BMW X3 VS Nissan Patrol
- Scorchingly fast
- Gives its rivals a run
- Terrific chassis
- Apple CarPlay price is extortion
- Some (not me) find the ride too hard
- Needs more visual aggro
- Enormous cabin and cargo area
- Effortless to drive
- Plush interior
- Disconnected feeling at higher speeds
- Thirsty and no diesel variant
- Tech is starting to date
Big fast SUVs have long been a guilty pleasure of mine. My brain has been telling me for years, since the first time I drove one - the first-gen Audi SQ5 - that they're silly and wasteful and 'not my kind of car'.
The Europeans - and latterly, the Americans - seem to be playing to an audience of me, convincing my prejudiced head that my try-anything heart is right: over-engined, jacked-up, stiffly-sprung family wagons are as much fun as anything else.
The X3 M is BMW's first full-fat M version of the X3, a car that has never really fired the imagination until this third generation. First we got the very good X3 M40i, now we have a 375kW, twin-turbo straight-six screamer, the M Competition.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Nissan Y62 Series 5 Patrol is the iconic go-anywhere rival to the equally legendary and off-road-tough Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series. Like the ‘Cruiser the current Patrol is aging, having been around for a decade now. So, did the late-2019 update to the Patrol wind back the clock with new styling, tech and safety?
What’s it like to live with on-the-road when it’s not adventuring through the desert? And is that petrol V8 thirsty?
I found the answers to all these questions and more when the top-of-the-range Patrol, the Ti-L, came to stay for a week.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
As much as I love the mental GLC63 - complete with V8 bellow - the X3 M is the one for drivers. While that's a silly thing to say on the surface - what 'driver' is going to buy an SUV? - this is the new reality. We love these things and they're not going away.
While it may not be quite as comfortable as any of its competition or have the V8 cachet of the Jag and the Merc, it still takes the fight to them in what is easily the roomiest and most practical in this niche part of the segment. And it's an enormous amount of fun.
You have plenty of choices in the mid-size fast SUV market - X3 M, GLC63, Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio - what's your choice?
The Patrol Ti-L is a go-anywhere beast but as my test showed anywhere can also mean the upmarket end of town on city streets where its on-road manners are refined, composed and comfortable, with looks that border on prestige. The Patrol might be getting on, and the interior design is starting to age, but this is still a superb vehicle for the money.
The third-generation X3 is by far the best-looking and isn't as badly blighted by BMW's current oversized, hatchback-straining grilles. It's not small, no, but in the flesh, it looks fine.
The usual M accoutrements are present, with new front and rear bumpers, skirts and a whopping set of 21-inch alloys. It looks different and marginally more aggro than the M40i and just enough so a vaguely interested observer will notice.
A quick look at the rest of the similarly-sized hard-and-fast SUVs reveals a similar approach.
The seats add some serious excitement, they're a proper set of M seats, complete with the slightly naff light-up X3 M logos in the backrest. But it's predictably well-made, is very comfortable and is full of nice materials.
Large. Enormous. Big. Some of the words I’ve used so far to describe the Patrol, but they aren’t going to help you when it comes to knowing if it will fit in your garage or the shopping centre car park.
So, here are the Y62 Series 5 Patrol’s dimensions. The Ti-L measures 5175mm long, 1955mm tall and 1995mm wide. It’s the height which was the primary concern for me because I live in the city and many multi-level carparks have maximum clearances of 1.9m.
The Patrol’s styling doesn’t exactly try to hide its size. The thing looks like it’s been chiseled out of sandstone, with a face that looks like a wall, a high and broad bonnet, and a flat roofline leading to a sheer drop at the tailgate like the Nullarbor meeting the ocean.
In late 2019 the Patrol received styling tweaks with the bonnet, front wheel arches, and grille given a redesign along with both bumpers. Nissan says the Ti is the sporty looking one while the Ti-L we’re reviewing here has a more premium look.
I’d agree with that; premium but with a bit of Robo Cop thrown in. It’s definitely confronting and modern looking, but with a high-end air.
The prestige feel continues inside but it’s less futuristic with all that wood, and the tech is beginning to date. Still, this is a plush cabin, with a good fit and finish to it.
