Star Gazing | UTE REVIEW -Nissan Intelligent Mobility

Nissan joins forces with the European Space Agency to launch the Navara mobile space observatory.

Visitors to the bi-annual IAA Show in Hanover, Germany, expect to see concepts and creations, and Nissan certainly supplied both of those categories by displaying the Navara Dark Sky Concept.

Developed in the UK in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), the concept vehicle functions as a mobile astronomy lab, featuring a world-leading, observatory-class telescope on a bespoke off-road trailer.

As the latest embodiment of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, the vehicle comes with ProPILOT driver assistance technology, which has been upgraded and is claimed by Nissan to be the most capable system available for safe and convenient towing.

ESA is mapping the stars with unprecedented precision using the Gaia satellite, which has already observed more than a billion stars.

The Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept supports this project by helping astronomers conduct follow-up observations of the universe from hard-to-reach, so-called “dark sky” locations – away from the nighttime glow of urban areas, which decreases visibility.

“The Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept is a brilliant example of Nissan serving as an authentic partner, empowering our customers to go anywhere,” said Ashwani Gupta, senior vice-president of Nissan’s light commercial vehicle business.

Nissan has included a plethora of technology in the build of the Dark Sky Navara, including the ProPILOT system, which enhances the driver’s control by combining Nissan’s Intelligent Cruise Control and Steering Assist technologies.

ProPILOT not only maintains the distance with the vehicle in front while keeping the car and rig centred during single-lane driving, even on curves, it incorporates upgrades to the Intelligent Around View Monitor system that support towing, giving the driver a bird’s-eye-view around the vehicle and rig and making parking easier.

Blind spot warning has been enhanced to highlight objects in blind spots within the trailer range. Intelligent Towing Hitch Alignment lets your car take control of steering, acceleration, braking and shifting, so that it can automatically manoeuvre to align with the trailer for easy hook-up. Finally, Nissan’s portable battery packs utilise electric vehicle technology from the Nissan LEAF to ensure auxiliary power supply, no matter how remote the location.

At the heart of the trailer is the ultra-high-power PlaneWave telescope, which is transported to wild, remote dark-sky locations so that observations can take place while avoiding light pollution.

Reflective orange piping on the seats provides visibility inside the vehicle, negating the need for white lights that would disrupt the astronomer’s night vision.

Since red light affects human night vision least, both the vehicle and trailer exclusively use red lighting to avoid visual disruption during observations.

Working closely with ESA, the trailer module also incorporates a special refrigerated atmosphere, allowing the telescope to remain stable and calibrated at the optimum temperature in transit to any location. Once at the often hard-to-reach destination, the trailer module’s mechanised roof can be opened to focus the telescope on the night sky.

Using a 40-centimetre (primary) mirror, it has the ability to give detailed views beyond the rings of Saturn, to distant galaxies, nebulae and supernovas.

The Navara and trailer both feature xStorage ROAM battery power packs, putting to use the brand’s tried and tested electric-vehicle battery technology. When docked in place, the battery packs are constantly in charging mode and ready for use when required. Additional smart features include Wi-Fi, a laptop station and UHF transmission to relay data instantaneously, anywhere in the world.

Eight combined radar units, on each corner of the vehicle and trailer, update the driver on the vehicle’s surroundings through the NissanConnect infotainment touchscreen on the dashboard. These technologies work together to make the Nissan Navara Dark Sky Concept the most intelligent pickup in its class for towing.

World-class Nissan Intelligent Mobility systems enable the Navara to manoeuvre the telescope trailer into prime position. Radar sensors and cameras scan the terrain for the right location to park and stabilise the trailer.

If that project sounds a little too ethereal for some readers, Nissan showcased something a little more down to earth at the IAA, in the form of the Navara N-Guard.

The N-Guard features a number of exterior and interior design upgrades, extending the Navara’s appeal to those who want a superior pickup for off-road adventures.

Inspired by the Nissan Navara EnGuard Concept unveiled at the Hanover IAA Show in 2016, the N-Guard is available with the OFF-ROADER AT32 conversion pack, for European buyers.

With increased ground clearance, underbody protection and an optional snorkel, it is the most capable Navara ever offered to European customers.

It’s Nissan’s goal to achieve 40 per cent sustainable growth by 2022, and these factory-modified models continue to attract new customers worldwide. Global LCV sales for the first half of 2018 reached 464,900 units, a 5.7 percent increase from the prior year.

While these examples were aimed purely at the European buyer, Australian buyers have not been forgotten, with Nissan Australia following the success of last year’s Navara ST-X N-SPORT variant by expanding its special edition range to include the Navara Dual Cab 4X4 SL-based Silverline and ST Black Edition.

The 2017 Navara ST-X 4X4 N-Sport sold out of the limited run 500 units not long after its release, but feedback from the market indicated that buyers wanted the opportunity to purchase accessorised mid-spec models. In response, from October onwards Nissan has made available the Navara Dual Cab 4X4 Silverline and ST Black Edition.

In similar vein to Henry Ford, who said in his autobiography that his Model-T Ford was available in any colour as long as it was black, the Black Edition of the Navara Dual Cab 4X4 ST, features black 18-inch alloy wheels with dealer fitted all-terrain tyres, black sports bar, black wheel arch flares, black nudge bar, LED light bar, soft tonneau cover, protective tub liner, black front grille, black mirror caps, black fog lamp surrounds, smoked bonnet protector, mobile phone holder and black body decals.

Delivery’s view is that whoever buys the Black Edition will be permanently washing it, especially if they ever travel on dirt roads. The aircon will also be working overtime whenever the driver heads north towards the sunshine state, suggesting that the main attraction for a totally black ute will be Tasmania, especially in winter.

It’s actually not a lay down misere. The Nissan Navara Dual Cab 4X4 ST Black Edition is available in five contemporary colours, including Polar White, Brilliant Silver, Cosmic Black, Slate Grey and Burning Red. The Navara SL Silverline comes in the same colours, minus Slate Grey.

The new Navara special edition options feature a 2.3-litre intercooled twin-turbo diesel engine that boasts 140 kW of power and 450 Nm of torque. Both models are fitted with a rear-view camera built within the audio display plus an automatic dimming rear-view mirror, electronic rear differential lock, privacy glass, LED headlights and daytime running lamps, Bluetooth and cruise control as standard.

The ST Black Edition has a seven-inch colour touchscreen with satellite navigation and a leather accented steering wheel, while the Silverline has a five-inch display.

With a 3500 kg braked towing capacity, the Navaras also come with seven standard airbags including a driver knee airbag, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with Brake Limited Slip Differential (BLSD), Active Brake Limited Slip (ABLS) and Brake Assist (BA).

With 900 units available, and offered on a five-strong exterior colour palette, prices for the Black Edition start from $48,690 driveaway for private buyers.

For the Northerners, Nissan has released the Navara Dual Cab 4X4 Silverline. Based on the SL variant, this includes 16-inch alloy wheels, replacing standard steel wheels, a polished alloy sports bar, mobile phone holder and ‘Silverline’ tailgate badging.

With a further 900 units available for private buyers, the Silverline retails from $39,490 driveaway.

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