In early 2010, Nissan displaced Mitsubishi from pole position in the race for ute power and torque supremacy by launching the 140kW/450Nm 2.5-litre turbo-diesel Navara ST-X 450.
What Drivesouth predicted at the time, has now come to pass: the new Ford Ranger and Mazda BT50 have overhauled the ST-X 450 in the power and torque stakes, and Nissan has turned to parent company Renault to respond with a savage 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel power play.
In a contest where supremacy is typically decided by a few kilowatts here and a few Newton metres there, this is a knockout blow: producing 170kW and 550Nm, the Renault-sourced engine trounces its Ford/Mazda rivals by a humbling 23kW and 80Nm.
Sure, the new model, the Navara ST-X 550, isn't rated to lug any more than the 3000kg of the ST-X 450, and at $67,990 it costs $10,000 more, but locally at least it seems that around half of Navara buyers are happy to stump up the extra dosh for bragging rights.
Supported by a fine seven-speed automatic gearbox, the ST-X 550 certainly impresses in performance terms. Peak torque is available from just 1750rpm, and the surge of acceleration is such that it is easy to forgive some driveline whine and gruff engine notes when pulling hard from low down.
With all that torque, you might expect the ST-X 550 - when running in 2WD mode - to routinely spin an inside rear wheel when negotiating tight corners in the dry and to become an absolute handful in the wet. In fact, helped by standard electronic stability and traction control systems, it's a well-mannered machine.
It's also a decent open-road steer, possessed of comfortable long-haul seats (up front at least), a meaty steering wheel, clear instrumentation and well-placed main controls.
Room in the rear is tight and upright for adults, but the storage space under the rear-seat squabs and the rear-seat fold-up function are nice touches.
Four-wheel drive comes at the twist of a dial, along with the choice of high or low ratio.
Cruise control, dual-zone climate control, six-speaker audio, Bluetooth connectivity and folding power mirrors all make it on to the standard features list, along with six airbags and Isofix anchor points on the rear outer seats.
Because the Navara uses an underlying platform that is now eight years old, it holds a four-star NCAP crash test rating rather than the five stars awarded to newer rivals.
Sturdy movable anchor points in the load tray continue to set a benchmark for practicality in the ute class and show that, while brute force is what the ST-X 550 does best, there is a whole lot more to it than that.
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