THE NISSAN Navara D22 has covered just over 7000km since the last update, about 40 per cent of which was on a return trip from Wollongong to Eldee Station in New South Wales, north of Broken Hill, via the Snowy Mountains.
Before we loaded up the Navara with gear for the trip, I swapped the Narva Ultima 225 HIDs with a set of Lightforce Genesis LEDs. There was nothing wrong with the Narvas (in fact, they are an excellent light) but I was keen to put Lightforce’s new Aussie-developed and manufactured LEDs to the test. As expected, they proved exceptionally bright and, despite their purported spot pattern, they throw plenty of light to the sides of the road. There’s also an optional combination filter available that’s designed to further widen the light spread.
My next task was to build a fridge box for my trusty old Engel, so that gear wouldn’t fall into the drawer every time I pulled out the fridge slide. Some leftover structural plywood from another project, a few self-tappers, some wood glue and about three hours of work resulted in not only a fridge box, but also a handy shelf that can be accessed through the canopy’s lift-up window, where I mounted a fire extinguisher and stowed a first-aid kit.
I also added an access port so I could monitor/access my Primus Power Pack and fridge controls, and I drilled some holes on the other side to allow for plenty of ventilation around the back of the fridge. With more time I would’ve lined the box with some charcoal marine carpet, but as usual I was in a rush, so once again form follows function.
While the cheap Chinese drawers I fitted in the tub are still operating as intended, both of the handles have broken off, so it looks like I’ll have to take another trip to the hardware store for some heavy-duty replacements. As mentioned previously, I’d already replaced the flimsy bolt on the fridge slide with a sturdier hardware-store-sourced item. The next drawer system I buy will definitely be a better-quality one – lesson learnt.
Once we’d packed all of our gear for our two-week escape, there wasn’t a hell of a lot of room left over. One drawer was full of food while the other was full of recovery gear, tools, spares, etc. The rest of the space in the tub was taken up by general luggage, camping chairs, a pair of MaxTrax, a 20L Jerrycan and all the other odds and ends that a family of three might (or might not) need on an Easter holiday.
Despite opting for Tough Dog’s ‘Light Rear Load’ kit, which is designed to best operate with a load of up to 300kg, the rear leaves handled the additional weight well. Not only did the laden Navara sit well on the road, it handled nicely both on and off the road; the leaves offering much better compliance and load carrying capacity than the OE items, and the 41mm foam cell shock absorbers offering far better damping than the standard shocks.
In all, we covered more than 3000km on our family adventure, about 400km of which was on gravel roads and a smaller proportion on rocky station tracks. At the end of the trip, Toyo Tires’ Technical Manager Stephen Burke dropped by to see how the Open Country II (OPAT II) tyres were wearing, as they had by now covered 23,775km. I have been very impressed with the OPAT IIs to date, and they offer a great blend of on-road traction (in both dry and wet conditions), reasonable ride quality, low noise levels and excellent wear rates.
This was Stephen’s fourth inspection of the tyres and, after closely measuring the wear rate across each tyre’s tread face, he concluded they had used on average a tad more than 20 per cent of their tread. Importantly, there were no signs of chipping from gravel-road driving and no signs of damage from off-road driving. I have been very particular when it comes to adjusting tyre pressures to suit driving conditions, and it appears this has paid off. On the road I have been running 35psi, dropping down to 28psi for gravel roads and then down to around 20-23psi for off-road tracks.
Sure, the Navara D22 falls way short of modern dual-cab utes when it comes to performance and refinement, but it never fails to surprise when it comes to getting the job done. Whether it’s a trip to the shops, a drive up the freeway to the big smoke, a run to the tip, or a family off-road adventure, the Navara gets it all done without a fuss. And with ‘luxury’ appointments like power windows, icy-cold air-con and an auxiliary input on the stereo, what more could you want?
When I bought the Navara four years ago, I was after a reliable and economical ute that I could use as a daily driver, load hauler and off-road tourer. With just a few modifications, the Navara has fulfilled that brief perfectly – the servicing costs are negligible, there have been no major mechanical issues, fuel consumption is a consistent 11.0L/100km, it has hauled everything from dirt bikes to building rubble, and off-road capability is surprisingly good, with decent low-range reduction, an effective limited-slip rear diff, and adequate ground clearance and wheel travel.
But there’s something missing in my relationship with the Navara. There’s no passion, no spark... which is why I’ve done the dirty and gone and bought myself another oil-leaking, money-sapping Land Rover. However, I don’t know if I can keep this two-timing up, so it might be time to let the Navara go.