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First drive: Nissan gives Patrol a makeover

Australianised: The Nissan Patrol remains particularly well suited to Australian requirements.

Nissan adds touch of refinement in Patrol makeover

6 Oct 2004

NOT quite as dramatic as the change from MQ to GQ Patrol in 1988, but a visible makeover nonetheless, the 2005 version of Nissan’s heavy-duty four-wheel drive will hopefully narrow the sales gap to the class-leading Toyota LandCruiser.

Nissan might be doing well with the Patrol this year, with a year-to-date improvement of close to 20 per cent on 2003 sales, but it still lags behind the LandCruiser, which currently outsells it at a ratio of almost 1.5 to one - even if the Toyota hasn’t improved (like Nissan) on its 2003 performance.

The focus for the new-look Patrol is essentially refinement. Buyer surveys showed people thought the Patrol, which suited them very well in terms of utilitarian aspects, could be a little more modern, with a bit more luxury.

So although very little has been done mechanically, buyers will hopefully be attracted to the aggressive new Nissan 4WD family look, as well as the much more stylish and comfortable interior.

Although the claim is that only one body panel remains unchanged for 2005 – the roof – the only major external change is the fitment of bold over-fenders to give the Patrol a broader, more muscular look.

This is emphasised by a new, bluff-looking grille resplendent in chrome and employing the themes we’ll see on both the next generation Pathfinder and the all-new, Honda MDX-challenging Murano that will arrive here together in late 2005. The bonnet and front and rear bumpers are new, while at the back there are larger tail-lights as well as a new licence plate surround.

But although the Patrol’s new exterior is easy to spot, the biggest change is in the interior, where an all-new dash sweeps across the car in a couple of graceful curves that almost bring to mind the new BMW 5 Series. There’s a new presentation for the instruments, soft-touch vinyl on upper and lower dash areas and a new, higher centre console.

12 center image The seats have been redesigned for improved comfort and the options list runs to a couple of fold-out tables for back-seat passengers, as well as (standard on the top of the range Ti) satellite navigation with a Lexus RX330-style rearview camera. Patrol buyers will also benefit from improvements to sound-deadening that make the vehicle quieter on the road.

Mechanical changes are limited to the turbo-diesel ZD30 3.0-litre four-cylinder engine – the most popular choice in Patrols – which gets a 3.4 per cent improvement in power (up from 116 to 118kW) and a 7.3 per cent improvement in torque (from 354 to 380nM). The latter especially will be welcome.

The engine line-up is otherwise unchanged and comprises the primitive TD42 4.2-litre turbo-diesel six - popular in workhorse applications - producing the same 114kW and 360Nm as before, and the more recently added 185kW/420Nm TB48 4.8-litre petrol six-cylinder.

Transmissions are unchanged and include a four-speed auto for 3.0-litre versions and a five-speed auto for 4.8-litre six-cylinder versions. Except for the Ti, which is only available with the five-speed auto, manual transmission is offered across the board. The 4.2-litre is manual only.

The Patrol range begins with the five-seat DX workhorse model that is available with either the 3.0-litre or 4.2-litre turbo-diesels and is the only new Patrol without alloy wheels.

Next in the line-up is the volume ST model that offers the same engine choices as the DX but adds - among other things - a third row of seats, dual front airbags and a CD player.

A step up is the new ST-S variant that picks up ABS braking as well as Alcantara trim and – on six-cylinder versions only - cruise control. The 4.8-litre petrol engine is also added to the ST-S options list.

Then there’s the ST-L, which adds leather seat trim, power adjustment up front and rear air-conditioning.

Top of the range, as before, is the Ti, which gets a full grab-bag of gear including wood grain panels throughout the interior. It is fitted with the 4.8-litre engine hooked up to Nissan’s five-speed automatic gearbox.

Airbag numbers range from one in the DX to two in all other models except the Ti, which gets dual side airbags in the front, as well as the driver and passenger bags.

Nissan says price rises have been well contained with the new Patrol but there’s been an inexorable creep upward regardless, with the top of the line Ti now tagged at $77,490 and the ST-L models costing as much as $65,240 for the 4.2-litre turbo-diesel model. ST prices have risen by $1000, in 3.0 and 4.2-litre versions.

Manual Automatic
DX 3.0$49,540$52,540
DX 4.2$56,180-
ST 3.0$51,990$54,990
ST 4.2$58,990-
ST-S 3.0$53,990$56,990
ST-S 4.8$54,190$57,190
ST-S 4.2$60,990-
ST-L 3.0$58,240$61.240
ST-L 4.8$58,440$61,440
ST-L 4.2$65,240-
Ti 4.8-$77,490


IF you’re familiar with the previous Patrol, then you are unlikely to notice many differences, in terms of driving impressions, in the 2005 model.

The big Nissan has become quite refined for what it is – essentially a no-nonsense heavyweight 4WD – and the facelifted model takes this a few steps further.

It may be a little quieter on the road (it already was pretty silent anyway, for a 4WD) but it is still characterised by a relatively smooth ride and a range of willing engines that include a petrol and two turbo-diesels.

As always, the big thing to remember, at all times, is that you are at the wheel of a well disguised truck that can weigh up to 2.5 tonnes. It certainly doesn’t steer or hold the road like a regular family sedan.

The reworked 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel continues to do an amazingly effective job, considering its capacity. The extra torque of the new version is difficult to detect, although it would undoubtedly become evident in a back-to-back comparison.

The new interior is undoubtedly more luxurious and inviting than before

Still, there are times when the Patrol’s weight overcomes even this gutsy little engine. It can occasionally be caught off-guard, forcing the driver to wait momentarily for the turbo to spool up.

The big benefits are at the fuel pump, where it walks over both the 4.2-litre turbo-diesel and the thirsty 4.8-litre six-cylinder petrol engine.

But the big petrol engine is a smooth and generously endowed powerplant that proceeds effortlessly and smoothly where the 3.0-litre sometimes feels a little under-resourced. The 125-litre total fuel capacity is welcome in all cases.

The new interior is undoubtedly more luxurious and inviting than before, although Nissan’s TV commercial hits the mark when it shows the grimy, sodden driver considering whether or not he should step back inside during a thunderstorm. At the top Ti level, it’s not very suited to forays into muddy backwaters.

The Patrol’s simple but entirely effective two-differential, part-time four-wheel drive system turns its back on electronics and relies on auto-locking front hubs and a simple, driver-activated linking-up of the front and rear axles – and a limited-slip rear differential - to churn its way through muddy quagmires or up steep, rocky tracks.

Combine this with long-travel all-coil suspension, plenty of ground clearance, good approach, departure and ramp-over angles - and a serious low-range - and there’s not a lot that will stop a determined Nissan Patrol.

Indicative of how most Patrol owners – except DX - use their vehicles, however, is the standard fitment of (redesigned for 2005) running boards. They are more a disadvantage than a boon in serious off-road situations as they can easily get caught up in deep ruts.

But the Nissan 4WD remains particularly well suited to Australian requirements, whether it be for urban use - taking advantage of the seven-seat capability - towing horse floats or venturing into the bush.

All this makes it less of a surprise that Australia is the largest consumer of Patrols in the world.

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