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Nissan's partnership with an Icelandic firm famous for supporting Artic expeditions has yielded an unusually hardcore Navara. So how does it work in Wiltshire?
  • First Drive

    Nissan Navara AT32 2018 review

    Nissan's partnership with an Icelandic firm famous for supporting Artic expeditions has yielded an unusually hardcore Navara.
20 November 2018

What is it?

The AT32 is the pick-up equivalent of a trackday special: more compromised on the road but better equipped to fulfil its true reasons for being.

And when Arctic Trucks is involved – as denoted by the ‘AT’ – those reasons are fairly serious. The engineering company specialises in modifying vehicles for especially rugged terrain, having grown out of a Toyota franchise in Iceland that outfitted the Hilux, Land Cruiser and 4Runner for duties in Polar regions during the nineties. There is almost no place on earth the company cannot or will not go.

Since separating from Toyota, Arctic Trucks has established bases in countries as far afield as the UAE and Russia, and plies its trade on stock models from numerous manufacturers, including Mercedes. There are ultra-hardcore options for exploration, sport and the like (type ‘Hilux AT44x6’ into your search bar) but others are a touch more subtle, such as the Navara AT32 driven here.

What's it like?

‘Subtle’ is of course a relative term, and in reality this truck is as understated as a bull-bar bedecked Bentley. 

For the AT32, Arctic Trucks takes the top-spec Navara Tekna and fits a Safari snorkel whose watertight air intakes increase the wading depth from 600mm to 800mm. The next most noticeable element is the 20mm increase in ride height, courtesy of AT’s Performance suspension, which increases ground clearance from 223mm to 243mm and meaningfully raises both the maximum approach and breakover angles.

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Beneath the thuggish wheel arch extensions are the 32in Nokian 275/70 tyres that give the car its name. And ensconced within all that rubber are the least kerb-able wheels in existence: attractive, black 17in items of AT’s own design. Crawl underneath and you’ll notice further modifications – a branded skid-plate and other protective underbody measures to help bat off boulders that threaten to puncture the engine, transmission, propshaft and fuel tank.

Along with a locking front differential to complement similar, existing hardware in the rear axle, the AT32 is the most capable Navara ever offered through official Nissan sales channels.

And you feel the effects of that – the AT32’s latent ability to ford considerable tracts of water, negotiate impossibly rutted trails and develop unbreakable traction in snowy climes – out on the road. The third-generation Navara might have the most sophisticated suspension in this class but the knobbly tyres undermine that by generating an endlessly busy ride.

Likewise, the raised ride height might build on already imperious forward visibility but does nothing to reign in pitch and yaw movements. To say the AT32 pogoes its way down a road would be grossly unfair, but its manners are sufficiently less refined than the standard car to give serious pause for thought. The vast majority of drivers in this country would be better off with the smoother, quieter qualities of the normal Navara.

The powertrain is unchanged, with a 187bhp 2.3-litre, four-cylinder dCi twin-turbodiesel mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. With the rack-and-pinion steering, the driving controls hang together well enough to make driving the AT32 easy enough to stroke along but no more. Direction changes are indirect rather than imprecise, and while the engine note is a touch agricultural, it isn’t aggravating.

With more than two tonnes to haul, this engine is particularly loud under load, however. Were it only loud enough to drown out the squeals of understeering off-road tyres, whose limits are breached with surprising ease. No doubt, the AT32 is far more at home off the beaten track rather than on it.

Should I buy one?

Finding temptation in such a practical, single-mindedly capable vehicle is no chore. Moreover, I probably speak for many drivers who would never normally want or need a pick-up when I say the AT32 is a terrific-looking bit of kit. Both the underlying Navara and the modifications are also covered with five-year warranties by there respective makers, and so this is no plunge into the unknown.

But first, a couple of things. The ride is poor – too poor to put up with if the vast majority of your time with this pick-up will be spent on the road. The snorkel and the locking front diff are also optional extras on top of the AT32 package and together cost £4200. Expensive? Very. Then again, if you use them, that is likely to be money very well spent.

And what if you don’t? In that case you’re unlikely to take much advantage of all the other modifications Arctic Trucks makes, and so the £45,000 cost of our test car seems indefensible when you can buy the better-equipped Mercedes X-Class – one with a V6 engine – for less.

But ultimately the AT32 will do things an X-Class and many other rivals besides won't. Perhaps, then, it’s simply a case of only professionals need apply?

Nissan Navara Off-Roader AT32 specification

Where Wiltshire Price £ On sale 39,640 Engine In-line 4cyls, 2.3 litres, twin-turbocharged Power 187bhp at 3750rpm Torque 332lb ft at 1500-2500rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 2018kg Top speed 114mph 0-62mph 10.8sec Fuel economy 44.9mpg CO2 167g/km Rivals Isuzu D-Max Artic Trucks AT35, Mercedes X-Class

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Comments
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20 November 2018

Why is the wading depth 800mm when the snorkel is at least 1500mm above ground level? I wonder what the limiting factor is, window seals? Smart looking truck but £45k for an off-roader is a lot if you actually intend to take it off-road. I'd take a base Navara, fit a small lift kit, better tyres and a locking front diff and be less worried about the odd bump.

20 November 2018
Will86 wrote:

Why is the wading depth 800mm when the snorkel is at least 1500mm above ground level? I wonder what the limiting factor is, window seals? Smart looking truck but £45k for an off-roader is a lot if you actually intend to take it off-road. I'd take a base Navara, fit a small lift kit, better tyres and a locking front diff and be less worried about the odd bump.

 

I suppose you pay for the brand.  Appearing in Top Gear probably boosted these guys tremendously.  As you suggest, there are loads of companies who could do similar mods for much less.

20 November 2018

This conversion has created a specialised off-road biased vehicle with compromised road manners, so Autocar was never going to award a higher score (unless it was a JLR product). I suspect the Ford Ranger Raptor due in the UK next year will be a superior pickup, with foreign reviews claiming it has a very supple ride, using special Fox shocks, an 850mm wading depth and a price that may be similar to the £45k of the Navara tested. It also has even greater ground clearance and should retain a better residual value.

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