4WD des-res, seats
seven, all mod-cons.
Early viewing strongly
ITS NAME might sound military, it may be the vehicle of choice for emergency and peace-keeping forces, and it certainly is one tough cookie. But underneath that rugged outer skin lies a secret. There's a luxuriously 'soft' interior.
Nissan knows a thing or two about 4x4s they've been turning them out for 50-odd years now, ready to tackle the most challenging terrain. And along the way they've notched up numerous victories, including several triumphs in the gruelling Paris-Dakar rally.
Nissan is well aware that while the Patrol has impressive off-road credentials, it also has a life on-road. This is why the line-up has been revised and the Patrol now ships out as a 5-door-only version available in just two trim specifications.
The first the £24,000 'S' is for people wanting a go-anywhere 4x4 workhorse. The S comes with steel wheels, practical black bumpers and wheel arches along with practical cloth trim.
The £28,400 SVE comes with more creature comforts such as full leather, electric powered and heated front seats, a massive sunroof, 16-inch 6-spoke alloy wheels wearing 265/70 Bridgestone rubber, climate control air-conditioning and seven seats (all of which suit average sized adults). Basically it's got everything anyone would want for that most dangerous of drives the school run.
The imposing styling has benefited from a mild makeover, with large fog lamps incorporated into the new look front bumper and a new chrome grille, revised clear lens lights front and rear, integrated sidesteps and jet-type headlamp washers.
Inside the spacious cabin you'll find improved fabrics and a re-designed steering wheel and instruments. The 6-CD autochanger is a neat in-dash unit similar to that found on the X-Trail.
Choosing an engine is an open and shut case because there's only one powerplant: a direct injection 3.0-litre turbocharged and intercooled diesel that's good for 156bhp and a gutsy 261lb ft. You can specify either a 5-speed manual or a four-speed with overdrive automatic. We tested the tough 'n' plush SVE with auto 'box that costs £29,900 on-the-road.
Even from a distance the Patrol seems to tower over you. Up close you realise just how big it is. Standing over 5 metres long, 1.9 metres wide and just short of 1.9 metres tall, its undeniable road presence and off-road abilities are further enhanced by flared no-nonsense wheel arches.
Once inside you enjoy a panoramic view out. The driver, in particular, benefits from a 'control and command' driving position. Getting comfortable is easy. The seats, upholstered in a nice soft grade of leather, are big, accommodating and electrically adjustable. The leather-trimmed steering wheel adjusts for height. There's also wood trim and a large, lidded central armrest with a deep two-tier cubby and a handy drop-down glasses case.
And if you wish, you can see the stars the Patrol's massive tilt 'n' slide glass sunroof has to be one of the biggest around. All of the windows are powered and the driver's passengers are well served with excellent accommodation, as you'd expect in a vehicle that's longer than most executive cars.
Luggage space is equally accommodating, with a maximum of 2,226 litres (78.6 cubic feet). Both the second and third row 50:50 split rear seats fold out of the way (their individual backrests also recline). The Patrol's twin rear side-opening doors are practical so there is no problem loading and unloading the large flat boot whether its antique furniture or seven people, the Patrol can take it. The full-size spare is externally mounted.
Today's cars are in danger of overwhelming their drivers with knobs, buttons and switches. Not so the Patrol. All instruments and controls are refreshingly straightforward and easily to hand and the dash is simple. Given the number of times you need to reach for the hazard lights on today's clogged-up roads, it seems sensible to locate the switch up high on the rounded dash, close to the driver's left hand.
Fire up the diesel, slip the selector to Drive and enjoy. For all its bulk the Patrol is an easy driver that demands little yet gives back much. The steering is lighter and more communicative than you might have expected and although the turning circle at 12.2 metres can take a little getting used to in tight spots, the Patrol is usefully wieldy. Large door mirrors supplement the lofty driving position to provide a good view of what's going on around you. And for those occasions when you can't see the wood for the trees there's a compass and external temperature gauge set into the roof console above the screen.
Comfort is actually very good, especially up front, although it can sometimes get a bit bouncy in the back. We had to drive well over four hundred miles in one exceedingly wild and wet March weekend of our test yet didn't suffer a single ache between us despite the long stints at the wheel in devilish conditions. The Patrol's maximum torque is available at only 2,000rpm, making motorway cruising almost therapeutic a steady 70mph at an unstressed 2,250rpm. Top speed is 99mph.
Up and down shifts are smooth, and some more oomph is instantly available for overtaking by simply pushing the button on the gear knob to deselect overdrive. The auto 'box features a shift-lock system as well as offering 'power' and 'hold' modes. Linked to the Patrol's dual-range transfer gearbox, it enables both high and low ratios to be easily accessed, while the automatic can be locked in first, second or third gear in either high or low ratios for safe, controlled progress off-road, making optimum use of the turbodiesel's considerable engine braking.
The Patrol's 4x4 system is of the selectable type, operating as rear-wheel drive under normal conditions. When you select either high or low 4WD modes (which can be done up to speeds of 25mph), drive goes to all four wheels.
Other helpful features that make the Patrol one of the best mud-plugging 4x4s are its rear differential lock (providing maximum tractability in the most slippery conditions) and a switchable rear anti-roll bar. A switch on the dash enables you to disconnect this to maximise axle articulation, giving more traction in the most arduous off-road conditions and preventing most of the bumps and knocks being generated from reaching the passenger compartment. Left locked-in,
it makes for better suspension control on the road and more stable cornering. Finally, a 700mm (that's 2 feet 3 inches) wading depth means that not only can you get your power boat to water, but you can get in there with it!
It stands to reason that if you want sports acceleration you will buy a sports car. The Patrol's muscular diesel is not designed to win the traffic light grand prix, but to deliver driveability. So although its zero to 62mph acceleration of 16.9 seconds isn't going to win the race it does, most especially in automatic guise, make up for it with a more laid back class of progress that quickly grows on you. So much so that the antics of bad drivers seem to dimish as you cruise along.
Officially, the Patrol will return 31.4mpg extra-urban, dropping to 20.3 around town. The combined figure of 26.2mpg is not going to frighten anyone who's used to driving a 4x4. We saw 25mpg overall, and that was in appalling driving conditions. The 20.9-gallon (95 litres) fuel tank should be good for 500+ miles touring.
Remember it's a big 4x4 and along with the view you'll enjoy the ride too. On motorways the Patrol feels especially good, effortlessly eating up the miles. For most of the time engine noise is well contained and the more than ample torque 80 per cent of which is available across the entire rev range means you rarely need venture near the red line. Do so, and you'll hear the growl of the engine inside the cabin.
But otherwise you never really hear it. We weren't disturbed by road or wind noise. In fact the only irritation was the choice of CDs never let the youngsters choose all six!
Standard safety kit includes twin front airbags and side airbags, plus all models come fitted with a Thatcham approved perimetric and interior sensing alarm system. Remote central locking with anti-hijack feature prevents any unwanted attention coming in through the passenger or rear doors. Comforting but in something this big you feel you could always ram the bad guys out of your way! Equally important in such a huge beast, particularly one that will tow anything up to 3,500kg with ease, is the Patrol's responsive ABS brakes.
Judged by its huge space and equipment and not forgetting the serious towing and off-road abilities the Patrol really is a lot of metal for the money, one that can take just about any abuse you can throw at it and still come up looking good. Its sheer size takes a bit of getting used to, but the more you drive it the more it wins hearts.
Nissan Patrol GR 3.0 Di SVE Auto | £29,900
Maximum speed: 99mph | 0-62mph: 16.9 seconds
Overall test MPG: 25mpg | Power: 156bhp | Torque: 261lb ft
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