ONE OF the best things about large cars is their ability to effortlessly eat up the miles on a road trip. Even though I generally travel solo, itís still good to be in a big, comfortable cabin thatís loaded with features for long days behind the wheel. Add a grunting great V8 engine to the recipe, and youíre on a winner.
That recipe pretty much sums up the Patrol Ti-L, and it made for the near-perfect vehicle for a trip from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast back in January. The outside temps were in the 40s, but the climate control kept things cool inside; although, the seat coolers could do with a bit more puff. So, with the iPad loaded with tunes, I headed north.
The Newell Highway is pretty mundane at the best of times and no better during the school holidays, but I was humoured by the number of Elvises I saw headed for the annual festival in Parkes. For the most part, though, itís just sit back and enjoy the ride. There is a detour I like to take east from Narrabri through to Bingara and Tenterfield, which gave me a chance to leave the blacktop behind and kick some dust up behind the Patrol. These are pretty good dirt roads and you can get along on them just as swiftly as you do on the highway. Yes, it is a bit slower, but the both the views and terrain are far more interesting. Northern NSW is the most beautiful part of the east coast, and you reach nirvana when you strike the coast near Byron Bay.
The Patrol handled all these conditions with ease: it was surprisingly nimble in the dirt and the stability control wasnít too sensitive as to be a nuisance. This is opposed to the catastrophe warnings when youíre in town, which are as keen as a Hawaiian missile alert system Ė there are more beeps and bells coming from the dash when driving in the suburbs than an EDM rave party.
The Hydraulic Body Motion Control (HBMC) system amazes with the way it keeps the big, heavy Patrol flat and planted on the twisty mountain ranges as you near the coast. It needs to be experienced to feel just how good this system is. The Patrolís size also works well for roadside kips. With the second and third rows of seats folded I can lay my swag out alongside the fridge in the back and grab some zeds whenever needed. There are not many wagons, aside from a Troop Carrier, where I can do that.
Once in Queensland I did a beach run up Rainbow. The V8 bellowed through the soft sand and purred along the hardpack to Double Island Point. I selected ĎSandí mode on the terrain dial to ensure I got through the soft sand, although I probably didnít need to. The drive back to Victoria was on Highway 1 Ė roadworks, traffic and all Ė but it was the way I had to go due to the schedule. Luckily the Patrol is comfortable and easy to live with behind the wheel.
After almost 5000km across a week, the beast drank 13.71L/100km. Interestingly, the average fuel use indicated on the dash is quite generous compared to the actual measures used. I reset it at each fill and it was usually running in the 12s, but then worked out to mid-13s at the pump. The best I saw was on the last leg of the trip from Albury to Melbourne, with the dash saying low-11s, yet even that worked out to 13.21L/100 when calculated. Still, they are pretty good numbers for a car this size with the performance available; although, I was thankful for the 140-litre tank that extends the time between fills although I do miss the speed of a high-flow pump.
Itís back to town-driving for the next few weeks, before we load up for an extended trip to the Victorian High Country with some mates.