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The traditional off-road battleground in the ‘Large SUV’ segment (which has now morphed into ‘Upper Large SUV’, believe it or not) has, for decades now, boiled down to a two-way stoush between the Toyota LandCruiser and Nissan Patrol. It’s been quite some time though since Nissan fans have been able to enter the battle on even terms.

When Nissan finally released the new Y62 Patrol locally in 2012 – in the sense that it was actually a new model rather than yet another revision of the badly ageing Y61 platform – it looked like the fight for off-road dominance was back on in earnest. The lament came when Nissan made it official that there would be no diesel engine offered in the Y62 – at any point. It seems that the only other market that really wanted the petrol Patrol is the Middle East, where fuel is ridiculously cheap and diesel isn’t the ‘smart’ buyer’s choice like it is for the segment in the rest of the world. So, no ‘oiler’ for Nissan it is then.

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Anyone who hauls a large weight any distance with an SUV, or does any extensive off-road work, will know how much of a nobbling the lack of a modern turbo-diesel engine option can be. It’s an issue in terms of efficiency, but perhaps even more specifically, touring range per tank of fuel.

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You won’t question our logic then in taking the entry-level 2016 Nissan Patrol into battle against an entry-level 2016 Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series. What you might question is why the LandCruiser tested here has a diesel engine when the Patrol doesn’t. The reality, or at least the way we see reality in an off-road sense, is this: if you truly want to engage in remote-area off-road touring or long-distance towing, your ideal choice will be a diesel-powered four-wheel drive.

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In that case, if you’re on a budget but you can still stretch to a 200 Series, you’ll go for the entry-level diesel LandCruiser. Nissan buyers don’t have that choice however, so they are forced down the naturally aspirated petrol path whether they like it or not.

Pricing and Specification

We can still compare apples with apples by the numbers first though. The Nissan Patrol V8, as it is officially known, is offered in a simple two-model-grade range only: the entry-level Ti tested here, and a range-topping Ti-L. Price revisions for the 2015 model year have seen the pricing structure for those two models drop remarkably, and at the same time, strengthen the buying proposition of both.

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The Ti starts from $69,990 (before on-road costs), while the Ti-L starts from $86,990 (before on-road costs).  If we look at pricing for the LandCruiser 200 Series with the petrol V8, there’s a story to be told. The entry-level GXL starts from $82,000 (before on-road costs), while the range-topping Sahara starts from a whopping $113,500 (before on-road costs). Even the mid-grade VX starts from $92,500 (before on-road costs) in petrol form.

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Those that criticise 200 Series pricing have long opined the fault lies squarely at the feet of Nissan. It’s Nissan’s fault, you see, that Toyota has been able to price its flagship off-road four-wheel drive wherever it likes without any real competition for so long. In other words, there’s been nothing to keep the 200 Series LandCruiser truly honest. While the Patrol can’t offer a diesel engine, it can offer, shall we say, more legitimate pricing.

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The LandCruiser’s durability and off-road abilities have never been in question. It’s a hard won sense of respect over decades in this country, but speak to Nissan fans and they are in no doubt that the Patrol was once just as tough and just as capable. The fact they have continued to buy the ageing diesel platform for as long as they have is testament to that very brand loyalty.

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So on test here we have the aforementioned $69,990 Nissan Patrol Ti petrol V8 and the $76,500 (before on-road costs) Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series GX diesel. The Patrol offers seating for eight; the LandCruiser, devoid of a third row, seats five.

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Equipment highlights for the Patrol include: hill descent control; leather trim; touchscreen satellite navigation; surround-view camera; reversing camera; front and rear parking sensors; alloy wheels; dual-zone climate control; third-row air conditioning vents; a six-speaker stereo with an in-built hard drive; automatic headlights and wipers; a sunroof; privacy glass; and keyless entry and start.

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The LandCruiser’s equipment highlights are: hill descent control; a CD player; Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming; cruise control; 17-inch steel wheels; and a snorkel intake.

