2018 Nissan Patrol Ti
(4 / 5)
It’s one of the biggest passenger vehicles you can buy, but does the V8-powered Nissan Patrol have what it takes to compete with a market that demands diesels?
A trip to the airport put things into perspective. Eight people plus luggage, and all had to be transported in comfort. And we’re not talking one adult and seven kids. Six full-grown adults and two schoolkids had to fit.
It’s a task that only a handful of cars can tackle. Thankfully, our press vehicle, the Nissan Patrol, was up to the challenge.
There’s only one way to describe this car – ginormous. If your garage isn’t huge, then don’t even consider it. But if you have the room to park one, then there’s plenty to recommend it. But there are also a few things that may make you think twice.
Let’s start with the bad – it doesn’t come in diesel. Now, when there’s the Toyota LandCruiser available in a diesel, this is a massive oversight by Nissan. But the company won’t be concerned, the Patrol sells in huge numbers in the US (as the Armada) and the Middle East, both of which don’t use diesel and where petrol is quite cheap.
You see, under the bonnet is a 5.6-litre V8 that makes 298kW and 560Nm, and it is absolutely beautiful. It makes that traditional timbre V8s are renowned for, and it is silken when revving. Couple that with a very smooth seven-speed automatic and you wonder what the issue is.
It’s certainly not the acceleration, because the V8 gets this 2.8-tonne behemoth to 100kmh in around seven seconds. And it’s not the throttle response, because it’s as sharp as a sports car.
Rather, it’s the fuel consumption. A petrol, naturally aspirated V8 motivating a car of this size has its work cut out for it, and while the engine is clearly up to the task, it needs to convert a lot of fuel to get movement. As a result, the average consumption we had throughout the week was 16.9L/100km. And then we went off-road, and it climbed into the late 20s.
This can only end badly, with a visit to the servo every 10 minutes, right? Well, the fuel tank is 140 litres, so you can actually stretch it out to once a week. But when you go to fill up, you realise that it requires 98RON. Yep, 140 litres of premium is going to sting.
So, let’s get onto the good – the interior. Open the door and you’re greeted with a wide dash, with curved woodgrain trim, and a huge centre console with massive buttons.
The build quality is quite good, and has improved since the last Patrol we drove, which creaked a lot around some of the switchgear. This one was solid and the ruched leather on the door cards fits well with the luxury styling Nissan is going for.
The connectivity is fine – there’s Bluetooth and USB connections – and the climate control works beautifully. Also as standard is sat-nav with 3D mapping, an 8-inch colour display with touch screen, push button start, climate control and – importantly for heading off-road – a full size alloy spare wheel.
The large lidded cubby-hole which acts as the armrest can be opened from the front, and cleverly from the back as well, allowing second-row passengers to access the storage space.
Speaking of the second row, the legroom is absolutely huge, and the seats are flat and wide enough to carry three large adults across the row. The front seats are also quite flat, and while very soft and comfortable, they’re not quite shaped enough to prevent you sliding around.
But the third row is the real trick. The Land Rover Discovery has been the benchmark for full-size rear seats for off-road vehicles, and after having tested the Patrol, we can confirm that the Discovery continues to be.
Sure, there’s enough room for a couple of adults or one adult and two kids (yes, there are three seatbelts available in the last row) but the legroom availed in the Disco is deeper and longer. As a result, the Patrol is adequate and enough for short trips around – certainly it’s better than the LandCruiser – but the Disco is the one you’ll want if you need to put a couple of adults in the back.
The Patrol does claw back some points for its room behind the back seat, though. It’s able to store luggage or shopping with the third row in place and is the standard for overall space. As we said, the Patrol is huge.
It is also brilliant off-road, too.
In a moment of madness (or genius – well, maybe not) it was decided that leaving the air pressures on road settings would allow us to explore what the stability control and grip was like from the factory.
Having the tyres pumped up would reveal whether the Patrol’s physical grip was enough, especially when the footprint is reduced. After all, surely a near-on three-tonne vehicle would exert enough downforce to get through sticky situations.
So, we simply dialled in the terrain from the drive mode switch and left it as is. The risk was, of course, that the sidewalls were now so stiff that any sharp rocks could puncture them and leave us stranded. But that’s half the fun, right?
The first section is a mixture of rock and sand, with our preference to err on the side of driving on rock. A few dips in and something was clear: the Patrol doesn’t need to bring brakes into it until it absolutely has to.
Whereas Land Rover uses an extremely clever combination of algorithms and sensors to determine how much spin is occurring, Nissan has preferred to take a simpler route and allow the car’s weight to do most of the work. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to this way of doing things.
The disadvantage is that in a really tricky spot, like when the rocks are littered with gravel, the car’s brain just isn’t quick enough to react and the car can slip before it starts moving forward – clearly a bit less pressure in the tyres would help this to some extent.
But the advantage is that less reliance on braking means less heat in the pads. And when you’re trying to stop a behemoth from careening down the hill backwards, you need all the braking power you can get. A few too many hits from the pads and they start to heat up and become ineffective.
So, when climbing up and over uneven terrain, there’s another excellent addition – the locking rear diff. Press the button and it electrically locks, making climbing up and over a lot easier, and again, it reduces the four-wheel-drive system’s reliance on brakes.
There’s a low-range transfer case, which is simple to activate – just push the button – but we’re not sure in what situation you’d really need it, thanks to the 5.6-litre V8’s wickedly quick throttle response. In fact, having it in low range could actually be a hindrance in some situations.
We left it in high for most of the track, only testing out low in a few spots, and even then it wasn’t strictly necessary.
There weren’t any sections that the Patrol struggled with at all, with the occasional “click-clack” sound coming from the stability control.
Hill descent control, however, sounded very rythmic with the system seeming to keep a similar pace to braking, despite changing surfaces underneath. It almost seems like a one-size-fits-all HDC system, but you can’t argue with its effectiveness.
One area the Patrol does struggle with, though, is its approach and departure angles. On standard wheels and tyres, it tends to come a little too close to rocks for comfort, and on one section we managed a few scrapes under the rear bumper where the climbing nose forced the back end down quite quickly, removing some of the white duco. Sorry Nissan.
Considering that dropping the tyre pressures down would given us even less ground clearance, we’re pretty happy to have left them as they were.
Yes, the suspension is adaptive (check this) but it needs a lift of about an inch, or some slightly bigger wheels (and/or tyres) to really make the Patrol unstoppable.
But we finished the track without issue, and came away impressed with its dual-purpose ability. It can head off-road when you need to, or it can carry plenty of people when required.
But is it safe? Well, the Patrol gets driver and passenger front and side airbags, curtain airbags which cover all three rows, ABS braking and stability control. But no, it hasn’t been crash tested, and thankfully we didn’t have to either.
It’s big, well-built, comfortable and drives quite well. But you’re going to need deep pockets each time you visit the bowser, which is why the diesel LandCruiser outsells the Patrol easily.
If you’re not worried about fuel consumption, the Patrol may be for you. But for most people, it’s the Cruiser that will be the more affordable option long term.