It’s no secret that Nissan is working on a SUV version of the Navara ute – but here is the first glimpse, a mule disguised around the rear by almost identical sheet metal from the R51 Pathfinder.
The front and centre sections of the camouflaged prototype are clearly NP300 Navara, but the rear tail-lights, high door handles, and glass hatch also look to have been borrowed from the R51, itself based on the previous D40 Navara.
Given that a Navara SUV will go up against the Ford Everest, Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, and Isuzu MU-X, all of whom are based on utes but have distinct styling, it appears unlikely that the final design around the Nissan’s rear will be as squared-off.
Nissan executives over the past year or two have indicated a Navara-based SUV would be built. Former chief planning officer Dr Andy Palmer – now head of Aston Martin – said in 2014 that such a vehicle “would be logical”.
The carmaker’s corporate vice president of product planning, Keno Kato, was later asked about Palmer’s comment. “Did Andy say that? If my boss said that in public, I will follow”.
Later still, Navara chief engineer Takeshi Fukui confirmed that the SUV model was “in the works”.
The diesel Y61 Patrol variants are largely no more – not in New Zealand – and the replacement Y62 Patrol is available only with a thirsty 5.6-litre V8 petrol engine and a hefty $100,000-plus price tag.
The current X-Trail and Pathfinder are soft-roaders. A Navara-based SUV with the ute’s multi-link rear coil suspension and 140kW/450Nm 2.3-litre Renault diesel would rattle the Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Isuzu rivals.
Of those, only the Ford Everest has an independent rear set-up for improved on-road comfort; the others have leaf springs.
It’s clear that Nissan has a new SUV in its line-up. But what would it be called? Pathfinder is out, given the name’s already in use on the soft-roader.
Terrano – a variation on the Latin ‘terranus’, or ‘earthy’ – is still in use in some markets; Armada is used in the US; X-Terra is retired. Perhaps Nissan might call it the ‘Navara Sport’. Perhaps a new name altogether.