IT’S INTERESTING to observe car makers’ tactics for maintaining that all-important market share. Some manufacturers go the whole hog with new body shapes, new engines – the lot.
Other manufacturers go about it differently, particularly when they’re already onto a winner. Value adding at a bargain price is the name of this game, and that’s exactly what you get with Nissan’s new Patrol ST -L wagon.
Previously, the Patrol wagon was available in three models. Fleet owners and mining companies gravitated to the DX, a basic no-frills unit with manual everything and a vinyl hose-out interior. Family buyers mainly opted for the upmarket ST, a model incorporating a lot of goodies such as air-conditioning, powered windows, keyless entry, side steps, carpet trim and CD player.
Good as the ST is, it doesn’t have quite as many bells and whistles as the top-of-the-range Ti model. In the Ti, leather trim and wood grain abound, a sun roof comes as standard and the kids can enjoy the rear seat DVD player instead of asking “Are we there yet?” every few minutes! Power for the Ti comes via the stump-pulling 185kW 4.8 petrol engine mated to a five-speed auto gearbox.
The new ST-L model fits in between the Ti and the ST as far as features go, and it’s fair to say that this particular Patrol wagon offers a lot of features combined with a quite high degree of luxury.
I had the pleasure of reviewing the ST-L in manual mode, powered by the smooth and very willing 3-litre intercooled turbo diesel engine. The big four cylinder engine develops 116kW of power, and although the engine in the test car was still as tight as a drum I found it necessary to continually watch the speedo on a country run to avoid falling foul of the law. With 100km/h coming in at around 2500rpm, the engine simply loafed along and it was all too easy to sneak up over the limit.
There are several engine options available for this model. Besides the intercooled 3-litre diesel there is also the intercooled 4.2-litre diesel and, of course, the big 4.8-petrol for drivers who have heavy-duty towing on the agenda.
Other standard features in the ST-L include dual airbags in the dash, electric control for driver’s and front passenger’s seats, plus power windows, mirrors and aerial, along with leather interior trim. Air-conditioning and separate controls are on hand for the use of rear seat passengers as well. ABS brakes are standard on both the Ti and ST-L. On the exterior of the ST-L we see colour coded bumpers and over fenders.
One of the most interesting things about driving the big ST-L diesel Patrol was the feeling of lightness and nimbleness that the car conveys. Nissan’s Patrol, at around 4930 and 3000kg, is definitely not a compact four-wheel-drive yet it manages to drive like one thanks to excellent power steering, good steering geometry linked to a small turning circle and the willingness of the engine.
On road or off road, the tremendous wheel travel of the patrol linked to coil spring multi-link suspension gives you a ride that soaks up all bumps and thumps in fine style. You’ll also find there’s little noise intruding thanks to excellent door seals and good overall sound proofing. It’s a very relaxed ride for the seven people aboard the Patrol ST-L.
When it comes to off-road travel, this is one vehicle that does it easy. The willing turbo-charged 3-litre diesel engine, delivering power via the Patrol’s high/low range gearbox, will see the car travelling off road with ease. There’s none of that ‘Suited to fire trails, muddy roads, or occasional beach use’ stuff that you see in the reviews of so-called ‘crossover’ or ‘soft roader’ vehicles that are about today. The Patrol doesn’t just talk the talk, it walks the walk. Low tide or high tide, it will run up the beach with ease, and in the bush you don’t need to keep to a trail or track. The low-range box and limited slip differential, standard on all Patrols, will do the job on the steepest inclines or downhill slopes. Engine braking from the high compression 17.9:1 diesel engine allows the car to crawl at a snail’s pace down the roughest, steepest terrain with ease.
As an aside, I’d mention that the Patrol with a 3-litre diesel engine can tow 6m boats with ease. The test unit had a tow bar fitted and I towed my 5.5m fibreglass boat up to Bribie Island for a crack at the tuna. The ST-L Patrol is rated to tow trailers without brakes up to 750kg and with brakes up to 3200kg. Now that’s a lot of boat!
Overall fuel consumption during tests was in the vicinity of 10-10.5 litres per 100km. The Patrol comes with a 125-litre fuel capacity.
The ST-L model Nissan Patrol is currently being offered with a free bullbar, driving lights and towbar for the month of July, which amounts to a bonus $2300 worth of useful components. The overall cost is around the $56,990 mark, plus on roads.
1) The ST-L Nissan Patrol features colour coded bumpers and guards.
2) With the two rear seats folded up there’s a stack of room in the rear section of the big Patrol.
3) Rear seat passengers are spoiled with their own air-conditioning.Reads: 1981