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Archive for September, 2017

Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Nissan Navara Dual Cab ST-X.

It’s a hearty “welcome back” to Nissan and what a vehicle to get things up and running. The grunty and luxuriously appointed 2017 Nissan Navara ST-X dual cab ute graced the driveway for a week.The heartbeat of the Navara dual cab range is the immensely flexible and torquey 2.3 litre diesel available across the range. Depending on which specification you buy you’ll have either a 120 kW or 140 kW variant, such as the ST-X does, but you’ll also get either 403 Nm or 450 Nm between 1500-2500. It tapers off gently from that peak and acceleration in a rolling situation is stupendous. It’s geared to sit at around 1800 rpm or so for the highway and when required, will spin easily through the rev range and get you towards the horizon rapidly. You’ll never feel as if the engine is going to run out of urge and with the (optional, as fitted) seven speed auto, it’s a seamless, ongoing, never ending wave with only the flick of the tacho really giving you any indication of what’s happening underneath.What’s even more startling about the performance is the bulk the engine must pull around. Kerb weight is just thirty kilos shy of two tonnes, and Nissan quotes a gross mass of 2.9 tonnes. However, such is the all-round ability of the engine and driveline you’d not know of the weight. To top the icing with a cherry is the fuel economy from the sizable 80 litre tank. Nissan quotes 7.0L/100 kilometres on the combined cycle, AWT finished just north of that at 8.1L/100.The transmission in the ST-X is a high and low range four wheel drive capable setup, tied to the seven speed auto. Capable being the operative word here as low range mud eating is a doddle. All but one Navara dual cab variant (the RX) has a leaf spring rear, with the others being loaded up with an S-Link rear. Combined with the standard double wishbone front, the ST-X will crawl over and through just about any surface in high and low four wheel drive. The low gear ratios allow the engine to provide peak torque during the drive, ensuring the engine is on song during off road excursions.On tarmac ride quality is pretty damned good too. It’s a touch more taut at the rear but is tied down, compliant and only occasionally jiggly. Thanks to the tough suspension requirements it’s flat, composed, irons out most irregularities but there’s a dark side. At anything other than walking pace it’ll nose wide in corners. There’s no lack of grip as such, just a propensity for the front end’s steering to not be quite as tightly wound as perhaps it should be. Otherwise it’s a ride that you can live with, and enjoy. Highway and freeway dips and rises feel as if they have the ST-X as part of the surface, as there’s no discernible suspension travel, rather a sensation of following the curvatures. There’s some free play in the steering for cornering at speed, with load felt just slightly off centre.Enjoy it you can whilst sitting in the cabin. ST-X has a nickname: “ute in a suit”; there’s leather seats front and rear, with heating for the front. Great in winter but no ventilation on leather seats during an Aussie summer is not a good idea…and there are times where cloth is preferred such as a cold morning. Oddly, for a top of the range vehicle, only the driver’s window has an auto or one touch Up/Down as well. There’s a leather trimmed tiller, plenty of storage nooks including a tray in the top of the dash (with 12V socket), and chromed and bronzed silver accented highlights throughout.The dash dials are clean to read and separated by a colour info screen, the touchscreen and associated buttons are ergonomically friendly, there’s plugs for the audio and 12V accessories , and a simple to use dial for the four wheel drive system. You’ll have Bluetooth phone and streaming compatibility, a single CD player, plus cruise control. Safety comes in the form of the electronic aids such as Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, seven airbags including driver’s knee, and seatbelt pre-tensioning, making the Navara ST-X as safe as possible.There’s ample room front and rear for the family, for head and shoulders and, importantly, leg room. What you don’t get room for, which the ST-X has in common with every vehicle of its type, is room for shopping. Yes, you do have a tray that will excel at holding tools or whitegoods or hardware, but utes aren’t really ideal for family shopping…unless you’re a family of one and your shopping is tinned food and liquid refreshment.But little of that will count when you drive the ST-X. It’s an imposing beast, with an overall length of 5255 mm, stands at 1840 mm sans roof rails and will spread itself across 1850 mm. The wheelbase is a decent 3150 mm, one of the bigger wheelbases around, and contributes to the straight line stability of the vehicle. There’s decent front and rear overhangs too, allowing approach and departure angles of over 32 and 26 degrees when off roading. And underneath, the chassis is designed to work with the engine and transmission to allow up to 3500 kilograms worth of towing with a brake equipped trailer.Looks wise the Navara range for 2017 has been sharpened up a little; the front end is more angular, more asserrtive. There’s side steps on the ST-X, and meaty Toyo A25 255/60/18 rubber on either end. There’s a reverse camera integrated into the tail gate handle as well, linking to the touchscreen inside and provides a high definition image. There’s roof rails, a chromed roll bar mounted over the tray, a polyurethane tub lining, tie down points, which makes the overall presence high on the assertive “I’ll take this chair, mate”.At The End Of The Drive.
The Navara nameplate has always been a strong performer for Nissan. And even with the rise of the SUV the Navara continues to make an impact on a tough market. With competition from Volkswagen (Amarok), Mitsubishi (Triton), Ford (Ranger), Holden (Colorado), Isuzu (D-Max), just to name a few, the Navara has held onto a good market share. The ST-X especially is one that is worthy of looking at as a top of the ladder entry. As a work ute, it’s well and truly suitable, especially for areas that require a dedicated four wheel drive system. Wear a suit? Just as capable.