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The ‘Cruiser has to be slapped for its lack of any parking sensors or a reversing camera, especially considering the size of the vehicle and the fact that some buyers will be family buyers on a budget.

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Despite its raft of extra inclusions, and its third-row seating, the Nissan Patrol weighs only 60kg more than the Toyota LandCruiser (2800kg versus 2740kg). Both vehicles can tow a braked 3500kg, which is more than enough to cover the needs of most buyers.

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Under the Bonnet

The Toyota LandCruiser’s 4.5-litre twin-turbocharged V8 diesel engine remains a powerhouse in numerical terms. It produces 200kW of power at 3600rpm and 650Nm of torque between 1600-2600rpm. Interestingly, the ‘Cruiser feels like it makes more torque over a wider band than the factory outputs would indicate. Its ADR fuel claim is also 9.5 litres per 100km. The 200 Series has a six-speed automatic transmission, low-range transfer case and centre differential lock.

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The Nissan Patrol is powered by a 5.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol V8 that makes 298kW of power at 5800rpm and 560Nm of torque at 4000rpm. Claiming 14.5L/100km, the Patrol comes with a seven-speed automatic, low-range transfer case and rear differential lock. It also has a limited-slip rear differential and selectable off-road drive modes.

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Exteriors

First up, let’s make something clear: these two vehicles are behemoths. The only other four-wheel drive that can make a Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series look even remotely close to ‘normal’ is a Nissan Patrol. That the ‘Cruiser looks slightly smaller than the Patrol says more about the size of the Nissan, in fact.

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There’s a no-nonsense purpose to the base-model 200 Series, particularly if you’re planning on heading anywhere off-road. The 17-inch steel wheels are shod with ‘sensible’ multi-purpose tyres with large sidewalls, so you don’t have to worry about messing up attractive (and expensive) alloy wheels, plus you’ll have plenty of options for proper off-road rubber should it ever be required.

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The snorkel looks ready for work, although it does add to wind noise at speed, but it’s safer-running ability for off-road duty far outweighs that small negative. The black plastic trim also looks tough and less likely to be easily scratched and marked compared to painted or chrome surfaces. White is a smart colour choice if you’re heading into hotter, inland areas, too.

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The ‘Cruiser isn’t pretty by any means, certainly not in the classical sense, but this segment should be more about function than form anyway, and the bluff edges and boxy styling mean that the 200 Series is a lot easier to negotiate around town and on off-road tracks than it’s sizeable heft might otherwise suggest.

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The Patrol is undoubtedly the more attractively accessorised of the two vehicles. Take a look at the two side-by-side and it’s hard to believe that the Patrol is an entry-level model. Its rounded edges and chrome trim hide some of the external size by way of clever styling, and its 18-inch alloy wheels are easily more attractive than the Cruiser’s steel items. Tyre sizing is sensible, though, meaning you’ll be able to access a wide range of off-road rubber just like you can with the 200 Series.

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There are some elements of the Patrol that jar a little, however. The clear ‘Altezza-style’ tail-lights are a bit naff, and the chrome trim isn’t necessary on a tough off-roader either. Follow the logic that many owners don’t actually spend too much time bush bashing, though, and the Patrol is definitely the more attractive around-town option.

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Co-tester Paul Maric is less complimentary about the Land Cruiser’s appearance.

“It’s not hard to tell the Toyota is a base model. It has more plastic than a Lego factory, the GX spec level really is the range’s answer for the mining industry.”

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“The plastic-coated grille, snorkel and door handles sit at polar opposites to the (arguably) elegant and presentable appearance of the Patrol. It’s unmatchable presence is among the main reasons it sells so well in the United Arab Emirates.

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“Gaudy tail-lights apart, the alloy wheels, privacy glass and powerful stance redeem all that is lost. Having said that, I could never picture the Patrol on a mine site, it would look totally out of place.

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“In this price bracket, the LandCruiser is merely a price-point vehicle that is unlikely to be purchased by an average punter. Nevertheless, it still looks awfully plain from the outside, with the design not befitting of its price tag.”

