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Nissan Patrol: Sheer strength

It weighs 3.5 tonnes, it is very popular in West Asia, while drivers Down Under swear by it. It is powered by a no-nonsense V8 engine with a colossal 400 bhp thrust and it tames sand dunes and other challenging terrain without worrying about the outcome. We are talking about the Nissan Patrol. It is one of toughest SUVs currently being driven in the world, though it has often enough been overshadowed by the Toyota Land Cruiser and the all conquering, luxurious Range Rover.

Well, Nissan was kind enough to let me drive this SUV, and it was not generous enough to let me know whether it is bringing the car to India. But I do hope that the Japanese car maker does not leave Indians uncatered to.

Believe it or not, this SUV does not have a diesel variant. I know you will wonder how a burly car like this does not have an engine that runs on diesel. That is a valid question, but the Patrol is an ultra-niche vehicle and only hardcore off-roaders or diehard adventure fans go for it. Once I fire up the V8 engine, I realise what power and refinement it has. Step on the accelerator gently and the Patrol chugs lazily, but don't be fooled by this because the 5.6-litre engine is just toying with you. If you dare to push the pedal to the floor - which I did and trust me, it wasn't a wise decision - the Patrol roars and sprints off like a gazelle. It took me a minute or two to digest this fact as this bulky SUV's acceleration sunk in. The Patrol hits the three figure mark in a mere 6.6 seconds after starting from stand still. Having experienced this burst, I couldn't believe that the car weighs a tonne more than the popular Toyota Fortuner.

The Patrol is old-school, therefore, it is a full-sized body-on-frame SUV, built to take extreme punishment while gulping down harsh off-road geographies for breakfast. I took a leap of faith and plunged down a steep, 45-degree incline. What a relief it was when the Patrol steadily took on the challenge and countered it with quite a bit of ease. Apart from all the technologies it employs, such as Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, all-mode 4WD with low range option and four different off-road driving options for road, sand, snow, rock, a lot of the credit for the incredible performance must go to the V8 engine. It churns out phenomenal pulling power with a massive torque of 560 Nm at 4000 rpm. It is also mated with a 7-speed automatic gearbox, which is an apt complement to the Patrol's juggernaut strength.

The weight of most hardcore SUVs can be felt while driving - and body-rolls tend to make it more pronounced while taking the bends. But the Patrol surprised me because I could notice none of these flaws. This is all thanks to Nissan's Hydraulic Body Motion Control System (HBMC) technology which reduces body lean while ensuring a comfortable ride. It has hydraulic cylinders located on the shock absorbers that adjust roll stiffness and dampen a lot of bump shock.

Nissan Patrol Along with its driving capabilities, Nissan has given the Patrol lavish and comfortable interiors. A feeling that you are a sheikh in an oil-rich country is not an alien experience when you drive the Patrol. The cabin is garnished with wooden panels and a mix of chrome and metal, which is also visible on the steering wheel. The interiors resemble an expensive yacht with dual seven-inch display screens for the middle-row in tandem with a Bose audio system that has 13 speakers.

One simply can't complain about the lack of space as the Patrol is 5.1 metres in length and just a shade under two metres in width. All three rows boast of acres of legroom. The last row seats can be folded to increase the luggage space from 550 litres to over 3,000 litres.

Now coming to the Patrol's weakest point: its conservative looks. It's just too boring, subdued and even though it has the bulk, it lacks the image of a superclass SUV. Keep in mind the Patrol has been around for 60 years and Nissan wants to retain the old design in order not to erode the car's image. It might not have the rugged looks of a Land Cruiser, but it can certainly do what the Toyota is capable of on sandy tracks. The Patrol has a smart design that integrates a C-shaped LED strip lamp with a new grille, bumpers, rims and a set of tail lights.

If and when the Nissan does plan to bring the Patrol to India, it will be an expensive affair. It is safe to conjecture that the car will breach the Rs 1-crore mark. The Patrol has never been about looks but for being one of the most serious off-roaders in the world. And yet, with the new suspension technology it employs, it is easy to drive in the city as well. The light steering wheel is the driver's greatest aid. The interiors are luxurious and spacious. What might go against the car is the lack of Patrol brand awareness in India and the absence - alas! - of a diesel variant.

NISSAN PATROL
Engine: 5,552 cc, V8 petrol engine
Power: 400 bhp @ 5800 rpm
Torque: 560 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Price: Upwards of Rs 1 crore (Expected ex-showroom price)
Arup Das is Features Editor at AutoX