I’ve had a couple of forays into Nissan territory this year with some time spent in the driver’s seats of a 4.8L petrol auto and a 3.0L diesel manual. Both were quite capable wagons with the endless power of the petrol 4.8 impressive, and the frugal 3.0L diesel still quite capable of fulfilling any reasonable task asked of it. Recently I had the chance to test drive a Nissan Patrol 4.2L diesel.
In ST-L configuration, the 7-seater, 4.2L inter-cooled turbo wagon was a smooth unit to drive. Those not familiar with the 4.2L diesel engine might be surprised to learn that this engine, an in-line six, has been around for quite a few years now. The straightforward overhead valve engine is a strong and willing power plant, as I found out when I took the Patrol for an extended beach drive.
I was lucky enough to take the Patrol for a few days up to Indian Head on Fraser Island, to see how the 4.2L engine, the baby of the Nissan Patrols these days as far as power and torque is concerned, would perform in the sand.
The 4.2L does not lag far behind the 3.0L engine in terms of power output: the 3L turbo diesel has an output of 118kW of power at 3,600rpm compared to the 4.2L’s 114kW at 3,600rpm.
The torque of the two vehicles is quite similar also, with 380Nm (the manual 3L) compared to 360Nm in the 4.2L but the one factor that makes the difference is the gearing. On the beach the lazy way the big 4.2 just chugs along means the car is unfazed with indifferent beach conditions. In short, the ever-reliable 4.2 engine with its old hat technology – by today’s standards – was not disadvantaged in the sand.
The run up to Indian Head was textbook stuff: the beach was flat enough to land an aircraft on just about anywhere. Unfortunately, after a day or two, quite different driving circumstances were encountered. Gone was the flat expanse of hard-packed sand and in its place was a nightmarish sort of melee of mixed tracks, deep ruts and lots of really soft, deep places. And yet you had to find a way through it, because if you stopped, even for a moment, it would have all been over.
Despite the older technology of the engine, it certainly wasn’t gutless or incapable. The tough five-speed gearbox made for snappy changes when required – and in a couple of hairy situations those changes were very snappy indeed. In addition to this, Nissan’s limited slip diff linked to live axles front and rear and the 17 x 8 inch alloy wheels were able to keep us out of trouble.
A word on beach driving: it’s usually no drama. If hard sand is present you should stick to it, watching for wash outs or bad bumps, and the like. Going up, one just keeps the ocean on the right, coming back, on the left. It’s usually only when leaving or entering onto the beach that the confetti hits the fan. Let me recount one such episode.
One evening at Indian Head a hired wagon packed solidly with young non-English speaking folk from somewhere in Asia tried to get off the beach onto the track behind the headland without the vehicle’s free wheeling hubs engaged. They had made it up so far so good, sure, but with the sand churned to a fine powder from countless vehicles coming and going all throughout the quite hot day they had no chance of achieving much in two wheel drive. Down she went with all hands aboard.
Trouble was, Mr Kampe was right behind and when the tell tale signs appeared in the guise of the old wagon suddenly lurching to a stop, followed by a fair bit of sand from the rear wheels being mixed with some exhaust smoke, it was fairly obvious that if I could not get past pronto I was going to end up in the same predicament. The only hope was a rapid down change of gears to really get some drive occurring and then whip off to the right, across a few sets of really deep ruts, to keep going forward at all costs. The Patrol took it in its stride, the tacho hitting 2,500rpm with a happy growl as the diesel engine did its job. Traversing the ruts proved no drama at all thanks to the wagon’s suspension. As one of my passenger’s commented, “How easy was that?”
This story sums up the ability of the ST-L Nissan Patrol. It’s a very honest toiler with a big heart that just makes light of hard work.
Keeping us comfortable while on Fraser Island was the Nissan ST-L package, which is far from standard. We enjoyed leather trim on the comfortable and supportive seating and the ease of adjustment offered by the power assistance for front seat passengers was appreciated. There was also power mirrors, door locks, windows and aerial, dual air conditioning systems, drink trays for rear passengers and plenty of storage space as well. The leather covered gear knobs and steering wheels are nice touches of luxury as well. Dual front air bags are standard.
The 4.2L Patrol has a hand throttle for ease of travel over very bumpy conditions and while on the open road there is the very useful cruise control system which proved quite effective given that the test vehicle was a manual unit.
In all, the 7-seater, 4.2L diesel Patrol received full marks on many counts. Yes, the engine has been around for a long time but it’s still very much up to scratch in the performance stakes. About the only minus in the whole test drive was the fact that I had to give the car back.Reads: 1994