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Interiors

Open the doors, climb inside and it’s a clear win for the Patrol. From the outset, Nissan was adamant it wanted to deliver Lexus-like build quality at a Toyota price. That might not have been the case with the previous pricing structure, but it certainly is now.

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Inside the cabin, the term ‘entry level’ evaporates extremely quickly. The Patrol feels a lot more expensive than its asking price indicates, and the interior is executed to a high level.

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The fit, finish, and design of the interior are equal parts classy and comfortable. The leather trim, especially, is finished to a high standard and looks attractive lining the doors. High-riding seats with plenty of adjustment, a clear touchscreen with good functionality, a decent audio system, solid Bluetooth connection and general cabin ambience make the Patrol enjoyable to live with.

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There’s an enormous amount of cabin space and storage, as you’d have every right to expect with a vehicle of this size, although keep in mind the load space at the rear of the Patrol is genuinely waist height. The third row is comfortable and easy to fold up or down, there are second-row air conditioning controls and vents, together with good third-row ventilation.

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The 200 Series in GX trim, on the other hand, can be described as spartan. There’s no carpet, no leather, there’s a sea of plastic and not a lot in the way of creature comforts. The ‘Cruiser does have incredibly effective air conditioning though, which cools the cabin down to Arctic temperatures in short order.

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The velour trim is comfortable but no match for the Patrol’s leather-clad interior. There’s little in the way of audio quality beyond the basic audio appointment, though the Bluetooth system does work well. The GX ‘Cruiser misses out on third-row seating and, as a glaring omission, doesn’t even have second-row air-con vents.

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The interior is comfortable and looks to be tough-wearing, as we’d expect in this segment, but for the price, the GX isn’t equipped as extensively as we’d like. Some country buyers will demand a plastic-lined interior, which is easier to clean than deep pile carpet, but around town the GX feels very commercial- and truck-like. Certainly a reversing camera and parking sensors should be added to the standard equipment list as a minimum.

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“If you thought the exteriors of these two cars were polarizing, it’s the interiors that really define the word,” suggests Paul.

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“Much like the LandCruiser’s exterior, its interior is plastic heaven. The steering wheel appears to be made out of a single-cast of plastic, while the vinyl floors and 1970s infotainment unit provide little in the way luxurious appointment, anchoring the Toyota with fit-for-mining purpose.

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“The Patrol is patently more luxurious. There’s leather everywhere along with wood-esque grain along the dashboard and doors. But, interestingly, it almost has more blanked out buttons along the dashboard and near the steering wheel, suggesting an absence of equipment, than it does actual functional buttons.

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“It doesn’t feel like it’s missing features, though. Families will love the cavernous eight-seat capacity, along with the ripper sound system. While the infotainment unit leaves a lot to be desired, it’s a better fit for families than the dot matrix-style unit in the LandCruiser.

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“I do get the feeling with the LandCruiser that even if it spent 20 years at a mine site with hundreds of different drivers pouring over its interior that it would still feel like the day it rolled off the production line. It feels well built and quite sturdy in this specification.”

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On-Road

Both four-wheel drives impressed on road despite their significant hefts. The Patrol slightly edges out the LandCruiser on curvy country roads thanks to marginally lower profile rubber on larger rims and more direct steering. This all-new Patrol also benefits from a vast improvement in torsional rigidity compared to the old Y61 generation. Ostensibly, though, there’s very little to split the Patrol and LandCruiser on road and spirited drives through twisty stuff aren’t what these two are about anyway.

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Both are supremely comfortable over any surface and soak up imperfections with ease. The pair effectively ‘float’ along over undulations, with the road surface changes never affecting cabin ambience. Both chassis feel as if they’ve been carved from granite. Ruts and corrugations can’t upset the sense of calm in the cabin and they never flop or wallow about.

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The Patrol’s seven-speed automatic transmission is slightly snappier to shift through the ratios than the ‘Cruiser’s six-speeder. Again, there’s not much in it. Given the differences between petrol and diesel and turbo versus naturally aspirated, both engines have their strong points. The Patrol has a beautiful bark right up to redline just as a large-capacity V8 should, and when it winds into its stride, acceleration is relentless throughout the rev range, with no flat spots.

