We\'ve waited 15 years for an all-new Nissan Patrol - well, loyalists have. Will the big off-roader please them?
There are iconic nameplates in the motoring industry, and there is the Nissan Patrol. In its 60 years and five generations, the large four-wheel-drive from Japan has built up a fiercely loyal fanbase in this country, centred around reliability and dependability in all conditions – not just intangible badge quality.
For the first time in 15 years, there is this all-new Nissan Patrol, and don’t expect the status quo to change. It’s even bigger – some 90mm longer, 55mm taller and 85mm wider than the last one – and boasts electronic off-road management systems that signify it as a 21st century model.
The sixth-generation Nissan Patrol is, however, also a bit different to the previous models. In the decade-and-a-half since the last version was released, the priorities for Nissan have changed, and the growing popularity of the Patrol in the United Arab Emirates – indeed now its biggest market – means the Patrol was designed in left-hand-drive only and with only a petrol engine – not the diesel long favoured by most Australian buyers.
Now, one of those things has changed. For Australia, New Zealand and South Africa only, Nissan developed a right-hand-drive model, which is why we’re two years late seeing this new Patrol in this market (it has been available in the UAE since 2011).
The three-tier range runs $82,200 ST-L, $92,850 Ti and $113,900 Ti-L, with the single engine choice a 5.6-litre V8 petrol that makes 298kW of power and 560Nm of torque.
That makes this sixth-ever Patrol the most expensive and most powerful in its history. That should put a smile of the face of luxury-SUV buyers – the sort that purchase a LandCruiser (it starts at $77,490) instead of a Prado, or a Land Rover Discovery 4 (opening at $68,900).
Nissan’s move to pushing the Patrol upmarket may, however, alienate traditional buyers used to getting an off-road ‘workhorse’ for somewhere in the region of $50,000, which is why Nissan will still keep the old Patrol working in that price range, in diesel only.
The new Nissan Patrol quickly drags the nameplate into modernity. Nissan had an old Patrol as a support car on its Australian media launch in South Australia, and alongside the new one it looked and felt incredibly old, and its packaging was poor, despite the size.
Bigger dimensions make the new Nissan Patrol a very roomy package for families looking to travel whichever way on this 4000km-wide, 3000km-tall continent.
To the driving position of a 5ft 8in person, rear passengers get 35cm of legroom. With the seat right back that’s reduced to 28cm, and with seat forward, a fuller 51cm. Seat comfort is fine whether on the velour-trimmed ST-L or top-spec leather-covered variants, and there are roof vents with rear climate control air conditioning for separate temperature and fan speed standard on all models.
One row behind there are another three seats available in the ST-L and Ti, but the Ti-L only gets a two-seat bench in the third row. Rear legroom, though, is compromised by the middle row’s fold-and-tumble function, which lacks a sliding mechanism to perhaps take a little legroom away from the centre row passengers and give some back to the far rear passengers.
Consequently, third-row accommodation is cramped, particularly considering the Patrol’s huge external dimensions. A Land Rover Discovery 4, with its third row positioned slightly higher than the middle row – called ‘theatre seating’ – is a far more comfortable place to sit if carrying more than five people is a priority.
The third row seats do fold flat, almost doubling the length of the cargo area from 49cm to 122cm when the Nissan Patrol is being used as a five seater. Rearmost seats up or down, the Patrol provides 127cm boot width.
Panel fit and the quality of plastics used in the cabin is sound, but nothing particularly special for the price. If the devil is in the detail, then the Nissan Patrol gets a pitchfork stabbed through some its controls and dashboard finishes that could look more upmarket.
The woodgrain panelling on the console, and the ‘clacky’ rotation of controls, particularly, are in stark contrast to the lush finish of its Land Rover rival.
There is also some crucial equipment missing in this most expensive Patrol ever. Satellite navigation only features in the top model, for example, and the base grade lacks passenger seat power adjustment and an auto tailgate – there’s no tailgate strap, either, so shorter people will find it hard to close the tailgate. If you are willing to wait to get your new Patrol, Nissan says to expect sat-nav to eventually be added across the range, but that’s little help for buyers already waiting for the new Patrol…
For the first time, the Patrol gets independent suspension all round, meaning each wheel acts as its own ‘leg’ instead of using a single beam to connect the front two or rear two wheels. Using a beam means one side of the car is affected by the bumps and thumps that may occur to the opposing wheel.
The top two grades of Nissan Patrol also get Hydraulic Motion Control (HMC), which is jargon for an air compressor suspending each wheel. Our drive of the base ST-L, which gets springs not the compressor, highlighted the little benefit of going for the HMC on the top-tier models.
On all models, the way the Patrol rides over seemingly smooth surfaces is average – it jiggles occupants more than in its rivals. Really big bumps shudder though the cabin, but general quietness at cruising speeds is excellent and moderately sized bumps seem to be a sweet spot for either suspension set-up. Despite the advanced suspension in the flagship models, there is little difference between them and the base ST-L.
The beauty with a car like the Land Rover Discovery is its ability to feel expensive, while also feeling smaller than it really is. That’s primarily because the steering wheel turns from one side to the other faster than the Nissan – the Patrol takes 3.5 turns of the wheel to get from left lock to right lock. The steering also has an empty middle patch, so drivers can move the steering a few degrees either side of centre without actually turning the car.
The few corners we encountered on the launch revealed the Nissan Patrol to be a soft handling car, pushing at the front end and squealing its tyres.
The priority with this car is off-road capability, and the Patrol continues to get all the buzz words such as a limited-slip differential, hill descent control, and rear differential lock. All that mechanical stuff is now harnessed by a rotary dial on the centre console, with settings labelled ‘on road’, ‘sand’, ‘snow’ and ‘rock’.
All the driver has to do is dial in the surface they’re driving on.
Not coincidentally, the Patrol weighs more than its rivals, 2645-2735kg depending on the model versus 2486-2583kg for the Land Rover and 2640-2675kg for the Toyota.
But those rivals also have less power. The Patrol’s 298kW and 560Nm shifts the large wagon with ease, and with the engine derived from the Nissan V8 supercar engine, it sounds nicely growly as well as it revs to 6500rpm. The seven-speed automatic ensures near-silent cruising, with the tachometer showing 1850rpm in top gear at 110km/h. It is also responsive to dropping gears when given a King Gee workboot’s full of throttle.
Even Nissan admits that Australian buyers want a turbo-diesel engine, but they can’t confirm if or when one will arrive in the new model. Diesels offer more pulling power and are generally more economical, allowing long-distance touring between refills. Both the LandCruiser and Discovery are available with (excellent) diesel engines.
Regardless of its abilities, however, the new Nissan Patrol will continue to be the only choice for many four-wheel-drive diehards. It’s a fair reflection of its long reputation as a reliable and durable off roader. But being the first all new Patrol in 15 years a diesel should be expected, while the interior quality and road comfort levels can’t match the Land Rover that’s been around since 2010.
And the Nissan Patrol continues to get the basics right – it’s big, roomy, goes off road, and will almost certainly be flawlessly reliable.