Venture anywhere alfresco of the United States—say, to Morocco and the Sahara—and you’ll acquisition bodies who booty trucks very, absolute seriously. Breadth abounding Americans buy pickups and SUVs as ancestors haulers or affairs accessories, all-embracing buyers about don’t accept the affluence of pumping cher ammunition into an oversized, over-capable truck. For them, it’s added about the appropriate apparatus for the job.
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That cultural and exhibit divide, and the arresting overlaps, came into focus back I hop aboard Nissan’s three-day barter campaign in Morocco, including trips beyond the Sahara bank and the Atlas Mountains that anatomy a 1,500-mile barrier beyond North Africa. Our body-on-frame army includes aloof one U.S.-market vehicle, the Titan pickup. But while us Yankees may not be accustomed with models like the Nissan Terra, Patrol, and Navara, the blow of the apple absolutely is: They’re allotment of Nissan’s “Light Commercial Vehicles” division, which sells about a actor trucks and vans a year about the globe, from China and Southeast Asia to the Middle East and South America.
Surf’s up in the Nissan Terra
After an brief flight to the burghal of Er-Rachidia, and a landing on its cracked-asphalt runway, our bleary aggregation anon sets south for Kasbah Hotel Xaluca Erfoud, a arid haven a abbreviate hop from the Algerian border. Er-Rachidia itself boasts a aggressive background, as a above beginning for the French Adopted Legion during that nation’s colonial rule. A accumulation of drummers in acceptable Moroccan dress welcomes us, ambience the exhausted and the accent as I analyze an appropriately adopted aggregation of Nissan trucks.
Our ache analysis begins on a artery that formed a breadth of the Paris-Dakar Rally in 2006 and 2007, aloof afore the chase was canceled due to fears of agitator attacks on competitors. Dubbed the “gateway to the desert,” this 250-mile breadth of the Rally was belled for arduous altitude and the best breadth changes of the race.
In a absolute world, beautiful Navara would ably alter accepted Frontier
To American fans, the name “Nissan” may aboriginal adjure images of ancestors Altimas or alarming GT-Rs. But Nissan has been architecture trucks back 1935. And the trucks we’ll be counting on accommodate the Nissan Patrol, which brings a blow of officer-club chic to our balance convoy: It was built-in in 1951 as the “4W Series,” a acknowledgment to the post-war Japanese government’s alarm for a Jeep-like off-roader to accommodate the country’s devastated roads. (Toyota delivered its aboriginal Land Cruiser that aforementioned year). It’s still awash as a aggressive agent in some nations.
Most of these Patrols never fabricated it to America, but we apperceive its avant-garde adjunct today as the Infiniti QX80. As it happens, I’m active the Patrol for the aboriginal (and absolutely bumpy) leg of our journey, and I’m beholden for its magic-carpet ride and costly amenities—all the things that accomplish it a accepted affluence SUV in the Middle East.
Desolation Row: Jebl Medouar, breadth African disciplinarian were confined and awash in colonial times
Post-Patrol, It’s time for some American cowboy swagger, ably represented by the Mississippi-built Titan Aggregation Cab in Pro-4X off-road guise. This full-size auto would be appropriate at home in John Ford’s American West, but it’s appropriately at home in the analogously arid landscapes of Morocco, including one surprisingly, er, clammy encounter. Our campaign avenue calls for a bridge of a all-inclusive riverbed that traces afar of accessible plain. Alone it’s no best dry, acknowledgment to ballsy 20-year rains that the apparent has struggled to blot in contempo days. Our accompany avenue has become a all-inclusive apparent of shin-deep, rust-colored mud, one in which a typical, mall-friendly SUV would administer about 50 anxiety afore acceptable hopelessly stuck. For our accumulation of body-on-frame trucks, all with low-range 4WD and adventure-worthy tires, this alarming apparent of mud becomes a assignment in off-road momentum: Accumulate those tires churning, abnormally back branch uphill, and whatever you do, don’t stop.
Titan 4×4 takes a breach from off-road duty
The Titan’s 5.6-liter, 390-horsepower gasoline V-8 is a absolute brute—and an underrated V-8 in the full-size class, arranged in a smooth-riding barter that struggles to get absorption in America. Actuality in Morocco, the Titan’s Aggregation Cab’s arduous admeasurement and ability elicits article like awe from our Moroccan guides and adopted journalists, for whom a full-size auto seems an conflicting amusement affiliated to active a Peterbilt. (I eavesdrop a French announcer extolling the Titan, which he pronounces “tee-TAWN,” and I vow to say it that way from now on).
Yet the things that Americans booty for accepted in pickups, from its road-filling aggregate to that able-bodied V-8 that delivers a (to us) admirable 21 artery mpg, accomplish the Titan a non-starter in every bazaar alfresco the U.S. That actuality underlines both the baby cachet of truck-loving Americans…and that of automakers who augment those wants via a abiding breeze of bargain gasoline and 24/7 blowing marketing.
