TI Nissan Patrol
We've mentioned many times that 4WDs make great tow vehicles due to their rugged construction, large towing capacity, heavy-duty engines and transmissions. One of the most rugged 4WDs available in Australia is the Nissan Patrol, which has been extremely popular for both 4WDing and heavy-duty towing for a few decades now.
Recently however, there has been a rush of other 4WD and 2WD vehicles, mostly with high output common-rail diesel engines and high towing capacities that just might change the world order in towing. So we asked Nissan if we could test a current model 3L diesel Patrol to see if it can still deliver the goods.
The fact that the 180kW 4.8L petrol and the legendary 4.2L turbo diesel motor are no longer available for the Patrol is a disappointment for people who believe that "there is no substitute for cubic inches".
However, it is also a fact that the Patrol's four-cylinder, 3L, common rail, intercooled turbo diesel motor is actually more powerful and produces more torque than the old 4.2L diesel six-potter. And, as caravanners know, it's torque that counts when towing. The 3L diesel in both manual and auto models produces 118kW maximum power. However, the manual produces slightly higher maximum torque at 380Nm between 2000-2400 RPM compared to 354Nm in the automatic.
Overall gear ratios in the manual and automatic are slightly different and top gear (four-gear manual, third gear auto) has the automatic revving at about 2990 RPM at 100km/hour, compared to the manual doing slightly less at 2810 RPM. This situation is reversed when in overdrive (fifth-gear manual, fourth-gear auto) with the automatic doing 2070 RPM and the manual revving at 2350 RPM.
As for most tow vehicles, top gear is recommended for normal highway driving, reserving overdrive for situations where there is little load on the engine such as fl at or slightly downhill terrain.
Towing capacity for the manual is 3200kg and 2500kg for the automatic. Maximum permissible ball weight for both models is 200kg when loaded to GVM. However, the ball weight can be increased if the vehicle is loaded to less than its GVM, as a sticker on the left-hand barn door reveals. The maximum permissible ball weight using this trade-off is 350kg, if the laden mass is reduced by more than 290kg below the GVM.
Normally with high towball weights, you'd expect to use a weight distribution hitch (WDH) to transfer some of the ball weight from the rear axle back onto the front. However, as you can see from the towing capacity sticker on left-hand barn door, Nissan does not recommend the fitting of load levelling or weight distribution devices when used with a genuine Nissan towbar. The reason seems to be that the genuine towbar is not rated for use with a WDH. So if you want to use one, specify a towbar from a supplier that is rated for such use.
For the TI model, tare mass and GVM are 2512kg and 3060kg for the manual, and 2477kg and 3020kg for the automatic, resulting in almost identical payloads of 548kg and 543kg respectively.
The maximum recommended drive-away price for the TI manual is $69,690 and $72,690 for the automatic. This includes 12 months registration, 12 months CTP, other applicable statutory charges and dealer delivery.
ON THE ROAD
The TI is the top spec model for the Patrol and comes with all the creature comforts. These include wood-grain finish, leather seats, automatic climate control air-conditioning with separate rear air-conditioning, cruise control with steering wheel mounted controls, satellite navigation, and fold-away seat back tables. It also includes Bluetooth audio connectivity, AM/FM radio/CD/ MP3 audio, 17in alloy wheels, integrated fog lights, reversing camera, driver and front passenger front and side impact airbags and an electric glass tilt-and-slide sun roof.
It has heaps of head, leg and shoulder room and can seat up to seven adult passengers using three rows of seats. All doors have large pockets with map holders and bottle storage.
The SatNav features a 7in integrated colour touch-screen display, in-built with 3D mapping GPS navigation. Coverage is Australia wide, on or off-road.
The driver's seat is four-way adjustable with electric controls that take the effort out of moving the large seat, so it is easy to get the seat to a good driving position. However, as with a lot of modern vehicles, finding a convenient place to mount an electric brake controller can be a bit of a challenge. Ours had the brake controller inconveniently positioned directly above the driver's left knee.
The engine fires up instantly after the glow plug light goes out, and has a distinctive diesel rattle. On level ground, the Patrol had no trouble moving off and there was a distinct urge to get going once the engine revs went past 1800 RPM. With the Windsor Genesis 587S caravan in tow (tare 1717kg) the Patrol had ample power and torque to keep it moving at posted speed limits and only suffered on the steeper hills.
This engine also likes to rev. With the foot pressed to the floor climbing up a very steep grade, the engine would climb to 4200 RPM, which is just 400 RPM short of the 4600 RPM redline, before the automatic gearbox would change up to the next gear. While a little noisy it sounded happy at these revs, giving the impression it could go all day long. Engine braking was reasonable for an automatic, and its powerful brakes (ABS with gravel program) had no trouble in keeping the speed down on some very steep hills.
As expected, the Patrol was pleasant to drive, with comfortable leather seats and an uncomplicated dash layout, making all the controls easy to find and simple to use. The reversing camera was a great help when hitching up, but because of the camera's angle it was difficult to get the tow ball directly under the hitch using the camera alone. This would probably improve with practice.
WRAPPING IT UP
The TI retains the rugged driveline and suspension that has made the Patrol one of the Australia's most sought after 4WDs and combines this with great luxury features. It would make a very comfortable tow vehicle for caravans up to 2500kg ATM (automatic) or 3200kg ATM (manual). Being considerably heavier than most popular utility vehicles with similar towing limits, it has greater inherent stability which gives greater confidence while on the move.
For more information on the various Patrol models, call the Nissan Customer Service Centre toll free on 1800 035 035 or visit them on the web at www.nissan.com.au
Camden Caravans for providing the Windsor 587S caravan that we used in this test. You'll find them at 66 Camden Valley Way Elderslie NSW 2570. Give them a call on (02) 4658 1929 or visit www.camdencaravan.com.au
Please note that current prices may vary from this review. Please confirm with the manufacturer.
WORDS BY JOSEPH VAN WOERKOM PHOTOGRAPHY BY KEVIN LING