We’ve had to wait a long time, but the ‘new’ Nissan Patrol has finally arrived in South Africa. Has it been worth the wait? And can the vehicle carve out a niche for itself in the local market?
The sixth-generation Nissan Patrol has been around for an awfully long time. It was launched almost exactly eight years ago, in February 2010. Why has it only now arrived in South Africa? Well, it’s not hard to figure out why Nissan SA hasn’t been champing at the bit to bring the Patrol to our shores. The SUV, quite simply, isn’t aimed at our sort of market. Back in 2010, the Patrol was launched in Abu Dubai, and there’s a good reason for this: it’s a vehicle designed expressly for that market. The styling, size and performance of the Patrol all conform to the expectations of Middle Eastern buyers. It has a showy design and burly V8 petrol powerplant that doesn’t quite fit the African overlanding mould.
So why has the Patrol now found its way to South Africa? Is there any point, especially when you consider the fact that the (extremely) similar Infiniti QX80 failed to make any impact on the local market? According to Xavier Gobille, Nissan Group of Africa managing director of marketing and sales, the Patrol is here to act as the brand’s flagship. Nissan is selling a lot of NP200s, NP300s, Jukes and Qashqais locally, which is great, but the company also wants people to be aware of the fact that it is capable of building a properly premium SUV. The aim, therefore, is not to sell hundreds of these every month, but simply to show consumers what Nissan is able to build. With this in mind, South Africa gets the very latest version of the vehicle, complete with an excellent seven-speed automatic gearbox, and Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility technology. This includes blind spot intervention, lane departure warning, distance control, forward collision warning, ride control (which controls the engine and brakes to deliver a smoother driving experience over small and large bumps in the road), and trace control (which applies braking automatically to the wheels to keep the vehicle on the correct line when cornering).
RIDE AND PERFORMANCE
Of course, buyers won’t be looking at the Patrol purely as a symbol, but will want a vehicle that’s pleasant to live with, so let’s start with how the vehicle drives. Local consumers clearly prefer diesel power when it comes to this sort of vehicle. Toyota sells an astonishing number of Land Cruiser 200s every month, yet it doesn’t even have a petrol version on its price list. Still, there is much to like about the Patrol’s 5.6-litre V8 petrol mill. It is thirsty, obviously, but it also delivers 298kW of power and 560Nm of torque. Despite its size, the SUV accelerates quickly. Mated to the above-mentioned seven-speed gearbox, which delivers seamless shifting, the engine provides quick and effortless acceleration. The engine also boasts a great soundtrack and a willingness to rev up to the redline, which a diesel vehicle lacks. As long as you can afford the fuel bill, you won’t be disappointed by the Patrol’s V8. It’s an engine that a large 4×4 like the Patrol needs and deserves.
Like the Cruiser 200, the Patrol has a set-up that offers good overall performance, both on-road and off. It’s not a sporty SUV. Sitting behind the wheel, the Patrol feels big and slightly lumbering. There’s also some roll through corners. This is all perfectly acceptable, though, since the Patrol isn’t trying to be a performance SUV. Instead, it aims to be an all-rounder that can offer true off-road performance, and in this regard, it succeeds admirably. The Patrol is great on potholed tar roads and ugly dirt roads. The ride remains comfortable, and the vehicle rides on a set of 265/70 R18 rims that won’t leave you panicking when the road surface deteriorates.
Despite its luxury looks, the Patrol is also capable of handling proper 4×4 terrain. It has low-range gearing and a rear diff lock. The All-Mode four-wheel-drive system features Auto/4H/4LO modes and an electronically controlled part-time transfer case. Under normal driving conditions, the system operates in two-wheel- drive mode, but it can distribute torque to all four wheels when road conditions warrant it (up to 50 percent of torque can go to the front wheels on demand).
With its petrol V8, the Patrol is most at home on sand, but it can deal with rocks and axle twisters, too. Ground clearance is great (272mm), and as mentioned earlier, there’s enough rubber to withstand off-road punishment. The only thing that limits the Patrol’s off-road ability is its sheer size. The SUV is simply too big and wide for your average 4×4 trail.
Thanks to its age, the cabin of the Patrol is not quite cutting edge. Nor does it have the elegance and refinement of some other top-end SUVs. As with the exterior styling, the cabin is arguably a tad ostentatious for local tastes, especially the liberal use of what appears to faux-wood trim. Styling aside, though, the cabin of the Patrol is a nice place to be. While the technology onboard is not quite the latest and greatest, it does have all the nice-to-haves you’d expect in an SUV that goes for more than R1 million.
Among the long list of standard features are temperature-controlled front seats, heated steering wheel, premium leather seating and Nissan’s dual-zone automatic temperature control system. The Bose audio system features AM/FM/MP3/CD with 13 speakers, a subwoofer and digital amplifier to provide rich acoustics. The Patrol comes standard with the 3D Nissan Navigation System and a multi-screen DVD entertainment system with screens fitted into the headrests of both front seats.
There’s also plenty of space. Second-row accommodation is fantastic and the third-row seats have enough legroom to accommodate a pair of adults. The standard seating configuration includes front eight-way power-adjustable bucket seats with a large centre console, second-row fold-flat 60/40 split bench seat and third-row 60/40-split folding bench seat, which folds flat into the floor for extra cargo carrying flexibility.
The market for the Nissan Patrol in South Africa is sure to be fairly small. Not only is this market small to begin with, but Toyota’s Cruiser 200 dominates the overlanding/off-roading niche of the luxury SUV segment. That said, there will be people who love the Patrol. It is an excellent SUV that looks flashy and imposing, but has the performance to back it up. The SUV is great on the road, and even better in the dirt. Though the showy looks are likely to attract a good number of buyers who will never venture off tar, the vehicle certainly has the capability to go anywhere. Few vehicles are able to look both at home in Sandton and the Kgalagadi. The Patrol pulls it off. Its only true competitor in this sense is the Land Cruiser 200, and the Patrol has the benefit of offering a petrol engine. If you’re looking for a shiny, luxurious, capable and petrol-powered over-lander, the Nissan is for you.
NEW NISSAN PATROL
ENGINE 5.6-litre V8 petrol
DISPLACEMENT 5 552cc
POWER 298kW @ 5 800r/min
TORQUE 560Nm @ 4 000r/min
TOP SPEED 210km/h
TRANSMISSION Seven-speed automatic
FUEL TANK 140 litres
TYRE SIZE 265/70 R18 (Full spare)
GROUND CLEARANCE 272mm
PRICE R1 299 000