As a daily driver, the willing engine, smooth gearbox, and sheer driveability make it a no brainer. It’s compliant, comfortable, easy to move around despite the size and certainly has one of the more responsive throttles around. The 2017 Nissan Navara ST-X is certainly a solid contender in a very crowded market place.Check out the details of the range here: 2017 Nissan Navara dual cab range

AWD v FWD v RWD

Traction

When it comes to buying your new vehicle, should it be FWD (Front Wheel Drive), RWD (Rear Wheel Drive) or AWD (All Wheel Drive)?  How the car gets shoved along might not matter to many drivers, however there are some differences between the driving layouts that are worth pointing out.  There are some changes occurring where car manufacturers are adopting a new layout for certain key reasons, and we’ll see why shortly.  What type of drive system you prefer really depends on what kind of a driver you are and the conditions you usually find yourself drive in.

Let’s take a look at the three types for drive trains and note the differences.

Firstly we’ll start with RWD, mainly because this can be lots of fun to drive.  A RWD car has a simple design where the drive shaft runs the length of the vehicle: from the engine to the rear wheels.  The design is generally simple and rugged.  It’s less likely to break when running over a curb or large pothole.  FWD vehicles are more complex, and with the added weight over the front axle the chances you’re going to break something in the FWD design is more likely.  FWD set-ups incorporate half-shafts and constant velocity (CV) joints that are more susceptible to damage than a RWD car’s solid axle.

RWD cars usually have a slightly better weight distribution (not as heavy at the front end compared with a FWD car), creating better handling because of this.  A RWD car spreads the weight of its drivetrain more evenly front-to-rear.  But an issue with the RWD layout can arise when the road conditions get slippery.  Rain, snow and ice create scenarios where loss of traction at the rear becomes more likely in a RWD car.

FWD cars do, however, provide better economy – not only in fuel consumption but also in manufacturing costs.  With fewer parts the drivetrain is easier and cheaper to mount into the car as it progresses down the assembly line.  FWD cars are often lighter than RWD equivalents thanks to the design not having to use separate transmission and axle assemblies used in a RWD car.  Reduction in weight leads to better fuel economy on the road, and this is a big draw card for new car buyers.

In certain conditions FWD offers better traction compared with a RWD car.  In the rain and snow, FWD gets better traction on the driving wheels because the front wheels have the extra engine and transaxle weight sitting on top of the front driving wheels – which helps to get better grip in slippery conditions.  Also, the front wheels are pulling rather than pushing the car along, aiding steering control in poor road conditions.

Being nose heavy, FWD cars aren’t usually quite as nimble and fast through the corners as RWD cars. When road conditions allow for higher speeds to be attained, FWD cars have to steer and drive the car with extra weight at the front.  This is why very few “serious” performance cars are FWD.  Maintenance costs are higher compared with RWD, so new bits like CV joints and boots will need to be replaced as the kilometres pass by.

This leaves us with AWD, and the best thing about AWD is that it gives some of the advantages of both RWD and FWD.  The number one advantage of AWD is excellent traction in dry and wet road conditions.  Some AWD designs lean slightly toward the front wheels doing more work, while others lean more toward the rear wheels doing more of the work.  The RWD-based versions are usually more performance-oriented but any of the AWD cars will do a top job of balancing the car’s handling and driving dynamics.

AWD cars do cost more to buy compared with RWD and FWD cousins.  This is because they cost more to produce with all the extra drive train components.  The extra running gear also costs more to maintain.  AWD systems are also heavier drive systems which makes for higher fuel consumption.  The higher fuel consumption, higher production costs and higher maintenance costs will put some buyers off, however a die-hard Subaru fan will have you think otherwise.  For ultimate performance, the AWD system can’t be beaten.

There are electronic traction control systems and driver aids that are getting better-and-better which do aid both the car’s handling and performance characteristics, as well as safety.  And, particularly in variable road conditions that might be wet and slippery, these extra electronic control systems can’t be beat.  These systems are widely used in many FWD, RWD and AWD cars.

The trend is that new car buyers are looking for more SUV and all-purpose vehicles to buy.  It has become simpler for automakers to reconfigure FWD models into AWD formulas where the AWD system is front-wheel power biased.  We are seeing more of these vehicle types on our road, which also means there is a decline in new RWD cars being bought.

Just for interest sake: Holden are still keeping the Commodore name, however the new Commodore won’t have a rear-wheel drive variant.  Instead, it’ll be offered in a front-wheel drive configuration for mainstream models, while a naturally aspirated 3.6-litre V6 AWD model will be the performance model in the line-up.  With a nine-speed automatic gearbox, no differential with dual-clutch control systems controlling front and rear wheels independently, and torque vectoring the AWD model will be a performer.

Holden Commodore AWD

Also interesting is that BMW Motorsport engineers are looking to produce M-badged cars with an AWD model as well as a RWD variant.  With BMW’s M cars getting so powerful, the boss of BMW’s M Division, Frank van Meel, said that it’s getting hard to sell M cars without AWD in markets like Canada and Switzerland where conditions are slippery.

BMW M5 AWD

There is only so much horsepower you can put through two wheels before obtaining the grip needed to accelerate fast is compromised.  Even with the best traction and launch control aids, 2WD systems are beaten by AWD systems, and when engines have such immense power now, AWD is the only logical step forward for performance car manufacturers like BMW.  Audi, Porsche and Nissan already have plenty of experience with AWD performance models.