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First Drive: Nissan Patrol

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With a heritage dating back to the early 1950s, the Nissan Patrol has a long legacy, and a fervent fan base.

Australian 4x4ers in particular are Patrol-obsessed, thanks to the vehicle’s heritage of an extremely strong ladder frame chassis, and bullet-proof diffs and gearboxes, making them perfect for serious, often competitive, off-road driving. Unlike the Y61 Patrol, the Y62 on show here favours luxury over outright capability, with plush independent suspension and a sumptuous interior. For those in need of more articulation and ruggedness, the Y61 is still available brand-new in SA.

Unlike the more expensive and significantly uglier Infiniti QX 80, alongside which the Patrol has been badge-engineered, the Patrol maintains off-road credibility in being shipped with reasonably sensible 18-inch wheels, as opposed to the Infiniti’s 22’s.

Like the Infiniti, the Y62 is powered by a silky-smooth 5.6-litre petrol V8 with a sonorous 298kW and a quick seven-speed auto box. This is the only engine/transmission option, and Nissan has no plans to develop a big diesel to compete with the Land Cruiser VX 200 series 4.5-litre turbodiesel V8.

Surprisingly, though, the Patrol doesn’t use anywhere near as much fuel as expected for such a massive brute. We averaged a mere 17 litres/100km during the launch, which included a short off-road section and plenty of wide throttle openings over a 200-kilometre route. A 140-litre tank will ensure plenty of range.

To keep handling in check, Hydraulic Body Motion Control suspension is utilised − doing away with conventional sway bars. The system works by connecting hydraulic cylinders at each shock absorber with pipes and two accumulators. As the vehicle rolls to one side, fluid from the two outside cylinders flows to an accumulator to raise the suspension’s stiffness. The system works well both on- and off-road and is certainly noticeable in keeping the big beast level.

Even in large 4×4 territory, the Nissan Patrol is simply huge: 5.1 metres long, just less than 2m wide and weighing in at 2.7 tonnes – around 500kg more than a big-body Range Rover. The sheer size makes parking and manoeuvring around tight tracks a bit of a pain, but thankfully numerous driving aids make life easier. Standard kit includes a 360-degree camera for tight spaces, as well as an electronic rear-view mirror (which uses a wide-angle camera on the rear door to display a high-res image to the existing mirror). A lane-keeping warning and assistance system tugs at the steering to keep drivers in their chosen slot, plus there is radar-guided cruise control and autonomous braking.

The above are, however, just additions to a vehicle that’s really quite outdated, or at least takes an old-school approach to luxury. Massive seats (eight of them), extra-soft leather and lots of buttons as opposed to a huge touch screen are the order of the day, and I must say it’s hugely satisfying to drive a vehicle like this, despite its being a dying breed.

Off-road, the newest Nissan Patrol has huge boots to fill, and during the launch we drove over only two small obstacles, but the tech and numbers speak for themselves. There’s low-range gearing as well as a traction-control system with modes for slippery surfaces, rock and sand. Torque is mechanically distributed between front and rear axles with a natural rear bias, becoming almost completely rear-wheel-drive on the open road – reducing frictional losses.

For your R1.3 million, what you get with a Patrol is a sense of security. This is a vehicle that’s proven its reliability over the years, as opposed to some of the more high-tech and temperamental rivals. Off-road capability is at least on par with the Land Cruiser 200 Series and beats other rivals thanks to a wheel and tyre combo that can actually be used off the beaten track. Call it the veritable iron fist in a velvet glove, a vehicle you either get or you don’t.

NISSAN PATROL 5.6 V8

Engine                                           5.6-litre petrol V8

Power                                            298kW @ 5800rpm

Torque                                           560Nm @ 4000rpm

Transmission                               7-speed automatic, electronic 4WD selection

Suspension                                  Independent double wishbone coil springs front; rear multi-link with (HBMC)

Performance                                0-100km/h 6.6 seconds

Fuel consumption                       14.4l/100km (claimed)

Dimensions                                  (L/W/H/WB) 5165/1995/ 1940/3075mm

Ground clearance                        272mm

Approach/departure/ramp        34.3/26.2/24.4

Kerb weight                                  2746kg

Towing capacity                          3500kg

Cargo space                                 550-1500 litres

Price                                              R1 299 000

All Patrols come with a three-year/90 000km service plan and a 6-year/150 000km warranty.

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