This month, we hitched up the CarAdvice trailer and hit the road in our 2020 Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior long-termer – with a slightly different (though still related) ute in tow.
The previous positives we've reported on for our long-term Warrior, in theory anyway, should ring true when we're towing. The quality and comfort of the cabin, the way the Australian-tuned suspension behaves on a variety of surfaces, and the punchy but efficient engine, all promise to bring the same strengths to towing as they do to conventional unladen running round town.
Interestingly, the old-style seating position that locates you higher up in the cab is a bonus when you're towing. It's not a strong point when compared to the seating versatility of the segment leaders, but when you're towing it works out nicely.
Visibility both fore and aft is improved by sitting high and mighty behind the wheel, and you've got a commanding view of whatever it is you're towing at all times.
A quick recap in case you haven’t read our other Warrior reviews – there’s a 2.3-litre, twin-turbo diesel four-cylinder mated to a seven-speed automatic, and the oiler generates 140kW and 450Nm.
The ADR fuel claim is 7.0L/100km on the combined cycle, and in heavy traffic around town our average has settled in at 8.8L/100km, which is genuinely impressive for a capable off-road work vehicle.
With our trailer in tow, the average settled in at 10.2L/100km after approximately 300km on the road – still impressive.
Towing is probably the discipline that more than any other begs the question of why manufacturers don't follow Volkswagen's lead and shoehorn a V6 between the front frame rails. The way the VW engine effortlessly hauls a trailer around is very much a lesson to the current 'less is more' philosophy of engine sizing. Sometimes it might be, but not when you need a workhorse.
Despite being two down on the cylinder count, though, we know the Warrior's 2.3-litre is a decent unit, and its neat relationship to the seven-speed automatic makes for a smooth combination. It's worth noting also that we wouldn't approach the outer reaches of the theoretical tow rating of any of the current crop of dual-cabs without some serious trepidation. Just because they 'can' move 3500kg, doesn't mean they should.
Our trailer weighs somewhere between 600–700kg with all our straps and gear stowed, and it's rated to carry 2000kg. It's got the full electronic brake set-up, and its dual-axle design means it's a pleasure to tow, with or without weight on the tray. The Datsun 1600 we were moving – with an SR20 in it by the way – weighs in somewhere around the 900–1000kg mark. We had some sundry spare parts strapped into the tray, but the total weight we were hauling was right in that 1500–2000kg sweet spot so many of you want to know about.
The first point to note is that hitching the trailer up is a cinch. A clear rear-view camera that is broad enough to safely see what you're doing makes solo tray connection a breeze. You used to have some idea what you were doing to hitch up a trailer, now it's a simple matter of looking at the screen. The screen is also handy when you're reversing the trailer while attached. If you're an experienced tow vehicle driver, you won't use the camera much, but it does help when you're manoeuvring in tight spaces.
Once connected, the unladen trailer sat nicely on the tow ball, as it should given it doesn't weigh much in the overall scheme of things. One thing we did appreciate is the wide wheel track of the Warrior, which makes it easy to position what is a fairly wide trailer in the lane. It can be a little disconcerting if you're towing a wide trailer with a narrow vehicle, in terms of anticipating where the trailer is sitting behind you.
The standard exterior rear-view mirrors worked nicely for us on test with our car trailer, keeping in mind that you're only hauling something the width of a car on the trailer. If you have a super-wide caravan or horse float, you will want to consider wider, tow-specific rear-view mirrors. Either as a permanent fixture or temporary.
On the move, with the little Datsun loaded up, the Warrior tows effortlessly up to highway speed. Acceleration is smooth and easy, the gearbox doesn't do anything funny, and the reworked rear end doesn't feel unsettled by the – admittedly light – weight over the rear.
As I noted above, our trailer is a particularly good one to tow with, but the Warrior still does it easily. It's comfortable, too, thanks largely to the way the trailer distributes the weight, so it doesn't bounce and rock constantly. Good trailer brakes mean there isn't too much shunting through the chassis of the Warrior, even when you do need to use the brakes a little harder than you'd like to.
The fuel use settling into the low 10s is indicative of the fact that the 2.3-litre isn't having to work up too much of a sweat either, no doubt assisted by the seven-speed automatic, which offers a sensible spread of ratios. We say it often, but use a six- or seven-speeder and you really do wonder whether 10 isn't overkill. The general drive experience remains smooth, even on nastier road surfaces, with the Warrior remaining composed for the duration of our drive.
You'll note that we often write here that if you do need to tow a lot of weight regularly, the dual-cab segment isn't the one you should be looking at. Consider a 200 Series, Patrol if you're SUV-inclined, or the aforementioned RAM and Silverado if you need a large tray. However, around the 2000kg mark, most of the dual-cabs aren't being worked too hard or being pushed to something they aren't comfortable with.
Given 2000kg is the kind of weight that most Australians would be likely to tow most often, it's worth noting that the Warrior can do that with ease. As we hoped, the Aussie-fettled suspension and the intrinsic positives that it exhibits unladen make their way through to its ability to tow. It's getting on in age now, but I still think the Navara, especially in Warrior guise, mounts a compelling argument in the ever crowded, ever more expensive dual-cab space.