This X3, if you need reminding, is bigger than BMW's first SAV (ugh), the X5. That means plenty of room up front, heaps of legroom for most in the back and enough room for five aboard.
Front seat passengers score a pair of cupholders with a cover and the centre rear armrest has two more for a total of four. Add to that bottle holders in each door and your beverage holding capabilities are pretty standard.
The boot starts at an impressive 550 litres, almost tripling to 1600 litres when you drop the 40/20/40 split fold seat. You get a good flat load space when you do that, too.
The Patrol is a seven-seat, large SUV and in the words of our five-year-old son, “This is a good car because it’s big, but also it’s too big.”
He said that as he made a second attempt to scale the entrance into the second row, and that time didn’t fall out. It’s a long way up and while the doorways are tall and wide, it’s not just my kid who’s going to need the side steps to climb in, everyone will. I did, and I’m 191cm (6'3") tall.
The Patrol’s cabin is enormous. I mean Land of the Giants enormous. So, for somebody with my 2.0-metre wingspan it felt great to have so much shoulder, elbow, and headroom up front.
Leg and headroom in the second row is also excellent. There was about a 100mm gap between my knees and the seat back.
The third row is tight, and the second row doesn’t slide forward to offer more room. Still, I could sit back there for a short trip, but those two seats are really for kids. Do the airbags cover the third row? I’ll get to that in the safety section below.
Lets’ talk about cabin storage and then the boot.
Under the centre armrest between the driver and front passenger is a fridge large enough to cool six 600ml water bottles or my wife’s large handbag, and the clever lid means it can be opened from the front or the back.
Door pockets are seriously big, there are two cupholders up front, another two in the second row and the third has four.
When all three rows of seats are in use the boot space left is still impressive at 468 litres, and with the third row folded flat there’s 1413 litres of space, and that opens up to 2623 litres if you fold the second row down, too. Huge.
The boot load lip is pretty high compared to less hardcore SUVs such as a Mazda CX-9. So, if you’re just using the Patrol daily and never head off-road you may quickly get over hoisting your shopping bags into the boot like you’re competing in a hammer throw event.
For devices you’ll find five USB ports (three are in the second row, the rest up front), four 12V outlets (two up front, one in the second row, and a third in the boot), and there’s a HDMI port in the second row, too.
Price and features
For $157,900, before on-road costs, you may think this car should be absolutely loaded with stuff. And it is. Whether that's enough is up to you, but the price is about right for its segment.
It's worth remembering we only get the up-spec Competition version, BMW saw no point in offering the 'normal' version nobody was going to buy.
For your cash you get 21-inch alloys, multi-zone climate control, ambient interior lighting, keyless entry and start, active cruise control, electronic damper control, digital instrument cluster (not the new 'Live Cockpit'), sat nav, auto high beam, auto LED headlights, launch control, leather seats and steering wheel, electric front seats, head-up display, auto parking, power everything, auto wipers, huge panorama sunroof and a tyre repair kit.
The big central screen features BMW's iDrive, controlled by either the rotary dial or via touchscreen. It's a belter of a system and I reckon it's still the best, although you have to pay for Apple CarPlay - this remains controversial and I wonder how long the company will persist.
The Y62 Series 5 Patrol line-up consists of two grades: the $76,990 Ti and the top-of-the-range $92,790 Ti-L we’re reviewing here.
The Ti and Ti-L were upgraded at the end of 2019 with new safety tech and some styling tweaks, which I’ll take you through in the sections below.
But for now, let me tell you about the Ti-L’s features.
Coming standard on the Ti-L is leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, heated and cooled front seats which are also power adjustable, a 6.0-litre cooler box, sat nav, proximity unlocking, power tailgate, sun roof, LED headlights with washers, LED fog lights, puddle lights, and a digital rear-view mirror.
The Ti-L also has a DVD entertainment system with an 8.0-inch screen up front and two more seat-back 8.0-inch screens in the second row, and a 13-speaker Bose stereo.
The only optional equipment fitted to my test car was a dealer-installed tow bar kit ($1374) and electric brake controllers ($618). The 'Moonstone White' premium paint it wore is also optional and costs $595.
