A prototype of what could be the anticipated SUV spin-off of Nissan’s new NP300 Navara ute has been spied testing this week, revealing more than a little of the now retired R51 Pathfinder in its shape.
Although the front and centre sections of this camouflaged mule are clearly Navara, the rear half is almost identical to the old Pathfinder’s design – right down to the donated glass hatch, angled-top tail lamps and high-set rear door handles.
It appears unlikely that any upcoming Navara-based SUV will wear this boxy squared-off design, however, with most players in the segment – including the Pajero Sport, Everest, Fortuner, MU-X and newly-rechristened Trailblazer – all featuring a tapered and more ‘sporting’ shape at the rear.
But, while its final look may remain a secret for now, there is little reason to doubt that this is indeed our first look at what would enter as a spiritual successor to the previous Navara-based Pathfinder range.
And, now that the old Y61 Patrol is finally entering retirement, this new SUV will give Nissan a more affordable, diesel-powered and properly truck-based alternative to the big V8 petrol-powered Y62 model currently on offer.
It’s no secret, of course, that Nissan has been planning this model for some time.
Speaking with CarAdvice around this time in 2014, the now former chief planning officer for Nissan, Andy Palmer (now head of Aston Martin), said that an SUV spinoff for the Navara “would be logical”.
And while Palmer quickly added that he had been speaking rhetorically, Navara chief engineer Takeshi Fukui confirmed that the model was “in the works”.
The new Navara lends itself well to any potential SUV variant, packaged as it is with a multi-link rear suspension set-up that would deliver far greater on-road comfort than the old Pathfinder while still boasting considerable off-road ability.
But, while the Navara-based SUV now appears a sure thing, don’t expect the upcoming Mercedes-Benz ute – which will also utilise the Navara’s architecture – to follow suit.
In March, Mercedes-Benz Vans boss Volker Mornhinweg offered CarAdvice a clear answer to the question of a Navara-based Mercedes SUV: “no”.
“Because we have, as you may know, the G-Wagen with a ladder frame, all other Mercedes SUVs are unibody. For pick-up, ladder frame is a perfect design principle.”
And we wouldn’t expect the Navara to form the basis of the next G-Class, whenever that might appear.
As for Nissan’s Navara SUV, another mystery is its name. Pathfinder is likely not on the table, given the name’s new road-focussed direction – where most paths have already been ‘found’.
Above: the 2009 Nissan X-Terra
However, we might yet see the name of the larger American-market’s Armada repurposed for our regions and others – just as America’s Chevrolet Colorado is a different (although related) offering than our Holden Colorado.
The X-Terra and Terrano badges could also appear on this model, but, while the former is now retired, the latter is still worn on a Dacia-based offering in some emerging markets.
Of course, we could also see an all-new name appear, if not a simple ‘Navara Sport’ badge.
Watch for more on the Navara-based SUV to come in the weeks and months ahead.