LEVIATHAN

WORDS MATT RAUDONIKIS PHOTOS MICHAEL HURREN

The Y62 will soon be the only new Patrol available, so we took a spin in the price-slashed Patrol Ti.

ACK IN late 2015, Nissan repositioned its Patrol range Ė dropping from three variants to two and slicing close to $20,000 off the price of some models. The big Patrol has always been a good thing, but when entry-level meant forking out around $85K, most struggled to see the value in it. Now, starting at $69,990 with more standard equipment, the Patrol makes a lot more sense and has seen a bump in sales.

It has been a few years since we last drove a Y62, and today weíre looking at the entry-level 2016 Patrol Ti (the up-spec Ti-L is $86,990).

POWER PLUS

THE drivetrain in the 2016 Patrol range remains the same as when the model lobbed here early in 2013. Thatís the stonking VK56 5.6-litre V8 engine backed by a seven-speed auto transmission only. The 5552cc V8 engine bellows out 298kW and 560Nm and is silky smooth in its delivery. The high-tech engineís variable valve lift and duration system gives it a very linear power delivery and sporty characteristics, even if it is fitted in a massive off-road wagon. Fit a big-bore free-flowing exhaust to this baby and listen to it sing! Around town and on off-road tracks, the engine burbles along without a care, but squeeze the throttle for a steep mountain climb or a quick on-road squirt and it blasts out its exuberance.

However, no amount of tech can make this 2750kg offroad wagon fuel-efficient. The Ti has a 14.5L/100km official ADR rating, but it used 15.7 litres of premium unleaded fuel for every 100km we drove with it. Yes, the Nissan asks for premium fuel, and keeping its 140-litre tank full can be costly.

The Patrol uses an on-demand 4x4 system which, when in Auto mode, is rear-axle biased and only sends drive to the front when needed. Turn the All Mode 4x4 dial to Ď4Hí and the front-to-rear drive is locked 50:50 for loose road surface use. Turn it another click clockwise and the system enters low-range four-wheel drive for real off-road use. The drive system benefits from a multi-terrain system with Off-Road, Sand, Snow and Rock settings, and thereís a selectable rear differential lock.

ON A ROLL

ON PAGE 86 of this issue, Fraser Stronach explains the working of Toyotaís KDSS sway bar system. Nissanís Hydraulic Body Motion Control (HBMC) is similar, but it takes it a step further and its benefits are greater.

For decades, off-road drivers have removed or disconnected their vehiclesí anti-sway bars to improve the wheel travel of the suspension and off-road ability. Thatís all good, but the problem lies when you hit the road to go home and the vehicle rolls around like a tall cork in a rough sea.

Anti-sway or stabiliser bars control body roll but limit wheel travel.

Nissanís fullindependent, coil-spring suspension with HBMC does away with sway bars. Instead, the shock absorbers are linked by hydraulic lines and are able to pressurise each side of the vehicle to steady the ship.

This action is speeddependent so the shocks pressurise at road speeds to maintain a flat stance, but can soften up at low, off-road speeds to allow the suspension to droop to maximum effect.

Before you write HBMC off as a system that will prevent you from raising the ride height or fitting bigger tyres, specialist 4x4 shops such as Melbourneís On Track 4x4 have developed a kit to give the system a 50mm lift. You canít build a hurdle that the Australian 4x4 aftermarket industry canít conquer!

The 5552cc V8 engine bellows out 298kW and 560Nm and is silky smooth in its delivery

The system works well in most conditions, but it can be a bit slow to react if left to its own devices in Auto mode. For example, we were climbing a wet and snotty hill in Auto and the system struggled and sent limited power to the wheels. Simply flicking from Auto to 4H gave an instant boost in traction, as the Patrol surged onwards and upwards.

The original model range was mechanically differentiated by the inclusion of Hydraulic Body Motion Control (HBMC) on the two upper-spec models, while the entry-level model made do with conventional coils on its full-independent suspension. Both models now get the clever HBMC system, making the two grades mechanically identical. A HBMC-equipped Ti Patrol used to be a $93,390 option, but itís now much more attractive at $70K.

The real benefits of the HBMC system are experienced on a closed track, and we had that opportunity when the Patrol was first launched. Driving straight from a tight and tricky off-road track Ė where the stock Y62 crawled through easier than a stock GU Patrol Ė we went onto a closed road course, where the 62 astonished with is flat cornering and dynamics (considering its size and heft). Sure, itís no sports car, and you canít hide that mass, but itís amazing how this thing handles. We had similar experiences on this test, where we went from wet and tricky tracks to twisting mountain roads with ease and confidence.

