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First look: Nissan plonks down new Patrol

Desert Patrol: Australia and the Middle East will be two of the world's largest markets for the new Patrol.

Nissan’s new Patrol finally emerges from the Abu Dhabi desert after a 12-year wait

Nissan logo14 Feb 2010

By MARTON PETTENDY

THE wait is finally over for Patrol fans, with Nissan staging the world debut of its first all-new full-size SUV in more than a dozen years at the Abu Dhabi motor show in the United Arab Emirates over the weekend.

Due to replace the aged GU-series Patrol next year in Australia, where Nissan’s stalwart off-road wagon has remain basically unchanged since December 1997, Nissan says the redesigned Patrol will be the most powerful vehicle in its class thanks to a bristling new 298kW/550Nm direct-injection 5.6-litre petrol V8.

For now, there is no mention of a diesel version, but Nissan is sure to provide a replacement for the current Patrol’s staple engine, the 118kW oil-burning 3.0-litre four-cylinder.

Nissan Australia says it is currently awaiting advice on right-hand drive specification and production dates for a vehicle its parent company says will deliver fresh new styling, superior packaging, a powerful but economical V8 engine, clever off-road technologies and higher levels of luxury and comfort.

“We are into a launch countdown, but it won’t be this year,” said spokesman Jeff Fisher.

Wrapped in an all-new, larger and more contemporary bodyshell is a host of new technologies, a revised four-wheel drive system and the new Patrol’s headline powertrain, the new VK56VD-series 5.6-litre V8 – mated to a new seven-speed automatic transmission.

It will replace the Patrol’s 180kW 4.8-litre inline petrol six and five-speed auto combination, eclipsing Nissan’s direct answer to Toyota’s relatively new 200 Series LandCruiser, which comes with 202kW/410Nm 4.7-litre petrol V8 and 195kW/650Nm 4.5-litre diesel V8 engine options.

Whether the seventh generation of the Patrol, which is currently priced at just $53,190, will be able to claw back the sales dominance of the LandCruiser, which is now priced vastly higher from $77,500, remains to be seen.

Last year, Toyota sold some 7755 examples of the 200 Series wagon, which despite a 24 per cent sales slide represented a 70 per cent share of the large SUV market segment.

Meantime, Nissan sold less than half that number of Patrols, with 3089 sales (29 per cent down) representing just 28 per cent of what is now a two-horse race following the demise of Jeep’s seven-seat Commander SUV.

Billed “reliable, unbreakable, affordable” and revealed in the same week as Nissan’s pint-sized Juke mini-SUV was previewed ahead of its Geneva motor show debut on March 2, Nissan says its new Patrol is the product of five decades of off-road vehicle development.

12 center image

“This off-road trendsetter was one of the first dedicated four-wheel-drive vehicles in the climatically demanding Middle East region, and boasts the notable distinction of also being the first vehicle to successfully cross the gruelling Simpson Desert in Australia back in 1962,” said Nissan.

Nissan says the MkVII Patrol incorporates a new ladder-chassis platform, significantly enhanced interior comfort and luxury, powerful new V8 engines, a seven-speed automatic transmissions and a new 4WD system, wrapped in a radical new exterior design.

“We paid special attention to the needs of current Patrol owners, and their passengers, and so focused on creating first-class levels of comfort for the whole family,” said Patrol project leader Hiroyuki Fushiki. “Heightened luxury, a roomier cabin and a quieter ride combine to achieve this goal, while maintaining Patrol's superior off-road heritage.”

Nissan says 200 prototypes were first tuned and tested at its Motegi, Oppama and Tochigi proving grounds before being sent to the Middle East, where they were exposed to everything from desert, rocky surfaces, highways and inner-city traffic.

The company admits its full-size SUV representative needed more than a new image.

“After extensive market research, especially in the Middle East, the design team concluded that for the Patrol to beat its main competitors, it needed not only a brand-new design direction but class-leading engine performance, greater luxury and comfort and a smart mix of new technologies that enhanced the total driving experience,” said Nissan.

“Not as edgy and hardcore as its predecessor, the softer new surfaces are beautiful and add a sense of modernity to the design equation, while still maintaining a ruggedness and commanding road presence,” said product design director Taiji Toyota.

The far more upmarket, higher-quality interior features generous amounts of leather, polished aluminium and wood grain panelling, in line with Nissan’s research that “most customers only go off-road no more than 15 per cent of the time”.

Nissan says the new Patrol delivers seat dimensions that outclass all of its competitors, with wider, higher and deeper front seats, more than 100mm of extra legroom for second-row passengers and a roomier third row of seats.

Its revised platform is claimed to possess double the lateral rigidity of its predecessor, combining “more robust construction with a low-vibration body”.

The new 5.6-litre petrol V8 features (‘VVEL’) variable valve event and lift and (‘DIG’) direct injection gasoline technology to deliver a neat 400 horsepower and 550Nm of torque, at least in premium versions of the next Patrol.

Combined with a new seven-speed auto that offers a wider range of gear ratios than before and a “comprehensively upgraded” 4WD system.

The latter is aided by a “world-first” Hydraulic Body Motion Control System (HBMC), which is claimed to keep the car flatter with less bodyroll during lane-changing and cornering, “while delivering a comfortable ride in city driving and superb stability on rugged and sandy tracks”.

More significantly, however, the new Patrol will come with four-wheel independent suspension to replace the current model’s live axle arrangement.

“Nissan has completely redesigned the vehicle's suspension from the bushes to the links. The combination of HBMC and the new suspension system with its longer suspension stroke delivers significantly improved handling and stability on both on- and off-road terrain,” says the Japanese maker.

Complementing all this is a ‘ALL MODE’ 4x4 system incorporating a variable 4x4 mode package, allowing the driver to quickly switch between four drive modes - sand, on-road, snow and rock - at the flick of a switch.

New push-button Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control functions are also fitted – the latter able to maintain a constant downhill speed of 7km/h in 4H mode and 4km/h in 4L mode – while a revised Tyre Pressure Monitor System (TPMS) is also included.

Rounding out the new mechanical package is a revised, more effective brake system that’s claimed to deliver the best braking performance in its class, courtesy of a new hydraulic brake booster and four-piston opposed front callipers with larger 358mm front discs.

Apart from extra legroom, second-row passengers will have the option of a new multi-screen DVD entertainment system, bringing the Patrol into the 21st Century in a first for Nissan. The system features a seven-inch monitor embedded into each front seat head restraint.

Equipped with six airbags at top level, the new Patrol also comes with a “totally revised” climate-control system with a “world-first” curtain vent function that features a number of small ceiling vents above each side window, directing “a cool wall of air that acts as a barrier to heat penetrating the cabin”.

Finally, the seventh Patrol will offer a cool box mounted in the centre console between the front seats, incorporating a unique double-hinge design that allows front or rear occupants to easily access up to six 600ml drink bottles inside.

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