2018 Nissan Navara Perth Experience - Beach, Bush and Beyond
We go west, way out west, to Perth for a journey through the wilds in Nissan’s rejigged Navara
While some will never take their 4x4 ute further off-road than the boat ramp, Nissan took us on a trek through Western Australia to prove its latest Navara is more than capable of venturing further off the beaten track.
Our two-day excursion from Perth to the Margaret River region in Western Australia saw a small fleet of Navara 4x4 double cabs cover more than 600km across highway tarmac, beaches, sand dune tracks, as well as dirt and gravel roads through numerous state forests. Along with the locals, the convoy included a few Kiwis, Thais and Filipinos all keen to sample the Navara in its element on- and off-road and some stunning vintages from the Margaret River wineries after hours.
While the Australians were geared up with a new limited edition Navara ST Black, the overseas delegates were ‘relegated’ to the regular ST-X with it’s leather upholstery, climate air-conditioning and heated seats. The Nissan Navara received a fairly major overhaul to its rear suspension earlier in 2018, when they added dual rate springs which help maintain the unladen ride quality and improve the truck’s handling when loaded or towing (or both).
The springs are matched with new dynamic rebound dampers that reduce lateral body movement for better handling and stability, both when towing and when laden. Nissan reckons the new suspension set-up for the Navara reduces bump steer as well, and the power steering was also sharpened with a 14 per cent decrease in the steering ratio.
This provides a system that is supposedly more responsive and gives better feedback during on and off-road excursions.
Due to a record amount of rain falling in the region prior to our journey, a planned off-road exercise around a farm track on day one of the drive programme from Perth to Margaret River was cancelled as it was just too slippery for our Navara ST-X models which were shod with standard-factory issue highway terrain (HT) tyres.
Our trip along the stunning coastline of Preston Beach in the Yalgorup National Park between Mandurah and Bunbury was also cut short as a storm had washed out the track, forcing the group to turn around and head back to the road and on to our next destination.
Stopping for a picnic lunch at the historic Hoffman Mill campsite in the Dwellingup State Forest was one of the first day’s highlights. In 1919 the Millers Timber and Trading company established Hoffman Mill on this site after the original mill, the ‘Old Hoffman’ located 12 km to the north, was destroyed by fire that year. Before the 1930’s depression, the new Hoffman Mill was just one of many small timber towns throughout the forest.
The small community boasted 35 houses, a General Store, Post Office, Community Hall, Tennis Court, playing fields and a school with 20-30 students. Today only the remnants of the mill and railway formations remain near the picnic area, and the Hoffman Mill campsite provides camping from November 1 until Easter.
From here driving for a couple of hours through a mixture of forestry and country roads took us to our campsite dubbed “Navara Ranch” on a working farm near Margaret River township. It had been set up by local glamping company Wild Goose Camping.
Far from roughing it in a one-man swag (as one of the paramedics did), Wild Goose Camping provided each guest with a four-metre bell tent furnished with a stretcher bed, mattress, bed linen, towels, scatter cushions and blankets.
The Ranch also had a dining tent, showers with gas hot water, and executive style portaloos, so we weren’t doing it tough. Dinner and breakfast were provided by a mobile canteen, and our morning flat whites came from a local hipster who set up a coffee cart in his 52-year-old Volkswagen Combi.
Our second day of driving took us further south of Margaret River towards the coast. On-road the Navara is a relatively quiet and comfortable long distance tourer, although the 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel four-cylinder engine can get a bit talkative when accelerating on the overtake.
Our next off-road dalliance was the Boranup Sand Patch which is a massive blowout of a coastal sand dune in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.
Coming off the tarseal onto gravel roads in the National Park that become narrower and narrower, we ended up on the sandy but rutted track through the Sand Patch’s rolling, scrub-filled dunes. As the track widened out, the terrain became more challenging and rock-strewn, slowing our progress.
While we could easily have continued in high-ratio 4x4 for most of the 30km trek along this track, we elected to engage low-ratio which was particularly reassuring when descending some of the steeper and narrower sections.
From the rest stop with its stunning views of the Indian Ocean, it was a short crawl in low-ratio up the dunes to the main highway and on to Dunsborough for lunch located at the Old Dunsborough boat ramp overlooking the crystal clear waters of Geographe Bay.
Our posse of a dozen now dusty and dirty Navara’s didn’t look out of place amongst the other locally owned and equally grubby-looking utes parked up near the boat ramp, waiting for their owners to return from their fishing trips.
The highlight of our lunch stop at Geographe Bay was spotting a large humpback whale having an offshore splash not far from the coastline. The local whale watching season runs from September to November. Thousands of Humpback, Southern Right, Minke, and Blue Whales use the deep blue waters of Geographe Bay as a nursery, playground and rest haven during their annual migration up and down the coast.
Stirred but not shaken by our impromptu whale watching experience, it was time to hit the road for the last leg of the journey to Busselton-Margaret River Airport and our charter flight back to Perth.
Overall the Navara had proven to be a comfortable and capable travelling companion over the two-day on and off-road experience.
To the credit of both the Navara and the team from MCR guiding us through the route, none of the vehicles got stuck in sand or mud, nobody got lost and, barring a couple of slightly bent aluminium side steps, the vehicles came through the challenging drive virtually unscathed.