Premcar enhancements deliver rugged styling and enhanced off-road ability to Nissan’s Navara 4x4 ute.
It must seem strange to the largely Japanese car makers that fulfil our insatiable appetite for dual cab 4x4 utes that one of the first things buyers do when they take delivery of these shiny new machine is begin ripping bits off.
A recent survey by the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) found the 4WD aftermarket is booming, with an estimated 2,100 businesses servicing the industry and generating about $6 billion in revenue each year.
But choosing which aftermarket brand to go with must be a headache, given the plethora of options let alone the time lost running around to different suppliers to have bull bars, suspension upgrades and all manner of other aftermarket accessories fitted.
And then there’s the question of whether the chosen bits will come together cohesively or look like something out of a Mad Max movie.
Nissan Australia, along with its aftermarket engineering partner Premcar, has come up with a solution to this dilemma in the form of the Navara PRO-4X Warrior, enabling Navara ute buyers to drive straight out of the showroom in a highly modified vehicle that both looks the part and is more capable off-road.
Melbourne-based Premcar will be familiar to Ford fans, since it was previously associated with developing the Blue Oval’s FPV and XR performance models.
More recently, the product development and engineering consultancy was hailed for the impressive rework it did on the previous model Nissan Navara 4x4 ute, marketed by Nissan in 2019-20 as the Navara N-Trek Warrior.
The success of that initiative saw Premcar ink a new deal to develop a similar upgrade for the refreshed 2021 Navara, dubbed the Navara PRO-4X Warrior.
The company employs about 85 engineers and technicians operating out of a state-of-the-art manufacturing and assembly facility in Epping, Victoria.
Premcar Engineering Director Bernie Quinn said the extensively re-engineered model took a team of designers, engineers and manufacturing experts about 12-months to complete.
“The concept with the PRO-4X Warrior is to take a Navara, which is a very capable machine, and overlay it with an Australian feel. That encompasses what the Australian consumer expects,” he said.
“We all know what every 4x4 dual cap pickup owner does these days: they go out to ARB or Ironman and fit the vehicle out to suit their tastes.
“So, what we’ve done is we’ve taken that consumer demand, using our understanding of what the Australian consumer wants, and packaged that up into a vehicle that looks how the Australian consumer wants it to look.
“It also drives how the Australian consumer wants – it’s just as comfortable to drive to the shops or the worksite as it is to a camping site or on serious off-road tracks.
“You can’t do that remotely. It would be very hard for Nissan to do that outside of Australia.
“Using these Australian engineers who have worked at GM-H and Ford means is it’s been developed for Australian roads, for Australian conditions, for Australian drivers and it suits their taste.”
The PRO-4X Warrior is based on the current fifth generation D23 Navara, which was updated in early 2021 with significant styling upgrades, increased payload, new driver assist technology, and a sporty new model grade, the PRO-4X.
The latter is Nissan’s top-of-the-line factory-developed model and is designed to give the car maker a competitor for the likes of the Ford Ranger Wildtrack and Toyota HiLux Rugged X.
But with the Ford Ranger Raptor providing the Blue Oval with another step again above the Wildtrack, Nissan clearly felt it needed a foil for that model too, hence its collaboration with Premcar to develop the PRO-4X Warrior, which now sits at the top of the range for those seeking maximum-Navara-ness.
Before Premcar even get to it the Navara PRO-4X is a good-looking ute, thanks to much bolder exterior styling introduced in 2021.
The changes include a new front fascia with “interlock” grille, new quad LED projector, headlamps, and the Navara model name embossed on top of the grille and across the full width of the redesigned tailgate.
At the rear, there are new LED taillights plus a step that’s integrated into the bumper for easier access to the tub, the height of which has been increased by 45mm for more load volume.
The rear axle and brakes were also strengthened, facilitating a payload increase to 1.2 tons. Braked towing capacity, meanwhile, remains a category-competitive 3500kg.
Other PRO-4X styling enhancements include a handsome black stainless-steel double-tube sports bar with sail plane, black wheel arch flares, roof rails, and a blacked-out treatment for the grille, door handles and running boards.
It’s capped off with a smattering of contrasting red accents and a set of eye-catching 17-inch gloss black alloy wheels.
To turn the PRO-4X into the PRO-4X Warrior, Premcar adds a winch-compatible body-coloured Safari-style bull bar, integrated light bar, and additional underbody protection in the form of a new Navara-branded red bash plate and a 3mm steel second-stage protection plate.
New Warrior-specific fender flares are fitted to house more off-road oriented 275/70R17 Cooper Discoverer All Terrain AT3 tyres, replacing the standard Yokohama Geolander hoops.
The new tyres and detail changes to suspension geometry contribute to a track that’s been widened by 30mm to 1600mm, which produces better handling, cornering capability and stability, according to Premcar, but also gives the ute a tougher, wider stance.
A Warrior decal pack and Warrior interior headrest embroidery complete the styling changes.
It’s underneath the PRO-4X where Premcar works most of its magic, with the wheel and tyre changes complemented by suspension enhancements aimed at improving ground clearance, off-road ability, ride and handling.
