5 / 10
Tough enough for the rough stuff
Words by Matt Brogan Pics by Brendan Nish
Seven days and 1,100 kilometres of gruelling off-road excursions, leisurely highway cruising, plus the mid-week urban assault course, have seen Nissan Patrol prove that, while it’s tough enough for the rough stuff, its on-road manners are akin to that of a rugby player at a five-star hotel.
The Patrol Ti on test this week may have been the duck’s guts ten years ago, but compared to its modern day rivals now feels rather agricultural, truck-like and unrefined, which considering its price tag and dated options list, can discourage even the most die-hard of Nissan fan.
On the up side Patrol Ti includes a six CD tuner with cassette; remote central locking, power windows and mirrors, electric tilt/slide sunroof, adjustable steering column (tilt only), powered leather trimmed seats, semi-automatic climate control air-conditioning, satellite navigation and a stainless steel bullbar. On the down side it misses out on an auxiliary audio interface, Bluetooth connectivity, full-function trip computer and second-row centre headrest.
Other than that, the cockpit is straight forward with simple instrumentation, big switches and a commanding view of the road, certain to keep things simple when you’re off tackling the great outdoors.
The electrically operated leather seats are reasonably supportive, easy to wipe down and are adjustable in all the usual directions.
But perhaps in showing its age, some of the Patrol Ti’s functinoality is, by today’s standards, rather compromised. The reversing camera takes too long to engage (31 seconds) and is angled too low to be of any real use – except perhaps for hitching the boat; the remote-control satellite navigation system is painful to negotiate and terribly slow to load; and the trip computer offers distance and time information only, omitting the truly useful information that is fuel consumption.
Which brings us to the big one: the Patrol’s insatiable thirst for fuel.
Powered by a lethargic 3.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, the Patrol simply isn’t up to task when compared to its more modern rivals. Developing 118kW of power at 3,600rpm and 354Nm of torque from 2,000rpm, the Patrol’s diesel offering is mated to a decidedly lazy four-speed automatic transmission, a combination that sees the full-size 4×4 suffer considerable turbo lag from rest, asthmatic open road performance and glacial overtaking – not to mention fuel economy returns this week of 15.6L/100km.
It’s a shame really, and when you look at the rivals figures – Toyota LandCruiser 195kW/650Nm, Land Rover Discovery 180kW/600Nm, Mitsubishi Pajero 147kW/441Nm, Volkswagen Touareg 176kW/550Nm – justifying the asking price of Patrol is a hard ask. Until that is you head off-road.
Once off the beaten track the Patrol really starts to make sense with it’s robust torsion beam, coil-sprung suspension and live axle goodness easily tackling the tougher aspects of off-road driving.
This is not a half-baked soft-roader, it’s the last of the real 4x4s boasting approach and departure angles more than adequate for most situations, an ample 210mm ground clearance and generous amount of suspension travel that proved this week ideal for climbing.
There’s virtually nothing we could throw at Patrol that would discourage its course – mud, ruts and moguls were all conquered with surprising ease. Large hills were ironed flat in low-range with Patrol proving just how much can still be achieved without electronic assistance – that said switchable ESC might have been a nice idea.
Perhaps the most reassuring aspect of Patrol’s off-road prowess is that it never broke a sweat, or even come close to feeling like it would – no matter where we took it.
With flexible seating arrangements, Patrol offers two folding pews in the rear cargo area to offer a total six-passenger capacity. The third-row seats do impinge a little on cargo capacity but can be removed should you so desire.
The middle row seats can fold flat, be slid fore or aft and also offer 50:50 split fold versatility for carrying those cumbersome loads. The cargo area is accessed by a vertically split tailgate that offers the choice of one narrow door or both. The spare wheel is mounted on the tailgate for easy access off-road, or simply when the boot is full of cargo and kids. It does however limit vision slightly when reversing.
Despite its off-road toughness Patrol is still a bit of a mixed bad on-road and around town. It’s slower than it should be, is heavy on fuel and offers light steering feel with a complete lack of tactility on-centre. But if you’re looking for a tough, dedicated and simple machine off-road then from just $51,630*, Patrol might just tick all the boxes. Three-out-of-five.