Hendrik Behrtel is a Nissan Patrol freak. It was the second time that he and his wife had crossed the Namib Desert with Uri Adventures in their big 4.8 GRX Patrol. Eben Delport enjoyed their company, and recalls some of his own adventures in a Patrol
The first time the Behrtels travelled with us was from Luderitz to Walvis Bay and the second time they came on the Faces of the Namib tour. Hendrik has gone to many other places in his Patrol as well.
This is his story…
With the big Nissan being an ideal overland vehicle because of its size and power, we have had many a happy adventure ourselves over the last seven years. The vehicle is extremely reliable and has covered many problem-free kilometres.
The only drawback is its thirst for fuel. In my own case, I fitted a long-range fuel tank so that I could reduce the number of jerry cans I needed to lug around. This increased the fuel capacity from 135 litres to 180. At the same time, I installed air assist in the suspension to help with the weight when the family goes on holiday.
One of our many adventures in southern Africa was a trip to Malawi via Mozambique and back, pulling an off-road trailer with a trailer tent. This is our normal way of travelling in the 4.8-litre Patrol. It can pull relentlessly right across the rev range and overtakes trucks and overloaded buses without a problem. The engine is smooth and very quiet when cruising.
Spares in Malawi were not a problem because most of the big UN 4x4s there are Nissan Patrols.
We have gone from the heat of the Northern Cape to the snow covered mountains in Lesotho with all the creature comforts that the Patrol provides. Even the kids in the back seat cannot complain as they have their own air-conditioning ducts. Space between the front and middle seats is less than expected in such a big vehicle, but it is more than adequate for children and, I realise, even for adults now that they have grown up!
The suspension remains the traditional off-road favourite, with solid axles in front and rear. This makes the suspension phenomenal, capable of smoothing out uneven terrain and flexing to the contours of the road. This is particularly noticeable on roads with potholes, encountered throughout southern Africa, and in extreme trail driving.
Trail driving sometimes becomes a challenge in the big Patrol as some trails are very narrow and the layout is usually more suited to smaller SUVs. This is especially so when you have to cross some of the pole bridges. I sometimes have to drive with the outside edge of the tyres protruding over the side. I’ve seen the guides’ faces changing in seconds from relaxed to very tense while guiding me over some of these bridges.
The Patrol has excellent axle articulation, approach and departure angles. Negotiating very chopped-up bush tracks and steep slopes is achieved with nonchalant ease. A diff lock is provided on the rear axle but is seldom used.
Along with a handful of other four-wheel drive vehicles the Patrol is, in my view, one of the most capable off-roaders.
The changes I have made to the Patrol have been to instal a bull bar from TJM, new Koni shock absorbers in the rear and TJM shock absorbers in the front, a dual battery system, a 2-inch lift on the suspension, air helpers front and rear, a work light at the back, 285/75 Procomp Extreme tyres (a cross between a mud and AT tyre that works very well in the dunes), Escape Gear seat covers and the long range fuel tank.
Kilometres travelled: I purchased the Patrol in 2007 – second hand, with about 65 000km on the clock. It is a 2004 model dating from the time before the face lift the model was given in October that year. I am the second owner and the Patrol has now got 187000km on the clock. It has done about 30 000km in the bush and on trails.
Fuel consumption: The worst fuel consumption was in the Namib Desert after I loaded on a lot of extra kit from a broken down Toyota Land Cruiser (2.2 km/l). The best fuel consumption was on a trip in Malawi, at 7.2 km/l. My average fuel consumption is currently 5.5 km/l, which is acceptable for such a big vehicle, which weighs about 2.4 tons and has the aero dynamics of a brick.
Problems experienced: None so far. I service the Patrol regularly, every 15000km.
Best attribute of Patrol: The comfort of the front seats, the big capacity engine and the reliability of the vehicle.
Worst attribute: Fuel consumption and the availability/price of spares, because the Patrol is being sold in limited numbers.