CABIN FEVER

IF YOU like a big car, youíll love the Patrol. Itís big all íround and even makes a Land Cruiser 200 feel compact in comparison. Space in the front- and second-row seats is ample and comfortably accommodates five adults, but the thirdrow pew is more suited to kids, which is surprising when you consider smaller wagons like the Isuzu MU-X do a better job of the third row.

However, the Patrol wins again when you go further back Ė you could just about fit a 40-litre fridge behind the third-row seat.

The Patrol Ti has seating for eight (with three shorties in the back seat), while the Ti-L is limited to seven.

Itís amazing how this thing handles. We went from wet and tricky tracks to twisting mountain roads with ease and confidence

In so many ways, the Y62 is like no other Patrol before it

PRACTICALITIES

THE Patrol rolls on large 18-inch alloy wheels, but they wear sensible 70-aspect tyres for a good-sized sidewall. The 265/70R18s are massive and equate to a 33-inch tyre, so you should have no trouble fitting off-road 33s, or 35s with a mild suspension lift.

Thereís plenty of aftermarket gear available for the Y62, but more specialised things like snorkels, drawers and rear bars can be harder to come by. The active crew in the Y62 owners group have done some sourcing of their own to get the products they want made, and the intake snorkel is one example.

Under the bonnet, the big airbox draws air through the near-side íguard, while the air cleaner is accessible without needing tools. There is space behind the standard battery for a second battery, but you need to relocate a computer and some other bits to make it fit. There are kits available for this. There are tow hooks front and rear, but they arenít the solid-rated type you really want to use for a vehicle recovery.

The standard fuel tankís 140-litre capacity sounds good, but the best youíll get out of the V8 engine on the highway will be high 12s per 100km, so range will be limited to around 700km.

Itís the price you pay for having such a sweet V8 in a big bus.

WHAT YOU GET

IN SO many ways, the Y62 is like no other Patrol before it, especially in terms of the level of equipment in it compared to anything in the past. Among its many features, the Ti comes with HBMC; keyless entry and push button start; leather seats (the fronts with power adjustment); three-zone climate control; sat-nav; an around-view monitor; tyre pressure monitor; and a power sunroof.

Fork out more for the Ti-L and you add forward collision warning; blind spot monitoring; lane departure warning; radar cruise control; xenon headlights; a Bose sound system; and power folding door mirrors with puddle lamps. The entry-level Ti has everything you need, but the Ti-L takes it up a notch.

If you want to go further, you could look at the Infiniti QX80.

At $111,000, the QX80 is based on the same vehicle, but dials everything up to 11 Ė it comes in a bespoke body that only a mother beluga whale could love. Both Patrols and the Infiniti all share the same 5.6L V8 engine mated to a seven-speed auto and all-mode 4x4 system; itís just the level of features that dictates the price. However, no matter what you choose, all the good stuff is there at the base level.

BIG BRUTE

THE Y62 Patrol mightnít be the old GU we knew and loved, but itís a new-age 4x4 that relies on technology and brawn to deliver a high-performing, super-spacious wagon. Sure, itís thirsty compared to a diesel-fuelled vehicle, and thereís no question Nissan would sell a lot more of them if they could offer a diesel engine, but for what it is, thereís nothing like the big Patrol at this price. To get similar levels of equipment and performance, you need to be looking at European wagons that cost a lot more and donít have the same off-road ability.

Even for a Land Cruiser 200 Series at similar spec, youíre looking at $92,500 (for the VX petrol LC200) or $97,500 (for a VX diesel). With that $20K saving, you could buy a lot of PULP to keep that VK56 V8 singing.

The Y62 Patrol is a new-age 4x4 that relies on technology and brawn to deliver a high-performing, super-spacious wagon.

NISSAN PATROL Ti

ENGINE DOHC 32-valve DI petrol V8 CAPACITY 5.6-litre (5552cc) POWER 298kW @ 5800rpm TORQUE 560Nm @ 4000rpm GEARBOX seven-speed auto 4X4 SYSTEM on-demand auto with locked high and low ranges CRAWL RATIO 43.95:1 CONSTRUCTION five-door wagon on a separate chassis FRONT SUSPENSION independent/coil springs REAR SUSPENSION independent/coil springs TYRE SIZE 265/70R18 TARE MASS 2706kg GVM 3500kg PAYLOAD 794kg TOWING CAPACITY 3500kg SEATING CAPACITY eight FUEL TANK CAPACITY 140 litres ADR FUEL CLAIM 14.5L/100km TEST CONSUMPTION 15.7L/100km