The auto industry has given us many great rivalries over the years. Ferrari vs. Lamborghini, Mustang vs. Camaro, Ford vs. Holden, the list goes on. But one of the great motoring battles in this country has been the arm wrestle between two offroad heavyweights, the Toyota LandCruiser and the Nissan Patrol.
These burly 4x4s, which were both launched in 1951 in their Japanese home market, have been mainstays of the Australian scene since the 1960s. Over
the ensuing decades, they’ve gone at each other hammer and tong with successive model iterations — this latest Y62 version is the seventh generation of the venerable Nissan Patrol.
The Y62 was launched here somewhat controversially in 2013 with only a petrol V8. In a full-size 4x4 scene firmly wedded to diesel, that was akin to throwing the Patrol into the ring against the reigning champion with one hand tied behind its back. Sales have been comparatively modest as a result, which is a shame because, as we discovered when we tested the 2019 facelifted version recently, it’s a hell of a truck.
This is the second and most significant facelift since the Y62 first launched and brings with it a handsome new front end and a suite of new standard safety technology for the lower spec model. As before, the Patrol is only available with a 5.6-litre petrol V8 and seven-speed automatic transmission, and in two modes, the $76,990 Ti and the $92,790 Ti-L.
LAYERS OF LUX
We were borrowing, not buying, so chose the up-spec Ti-L with acres of leather, faux walnut veneer and a shopping list of luxury features. Compared to the already generously equipped base model, the Ti-L adds features like: smart rear-view mirror; memory mode for the driver’s seat, steering and mirrors; electric steering adjustment; tri-zone air conditioning; dual 8-inch entertainment screens in the second row; 13-speaker Bose sound system; centre console cool box; immobiliser and alarm; power tailgate; xenon headlights with automatic levelling; washers; puddle lamps; and heated and ventilated front seats.
That’s a reasonable list of extras to justify the circa $16k price hike over the Ti, which also had its features upgraded last year to make it an even more compelling proposition, particularly from a safety perspective. Shared features across both models include: around view monitor with front and rear sensors; vehicle dynamic control and traction control; anti-lock braking and electronic brakeforce distribution; hill descent control and hill start assist; driver and passenger front and side airbags; curtain airbags on all three rows; intelligent emergency braking; forward collision warning; adaptive cruise control; lane departure warning and intervention; blind spot warning; and rear cross traffic alert.
It’s a properly impressive safety package on either vehicle, with the Ti-L adding the layer of lux that buyers who can afford it will no doubt appreciate. While the fundamental design and dimensions of the hulking Y62’s five-door wagon body style remain unchanged, newly designed LED headlights and tail-lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, and changes to the bonnet, guards, grille and bumper, give the 2019-20 model suitable difference from its predecessor.
Inside the Ti-L’s superbly finished cabin, you sit high on over-stuffed but heated and ventilated electric leather seats, with a commanding view over the expansive bonnet. Rear vision is not quite as good, unless you remove the centre headrest from the second row.
But in case you don’t want to do that, there is compensation in the form of Nissan’s Intelligent RearView Monitor, which turns the rear vision mirror into a video screen at the flick of a switch.
Standard side steps plus sturdy grab handles assist with getting in and out of the high cabin, which is draped in acres of leather and leatherette. The dash features a swooping, circular design with generous slabs of what looks like faux walnut veneer on the centre console, upper dash and door trims. The main dash layout is conventional, with an analogue speedo and tacho, flanked by fuel, temperature, voltmeter and oil pressure gauges.
In the centre of the dash an eight-inch colour touch screen provides sat nav with 3D mapping and a range of different screen views, but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. A rotary dial immediately below the screen provides shortcut menus for a range of infotainment and convenience features, including navigation, climate, cameras, audio and more. Unfortunately, the system is not entirely intuitive, with a messy array of switches, knobs and buttons that cause confusion at first.
The wide centre console sprouts a conventional T-bar style automatic transmission lever, with a sport mode and the ability to select gears manually, if required.
