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Test Drives
19 May 11 09:07
NISSAN Navara LE 4X4 ~ The Bad Mother Trucker
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Navara LE 4X4 : Bangkok - Pilok Mine on the Thai-Burmese Hinterland Among all the one ton pickup trucks on Thai roads one stands out – the Nissan Navara. The moniker has Spanish origin since Navarra (two “r” ) is a region in northern Spain, the Basque country. Navara (single “r”) is Nissan's global pickup truck known in the North American market as the Frontera. Navara is also manufactured in the Kingdom of Thailand, the world's largest market for one ton commercial vehicles.

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Walk around, looks: The Navara looks rugged, strong, bold not outlandish. The high stance and wide flared wheel arches telling “Get out of my way!” I notice
the new oversized bi-xenon headlights and the V-shaped shining, chrome honey combed grill adds stylish big truck presence.


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The rear view with the big vertical crimson tail-lights and the unique rear gate with it's v-shape center element. On the roof a cool black roof tubular bar with cross tracks and a flat high mounted brake light, the real McCoy – no retro fit.

Our test unit boasted a shining, brilliant midnight black paint job and the
truck was shod with 16' five spoke alloys and riding tall with fat tires.


The Navara has a maximum load carrying capacity of 971 kg, and with one of the largest load box areas in its class, you have access to more practical, useable space (well over a meter between the wheel arches). The streamlined, tubular roof rack is shaped to reduce wind resistance and can hold 100kg.

Entrez! Step in. Four wide forward, hinged doors. Inside an abundance of space and comfortable seating for five in plush, beige, leather upholstered cabin. The fit and finish is almost like in a sedan with all the bells and whistles; cup holders, cubby holes, 7 inch DVD touch screen, including the multi function chunky, three spoke steering wheel.

And now the drive:
Once you throttle the pedal. The power is there, instantaneous and when the turbo kick's in it's almost like a kick in the derriere. The 6-speed heavy duty manual transmission works. The powerful and torqy 2.5 Liter turbo intercooler direct injection engine pack with a maximum power of of 174 HP and 403 Nm maximum torque for 4x4 model, that makes it the highest among its competitor.

With a big, high rider like the Navara it's a shame to drive in Bangkok. So were off for some off serious (off) road test in the hinterland off Kanchananburi, by the Burmese border. From BKK it's long a drive. Expressway. Toll. Rama IX bridge. The busy Petchakasem highway. Rachaburi. De-tours and railway crossings. The 6-speed heavy duty manual transmission works. Like a clock work mated to the powerful 2.5 L turbo intercooler direct injection engine pack with a maximum power of 144 HP and 356 Nm maximum torque for 4x2 and a maximum power of 174 HP and 403 Nm maximum torque for 4x4 model, that makes it the highest among its competitor. But the best is (stick) shifting up and cruising in the high gear. The 6-speed heavy duty manual transmission with short throws. Smooth. And when the turbo kicks in at 2,000 rpm. Wow! I love it. The passengers; wife and the in-laws hold on to their grab handles.

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West ward. We through Kanchananburi and the “Death Railway”, and the replica WWII memorial bridge. Now, it's the National Road 323. Stay on it. Follow the mile stones. Getting lost is a waste of time. The clock on dash board show: 16:45 – the shadows are getting longer. Dusk is approaching. And we're driving deeper and deeper into the green, hinterland, the hills of west Thailand, bordering the junta ruled Myanmar aka Burma. The road passes d a large man made lake dotted with cottage style resorts, home stays


The last stretch single carriage bitumen into the thick, humid vegetation, upward, and downward serpentine to Pilok Village, our destination with turns and turns and more turn in all 399 turns. Good brakes and horse power on tap is required. Navara has got it all. Including safety features galore: Safety Zone reinforced body, ABS system, Dual SRS airbags.

Off-Road.
The last leg from the quiet Pilok village border police station in the dark. “Ban Pilok aka Forest Glade Guesthouse”. 4X4 low gear high ride ONLY!” says Somsak Pilok police officer on night duty. He looks at he Navara. Smiles. “You're, OK!” And we're off in the dark. A bone-rattling, steep descent into the valley. The old Pilok mine. We negotiate, boulders size of beachballs and slippery gravel. Deeper and deeper down in the dark. Into the valley. Navara with 4X4 off road badge is switched on 4LO. (Four wheel drive low). And low gear 1st and 2nd. Steering and braking requires laser sharp concentration.



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The is the probably the most remote resort in Thailand only accessible by 4X4 high ground clearance vehicles Forest Glade Guest House Home stay in Pilok valley. The GM, founder Auntie Glen (that's what everyone calls Mrs Glennis Setabundhu) known for her charming sarong-clad helpers and her home made cakes — chocolate, orange, banana and carrot with a delicious yogurt icing.

The surrounding hills, jungle and waterfalls make the Glennis guesthouse special. But 73-old, Australian-born Glennis and her small, close-knit community. And the place has the haunting, loving presence of Glennis' late Thai husband Somsak a Thai mining engineer. They met in Australia in the 60s and in 1964 Somsak and Glen arrived from Kanchananburi by river boat, truck and elephant and by foot. Two days hard travel. Somsak's tin mine closed in 1984 as London tin council collapsed. And a decade later her husband died of cancer. In 1995 Glen converted the badminton hall size company warehouse into farm house dining sitting area. Simple but comfortable bungalows were added (no A/C needed) and the guests began to arrive. A motley crew Thai business executives and die hard off-roaders, off-road bikers, expatriates and international back packers.

We belonged to the off-readers. As we finished our late supper
with another slice of the delicious carrot cake.

I looked at Nissan Navara parked under beside of the rows Bougainvillae and mini rose garden.



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And I said: “You Navara mothertrucker!” You have passed the road and off road test with flying colors. Cheers!

NISSAN NAVARA 6 M/T 4X4

Sticker price: 878,500 THB

www.nissan.co.th

Carsanook MMXI
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