The increase in ride height improves ground clearance by 40mm to 260mm, while the approach angle is also improved from 32 degrees to 36 degrees.
Departure angle is reduced slightly over the standard PRO-4X (from 19.8 degrees to 19 degrees), but this is with a full-sized spare and alloy wheel beneath the tray.
The double wishbone front and coil spring rear suspension has been comprehensively reengineered with new Monroe dampers and revised springs, which Premcar said were designed to reduce body roll, improve compliance, and reduce float when towing or carrying a load.
The Warrior’s GVM has also been increased by 100kg to 3250kg, meaning the extra Warrior components have a minimal impact on payload, which is reduced by 52kg over the PRO-4X to 961kg for the manual transmission and 952kg for the automatic.
On the safety front, the Navara PRO-4X’s suite of standard safety equipment is carried over unchanged to the Warrior, meaning seven airbags and a raft of advanced driver assistance technologies, including Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Emergency Braking, Intelligent Driver Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Intelligent Lane Intervention, Blind Spot Warning, Intelligent Around
View Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. A Trailer Sway Control feature also helps maintain stability when towing.
The Around View Monitor is a handy addition when hooking up to tow or manoeuvring in tight spots and includes Moving Object Detection, with four mounted cameras to help see people and cars surrounding the vehicle.
It also includes an off-road monitor, which can be used to sight surrounding obstacles at low speeds when driving in 4x4-mode.
Unfortunately, the updated Navara still falls short of the Isuzu D-Max, Mazda BT-50 and Toyota HiLux in lacking an extra front-centre airbag, positioned between the front seats to avoid head clashes in accidents. But the interior is quieter now, thanks to the use of more sound deadening in the 2021 update, while the rear seats cushions and back shapes have been upgraded to improve comfort.
There are no changes under the bonnet, meaning the Warrior is powered by the Navara’s proven 2.3-litre intercooled twin turbodiesel, developing 140kW/ 450Nm.
The twin-turbo engine is a gutsy and decently responsive unit and mates to a smooth shifting seven-speed automatic transmission, with drive mode switch enabling selection of modes including Sport and Tow.
The leather-clad three-spoke multifunction steering is attractive and comfortable to grip and all the major instruments are clearly visible in a redesigned instrument panel, featuring a 7.0-inch high-resolution TFT screen.
Unfortunately, the steering is adjustable for height but not reach, which limits the range of adjustment available to achieve an ideal driving position.
Elsewhere, the PRO-4X Warrior looks and feels suitably upmarket with keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, logo-embossed leather-accented seats, and eight-way electric driver’s seat adjustment.
The new infotainment system introduced with the 2021 upgrades features an 8.0-inch navigation screen with Bluetooth streaming audio, voice recognition, and satellite navigation.
You sit up high in the cabin with a commanding view over the road, the extra lift of the Warrior suspension meaning vertically-challenged-types will appreciate the standard side steps when hopping in and out.
Out on the road it’s immediately obvious that Premcar has done an impressive job with the suspension setup. With its coil sprung rear end the Navara was already one of the better riding dual cab utes on the market but these changes improve things further – provided you don’t mind the bit of extra float that comes with the higher ride height.
The Warrior certainly feels more long-legged than a regular Navara 4x4, the extra suspension travel allowing it to more ably smooth out the humps and bumps of back-road driving.
You’re conscious of the extra ride height when tipping into a corner, but the polished setup provides smooth transitions from one corner to the next and body roll remains well controlled, so you soon gain confidence that the high-riding ute can hold its own in the bends.
The steering is on the light side but it’s nicely accurate and responsive, so you have a good sense of where the front wheels are pointing when cornering.
With such a high centre of gravity, the Warrior is never going to corner like a passenger car but none of its rivals do either, with a major upside of the changes being its enhanced off-road ability.
We spent a day slipping and sliding on rain-sodden bush tracks in the Coffs Harbour hinterland where the Warrior proved a highly capable and comfortable off-road companion.
High and low range 4x4 selection is via a rotary dial on the dash and when things get tricky there’s an electric locking rear differential, along with standard Hill Start Assist.
The extra ride height, improved approach angle and beefed-up underbody inspire confidence you’re not going to get hung up on obstacles, or worse still, damage something under the vehicle, while the chunky Cooper Discoverer tyres proved their worth in the greasy conditions.
With its background in OEM manufacturing, Premcar clearly knows how to deliver a polished and professionally resolved model, which is exactly how the Warrior looks and feels.
The company obviously has faith in the quality of its workmanship, matching Nissan’s five-year factory warranty on all manufacturer components with a five-year warranty on the Premcar modifications.
The warranty deal is structured so that customers can go directly through their Nissan Australia dealership, rather than needing to go through Premcar.
A spokesperson said customers need simply present at their dealership when it comes time for servicing, or if they have a warranty query, and Nissan's service team will take care of the rest.
In summary, this is a great-looking ute that drives well, has a strong suite of safety features, and delivers meaningful improvements to the standard Navara’s off-road ability, without sacrificing on-road driveability.
The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.