Ok so let's get the bad points out of the way straight up. The Y61 Nissan Patrol neither feels like a car or four wheel drive to drive. This thing is a truck - and I can tell you from experience that as far as trucks go I would much prefer to spend twelve hours behind the wheel of a T950 Kenworth pulling 24 tonnes than negotiate a peak hour drive across town in the GU. The Patrol has the steering responsiveness of a stale block of cheese, the front-end feels like it's playing the drums at a Metallica concert on corrugated roads and it's not exactly what you would call a powerhouse.
However the sheer number of Patrols on the road and their cult-like following on social media and forums would surely suggest that they are good for something right? Well, I wouldn't own one if it wasn't. Fact of the matter is that the Patrol is one of the toughest, most capable off-road vehicles on the market. Straight off the showroom floor they're more capable than most and even with a few basic modifications it becomes a complete weapon.
So perhaps I'm being a little unfair when it comes to its on-road credentials by comparing apples with oranges. In a world that has shifted the trend of live axle coil and leaf suspension to fully independent set-ups in the name of making their vehicles more efficient, safer and better handling, the Patrol has stuck with the motto that if it aint broke - don't fix it. But why I here you ask? Simple… because there's still a market for it. For now at least anyway.
The Patrol's old-school coil-over-live-axle suspension set up on both front and rear axles is completely primitive in construction, yet so robust and effective at what it does best – and that's flex! The axle articulation that the Patrol is so well renowned for and sought after by off-roaders allows maximum travel in ruts and holes ensuring that the wheels keep in contact with the ground as much as possible. This combined with the Nissan's ultra-effective limited slip rear differential means that traction is on steady demand at all times, and in the world of off-road - traction is king!
The Y61 has been in production since 1997 and is still being built for the Aussie market today, sold along-side the more advanced Y62 Patrol. It's overseen quite a few different engine and induction combinations but has essentially gone through little change since its conception. In 2005 the ST came with the ZD30 3.0L 4 cylinder turbocharged direct injection diesel motor and a variation of the same motor is still used in the current Patrol with a common rail fuel injection system.
Although this motor does seem quite lethargic on the open road as you would expect lugging the Patrol's 2,438kg of kerb weight around, it does produce quite a bit of torque with 380Nm being available at 2,000rpm. An interesting effect of this is when you come off a flat to tackle a big hill you can watch the tacho drop while the speedo is still climbing. Once the engine speed falls into that sweet spot the overweight Patrol is happy to lug around all day. The engine torque also comes into its element again when you head off-road and engage low-range four wheel drive. The ultra-low gearing of 2.02:1 combined with the engine's ability to lug hard at low engine speeds gives the Patrol the capability to walk up the steepest of inclines with little effort.
The 4-speed automatic transmission is also far from refined and struggles to find an appropriate response to putting your foot down at 80-90km/h to overtake. However it also is renowned for being as strong as an ox and has been known to take all sorts of abuse without the slightest hint of being affected. You can see the common theme here.
Interior comfort on the later models is however not an issue compared to many four wheel drives that seem to have a very utilitarian approach to interior design. While you won't find all the bells and whistles on the ST, it has enough power options including power windows, mirrors and comfortable seating, heck it even comes with carpet! I guess it's always been a love – hate relationship with the GU, but mostly love - because when it comes to heading out bush for a weekend of camping and four wheel driving, I wouldn't have it any other way.