The Nissan Navara STX 550 might well be the ultimate expression of pickup-truck status anxiety.
One-tonne utes are theoretically functional machines, as we all know. But they are so much more than that, embracing their own brand of fashion as well. We all know that, too: ute people are passionate about their own particular choice of vehicle and its abilities.
Especially with the rise of dual-purpose double-cab utes, which have as much application as family and leisure machines as they do for blue-collar work. Yes, utes are status symbols – perhaps more so than many sports and/or luxury cars – and anything you can do to get one-up on the next guy is a bonus.
The Nissan Navara STX 550 is horrifyingly expensive at $67,990 and does not look that different to a model that costs more than $10,000 less. Yet it's a highly desirable ute for those in the know, because it's the most powerful and torque diesel pickup on the market.
Its 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel engine is borrowed from alliance partner Renault (it's also used in some models from Nissan's luxury Infiniti brand), so it's very car-like indeed: smooth, refined. It also packs 170kW/550Nm, which is more than a ute of this size really needs. The standard Navara four-cylinder turbo diesel has 450Nm and is already a bit of a monster. It's not like the STX 550 can tow any more (both are rated at three tonnes), although the payload is slightly higher.
What's the point then? Simply that the 550 gives you bragging rights and if others don't have the presence of mind to notice the tiny ‘V6' badge on the side and the ‘550' graphic on the tailgate, then they're probably not the people you want to impress anyway. Not ute people, in other words.
There are some practical benefits to the V6. It's a high-tech engine, with a variable geometry turbocharger located in the centre of the motor's vee, third-generation Bosch injection and seven-hole piezo injectors. It's also matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission, which is another unique selling proposition for the Navara STX 550. A limited-slip differential is standard.
But that's really it. The Navara is not as posh as a Volkswagen Amarok or as adept on-road as a Ford Ranger. This very powerful 550 model is not intended to offer extra work muscle – indeed, the 17-inch 255/65 rubber is designed for a good compromise between on-road ride/handling and off-road ability, so it's good at most things, all-conquering at none.
All STX models have a sound system with iPod control, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate air conditioning and cruise control. The megabuck 550 adds, ahem, privacy glass at the rear, an under-seat storage tray and driver's seat lumbar/height adjustment.
Is it worth it? If you're not a devotee of utes then you probably won't think so. The STX 550 feels special to drive, but it doesn't slap you in the back of the neck with super-ute performance. Nor does it advertise its top-line status effectively to the general public.
Ute people will love it because it's the sports/luxury machine of the ute world: no real point to it, indulgent and a little excessive. If you know your stuff, of course.