The challenge Nissan New Zealand managing director John Manley set was quite simple: spot the four-wheel drives among the line-up of new Navara utes parked outside the Antarctic Centre in Christchurch.
It was some challenge, and Manley knew it was one we couldn't win.
For there's no badging on the utes to distinguish model from model - each simply carried a chromed ST-X on the tailgate.
There was no discernable difference in ride height or in the gap between the top of the wheels and the panelwork, two usually giveaways.
The key was clearly the wheels, but which set of alloys belonged to the 4WD and which to the 2WD?
The six-spoke 17-inchers might seem the more logical choice, but then might they not have been on the 2WD range-topping petrol V6?
Manley put us out of our misery by indicating that the six-spokers did indeed belong on the four-wheel drive. The 2WDs had the 16-inch five-spoke rims.
That sorted, it was time to look at the Navara in more detail.
The new ute, code-named D40, is bigger than the previous Navara, the D22, which will continue to be offered, though at reduced prices.
With a specification list that puts it above the top-of-the-line D22 Venturer the new model is aimed more at lifestyle buyers who want a blend of luxury, road manners and ride that imitate cars', yet retain good load-carrying and strong towing ability - 3000kg with a braked trailer.
The D22 will become Nissan's workhorse farmer/tradesman ute.
It's a dfferentiation that has worked well for Ford with its Falcon ute and Falcon cab/chassis one-tonner. There's no reason it can't do the same for Nissan.
The D40 is a big, US-influenced ute in the manner of the new Toyota Hilux and soon-to-arrive Mitsubishi Triton.
The D40 goes one better: it's identical with the US market Nissan Frontier and is based on a longer wheelbase version of the Nissan Pathfinder platform. Being identical with the Frontier means Nissan NZ has been able to take advantage of US buyers' fascination with accessories for the truck.
The new ST-X Navara is only available as a double cab (there's a King Cab body overseas which will come here next year).
It comes with a choice of a 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine aand five-speed automatic transmission, or a 2.5-litre turbo diesel with the option of an all new six-speed gearbox or the five-speed auto.
It uses the same fully boxed, ladder frame chassis and independent front suspension - double wishbones and coil springs - as the Pathfinder SUV.
At the rear is a live axle with redesigned leaf springing, giving the ST-X Navara good payload. Different spring and damper rates are used on 2WD and 4WD models.
The ST-X Navara is longer, wider and higher than the D22, with an increased track and wheelbase and more ground clearance.
The spacious interior has cloth upholstery and is carpeted. Storage spaces include twin gloveboxes, a centre console, door pockets and both bottle and cup holders.
Access to the rear seats is easier through wider opening doors - they open almost to 90 degrees - and the rear seats have a split folding mechanism to provide more load carrying options. The front passenger seat can also fold flat to provide a working surface.
Rear seat room is improved in all dimensions; most significantly with 177 mm more knee room.
The cargo bed is wider and longer than the D22's, with less intrusion from the rear wheel inner mudguards. The cargo bed has double wall construction for greater strength and preventing loads from damaging the outer body panels.
The cargo tray has a unique Utili-trak tie-down system enabling a variety of clamps and accessories to be used. The rear bumper has a plastic cover to protect it from damage.
All D40 Navaras have alloy wheels - 16-inch on the 2WDs and 17-inch on the 4WDs - shod with 255 series tyres.
Engines and mechanical stuff
The four-cylinder 2.5-litre turbochatrged idesl motor used in the D40 Navara develops 106kW of mamimum power and and 356Nm of peak torque.
That's six per cent more power and 17 per cent more torque than the D22 Navara's similar motor. The diesel in the 4WD has 128kW and 403Nm - 16 per cent more power and 28 per cent more torque than the D22's engine.
The D40's engine is a development of that previously seen in the D22 2WD models. The revised version was first introduced in the Pathfinder.
The 128KW version used in the 4WD models has a crankshaft balancer system and the centre housing of the turbocharger is water-cooled.
