Nissan Patrol review | first drive

If absence makes the heart grow fonder then Australia will go crazy nuts in love with the new Patrol. Unveiled in February 2010, the launch has been delayed several times by US and Middle East demand for the behemoth from Shatai Kyushu plant in Japan.

But that ardour might quickly cool if reaction to the absence of a diesel engine is any indication. For the first time Nissan's off-road flagship is offered with a V8 powerplant over inline-six-cylinder petrol propulsion. And it's a premium unleaded only proposition.

Nissan Australia boss Bill Peffer says there are no plans to introduce a diesel. "There's nothing in the current plan, that's not to say that over the life cycle, depending on the product strategy and how we move forward, that we may not look at some kind of alternate powertrain,'' he says.

Peffer dismisses suggestions the fuel economy of a V8 petrol engine puts it at a disadvantage over a turbodiesel powerplant. "Fuel economy is slightly less efficient than a diesel powertrain, but then again you're going to pay $5000 roughly or more for a diesel variant, the payback is a five year/100,000km for that to make sense," he says.

VALUE

In metal-for-money terms the new Patrol might be considered "value''. The entry-level eight-seater ST-L starts from $82,200, with a jump to $92,850 for the mid-spec Ti and $113,900 is the ask for the flagship Ti-L  which drops its seat count to seven.

Standard fare range-wide includes Bluetooth phone link (but music streaming is absent), a hard-drive equipped sound system with iPod connectivity, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, a foot-operated park brake, power-adjustable driver's seat, trip computer, three-zone climate control with rear controls, cloth/leather trim, side steps, power-adjustable, folding and heated exterior mirrors, 60/40 split fold second and third row of seats, LED tail lights, four 12-v power outlets (front, centre console, second row and luggage area).

The Ti model adds speed-sensitive power steering and Nissan's Hydraulic Body Motion Control system. The mid-spec Patrol also gets leather trim, power adjustment for the front passenger's seat, automatic headlights, a sunroof and rain-sensing wipers.

The flagship Ti-L gets a memory function for the driver's seats, xenon headlights, 3D satnav on an 8in touchscreen that also controls the Bose 13-speaker 9gig hard-drive equipped Bluetooth streaming, USB-equipped sound system. There's also a power-operated rear tailgate, two 7in headrest-mounted screens to play DVDs (with headphones and a remote control) to keep passengers entertained on long road trips.

TECHNOLOGY

There's no shortage of clever bits, the 5.6-litre V8 has direct injection, four valves per cylinder, double overhead cams and variable valve timing and lift system. All that gives it peak power of 298kW/560Nm, the latter at a slightly peaky 4000, although 90 per cent of that comes on from 1600 rpm.

Fuel use of 14.5 litres per 100km says Nissan is 15 per cent better than the 4.8-litre six-cylinder, but it will still need a big sip from the 140-litre fuel tank. A seven-speed auto puts the drive to the full-time (rear-biased) 4WD system, which has limited slip and lockable rear differential, as well as specific terrain modes, hill descent control and low range.

The system has no mechanical centre differential feeding as much as 50 per cent of drive to the front wheels using an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch set-up. Hydraulic suspension technology has replaced conventional dampers and anti-roll bars to control the double wishbone coil-sprung suspension on the mid and top-spec models.

Hydraulic chambers control the suspension travel, cross-linked to resist body roll when cornering but able to allow considerably more suspension travel then that offered with antiroll bars in place.

DESIGN

Big, squared-off (particularly when viewed from the stumpy rear) and wide, the new Patrol takes up a lot of space. The behemoth wagon doesn't shrink once within  space in most directions is more than ample for seven adults.

Even the third row can accommodate grown-ups, if only for a short trip  with a useful amount of luggage space with all three rows in use. The velour trim in the ST-L looks a little outdated and appears likely to show wear and tear quickly. The transmission selector remains placed for a left-hand drive set-up and on the incorrect side of the transmission tunnel.

SAFETY

As yet untested by the NCAP crew, the Patrol gets front, side and curtain airbags, active front headrests, and front and rear parking sensors with rear view camera, lap sash seatbelts for all three seating rows. Stability and traction control, hill start and descent control are all standard, with the mid-spec Ti getting guide-lines for the reversing camera set-up.

Add adaptive cruise control, forward collision, lane departure and blind spot warning and prevention systems (which brake individual wheels to ``steer'' the vehicle back into line), intelligent braking assistance, tyre pressure monitoring system, the multi-camera "Around View Monitor'' system and the electronic auto-dimming centre rearvision mirror to the list for the Ti-L.

DRIVE

Anyone in the market for a cavernous kid-carter that sounds great, your ride has arrived. The base-model rides well even without the clever hydraulics present on the mid and high-spec models, although body control in corners is a little less rigid. The hydraullic body control system tempers body roll but the ride quality degrades a little on rougher roads  jitteriness over smaller imperfections was noticeable.

Cabin space is considerable, build quality feels first-rate (as do the materials) and feel is solid (aside from the odd trim in the ST-L), it's a quiet and comfortable interior. Twirling the tiller around at low speeds is easy, but the helm doesn't offer much to the driver as speeds rise to metropolitan or highway rates  even for a large SUV, the Patrol is a little ponderous.

The V8 is a gem  there's simply no other way to describe it  producing peak power of 298kW at 5800rpm, with maximum torque of at 560Nm at a somewhat-high 4000rpm, although 90 per cent is on offer from 1600rpm.

The soundtrack is more than pleasant, as is the push in the back, but given it's shifting almost three tonnes (in the Ti-L) there's punishment at the pump  Nissan says ADR of 14.5 litres per 100km on the combined cycle but expect plenty more than that if you're towing (up to 3500kg braked) or dwelling around town.

The seven-speed auto is a slick-shifter that will hold a gear in manual shift mode and the all-wheel drive system feels capable of shifting drive quickly and effectively in off-road terrain. Teamed with 283mm of ground clearance, the luxury angle hasn't seen its off-road ability suffer  only the wide girth will present an issue on tight off-roading, not the school carpark.

VERDICT

It's been a long time coming and in some ways worth the wait for big off-roader buyers to have an alternative to the LandCruiser. But the lack of a diesel won't do it any favours  particularly in rural areas.

Nissan Patrol

Price: from $82,200
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Resale: 58 per cent (Source: Glass's Guide)
Service interval: 15,000km/6 months
Safety rating: three star (previous model)
Spare: Full-size
Engine: 5.6-litre 32-valve DOHC direct-injection alloy V8, 298kW/560Nm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic; 4WD
Body: 5.1m (L); 2m (w); 1.9m (h)
Weight: 2645-2735kg
Thirst: 14.5 1/100km, tank 140 litres, 95RON PULP; 343g/km CO2

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