This familiar sight on UAE highways should continue its reign, writes Kevin Hackett.
Road test: 2014 Nissan Patrol
It’s been nigh-on four years since Nissan’s current Patrol was launched and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the one that you’re looking at here is the same one that almost barged you out of the way this morning when you were commuting to the office, headlamps set to “strobe”. But you’d be wrong, because this is the “new” one.
Midlife styling refreshes have become par for the course in almost any car’s production lifespan, but the 2014 Patrol’s has to rank as one of history’s laziest attempts to maintain market interest. Sherlock Holmes would have a job deciphering the differences between it and the outgoing model, so I’m here to help. The new Patrol is now offered with an additional paint colour and a new interior leather colour. It has a new alloy-wheel design option. It has a new headlamp design incorporating the LEDs that used to reside underneath. It has a new rear-lamp design that, bizarrely, does away with LEDs altogether, in one swoop rendering the back-end more old-fashioned than the old one. There’s now a “Backup Collision Intervention” system, poached from Infiniti, and an all-round camera system for those trickier parking spaces. And that’s about it.
Everything else remains the same and this market wouldn’t have it any other way. The Patrol is utterly gargantuan in its proportions – a fact that hits me like a brick in the face when I’m sat in traffic in one, behind a brand new Porsche Cayenne – itself hardly diminutive. The German car is dwarfed; I’m looking down on it. This is a skyscraper on wheels and it’s preposterous in practically every single way. But is it actually any good?
Compared with the latest offerings from Land Rover, it looks and feels low-rent. An overabundance of fake chrome, fake wood and ruched leather does not a classy car make, but it’s not offensive, especially compared to its more natural rival, Toyota’s ubiquitous Land Cruiser. It’s difficult to see, with so much kit on offer, why anyone would feel the need to go for the comically hideous Infiniti QX80 when the Patrol looks (a bit) better on the outside and practically the same inside. There’s Bose sound, video screens aplenty, loads of room for seven people and plenty of toys to keep them occupied. It’s a far cry from the Patrol’s more humble roots, when it was little more than a utilitarian, go-anywhere alternative to the original Land Rover or Willys Jeep.
The higher-spec Patrol possesses a V8 engine that displaces 5.6L, producing 400hp and, more importantly, 560Nm of torque; on the road, that lump can, at times, feel and sound rather stressed. You have to really gun it to gather pace for overtaking and, rather than a deep throated V8 soundtrack, it emits a rather high-pitched wail. But you have to remember that this is a machine that weighs almost three tonnes – and you can really feel that portliness when making U-turns or other cornering manoeuvres. It’s quite softly sprung, but that should really pay off when it comes to off-roading. And it does.
On a full day of fairly tough sections across rugged rock paths and soft sand dunes, the Patrol simply takes everything in its considerable stride. The huge torque makes for easy – even lazy – progress that means not once do I end up stuck. The commanding driving position gives you a real advantage when it comes to negotiating unfamiliar terrain and the only unnerving moment comes when, during a small reversing move, the all-round camera system captures my precipitous surroundings and displays it on the large, central infotainment screen. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.
Across ruts and hard-packed sand, over boulders and other obstacles, the big Nissan makes a comfortable, forgiving companion. It feels extremely well-made and will no doubt reward its owner with bulletproof reliability – if the sheer number of old Patrols still on the road in the region is anything to go by.
But this is no car for anyone with an environmental conscience. With a heavy right foot, it will gulp petrol at a rate of 18L every 100km, and that’s on the road. Off it, I can’t bring myself to do the maths because, if I did, I doubt that I’d ever get back in the thing. And, no matter what this car’s abilities are across mountains and dunes, its natural habitat will always be tearing up the hard shoulder, hammering its way past slow-moving traffic and law-abiding road users.
The UAE is easily Nissan’s biggest market for the Patrol and the company is expecting a sales growth of 45 per cent for the next 12 months. Somehow I think those figures will prove to be pretty accurate.
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