Ford Ranger 2020 review: Wildtrak
The Ford Ranger Wildtrak has achieved icon status. It’s the ute people refer to as the one they...
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Remember that scene at the end of the first Back to the Future movie, where the cherry on top of Marty McFly's redirected life was discovering his dream HiLux in the garage, complete with pretty much every bolt-on accessory 1985 could muster?
It's fair to assume Marty's truck made do with the standard wheezy carburetted petrol four banger under the bonnet, despite his temptation to take on Flea from the Chilli Peppers in a drag race in the final scene.
This particular HiLux no doubt planted the seed of desire for thousands of young moviegoers, regardless of any actual performance pretence, which Toyota has only really moved to address in the past year with the tough-looking Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X.
Any modern dual cab 4x4 ute could be described as an automotive Swiss Army knife, but it's the Ford Ranger Wildtrak that's really capitalised on wannabe Marty McFlys over the past decade. With no mechanical difference to the XLT beneath it and a whole heap of aesthetic upgrades and a corresponding premium pricetag, we can't get enough of them.
So it makes perfect sense for Nissan to jump on board with the Navara, and following a handful of limited edition styling packs over the current generation NP300's past four years, a permanent Wildtrak/McFly equivalent has finally arrived to sit above the existing ST-X range topper.
It's called the N-Trek, and we were among the first to drive it at its Australian media launch last week.
|Nissan Navara 2020: N-Trek|
The N-Trek hits the market with the Series 4 NP300 Navara (that's four updates in four years!!!) range that finally brings Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring to all bar the base RX and DX trim levels.
This capability has been made possible by a new 8.0-inch multimedia screen and interface, which debuted in the electric Leaf and will start to trickle through other Nissan products. This new system also signals the end of the CD player.
What makes an N-Trek an N-Trek is a whole bunch of black details on the outside, many of which are from the options list.
From front to rear, this includes headlight bezels, grille and fog light and bumper inserts, wing mirrors, wheels and wheelarch flares, side steps and special decals along the body, roof rails, door handles, the alloy sports bar and rear bumper.
There's also a handful of tasty orange highlights and a proper N-Trek badge on the tailgate.
It also scores orange highlights on the leather trim and other surfaces, plus front seat heaters and power adjustment for the driver. Considering the basic interior design is starting to date next to fresher utes, the N-Trek treatment really lifts it.
All these extras add just $3700 over the equivalent Navara ST-X too, which means a list price of $56,450 for the manual and $58,950 for the auto.
The colour options are limited to just black, grey or white from the regular palette, and the latter two are premium colours which will set you back an extra $595.
The result of the N-Trek's visual upgrade is genuinely impressive, and it's clear there's been some serious design consideration given to the changes.
Underneath the N-Trek bits, the Series 4 Navara is little changed from the original 2015 NP300, but the top three trim levels benefit greatly from the black headlight bezels used on the N-Trek.
The N-Trek's upgraded visuals have made no difference to practicality, with four cupholders up front and bottleholders in each door. There's no cupholders or centre armrest for rear seat passengers.
The rear seat does get directional airvents and the two ISOFIX child seat mounts that were added last year in addition to the three top tether mounts.
The N-Trek retains the same 3500kg max braked towing capacity of all current Navaras.
Nothing new here either, which the Wildrak has proven not to matter in the slightest.
So it's the same 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel fitted to all higher end NP300 Navaras, which produces the same 140kW and 450Nm it has since 2015, with the latter available between a relatively narrrow 1500-2500rpm.
Transmission options are also carried over, meaning a six-speed manual or seven-speed torque converter automatic transmission.
Despite all the extra gear, the N-Trek carries the same, very impressive, 6.5L/100km (manual) and 7.0L/100km (auto) official combined fuel consumption figures as the ST-X dual-cab 4x4s.
This suggests you should be able to travel at least 1140km on the highway between fills its 80-litre tank, without much of a load or passengers of course.
It's a shame that the Navara Series 4 update hasn't managed to bring the AEB system you can get in Europe, as the technology is thankfully now becoming more commonplace among Australian utes.
Nonetheless, it carries a maximum five star ANCAP safety rating according to 2015 standards, and is equipped with driver and passenger front airbags, driver's kneebag, driver and front passenger side airbags and curtain airbags that cover both rows of seats.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The entire Navara range benefits from Nissan's recently extended five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty for all private owners, while commercial operators will only be eligible for five years/200,000km. Roadside assistance is included for the duration, which is a nice touch.
Service intervals are every 12 months/20,000km, which is generous compared to the likes of the HiLux, which persists with six-month/10,000km service terms. The Navara's service costs are very high for the segment though, with an average annual cost of $629 throughout the warranty period.
Given the N-Trek is just an aesthetic upgrade, there's no surprises in the way it drives.
Therefore it doesn't really do anything wrong for a ute in this class, and you could happily drive it for hours on the highway.
Unfortunately for the N-Trek I had the chance to spend some time in the Ranger Wildtrak just prior, and compared to it the N-Trek is a bit sharper over bumps, and less refined in general.
Last year's dual cab suspension upgrades may have helped its performance under load, but at the expense of passenger comfort when empty. This arguably negates the use of coil springs on the dual cabs, unlike the conventional leaf springs used by single and king cab Navaras.
The 2.3-litre engine was very well regarded four years ago, but now it makes significantly more noise under load than the Ford's fancy new 2.0-litre unit, and is noticeably less spritely around town.
It feels pretty close to the 3.2-litre Ranger I've also driven subsequently though, so don't dismiss it from your shopping list on these grounds.
The N-Trek does bring a genuine cool factor to the Navara, and for a slightly sharper price than what Ford can manage. If everyone you know has already got a Wildrak, this is your chance to stand out.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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