights, with the NP300, on becoming the ute pickup of the year. And, from what I experienced driving it, it stands a pretty good chance.

Let me just say, that even as I found the Navara easy to handle in the toughest of traffic and flood conditions — the pickup is no lightweight when it comes to the need for a heavy-duty tow vehicle.

Built tough

There is always a thrill that runs down my spine when I see a pickup.  I love pickups and the Nisan Navara NP300 is no exception. A grille that follows a similar design theme to the latest passenger models except that the center section has been widened to add to the tough, commercial vehicle look fronts the Navara’s tall bonnet. 

Although many would say that the Navara comes across as being one macho pickup — that sort of comment never fazes me because tough pickups make for great on road or off-road companions.

And then there are the interiors, which are very car-like, rather than the usual pickup design. So, once seated in the cockpit of the NP300, a small driver like me is not intimidated by the size of this ute pickup because inside it hugs like a glove.

The dashboard has been styled to feature a gentle sweep from the center panel to the door side with three-dimensional rich sections offering a feeling of spaciousness. The dashboard is furnished with convenient and functional trays that serve as storage spaces for personal belongings and electronic devices.

 In its smart cockpit is the Instrument Cluster Panel that displays easy-to-read vehicle information without losing focus on driving thanks to the Fine Vision technology.

On to its feature-packed steering wheel, exciting convenient features like audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity and Cruise Control can be operated with so much ease. The Audio System also comes with six-speaker, CD, MP3, iPod connectivity and also serves as a convenient visual monitor for the rear camera when backing up.

Nissan Philippines Inc. made sure that it left nothing to chance with the NP300.  

“Every day at Nissan, we challenge ourselves with making good products even better. Trucks are definitely tough, that is a given, but what sets us apart, is that we redefined tough and we equipped it with innovation that makes it smart,” said  Antonio Zara, NPI president and managing director, at the launch of the NP300, recently. “The All-New NP300 Navara is the truck that will make you proud no matter what the situation, be it a rough-road drive or a relaxed cruise in the city.”

Nissan built the first pickup in 1933 and since then over 14 million customers around the globe have come to depend on a Nissan pickup to transport their families and cargo, sometimes in the toughest of circumstances.

 “Nissan pickups are not just vehicles, they are the lifeblood of communities, and we are catering to that need by improving the much-loved pickup.

With 80 years of heritage, providing technologies comes as natural as possible. Nissan lives on the promise of providing innovation that excites, and that’s what we have been doing,” added Zara.

Comfy inside: The cockpit is built for a luxury sedan — in the Navara NP300 comfort is built in.

Just drive

It was time to get this baby on the road — I had planned a trip to the north — as far as I could go on this rainy Sunday. Before I took the wheel, I gave the NP300 a once over on the outside.

It is quite obvious here that the Nissan design team focused on delivering a sportier exterior design, while maintaining Nissan’s distinctive design DNA. With a modern yet tough design, the all-new NP300 Navara introduces itself with distinct signature features like the boomerang-shaped LED Daytime Running Headlamps which is first in its class.

The “V-motion” motif that flows from the grille and into the hood extending through the front fender gives a smooth and dynamic character line that definitely demands attention.

But not everything was made just so that the NP300 would be a looker.  The NP300 Navara’s tough design has been designed and developed to easily handle heavy loads making this truck a perfect fit for people who like to carry heavy loads — on their pickups, that is.

To prove its claim to be one of the toughest pickups on the road, underneath the NP300 Navara is a full-length, fully boxed ladder frame, which adds torsional stiffness that enhances the truck’s durability. In addition to the improvements, the NP300 has a reduced turning radius that highlights the importance of agility and maneuverability of an SUV in both off-road and city driving.

And, of course there is that all-powerful 2.5-liter DOHC in-line 4-cylinder Variable Geometry System (VGS) diesel engine. The NP300 I got to test drive was the 4x2 variant punches in 163ps power and 403Nm torque.

I start the NP300 with another first in its class, the push-button ignition.

Engine revving and driving spirits ready soar I head out of our village.

The skies are filled with rain clouds and a heavy downpour is threatening to make its presence felt. I look up, smile at the possibility of taking this baby on the road on this stormy Sunday.

Funny how the gloomy weather has no chance of making me change my mind about my northern adventure.

I make it to the NLEX and the rain has come down hard.

The Navara NP300 keeps me safe inside its oh so comfy interiors. I think about the roads ahead — Baguio and back — my mind suggests.

I take the challenge.

Stormy Sundays are made for longhaul trips — and the Nissan Navara NP300 is the perfect companion on a day like this.












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