Is the Patrol Ti-L good value? Yes, but it’s beginning to feel a little dated – a lot like its rival the Toyota LandCruiser LC200 GXL which lists for $89,222.
Something you may not have considered is the Ford Everest, which is extremely capable off-road, comfortable to drive and a whole lot more affordable at $72,590 for the seven-seat Titanium grade.
Engine & trans
The X3 M arrives from the US with a shiny new version of BMW's modular six-cylinder performance engine. While the M Performance M40i has a single turbo (B58) straight six, one tiny change to the name - from B58 to S58 - means a heck of a lot.
The S58 takes the same fundamental formula, bolts in two new single-scroll turbos, throws in forged conrods and a few other changes to boost the power to 375kW (500 horsepower) and 600Nm.
That torque figure is available across a nice wide 3350 revs, between 2600rpm and 5950rpm.
Getting all that to the wheels is the M version of BMW's all-wheel drive system xDrive and an active rear differential. The near-ubiquitous eight-speed ZF brokers the connection between that system and the flywheel and it's all impossibly smooth and feels bulletproof.
The good news is the Patrol isn’t powered by a hamster on a wheel. Nope, the engine perfectly matches the macho look and feel because it’s a 5.6-litre petrol V8 making 298kW/560Nm.
So, if you’re worried that in these days of fuel consciousness the Patrol would have something less beefy, fear not.
The not so good news is that you can only have a petrol V8 and there’s no diesel alternative. That’s not great news for fuel economy as you’ll read below.
If you’re not fussed by how much fuel you’ll use, then in return you’ll have a petrol V8 which is lot quieter than a diesel while the seven-speed automatic transmission is smooth making for a refined and effortlessly powerful driving experience (read more about that below too).
The Patrol is four-wheel drive with 4H and 4L gears, plus an Auto (AWD) setting.
The reality, of course, is different but not unexpectedly so - a week in my hands in the suburbs and a cobweb-clearing early morning run delivered a 14.1L/100km average. Again, not bad given the kind grunt that's on tap.
Nissan says that after a combination of open and urban roads the Patrol Ti-L will have used 14.4L/100km. In my fuel testing I started with a full tank (140 litres) and then after 103.3km of city streets, suburban roads and motorways I needed 19.57L to fill it back to capacity which comes to 18.9L/100km.
That may sound like a lot, but until I hit the motorways the trip computer was saying the average fuel consumption was 30.1L/100km after about 50km of only inner-city suburb driving.
The Patrol needs a minimum of 95 RON premium petrol, too.
One of the things I love about BMW is the company's ability to produce a car that on one hand is so normal and competent for the every day but also produce a version that is completely doolally.
The fine folk at M obviously involve themselves from day one so that when they get a finished car they can get cracking on making it properly fast. Obviously, quite a bit has to change for that to happen.
The X3 M is very stiff. Pop the bonnet and you'll see a piece of whatever the metal equivalent of four-by-two keeping the two sides of the car apart.
This is something M does whenever it gets a vanilla BMW, as it has with the M2 and outgoing M3 and M4 pair. To name three. The difference from the driver's seat, when compared to, say, the M40i, is immediate.
The steering is super-responsive, the front of the car reacting incredibly quickly given the X3 M's two-tonne weight.
Even in Comfort mode, the X3 M's ride is pretty firm. That doesn't bother me especially, nor my wife, who has a keen sense of ride quality. It never really falls over the line of being uncomfortable but it's worth knowing if you're considering this and you have to carry passengers.
If you drive around town in either M1 or M2 (in the factory settings at least), you're mad - the suspension becomes very hard and the steering too heavy. In fact, the steering in its Super Sport setting is just too heavy and uncooperative.
Cheerfully belting the 7200rpm redline at every upshift, barking between gears and delivering torque the way a hungry Labrador delivers a headbutt if you get in between it and food, the straight-six is glorious.
The 4.1-second sprint from 0-100km/h is only part of the story. Not many cars can cover ground so quickly and fewer still SUVs of this size and weight can do it with such precision.
When you turn the wheel on the X3 M, the front goes where you want it, instantly. All that under-bonnet bracing prevents the front flexing and shimmying, which is the enemy of going fast. So that sorts out getting into the corner. The best thing is you can push through corners and slingshot out the other side, riding that huge torque slab, the rear wheels doing most of the work with the occasional wriggle to keep you smiling.
