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Nissan’s off-roading, rock-crawling NV Cargo X is no ordinary van

Why it matters to you

One glance at Nissan's off-roading NV Cargo X, and you'll never look at a delivery van the same way again.

You’ve heard of off-road SUVs and pickup trucks, but what about an off-road van?

That’s exactly what Nissan plans to debut this week at the 2017 Chicago Auto Show. Called the NV Cargo X, it’s a one-off project vehicle fresh off a shakedown cruise along the Pyeatt Draw Trail in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest. The Cargo X won’t go into production, which is just as well, as most delivery services probably aren’t contemplating expansions into Tonto, or any other wilderness areas.

More: 2018 Subaru Legacy debuts at 2017 Chicago Auto Show

The Cargo X is based on Nissan’s NV2500HD commercial van, but with a few notable modifications. Nissan swapped out the stock 5.6-liter gasoline V8 for the 5.0-liter Cummins diesel V8 from the Titan XD pickup truck. This engine produces 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque. That torque is especially important off road, because it allows the vehicle to crawl along at low speeds with relatively little throttle input.

The diesel engine is connected to a six-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. The van also sits on a custom suspension system designed to both add ground clearance and make room for 37-inch General GrabberX3 tires. Sitting on those tires, the NV Cargo X stands over seven-and-a-half feet tall. As if that didn’t make enough of a statement, Nissan also gave the Cargo X some LED spot lights, a tube front bumper that incorporates a winch, and an exterior vinyl wrap.

Nissan built the NV Cargo X in partnership with Ian Johnson, host of the television show Xtreme Off-Road. He shed some light on why anyone would want an off-road commercial van, saying the Cargo X’s capacious van body can hold enough equipment to allow it to “serve as its own support vehicle” on remote trails.

That might not be enough to sustain a market for off-road-ready vans, but it might give off-road enthusiasts something to think about when choosing new project vehicles. And we’ll never look at a Nissan NV van the same way again.