2012 NISSAN PATROL REVIEW
It may be just over a year from arriving at a showroom near you, but to whet our appetites Nissan has given Australia's motoring media a special preview drive of the all-new 2012 Y62 Nissan Patrol.
Also known by Nissan's internal code, P61G, the Y62 Patrol is world's apart from the Y61 Patrol workhorse that's currently on sale.
It's bigger, heavier, and packed with an astonishing array of technology. It's also propelled by an immensely grunty 5.6 litre petrol V8, and takes drive to all four wheels via a seven-speed automatic (a first for its class) and dual-range transfer case.
When it arrives on Australia's shores in 2012, the Y62 will take the Patrol nameplate significantly upmarket.
To demonstrate the Patrol's new-found refinement, Nissan Australia shipped a highly-specced model here from the Middle East, where it has been on sale in left-hand-drive form since early 2010.
With sat-nav, radar-assisted cruise control, lane departure warning, around-view cameras, three DVD video screens (two in each headrest) and a bevy of other mod-cons, the Y62 Patrol boasts enough gadgets to rival not only the Toyota Landcruiser LC200, but fancier machinery like the Range Rover Sport and Lexus LX 570.
Interior quality is superb. Soft leather adorns the seats, steering wheel and doorcards, and high-grade plastics are used throughout. There's also an unshakeable feeling of solidity, with not a single piece of rattling trim to be heard.
Suspension technology has undergone some radical changes as well.
Live axles have been ditched in favour of double-wishbone suspension, and although there's a mechanically locking rear differential, the bulk of the Y62's off-road traction comes from a brake-based pseudo LSD setup.
The system works by braking individual wheels that have little to no traction, directing drive to the wheels that still have grip.
Another feature that aids off-road progress is the Hydraulic Body Motion Control (HBMC) system, which deletes the traditional stabiliser bars and instead uses a hydrualic coupling to reduce body roll, or, in off road situations, dramatically improve wheel articulation.
It works a treat. On an off-road test track of moderate difficulty, the Patrol barely broke a sweat ascending a steep, rocky uphill section, with deep ruts and cocked wheels failing to slow the big wagon's progress.
The 5.6 litre direct-injected V8 has ample power to lug the 2785kg Patrol up the steepest slopes. With 298kW and 550Nm of torque, it had no issue climbing steep grades in high-range.
The seven-speed gearbox shifts smoothly and decisively, and always selected the right ratio without driver intervention.
Most impressive though, is the incredible sense of isolation from the outside environment. Even when driving off-road, the loudest noise is the sound of air rushing through the vents.
At work, the engine is a distant muted hum, and even over gravel road noise is barely inaudible.
Overall refinement is excellent, the power and drivetrain faultless and its off-road abilities without question, but the greatest handicap is the Y62 Patrol's gargantuan size.
It's bigger in every dimension than the Landcruiser LC200, and there were some extremely tight moments during our brief off-road sojourn in the Patrol.
For towing boats or horsefloats, the Patrol would be ideal (what better way to make use of its 3.5 tonne tow capacity). For serious off-roaders, it's probably a size too big – despite its eye-wideningly impressive capabilities.
On the road, however, it seems to shrink. The performance offered by that big V8 means it gathers speed with tremendous ease, and the HBMC system allows it to corner very flatly.
The 20-inch wheels fitted to the Patrol we drove certainly looked miniscule in comparison to the rest of the car, but the slightly lower-profile rubber fitted to them made the Patrol more car-like on the tarmac.
The Y62 Nissan Patrol is without doubt an incredible vehicle, but for now perhaps the greatest issue facing it is what price it will launch with.
Nissan Australia says there's an opportunity to offer a lower-cost vehicle by deleting a few in-cabin luxuries and swapping the HBMC system for a conventional suspension setup, but don't expect the pricetag to give you much change from $85,000.
As for the car we drove, which is representative of a range-topping Patrol Ti model, it would not be unreasonable to assume that it could retail from the $120,000-$130,000 mark - a touch above the top-shelf Toyota LandCruiser Sahara.
Nissan says the new Patrol will launch without a diesel option, with the sole engine choice to be the 5.6 litre petrol V8.
A diesel powerplant is under development, however it has yet to be determined whether Nissan will make use of its recently-signed powertrain sharing agreement with Daimler and use a Mercedes-sourced diesel, or use the 3.0 litre V6 turbodiesel that it co-developed with Renault.
A diesel Y62 Patrol is expected to surface sometime in 2013.
Until then, Nissan CEO Dan Thompson says the current Y61 Patrol will sell alongside the new model and could remain a fixture in Nissan Australia's line-up until 2014-2015.
Nissan may also choose to emulate Toyota's strategy of offering the utilitarian LC70 Landcruiser alongside the more passenger-focused LC200, to cater to industry fleets and off-road enthusiasts, as well as customers seeking greater comfort and refinement.