A good chunk of the applause goes to the way the xDrive all-wheel drive system and its 'M Active' diff at the rear work together in Sport+ mode.
As colleague Steve Corby discovered at this car's clay-pan launch, the front wheels aren't doing much of the driving when you've turned it all up to 11 in '4WD Sport'.
When the road goes from straight to twisty, the excellent brakes come in to play, hauling the car down from big speeds without complaint. Even better is that in normal driving, they're not grabby and the pedal always lets you know what shape you're in.
For this review the Y62 Series 5 Patrol Ti-L stayed firmly on suburban roads and city streets and wasn’t taken off-road. If you’re keen to find out how the Patrol fares over tough terrain then read Adventurer Editor Marcus ‘Crafty’ Craft’s off-road review here.
Suffice to say, it’s extremely capable off the road. Essential figures for the Ti-L include a ground clearance of 273mm, an approach angle of 28.0 degrees (34.4 degrees in the Ti) and a departure angle of 26.3 degrees.
And if you’re planning to tow, then read Crafty’s tow test here where he compared the Ti-L with the Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series GXL from what it’s like to drive with a van on the back to the fuel economy.
What you need to know here is the Patrol has a maximum-braked towing capacity 3.5-tonnes, a Gross Combined Mass (GCM) of 7000kg and a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of 3500kg.
So, as much as the Patrol is as happy as a pig in mud when it’s in mud, this large SUV will no doubt spend a lot of time on the bitumen as well, where the it's also an accomplished beast.
Ride and handling are shockingly good for something nudging three tonnes. There’s independent rear suspension and 'Hydraulic Body Motion Control' which keeps the Patrol flatter in the corners.
Dampers have been retuned for better on-road comfort and while the ride may be firmer than many large, floaty-feeling SUVs, it’s still enjoyably comfortable.
A turning circle of 12.5m and fairly slow geared steering saw me feeling a bit like a hand-shuffling bus driver doing three point turns in my street. No biggie, though the steering is pinky finger light and makes for easy work.
Around town at lower speeds the steering is accurate and great for piloting through traffic, but on motorways and fast country roads I felt a little disconnected from the front wheels at times, so more feeling in the steering would be an improvement.
Parking obviously was harder in the city where finding a seven-metre space is near impossible, but thanks to the great visibility, both in terms of the ride height and the enormous windows and wing mirrors, maneuvering into tight spaces and navigating city streets was easy.
The X3 M rolls out the door of BMW's North Carolina factory with six airbags, stability and traction controls, front and rear parking sensors, around view camera (including reversing camera), forward and reverse AEB, blind spot sensor, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, reverse cross traffic alert, speed limit recognition and tyre pressure monitoring.
There are also two ISOFIX points and three top-tether restraints.
The X3 scored a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2017.
The Y62 Nissan Patrol first came out in 2010 and despite many safety upgrades over the years since it hasn’t yet been given an ANCAP rating.
The 2019 upgrade saw more advanced tech added and the Ti-L safety features include AEB, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keeping assistance, and blind spot warning which will intervene to steer you back into your lane if needed.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX points and two top tether anchor mounts in the second row. Only the right-hand seat in the third row can have a child seat installed and it’s a top tether anchor point.
Nissan says curtain airbags cover all three rows in the Patrol.
BMW offers a segment standard, but increasingly mean-looking, three years/unlimited kilometre warranty. It's not just BMW, though, it's all of the premium Germans. You do get three years roadside assist into the bargain and you can pay to extend the warranty, too.
You can pre-pay your servicing, with a five-year/80,000km Basic package for $3685. If you think you're going to give your X3 M a proper walloping you can opt for the the 'Plus Package'. For a not-inconsiderable $8173.
BMW will cover your brake pads and rotors for the same period as the Basic package.
Service intervals are variable because, as ever, BMWs tell you when they need a trip to the dealer.
The Y62 Series 5 Patrol is covered by Nissan’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Servicing is recommended every six months or 10,000km and the first six services are set at $376 for the first service, $577 for the second, $392 for the third, $860 for the fourth and $407 for the fifth and $624 for the sixth.