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Car reviews - Nissan - Patrol - DX 4-dr wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Rugged nature, real off-road abilities, wagon's practical and roomy body
Room for improvement
Heavy, thirsty and not great around town

20 Jun 2003

THERE are a variety of reasons for buying a four-wheel drive. Some owners enjoy the feeling of safety and security that comes from driving a large, strong vehicle. Others like to look down on the world. Some tow horse floats. And there are even those who actually use them to go bush and visit areas which are inaccessible with a conventional car.

The GQ Nissan Patrol is a "serious" four-wheel drive, designed to cope with whatever the Australian outback may throw at it.

In its class are the Toyota LandCruiser, Holden Jackaroo, Mitsubishi Pajero and Land Rover Discovery. All other four-wheel drives are of lesser status where serious off roading is concerned.

The same vehicle, rebadged and slightly re-styled, was sold as a Ford Maverick until September 1993.

All 4WD makes have a number of variants, with short and long wheelbase models and choice of petrol or diesel engines. Our remarks are confined to family sized station wagon type vehicles.

The Patrol is big and brash, with aggressive styling and a choice of 4.2 or 3-litre petrol engines, or a 4.2-litre diesel.

The larger engine, carburettor equipped, gives 125kW at 4200rpm and a massive 325Nm of torque at 2800rpm. The 3-litre fuel injected engine, introduced early in 1990 in the RB30, is the same as that used in the Nissan Skyline and the Holden VL Commodore and gives 100kW at 4200rpm and 224Nm at 3000rpm. It is available only with manual transmission.

For those contemplating long distances in the outback, the superior fuel economy of the diesel makes it the obvious choice. It has the impressive statistics of 129kW at 4000rpm and 330Nm of torque at 3200rpm.

The diesel model remained on the market until 1996, four years after the petrol-engined Patrol DX Wagon was discontinued. Diesel models also command a higher used price.

Because the road history of four-wheel drives can vary widely depending on previous usage (some hardly leave the bitumen, while others have seen many kilometres of rugged outback tracks), expect a wide variation in pricing.

The condition of the interior and underbody of the vehicle will give the best clue to its history - camping paraphernalia is inclined to leave permanent scuff marks and scratches on the interior trim and dents in the floor plan or exhaust and stone-blasting of exposed suspension parts indicate rough road usage.

Transmission options are a five speed manual gearbox or four speed electronically controlled automatic with final drive lock up on third and fourth ratios. Transfer box ratios are identical in both cases. First gear in the auto is too high to adequately control vehicle speed on steep off road descents.

Patrol has synchromesh on reverse gear, a helpful feature when trying to rock the vehicle back and forth to extract it from a bog.

Handling of the Patrol is good in spite of its bulk, thanks to coil springs all round. A feature is the ability to disconnect one end of the rear suspension anti-roll bar in very rough going by pulling an under dash-lever, giving more wheel travel.

With a kerb weight over two tonnes and a power/weight ratio of 16kg/kW, the fuel consumption of the 4.2-litre Patrol is quite high. Expect around 20 litres/100km on the highway, increasing to 30 litres off road. City consumption would be somewhere in between. Fuel tank capacity is 95 litres, giving a highway range around 470km. The more economical three-litre engine or the diesel may be better choices for long distance travellers.

The other option to cut fuel costs is to fit LPG. If the vehicle you are considering has already had a gas conversion, check that the work has been carried out by a qualified installer. Also check that the tank is not fitted in such a way as to drastically reduce ground clearance, as is often the case.

The 4.2-litre engine is very reliable, but the 3-litre has, along with its sedan counterparts, been known to crack cylinder heads - an expensive problem to repair.

A more unusual problem is the complaint of excessive heat build-up in the left front footwell, due to heat transfer from the muffler under the floor pan making the floor uncomfortably hot.

Otherwise the GQ patrol has a good reputation for reliability.

Summing up, the GQ Nissan Patrol is a strong, reliable vehicle with plenty of power, lots of room and a "go anywhere" feeling. It is comfortable, with a good driving position, and is easy to handle for all drivers.

The main drawback - a problem the Patrol shares with all full-size four-wheel drives - is high fuel consumption.

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