TRUE, HARD WORKING, off-road prowess is fast becoming a thing of the past. More and more vehicles are borrowing from the ‘soft-roader’ philosophy of vehicle engineering.
No such fears for Nissan’s Patrol. A low range transfer case and rigid axles might put it in rare company these days, but there’s no doubting the Patrol’s desire to play dirty.
2010 Nissan Patrol Ti
The Patrol doesn’t offer much that’s new; what it does offer is plenty of tried and tested hardware.
Under the skin the Patrol can trace its roots back to 1997, while on the surface an update in 2004 has kept the look fresh.
The 3.0 litre common-rail engine, four-speed automatic, manually selected low-range and rigid front and rear axles may not represent Nissan’s most cutting edge technology, but offer rugged durability that’s hard to beat.
What’s the appeal?
Simplicity is part of the deal – even electronic aids like stability control aren’t to be found on the Patrol’s equipment list.
'Loaded' with less, means less to break. That lack of fragility means the Patrol is ready to serve in some of Australia’s most punishing environments, on and off the road.
What features does it have?
In top-shelf Ti specification you’ll find leather trim across all seven seats and woodgrain accents across the dash and doors. Front seats are electrically adjustable.
Comfort and convenience items extend to a six-disc CD changer, satellite navigation, reversing camera, remote central locking, sunroof, power windows and mirrors and climate control air conditioning.
Cruise control and ABS brakes provide additional assurance. There’s also an 'appearance package' that includes colour-coded bumpers and wheel-arch flares plus chrome door handles and mirrors.
What’s under the bonnet?
We had Nissan’s 3.0 litre common-rail intercooled turbo diesel engine option under test.
Outputs are 118kW@3200–3400rpm for the manual and the same 118kW@3600rpm for the automatic.
Torque is rated at 380Nm@2000-2400rpm in the manual and 354Nm@2000rpm when backed by the automatic transmission.
Transmission choices include a five-speed manual or four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission as tested.
Those who prefer petrol power can also opt for a 4.8 litre inline-six producing 180kw@4800rpm and 400Nm of torque at 3600rpm. The petrol comes mated solely to a five-speed automatic transmission.
While the diesel’s power and torque outputs trail the petrol, the peak figures developed lower in the rev range mean the available power feels more useful in slow speed situations.
How does it drive?
For town duties the Patrol manages to make fair game with what it’s given. Coil springs front and rear take some of the fidgeting out of the ride, but live axles fore and aft mean there’s still a bit of bounce and pitch to contend with on patchy roads.
Soft springing helps keep things comfortable enough, but leave room for a fair degree of squat and dive under acceleration and braking.
Cornering suffers from plenty of body roll and an older-style recirculating ball steering set-up makes cornering an imprecise and feedback-free affair.
With 118kW and 354Nm from the Patrol’s 3.0 litre common-rail turbo diesel engine shifting the hefty 2477kg kerb weight, acceleration is never anything more than leisurely.
Backing the engine, a four-speed auto allows a limited selection of gear ratios when on the move. You can't help but notice that, although there is plentiful grunt from the comparatively small capacity diesel, it feels hampered by the limitations of the auto.
While modern diesel engines continue to improve in terms of refinement, the Patrol’s mill still chugs like a locomotive from idle, making a ruckus with added revs and rocking the car on its suspension, even at idle.
At highway speeds, a steady thrum from under bonnet pervades the otherwise serene cabin, but given the boxy bodywork and nuggetty tyres, wind and road noise are kept to a reasonably comfortable minimum.
Away from the urban sprawl the Patrol becomes a much easier vehicle to love. Point it at a mountain trail and the Patrol’s reason for being becomes easy to understand.
A solidly-planted stance on gravel tracks gives way to a serious off-road attitude when called upon to get dirty.
The soft suspension tune helps to flatten out the bumps and grinds while impressive wheel articulation keeps all four tyres in contact with the ground in even the most demanding circumstances.
Rain prior to our trip meant that many of the trails were still slick with mud. This showed up the Patrol's only serious shortcoming.
The shallow tread depth of the tyres was ok in most situations, but traction quickly disappeared on damp clay surfaces soon. (Wider-lugged tyres would be called for here.)
Beyond that, the strong torque from low revs allows the Patrol to haul itself up and over steep ruts effortlessly. The Patrol’s sheer size means tight trails feel even narrower but there’s little terrain that Nissan's big hard-working off-roader won’t handle.
Perhaps that's why Nissan sells a lot of Patrols to the SES and fire services.
What did our passengers think?
Plenty of good things were said about the Patrol’s interior. The seats are wide and softly padded making it a comfortable place to be on extended journeys.