Right behind the shift lever is a rotary dial that controls the Patrol’s dual-mode full-time 4x4 system, with selectable modes for auto, 4H, and 4HL, as well as specific modes for sand, rock, snow and on-road driving.
Other switchable traction aids include hill descent control, traction control and a rear differential lock. There’s also a standard helical limited slip diff — if that lot can’t get you out of trouble then you really are up the creek.
However, in the event you do end up stranded atop a dune in the middle of the Simpson, a refrigerated chilly bin beneath the centre console provides storage for some meagre provisions.
And, if all else fails, the in-dash CD-stacker will at least allow you to while away the hours listening to your favourite Kenny Loggins tracks.
There’s room for Kenny and his band inside the generously proportioned cabin, with its versatile three row seating layout. The lower-spec Ti model is classified as an eight-seater, but even in the seven seat Ti-L, the third row is still a kids-only affair. The shorter side of the 70/30 split second row is also sited on the ‘wrong’ (driver’s) side, which is not ideal for access to the third row.
Second row passengers should have no complaints about the accommodation though, with plenty of leg, foot and headroom on offer, plus individual climate controls and twin 8-inch video screens mounted in the front seat headrests. There are also overhead air conditioning vents for all three rows, which is a nice egalitarian touch.
Access to the cargo bay is via an electric tailgate which opens to reveal a generous 1490L of luggage space with the third row folded, or a still very respectable 550L with the seats in use. The second row can also be folded for added versatility if required, freeing up a vast 3170L.
BENT EIGHT WARBLE
In an era where turbocharging is becoming ubiquitous, the naturally aspirated V8 has become something of a rarity. But spending a few days at the wheel of the Patrol reminds one of just how good the configuration can be, notably for its linearity of throttle response, but also the delicious exhaust warble that manifests when you remove the muting effects of turbos.
Throttle response from the direct-injection V8 is also terrific. The Patrol launches with instantaneous urge, its tacho sweeping smoothly across the rev band as the seven-speed automatic serves up its ratios with seamless efficiency. Nail the throttle from standstill and the big Nissan pins back its ears and gallops towards to 100km/h in an impressively brisk 8.5 seconds. Put your foot down at any revs, in fact, and the Patrol surges forward with surprising zeal, the syrupy 5.6-litre V8 (298kW/560Nm) remaining smooth and willing all the way to its 6000rpm redline. Suppression of road and engine noise is extremely good, too, with just enough of the V8’s sound permeating the cabin to be appreciated.
DRIVEN TO DRINK
With such strong and instantaneous response, it’s tempting to drive the big beast hard, but do that too often and you’ll wish you hadn’t. Nissan’s claimed combined cycle fuel figure of 14.4L/100km figure is probably achievable in highway conditions, but we saw 17.5L/100km over 500km of stop-start city driving, and higher again when towing.
At least the time between fills is mitigated somewhat by the Patrol’s generous 140L tank — the sting in the tail is that the hi-tech V8 prefers expensive 95 RON fuel or higher. Still, with its tank brimmed and assuming Nissan’s claimed combined cycle figure is achievable out on the open road, the Patrol should be good for an estimated range between fills of 972km.
A REGENT IN TOW
Our tow rig for this exercise was a 23ft Regent Monarch caravan, which tips the scales at 2944kg. That’s comfortably below the Patrol’s rated 3500kg towing capacity and, even with a couple of burly blokes and their gear in the cabin, we were still around 1000kg below the Nissan’s 7000kg Gross Combined Mass limit. We figure that if the Patrol can handle this sizeable van, it will be capable of any camper trailer.
We immediately appreciated the Patrol’s 360-degree camera set-up when it came time to hook up. The system offers the ability to select different screen views, including a front-of-vehicle view, a rear view, and an overhead view, all of which prove handy when manoeuvring in the close quarters of an RV yard.
Once hitched, we eased out through Melbourne’s northern suburbs and were quickly tracking north up the Hume Highway, turning off at Tallarook and then bouncing across some ordinary sections of country B-road, en route to the pretty north-east Victorian township of Yea. With photographer John Ford needing to catch a flight home that evening, it was rinse and repeat for the ride home.