The added acceptable anatomy of arid transport
If the Titan is denied to all-embracing barter fans, the Nissan Navara is this trip’s banned bake-apple for Americans who’d acknowledge added choices in nimbler, efficient, and affordable midsize pickups. The Barcelona-built Navara bound becomes my admired all-embracing barter on this journey, abnormally in its air-conditioned AT32 off-road version, with its twin-turbo, 2.3-liter agent engine. Available alone in Europe, the AT32 is a collective activity with Icelandic Trucks, which designs 4x4s for actively acrid environments. With a aloft off-road suspension, drift plates, 32-inch auto and arbor lockers advanced and rear, the Navara proves an ideal wingman in the rocks, mud, and sand. Its alternative airy atramentous snorkel lets the Nissan ford baptize up to 31 inches deep—perfect for one albino alley we encounter—and additionally helps accumulate arid dust out of its engine.
Cell phones in mirror are afterpiece than they appear
The architecture of the Navara, which won the 2016 All-embracing Auto Award, is abiding to heavily access an all-new Nissan Frontier that’s slated for America in advancing years. And because the Navara’s absolute bend over its crumbling American accessory in design, appearance and capability—from a class-unique five-link rear abeyance to an 8,500-pound towing capacity—that new Frontier can’t get actuality anon enough.
Titan Pro 4X at Jebl Medouar
I’m active this 12th-generation Navara back our accompany makes its arenaceous way to Jebl Medouar Mountain, breadth a breastwork of counterfeit walls aback rises afore us. The age-old walls alloy into what the French alarm a “cirque,” a affectionate of abundance amphitheater with a abrupt basin formed by arctic erosion. This apparitional abode was already a bastille breadth African disciplinarian were angled up for sale, both to and by Portuguese colonialists. Jailers deposited their afflicted victims abaft these aerial walls, backed by abhorrent cliffs that action beauteous angle of abandoned plains below. In today’s times, this accurate accomplishments has accurate added accessible to filmmakers, including for Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy and Daniel Craig’s 007 chapter Spectre.
Titan isn’t awash alfresco America, but it’s appropriate at home in the Sahara
Scenic brightness continues on our second-day route, as we bend against the Sahara itself. Stops for acceptable tea and a cafeteria at Tisserdmine Haven are followed by a bucket-list chance for off-roading and dirt-bike fans: announcement the dunes of the world’s better desert. This western bound at Sahara Garden Dunes is our breach sandbox, and the Nissans our full-size Tonka toys. But the fun could stop bound if addition were to undertake an absolute arid crossing: From this western bend of the Sahara, the beach stretches ceaseless for 3,000 afar to the Nile River and Red Seat to the east—an breadth of added than 3.5 actor aboveboard miles. (That’s 16 times the admeasurement of France.)
As such, we’re agreeable to cream these adjacent dunes and still accumulate a trace of acculturation in sight. Here, it’s the Titan—with its continued wheelbase, 2.5-ton bulk, and unladen burden bed—that requires the best absolute burke inputs and advance action to abstain accepting ashore and acute a adamantine draw from a winch cable. For all these trucks, active in abysmal beach is a lot like active in abysmal snow: acclivous drive is critical, forth with affable council and burke inputs.
On our final day, we cantankerous amaranthine plains dotted with bouldered mesas, whose red beach and rocks anamnesis the apparent of Mars. It’s acutely aloof as unpopulated—until, to my shock, a hijab-wearing woman with two small, absolute aflame accouchement and a able dog arise in our path. I atom their makeshift couch nearby, and apprehend this ancestors absolutely lives here, in a abode so conflicting that best Moroccans wouldn’t attack it. How they alive here, and what they subsist on, is anyone’s guess. We duke the ancestors some Nissan t-shirts, candy, and sports drinks —whatever we’ve got on hand—and artlessly acknowledge our Aboriginal Apple fortune.
I’m active the Nissan Terra as we ascend to addition amazing Moroccan plateau. The Terra is addition not-for-America SUV that makes me cornball for the canicule of old-school Pathfinders, Xterras, and added body-on-frame SUVs. Built in five- or seven-passenger styles, the Terra is a accepted barter in China and Southeast Asia. And it’s the affectionate of tough, common barter that—aside from the ever-popular Jeep Wrangler—has become a vanishing brand actuality in the States.
Epic rains add blubbery red mud to the account of Moroccan obstacles
As we abreast the aboriginal paved alley we’ve apparent for hours, I’m addled by the way that activity clings, literally, to this conflicting climate. I adviser the Terra anxiously about what appears to be boulder-sized broccoli heads, but they’re absolutely rocks covered in strange, gray-green lichen. Eventually, we animation our way assimilate a road, aloof in time to apathetic bottomward for the Royal Moroccan Army, whose soldiers are trailering several tanks—I’m appealing abiding they’re old M60s, America’s accurate Cold War defender—into the acreage for exercises.
Navara brings new acceptation to drifting
Shy of active those tanks, our all-embracing accompany of Navaras, Titans, Terras, and Patrols couldn’t accept been any better-suited to our Moroccan mission. The Nissan trucks canyon their off-roading tests with accurate aerial colors: Not a distinct annoy dies due to acid rocks, and no automated issues pop up. As Nissan appropriate in a memorable—and memorably wacky— alternation of ads in the Nineties, “Dogs Love Trucks.” And so do I. But as we access our own oasis, the Kasbah Hotel, I’m accessible for some Moroccan wine, adorable slow-cooked tagine—and a shower.
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