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All kinds of awesome!

The latest edition of Nissan’s flagship SUV, the Patrol, was recently launched in South Africa. Wynter Murdoch reports

There’s an awesome lot to appraise about Nissan’s new Patrol. It’s super spacious and luxuriously appointed. It’s capable and comfortable whether on- or off-road.

Its naturally-aspirated V8 engine offers copious amounts of pulling power, the vehicle said to be capable of hauling loads weighing up to 3,5 tons. And the cabin can seat up to seven large adults with elbow room to spare.

As one of the longest, widest and tallest cars on the road, the Patrol is hard to miss. Even in a vehicle segment that’s characterised by the bulkiness of its rivals, the model manages to look epic.

It’s fast, too, with top speed rated at over 200km/h despite the fact that it weighs close to three tons and has aerodynamic properties akin to those of a brick. As Nissan points out in a promotional media release: “It is a vehicle that some might find a complete contradiction.”

Contradictions aside, the Patrol remains one of the most enduring derivatives in the Nissan range. In its latest, updated guise it represents the sixth edition of the vehicle. Introduced to South Africa late last year – but launched in other markets as long as seven years ago and subsequently facelifted – the model melds old-fashioned engineering with new-age technology. And, despite its lashings of brute strength, there’s plenty of refinement in its make-up.

The petrol-fuelled engine – which is analogous to that which powers sister brand’s Infiniti QX80, another super-sized SUV in Nissan’s line-up and which, incidentally, is built on a similar platform – is smooth spinning and capable, its prowess having been tested in a number of motorsport applications and as well as in high-performance Nismo guise.

In its Patrol iteration the unit has a displacement of 5,6 litres and produces 298kW at 5 800 revs/min, with maximum torque of 560Nm achieved at the 4 000 rpm mark. Coupled with a seven-speed automatic gearbox that shifts smoothly if somewhat languidly, the powertrain is competent and quiet, capable of providing a relaxed ride whether the vehicle is driven in traffic, on the highway or off-road.

Since the launch itinerary included elements of each, the Patrol was put to the test – and impressed for its easy ability to convince that ungainliness usually associated with bulk can be replaced by an assured, comfortable gait over a variety of terrain types.

On the downside, the powerplant’s partiality for petrol means that even with a fuel tank capacity that measures 140 litres, real-world range in combined cycle driving is unlikely to exceed about 700km despite Nissan’s insistence that the vehicle is capable of travelling about 1 000km on a tankful, the company’s official claim for the cycle being 14 litres per 100km.

By contrast, the Patrol I drove on the launch gulped just over 20 litres per 100km, according to the trip computer, and it is likely that the engine will consume even more if the vehicle is used for serious towing purposes – its capability in that respect regarded as one of its selling points.

In terms of drivetrain, Nissan’s system features what spokesmen describe as intelligent 4x4 electronics which offer a choice of four selectable driving modes as well as limited slip and switchable diff-lock options.

Depending on the type of surface the Patrol is traversing, the system automatically apportions torque between front and rear axles. During the off-road test on the launch – involving steep gradients, slippery rocks, mud, gravel, axle twisters and broken, loose surfaces – the Patrol emerged with flying colours despite its wheels being shod with road-biased rubber pumped hard for tarmac excursions.

Incidentally, the model eschews air suspension systems used by some rivals in favour of Hydraulic Body Motion Control – a mechanical counterpart that does an admirable job of keeping the cabin level and flattening the ride, comfort enhanced by well-construed damper settings and a wheelbase that exceeds three metres.

So, what’s the cabin like? Sitting inside the Patrol is best described as similar to sitting in the lounge of a small Japanese house. While switchgear and controls remain within easy reach, compared with most other vehicle cabins everything seems to be a little further away – the feeling of space amplified by seats six and seven at the back that disappear into the floor at the touch of a button to provide a copious luggage area.

For front or rear occupants, there’s plenty of head room, knee room and elbow room. Leather-covered seats are firm but comfortable, switchgear has a solid and well-crafted feel and, if there’s a need to keep drinks cold, there’s even a fridge positioned between the front pews.

The centre stack includes an eight-inch colour touch screen that incorporates satellite navigation with 3D mapping and an off-road monitor. Two similarly sized entertainment screens for second row passengers feature headphones and remote controls. The premium-quality Bose sound system sports 13 speakers.

Safety items include an intelligent Around View Monitor (AVM); Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC); Intelligent Forward Collision Warning (FCW); Intelligent Distance Control Assist (DCA) and three child restraint anchorage points.

In a sense, it’s only fitting that since the Patrol is imposing to look at and sit in, it carries an equally imposing price tag – R1 299 000 to be exact. That includes a six-year, 150 000km warranty with roadside assistance and a three-year, 90 000km service plan.

Is the vehicle worth the money? To pick up on Nissan’s contradictory theme: yes and no. Fuel consumption aside, there is little to fault the Patrol’s prowess. As a long-distance cruiser it feels comfortable and secure on the road. Equally, in the serious off-road situation, its competence is hard to fault.

However, in the city environment its bulk counts against it – first because not many public parking spaces are designed to accommodate vehicles that measure more than five metres in length and two metres in width, and second because it has a wide turning circle, which makes it less easy to manoeuvre.

However, if you want space and utility coupled with a good measure of luxury, there are few rivals that can match all the elements that have helped to make the Patrol a stand-out travelling companion. In many ways it represents the epitome of all kinds of awesome!


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