Even the third row is spacious enough for adults, although loading them in past the middle row seats isn’t always graceful.
Two in the centre row is ideal, with independent armrests for each.
Three across the rear may cause a rift though, with the lumpy middle seat housing the seam from the 50:50 split and the armrests in one lumpy package.
Ventilation to all rows and a separate rear cooler also help to keep the peace amongst occupants.
Interior quality and feel?
The patrol isn’t the newest vehicle on the roads and the interior is one place this is apparent.
Some parts are newer then others, getting replaced midway though the Patrol’s model cycle, but there’s still a lot of hard plastics and basic-looking interior switches.
That said, build quality seems good with a solidly screwed together interior that is robust enough to handle plenty of abuse. The big Nissan’s origins as a workhorse are never too far from the surface.
With all seven seats in use luggage room is still fairly reasonable. Stowing the rearmost seats frees up a huge 668 litres of space, however the third row folds up against the windows instead of under the floor.
With 50:50 split fold seats in both the middle and rear rows it is easy to tailor the Patrol’s cargo carrying needs to suit your circumstances. With both the second and third rows folded away, 2287 litres of room is available in the Patrol's capacious cabin.
For smaller items, large door pockets, a deep centre console and open recesses in the dash provide plenty of storage slots.
A barn-door tailgate is also easy to open for loading small items, but becomes slightly more cumbersome when both sections need to be opened.
How safe is it?
In ANCAP safety testing the Patrol scores 3-Stars (out of five). Safety equipment includes ABS brakes, dual front and side airbags and height-adjustable front seatbelt anchorages.
Items like electronic stability control aren’t available, nor are curtain airbags or seatbelt pre-tensioners. The centre seatbelt in the middle row misses out on a three-point harness, providing a lap-only belt.
Fuel consumption and green rating
Official consumption is rated at 11.8l/100km but the need to push hard to tap into decent accelerative urge as well as extended off-road adventures saw our test return 12.5l/100km. Given the Patrol’s heft, that’s not too bad a return.
The Government Green Vehicle Guide rates the Patrol at one-and-a-half stars out of five. CO2 emissions are rated at 313g/km - a figure beaten by most modern diesels.
How does it compare?
The Patrol now finds itself in an odd position when it comes to competitors. Where the previous 100 series Land Cruiser used to line up evenly against the Patrol, the new 200 Series moves a step away in size, equipment and refinement.
A Land Cruiser 200 GXL, Toyota’s entry-level offering, starts from $87,759 (plus on-road costs) which buys an automatic, twin-turbo diesel V8 offering superior power, economy and interior space.
Alternatively the Land Cruiser 76, despite its lower specification and seating for five is just as evenly matched in terms of rugged off-road ability.
No automatic is available and the top of the range GXL makes do with a comparatively spartan interior but can be had for $62,640 (plus ORC) with a single-turbo diesel V8.
Land Rover Defender and Jeep Cherokee represent the only other rigid-axle offerings available in Australia. Their much lower specification, smaller size and smaller engines see them compete in a vastly different price bracket however.
A highly specced VX Prado is available from $75,490 (plus ORC) as a diesel automatic or a top-shelf Pajero Exceed can be had for $76,790 (plus ORC) offering a slightly higher price, but superior levels of equipment.
Is it expensive to maintain?
Service intervals are every 10,000km. The first service costs roughly $290, the 20,000km service comes in around $390 and the 30,000km service is just under $320.
The first major service occurs at 40,000km and involves a diff oil, gearbox oil,and transfer case oil change, a brake fluid change and an air filter replacement. It costs around $990, including labour.
A warranty period of three years or 100,000 kilometres covers the Patrol. Nissan also offers a range of extended manufacturer warranty programs for time and distance to cover up to six years and 150,000 kilometres.
Polar White, Platinum (silver), Desert Gold, Black Obsidian and White Diamond are the available exterior choices. The interior is trimmed in Jet Black leather.
The Patrol Ti starts from $69,990 (plus on-road costs) for the diesel manual. The petrol automatic and diesel automatic as tested start from $72,690 (plus ORC).
Metallic paint is a $495 option, bringing the price of our test car to $73,185 plus on road costs.
While it has been around for a while, the Patrol still has what it takes, but that statement comes with a caveat.
If you’re looking for a leafy green suburb-dweller, the Patrol can cope but would be happier not to. If your terrain includes long highway stints, gravel roads and the need to pass where no road exists, you’ve found the big Nissan’s natural habitat.
Add in the leather trim, seating for seven, and satellite navigation and you have a comfortable, spacious and truly capable way of crossing Australia’s more rugged terrain.
For rugged durability and go anywhere ability, the Patrol has proven its mettle, as many a proud owner of this current generation will attest.