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Car reviews - Nissan - Patrol - wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Roomy cabin, eight-seat capability, seats, dashboard, high-tech gadgets on Ti-L, V8 performance and refinement, intuitive auto, towing capacity, cargo space
Room for improvement
Pricing and value, ride, steering, equipment levels, economy, RHD conversion oversights


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5 Feb 2013

PATROL is a byword for rugged and reliable, having become as much a part of the Aussie motoring landscape as the Toyota LandCruiser.

The nameplate is far and away Nissan’s oldest still in use, as well as one of the most loved.

So what’s this? A $100,000 Patrol?

Time and unfailing service over the years means that this SUV granddaddy has earned the right to move up in the world, especially as its Toyota nemesis in 200 Series guise has done exactly the same with success.

Along with a V8, the Y62 Patrol offers high-tech gizmos including active suspension, radar-guided cruise control, lane-departure warning and mitigation, blind-spot alerts, and a fully automatic 4WD system, helping to justify what is a huge price jump over the old Y61.

However, what this also means is that we have to judge the one-time working class workhorse as a competitor to the Audi Q7, Land Rover Discovery, Lexus LX 570, and even Mercedes GL-Class.

As the company flagship, then, the 4x4 icon – capable of towing 3500kg – is now playing in the luxury big league.

Things look promising from the outset thanks to a chunky design of contemporary – and quite formidable – proportions.

The rear treatment is a little bland, but the blunt nose succeeds in standing out.

More importantly, the new Patrol looks a million times better than its Infiniti QX56 twin (not as yet available in Australia), a gargoyle of an SUV that was designed for American and Arab buyers.

Nissan’s luxury marque’s influences dominate the roomy and refined cabin, even though there are detail differences, so from a space, seating, and dashboard appearance and interface point of view at least, the Y62 is more-or-less convincing as a luxury device.

Woodgrain finish on the flowing fascia, clear instruments, a big centre screen and climate-control air-con all fit the part, while generously padded seats, a powerful audio system and absolutely first-class fit and finish are further showroom drawcards.

We’re especially pleased with the amount of room available in the middle row, while there is still usable luggage space – as you might expect from a five-metre-plus SUV. And face-level ventilation outlets with user adjustability are also appreciated.

But right-hand-drive conversion compromises are evident in a couple of areas, including a gear lever that’s further away than you would expect (and too far when using the manual mode) and in the fact that accessing the third row from the kerb side requires two out of the three occupants sat there to get out of the car entirely since the larger of the split/fold seats has not been switched over to the right side.

More worryingly for some is the vexing question of value for money.

Though from the outside it is impossible to separate the cheapest variant from the most expensive, the $82,900 base model is fitted with gray velour seats (complete with brown piping) at a price point that people expect nothing less than leather. We’re talking bargain-basement fleece texture here, and a real dirt/fur/grime magnet.

And why no standard auto headlights and wipers, or satellite navigation?

Worse still, sat-nav is also absent in the near-$100K Ti, which is expected to be the top seller in the range. Is a German car company outcast specifying these cars for Nissan? Buyers need to stretch to the $114K Ti-L for the GPS privilege, which is an outrage.

The equipment shortfalls are a shame because, from a packaging point of view, all but the base model can adequately accommodate eight adults – though the rearmost passengers will need to squeeze in a bit and the rear-most middle rider must make do without a head restraint. At least both rows of backrests recline.

For regulatory reasons, the Ti-L’s near three-tonne mass means the third row loses its third seating position, diluting the range-topper’s appeal somewhat.

But even deeper disappointments lurk once you fire up the Y62, and it’s nothing to do with the fabulous 298kW/560Nm 5.6-litre petrol V8.

After all the concern about there being no diesel option (which instantly eliminates this Patrol for many people), the drivetrain turns out to be one of the best things going on here.

Smooth, silky and serene, yet muscular enough to keep the land yacht moving along swiftly thanks to a clever and intuitive seven-speed auto, the V8 is truly from a class above. If high fuel costs and carbon emissions are of no concern, then why would anybody choose a diesel over this mellifluous mechanical masterpiece of a powertrain?

But it is severely undermined by the Patrol’s dynamic behaviour, which ranks as one of the most frustrating we have experienced for a while – even accounting for the three tonnes of weight and old-school separate-chassis construction.

Nissan needs to sort out the steering because it is too light, too vague and completely devoid of feel. The disconnect between driver and front wheels is disconcerting, especially at speed, requiring continuous correction inputs.

Secondly, the suspension and ride quality varies from busy in the normally sprung ST-L to jittery in the others, which are fitted with Nissan’s much-heralded ‘Hydraulic Body Motion Control’.

This technology is meant to keep a lid on unwanted lurching and leaning, especially at speed or over rough terrain, but while it may work on perfectly smooth highways or in certain desert conditions, our irregular roads seem to amplify bumps, shocks and ridges. We also couldn’t discern any dynamic benefit in terms of handling or cornering, since the Patrol is still a leaning handful through turns tight or wide.

The vehicle felt smooth and steady at around 50km/h in a brief sojourn over sand, but otherwise there is little that is pleasurable about punting a Patrol around on anything other than billiard-smooth roads.

We wonder why Nissan hasn’t fixed this issue in the three years since the Y62 debuted in the US and the Middle East.

The Patrol feels like a work in progress, since the basics are here for a competent and enjoyable family luxury SUV – a refined and roomy cabin, creamy smooth performance, high-tech safety gear and lots of available features.

But Nissan really needs to beef up the steering, improve the ride and sort out the value issues quick smart, because in the Patrol’s existing state, most rivals will have little to worry about.

Maybe the big Japanese SUV will fare better schlepping around town with a full load of people and cargo.

At least you can feel confident that, being a Patrol, it ought to last for decades.

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