V8 Nissan Navara in Aussie Warrior project “entirely possible”
Could Nissan beat Ford to build Australia’s first V8 dual-cab ute, or make a monster of its Z sports car?
NISSAN SAYS its Warrior program isn’t just about building off-road vehicles, and that it has a lot of options ahead of it for what the next Warrior will look like.
Common speculation is that the second Warrior, after the Navara Warrior on sale now, will be the facelifted Patrol, with Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester previously saying that the idea was obvious, and recently telling us, “You could draw that conclusion based on that success it’s had and then also the segment that it plays in, and those are what consumers are looking for.”
But it’s short-sighted to look only at off-road cars as the only vehicles able to wear a Warrior badge. Recent conversations with both Lester and engineering director at Premcar, Bernie Quinn, indicate that there’s more than just jacked up Navaras and Patrols on the Warrior shortlist for both companies.
Lester explained to Practical Motoring that Warrior goes beyond off-roading, and that it has “two different interpretations.”
“We feel we have lots of options in front of us and we’re going to work on those projects in priority sequence.
“What’s really interesting as we evolve this though is the interplay between off-road and on-road and whether some of that Warrior we want to be also more of an on-road look, and there could be a situation where you have two different interpretations of this Warrior mentality, if you will, depending on the vehicle.”
“In our view it doesn’t only have to mean off-roading as the ethos of the concept.”
So what does that mean? According to Quinn at Premcar, there are set rules his company must follow, but Nissan has also provided a fairly loose leash to explore what they can do with Nissan product, telling us that they will keep the exclusive Nissan production line in Epping, Melbourne (where the Navara Warrior is built) busy for a while yet.
“I’m confident we’re going to go places with Nissan and we are going to keep this facility busy for the foreseeable future,” he said. “[There’s definitely] more than a year on the lease.”
Premcar is no stranger to on-road performance-focused modifications and cutting straight to the chase, Quinn would like to see a V8 in the Navara.
“An engine change is something we’d like to see,” he said.
“It’s not an easy job… Investigated is taking it a little too far, but it’s entirely possible,” he said when we pushed on whether a V8 – such as the 5.6-litre from the Patrol – had been tested in a Navara by Premcar’s local engineering team.
“We’ve done that sort of work before both with other manufactures and it’s entirely possible.”
Such a ute might not be the only local dual-cab V8 development, with rumours swirling earlier this year that Ford was building a Raptor V8, though Bernie quashed the idea Premcar was doing that.
Possible doesn’t mean a Navara V8 will happen either, but Quinn said it “would be my hope” to build performance machines for Nissan with Warrior badges. He explained how the Navara Warrior project allows Premcar to be creative in its approach to a high-level brief.
“So when Nissan came to us they gave us a very broad brief. It was to create the best looking Navara, and it had to have the capability to match its looks. And then just change the following things: different wheels and tyres, suspension, and different front protection bar. It was a high level [overview].
“We did the styling concept, renderings, everything. It was offering them an end to end, which is our sweet spot, we can do that, from cad to development to build. And then we set up this facility.”
Other vehicles postulated by Practical Motoring to get the Warrior treatment include the 370z. Lester told us:
“I think if you came up with the right concept and really made sure what we did really delivered on something [we would do the 370z]. I think that the consumer of these vehicles is extraordinarily well research and they are aficionados of vehicles of all types and their preferences are very strongly oriented around being the best.”
Quinn was excited to do a performance-oriented Warrior, too, though it remains questionable if this will be the 370z or something else.
“There is a minimum set of criteria to be called a Warrior, and it doesn’t mean it has to be great offroad, it means it has to have a broader set of capabilities… it means we could make it handle and go around corners much better but we won’t sacrifice its rideability.
“Absolutely, [we want to] improve performance. Would we do something on 370z? Of course we would.”