The common rail fuel injection is the same second generation system used on the Pathfinder. The intercooler is mounted in front of the radiator for maximum cooling, and a silent timing chain, together with the crankshaft balancer system, helps reduce noise, vibration and harshness.
The 4.0-litre V6 petrol motor make its debut in a Navara, but has already been seen in the Pathfinder. With 198kW and 385Nm tit has plenty of punch. The V6 is a version of the Nissan VQ series engine also used in the Maxima, Murano and 350Z.
The 4WD models have an electronically controlled 4WD system, with a choice of 2WD and dual range 4WD. The six-speed manual gearbox available with the diesel comes from the 350Z with different ratios to suit the Navara.
The five speed automatic is an option with both engines and has been used in the Patrol and 350Z. The box comes with different ratios to suit the characteristics of the diesel and petrol motors.
The 4WD transfer case is based on the Pathfinder system, but has a simpler 50:50 torque split between the front and rear axles. The front final drive has a light alloy casing to reduce weight. A limited slip rear differential is standard on the 4WD models and optional for the 2WD.
Braking is by ventilated front discs and rear drums with an ABS anti lock system enhanced with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist.
Safety and comfort
ST-X Navaras come with front airbags, pre-tensioned seatbelts with load limiters and front and rear crumple zones, and the doors have anti-intrusion beams. All five seatbelts are lap/sash.
The remote control central door-locking incorporates an engine immobiliser which can only be deactivated by using the ignition key which is registered to a specific vehicle. The engine management system won't recognise other keys which haven't been coded to that particular vehicle's computer.
Creature comforts in the new Navara include a leather covered steering wheel and gear lever. Air-conditioning is standard, along with power windows and mirrors. There is a six-speaker Compact Disc sound system, cruise control, a tilt-adjustable steering column, height-adjustable driver's seat and footrest.
Nissan expects the D40 Navara's increased refinement, greater cabin space and comfort and better ride and handling to appeal to buyers who want a ute to fill a dual role of workhorse and passenger vehicle.
It envisages the existing D22 Navara range of single cabs, King cabs and double cabs to continue to supply rural and urban buyers with a wide range of tough work trucks, with substantial towing ability.
Nissan's PR consultant John Coker came up with a superb drive programme that tested the vehicle and its drivers.
We'll look at that in a future issue, but for now we'll say the Navara acquiited itself well, whether on the twists and turns of the Buller Gorge, on barely wide-enough gravel roads around gnarly bluffs on the Rainbow station near Nelson Lakes, or in old gold mining tunnels and along river beds.
Motorway cruising was smooth and relaxed.
How do they do that?
How is it that rival car companies often come out with similar vehicles when they lajunch new models?
The new D40 Navara, new Toyota Hilux and new Mitsubishi Triton are all bigger than the previous models and in double cab form all have a muscular, US-style stance and a cabin profile that evokes the shape - especially around the trailing edge of the rear door - of a Wells Fargo wild west stagecoach.
We put the question to then Holden styling guru Michael Simcoe at the Monaro launch.
Remember the eyebrow tailights that appeared on mid-1990s Commodores and Ford Falcons?
Well, we didn't get a definitive answer. Simcoe said car stylists all come from similar art schools, all read the same car and design magazines, all study the same design trends.
And Jaguar's head of styling Ian Callum says safety regfulations may make cars look even more homogenous in the future. When Jaguar designers studied and measured a rival product from Mercedes-Benz they discovered the dimensions were identical in key points with the dimensions on their own concept car.
He pointed, too, to the fact that the need to meet pedestrian impact regulations will means a raft of high-nosed cars as designers strive to provide mofre space between the top of the engine and the bonnet. That's to prevent the deformable bonnet from being pushed down on to the engine if a pedestrian falls on it after being hit by the car.
Nissan D40 Navara pricing
2WD Diesel manual $42,700
2WD Diesel automatic $44,700
2WD Petrol V6 automatic $44,700
4WD Diesel manual $52,400
Diesel automatic $54,400
Petrol V6 automatic $54,400