We’d found that when cruising unladen on a light throttle at 100km/h the tacho hovers at a lazy 1250rpm in top gear. But with the van in tow and a bit of a sidewind working us over, the gearbox regularly dropped a cog to hold a steady 100km/h at 2200rpm.
The overwhelming sense out on the highway is of a gutsy and willing powerplant that relishes the challenge of hills to demonstrate its muscularity. Nothing particularly fazes the powertrain, the auto simply kicking down smoothly and the V8 summoning a few more revs to gather its skirts and maintain impressive momentum up hill and down dale.
The Patrol’s relatively soft all-coil suspension, on the other hand, isn’t quite as ideal a fit for load hauling duties. Nissan has made some subtle tweaks to the Patrol’s fully independent, all-coil suspension, with a view to improving on-road ride comfort with this update. The system uses hydraulic struts at each corner in lieu of sway bars to actively reduce cornering roll and keep the body flat. It generally rides quite nicely, with compliant bump absorption, disciplined body control and safely predictable handling dynamics. But while the plushness is appreciated when unladen, it does permit a bit more roll and yaw movement as the RV works the rear of the vehicle. In these conditions the steering, which is light and relatively feel-free to begin with, lightens more than is ideal, the combination creating a slightly unsettled feel to the handling. It’s not excessive, or even particularly disconcerting, but is a constant companion and is exacerbated by bumps and potholes.
THE WASH UP
In terms of the ever-crucial fuel consumption figures, our average 17.5L/100km of unladen urban driving rose to 20L/100km during our open road tow test. In the latter case we weren’t particularly focussed on driving for efficiency and sat at the speed limit virtually everywhere, so this figure could be improved by lowering road speed slightly.
Many buyers will understandably be put off by the fact the Patrol is only available as a petrol V8, and requires minimum 95 RON fuel or higher, when its major rival the LandCruiser 200-Series packs a turbo diesel V8. It’s a shame, because it’s an impressive vehicle that deserves to find more buyers than it does. Quite aside from the fact it drives so well and is extremely well appointed, the fact the Patrol retails for around $30,800 less than the equivalent-spec LandCruiser 200 Series Sahara surely warrants consideration. In fact, using a 2018–19 RACV average price for 95 RON of $1.53/L as a guide, you could fill the Patrol’s tank 144 times and cover a theoretical 140,000km before it costs you any more than the Cruiser’s purchase price.
That said, it’s hard to shake the understandable loyalty Toyota has built up over successive generations, and without a diesel engine option we’re unlikely to see Patrols camping in large numbers anytime soon. When and where you do see one, though, don’t feel too bad for the driver — they’re travelling in the lap of luxury, even if they are paying a bit more for the privilege at the bowser.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Width (excluding mirrors) 1995mm
Ground clearance (unladen) 273mm
Kerb mass 2861kg
Gross Vehicle Mass 3500kg
Gross Combined Mass 7000kg
Towing capacity (unbraked/braked) 750kg/3500kg
Towball (max) 350kg
Engine 5.6-litre, quad cam, direct-injection, petrol V8
Transmission Seven-speed automatic
Power 298kW at 5800rpm
Torque 560Nm at 4000rpm
Gear ratios 1st 4.887, 2nd 3.170, 3rd 2.027, 4th 1.412, 5th 1.000, 6th 0.864, 7th 0.775
Final drive 3.357
Fuel capacity 140L
Suspension Independent, double wishbone, coil sprung, with hydraulic motion body control (fr & rr)
Brakes 358mm ventilated discs (fr), 350mm ventilated discs (rr)
Wheels 18-in alloy
Warranty 5 year/unlimited km (expires after 60 months)
Roof load 100kg
RRP $92,790 (plus on-road costs)
Price as tested $94,811 (plus dealer and ORCs)
Accessories Fitted Metallic paint $595; Tow kit fitted $1256; electric brakes $170