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It’s a lively campfire debate – nay a blood feud – as old as time itself: which company makes the best four-wheel drive – Nissan or Toyota?
The Toyota vs Nissan argument is as layered as an onion but at its essence are opinions based around each brand’s ability / or lack thereof to create robust and reliable off-road vehicles, able to be used for work and play, and with great word-of-mouth reputations built over many decades of service in Australia.
Rather than regurgitate the entire existence of both brands’ 4WDs in this country, I’ll give you a potted history of the two for context.
When the two 4WDs landed here all those years ago – the 3.9-litre petrol FJ Cruiser in the late 1950s and the 4.0-litre six-cylinder petrol 60 Series Patrol in the early 1960s – no one was to know the intense rivalry that would swiftly develop between the fans of these two models.
The Cruiser was brought in to work on Australia’s largest ever engineering project, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, and soon proved its worth.
Both it and the Patrol quickly found favour in the mining and agricultural sectors.
As well as both vehicles building solid fanbases off the back of their reputations for robustness and reliability, also of note is the fact that in 1962 the G60 Patrol was claimed to have completed the first vehicular crossing of the Simpson Desert. Geologist Reg Sprigg and his family tackled the journey.
The LandCruiser went from strength to strength in terms of rep and through its generations – 40 (including a low-range transfer case), 55, 60, 70, 80, 100, 105 (aka the Prado), 200 and now 300 Series – has simply built on that hard-won bush cred.
Through its various iterations – MQ, GQ and GU – the Patrol continued to build a solid fanbase, but it has never quite achieved Cruiser-level popularity.
There’s no denying the LandCruiser’s dominance in the sales charts as it continues to reign supreme. Order books are overflowing and wait times have been blown out for quite some time. The Cruiser is simply that popular.
But the ‘vs’ debate between the contemporary 300 Series Cruiser and the Y62 Patrol tends to hinge largely on upfront costs and ongoing running costs (namely fuel).
For reference, the top-spec Cruiser, the GR Sport, has a 3.3-litre V6 twin turbo-diesel engine (producing 227kW at 4000rpm and 700Nm at 1600-2600rpm), a 10-speed automatic transmission and five seats. (Some other Cruiser variants have seven seats.)
Ground clearance is listed as 235mm, and approach, departure and rampover angles are 32 degrees, 25 degrees, and 25 degrees respectively.
Wading depth is listed as 700mm.
The GR Sport has full-time, dual-range 4WD, selectable off-road driving modes (including sand, snow, mud, rocks, and dirt) and front, rear and centre diff locks.
It has a 110-litre fuel tank (an 80-litre main tank and a 30-litre sub-tank) and listed fuel consumption of 8.9L/100km on a combined cycle.
The GR Sport has a manufacturer suggested retail price of $142,101 (excluding on-road costs)
But the Patrol has still managed to retain solid sales despite being seemingly outgunned in the reputational/brand loyalty stakes and it’s latest-generation Patrol has cemented its title as more than a worthwhile Cruiser contender.
The top-spec Ti-L has a 5.6-litre V8 petrol engine (producing 298kW at 5800rpm and 560Nm at 4000rpm), a seven-speed automatic transmission and it has seven seats. (The only other Patrol variant, the Ti, has eight seats.)
Ground clearance is 273mm, and approach, departure and rampover angles are 28 degrees, 26.3 degrees, and 24.4 degrees respectively.
Wading depth is listed as 700mm.
The Patrol Ti-L has a full-time 4WD system, selectable off-road driving modes (sand, snow, rock), and a rear diff lock.
It has a 140-litre fuel tank and listed fuel consumption of 14.4L/100km on a combined cycle.
The Ti-L has a manufacturer suggested retail price of $97,600 (excluding on-road costs).
These are both well-liked towing platforms – I've tow-tested with both variants over the years – so worthwhile noting are the towing capacities which remain equal for both vehicles at 750kg (unbraked) and 3500kg (braked).
So, the Cruiser has a heftier price-tag, but the Patrol drinks more fuel. You do the maths for each vehicle’s expected time with you (upfront cost vs expected regular fuel bills) and work out which one better suits you and your budget.
Much of the talk these days centres around comfort, emissions, fuel consumption and engine size.
Another clear sign of the times is the fact the upgraded 70 Series has adopted a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, producing 150kW from 3000-3400rpm and 500Nm from 1600 to 2800rpm, and, for the first time, a six-speed automatic transmission.
Is the new 70 Series spearheading a move away from big engines? Toyota says the V8 diesel is not going anywhere, but there is a sales pause on for that grade at the moment as the company can't keep up with demand.
It’s part of a larger trend. Is the Patrol’s V8 also on the way out? A lot of people hope not, but it's expected to also gain a V6 in its next generation due next year.
Perhaps a more agreeable customer demand is the fact that aftermarket-style fit-outs to established models, such as the Premcar-enhanced Patrol Warrior, seem to have found plenty of fans in the Aussie market.
The LandCruiser and the Patrol each have their numerous merits and, lucky for all of us, there’s room for those vehicles and many more in the Aussie market.
If this intense rivalry pushes both companies – and others – to continue to improve their products, then it’s a welcome contest for sure.