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The 200 Series’ 4.5-litre twin-turbo V8 pulls like a train from just off idle. There’s an accompanying roar from the snorkel to go with the diesel engine note as it gulps more and more air. The massive slab of torque (which feels like a lot more than the numbers indicate) allows you to pile on speed and roll-on overtake with ridiculous ease. You certainly don’t feel like you need more than six forward ratios either, such is the wave of torque and the way you can use it to your advantage. If you’re blasting around country backroads, the Patrol’s petrol V8 has to work mighty hard to stay with the LandCruiser.

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There’s really no competition here despite the relative merits of the Patrol’s cracking bent-eight petrol engine. The ‘Cruiser’s diesel is such an accomplished, powerful and efficient unit that, even given the considerable weight it has to lug around, there is only one winner on road: the 200 Series. I’d take the turbo-diesel every time.

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Paul echoes Trent’s sentiments when it comes to comparing powertrains.

“The Patrol really surprised me with its lusciously smooth V8 engine that not only pulls the big Patrol with pace, it manages to offer a sonorous note as well.

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“Equally, there is a distinct feel behind the wheel that is surprising for a car of this size. The steering rack is fast and there’s enough feedback to make country road blasts, even with crew on board, that little bit more entertaining.

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“The Patrol’s naturally aspirated petrol engine can’t match the LandCruiser’s force-fed unit, which delivers seemingly unlimited waves of torque with little to no fuss. It teams well with the transmission and when the ‘Power’ button is selected, any lag is virtually eliminated.”

Either vehicle is great fun to drive, which took both testers by surprise.

Off-Road

Both vehicles dropped into low-range and locked their diffs quickly without any nasty clunking or grinding. Likewise, they both unlocked the diffs and switched back into high-range quickly as well.

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Both had effective ground clearance as well, despite their long wheelbases, and both simply walked up our tough off-road test tracks. It was so easy, you’d scarcely believe it if you weren’t the one behind the wheel. Neither barely spun a rock or dust out the back of any tyre, such is the combination of mechanical and electronically assisted grip. Confidence inspiring is an understatement.

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In really nasty terrain, the differences off-road come down to the throttle response offered up by each engine. The turbo-diesel remains easier to control at crawling speeds (namely uphill) and it’s a cinch to hold the engine revs exactly where you want them without any surging. Something like throttle response and sensitivity sounds like a minor gripe, but it makes a big difference when you’re carefully modulating speed over rocks and steep terrain.

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The Patrol’s drive, grip and wheel travel matched the LandCruiser’s and ensured progress was just as easy. Both vehicles have proper low-range gearing, but surprisingly it was the Patrol that crawled down the steep incline the most confidently, locked into first gear with no brake modulation.

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What was most apparent crawling up steep inclines is just how effortless both these four-wheel drives are. Buyers might be reticent to punt so much money too far into the bush, but you can rest assured knowing that you’ll be able to do it safely. Four-wheel drives keep getting better and better, but the way both these vehicles have enhanced the off-road LandCruiser and Patrol legends is worth noting.

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The Fuel Story

It’s here that things get genuinely interesting, and we’re forced to admit that even our own opinion that petrol engines are dead when the going truly gets tough, especially off-road, needs some further thought.

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During our three days of testing, the temperature never dropped below 30 degrees Celsius. The air-con was cranked at all times and both vehicles spent plenty of time sitting around in the heat idling to keep the cabins cool while we shot photos and video. There was plenty of low-speed, low-range, off-road work mixed in with both city driving below 60km/h and a 200-kilometre highway cruise between 80km/h and 110km/h.

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Over that period, the Nissan Patrol averaged 18.5 litres per 100km, the Toyota LandCruiser returning 13.0L/100km. The LandCruiser can carry 138 litres of fuel, while the Patrol can carry 140L. So based on our testing returns, that gives the Patrol a touring range of 707km with a 50km safety, while the LandCruiser has a 1012-kilometre range, with the same 50km safety net.

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So the diesel is, as expected, a lot more efficient then. That’s not the full story though. Let’s extrapolate those numbers out a bit further and assume the average Australian travels 20,000km per year. The Patrol will run on 95 RON premium unleaded, but we’ll work the numbers out based on the more expensive 98 RON fuel.

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On the final day of testing, 98 RON PULP cost $143.9 cents per litre, while diesel cost $121.9 cents per litre. At those prices, it costs $26.60 to travel 100km in the Patrol and $15.85 to travel the same 100km in the LandCruiser. Working that figure out to 20,000km, it will cost $5324.00 for a year’s worth of petrol in the Patrol and $3170.00 for the same year’s diesel in the LandCruiser. The saving by opting for diesel on fuel alone is therefore $2154.00 annually.

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There’s no doubt the turbo-diesel engine under the LandCruiser’s expansive bonnet was the more efficient of the two then. There’s also no doubt the ‘oiler’ was also the clear winner in a driving sense both on- and off-road. It’s whopping surge of mid-range torque and effortless grunt made it a pleasure on-road, while the signature diesel tractability and throttle modulation off-road ensured it was the standout there too.

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The diesel doesn’t actually pan out to be significantly cheaper to run than the petrol engine though, which is the factor you might want to consider – especially if you’re a Nissan fan who can’t stomach the thought of owning a Toyota. While the numbers don’t lie, the gap isn’t quite as big as you (or we) might have thought.

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The Servicing Story

Both vehicles are covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty. We’ve also worked out the cost of servicing both vehicles over the first three years or 60,000km of ownership. Both Toyota and Nissan require six-monthly services or every 10,000km.

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Each service for the first six services in the LandCruiser up to 60,000km are capped at $220.00 each, which means the total cost is $1320.00. The Nissan on the other hand, has varying prices for services up to that 60,000km point, which add up to $3047.00.

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Therefore, over the first 60,000km of ownership, the LandCruiser will cost a total of $10,830.00 to run while the Nissan Patrol will cost a total of $19,019.00. The difference, then, is a significant $8189.00 over the first three years.

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Offsetting the pure monetary figure, Nissan does cap its servicing prices up to six years or 120,000km, where Toyota’s capped-price servicing ends at three years or 100,000km.

Wrap Up

The Patrol really did surprise, especially in terms of its relative fuel efficiency. It didn’t chew through nearly as much PULP as we thought it might. The issue for Toyota is in what Nissan now offers as a ‘base model’ Patrol. There are so many features, so much standard equipment, that it’s hard to argue the case for the ‘Cruiser in this comparison.

There’s no doubting the LandCruiser’s legendary off-road toughness, the vast Toyota service network, or the power of that turbo-diesel engine. If you’re not planning on doing the lap of Australia, or heading too far off-road, there is only one winner in this particular comparison. Nissan’s aggressive new pricing has made things even more difficult for the LandCruisers at the bottom of the range.

For Paul, the verdict was straightforward.

“If I was spending this kind of money, there is no way I could bring myself to own the LandCruiser GX. The engine is magnificent and we have proven that it’s incredible off-road. But, in this base model trim, it’s daylight robbery. No parking sensors or reversing camera on a vehicle this size — you’re joking right?

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“You need to spend a much greater sum of money to bring the GX up to a specification befitting a hauler in this segment.”

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“The Patrol isn’t perfect either. It uses an incredible amount of fuel and the infotainment system is Apple-1-esque in terms of age and functionality.

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“While the Patrol does miss some of the basics, it makes up for it in every other way. Eight seats, a cavernous interior, a roaring V8 engine and LandCruiser-matching off-road ability. The 3500kg towing capacity also means that there’s next to nothing you won’t be able to tow.

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“For my money, the Patrol takes the win. Nissan’s pricing restructure has given the Patrol an edge in this niche segment of off-road heavies.”

Click on the Photos tab for more Toyota LandCruiser and Nissan Patrol images by Mitchell Oke. Videography by Mitchell Oke.



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