When asked to imagine some of the most iconic four-by-fours that helped shape the history of off-roading in Africa, Toyota’s Land Cruiser, the Land Rover Defender and the Nissan Patrol come to mind. BERNIE HELLBERG has tested them all, the latest being in some respects, the greatest of them all.

When I was growing up, the sternest of off-roaders were those who drove one of three overland tools: the Nissan Patrol, the Toyota Land Cruiser, or the Land Rover Defender.
These boxy, functional, and unashamedly agricultural vehicles weren’t meant to look good, and they didn’t, but they certainly could go anywhere.

As the age of adventure gradually made way for the era of the leisure traveller, comfort, practicality, and luxury surpassed functionality as the primary purpose of the all-purpose off-roader. It should come as no surprise, then, that our three bundu behemoths have had to adapt or die and, in at least two of the cases, that is precisely what has happened.


While the Landy Defender has been relegated to the annals of history – now thoroughly beaten to the top of the Land Rover food chain by their Discovery – both Toyota and Nissan persist with larger format off-roaders in an age where smaller, and lighter, SUVs and crossovers rule the roost.

To understand the thinking behind what seems like mounting odds against them, one could say that vehicles like the Cruiser 200 and Patrol are relics of a distant past where the fuel price lingered lazily around the R10-per-litre mark. Or you can see them for what they are: niche off-road tanks that exist only to be bigger, and more capable off the beaten track than anything else.

Do looks matter much? Probably not, but why should it when you’re literally the biggest SUV on the road? Should you care how thirsty they are? If you’re shopping at this end of the scale, you’re unlikely to be phased by something as mundane as fuel consumption.

All you need is to have enough power for every purpose, that your vehicle delivers on the level of luxury you’re paying for, and that it can conquer every bit of nasty terrain that you throw at it.


The new Patrol ticks all three needs boxes, mainly thanks to its 5.6-litre naturally aspirated V8 that obliterates any terrain with 298 kW of power and 560 Nm of raw torque. Considering the vehicle’s hefty 2,800 kg bulk, the Patrol is surprisingly powerful and noticeably so.

While that sounds highly impressive, so too is the fuel consumption. Although Nissan claims an incredibly frugal 14.4-l/100 km figure, I managed an average of over 17-l/100 km, which could easily rise to over 19-l/100 km in stop/start city traffic.

Nevertheless, I was determined to test the Patrol on the open road, and a weekend trip to a local camping spot proved an excellent opportunity to do just that.

The Patrol interior is cavernous, to put it mildly. Not even the weekend get-up for two had a hope of filling the massive void in the rear of the Patrol. Should you need even more space, simply fold the seats down in just a few seconds and the available luggage area quadruples in size.

Eventually on the road, I headed out towards Magaliesburg, managing to hit peak hour traffic on the way out of town. One would think that the thought of sitting in traffic in such a beast would be terrifying, but Nissan has endowed the Patrol with so much spatial awareness technology, that very little human intervention is required to inch your way through the muck successfully. It’s called the Nissan Intelligent Mobility Suite, a full spectrum of electronic aids and enhancements including blind spot- and lane departure warnings with intervention, intelligent cruise control, and Nissan’s revolutionary Intelligent Forward Collision Warning. This senses obstacles on the road ahead and acts either by an audible warning or by actively applying the brakes to avoid them.

Steering is accurate and light considering the vehicle’s size. Throttle response is surprisingly quick, while reaching – and maintaining – highway cruising speeds is effortless. Body roll is kept under control at normal speeds by Nissan’s HBMC (Hydraulic Body Motion Control) that can shift fluid from left to right shock absorbers to reduce roll.

In general, the driving position is comfortable with the electronically-adjustable seat allowing a vast range of motion for a clear view ahead. You’re sitting quite high in the Patrol as it is, so visibility is no issue.


The Patrol offers ample gadgetry to the off-road conscious, including diff lock, several driving modes and hill-descent control, and the console design itself provides ample space for odds and sods.

Comfy driving position and interior practicality aside, the interior trim itself will likely not appeal to all tastes. Although I can see that many older luxury vehicle buyers would adore the wood trim, I’m not sold on it anymore, and the large, bulky buttons remind me of a bygone era. The dashboard is inoffensive and practical, but the infotainment system needs a rethink, and an upgrade to Apple CarPlay or similar.


While we did not get to experience any serious off-roading, the bumpy gravel road to our destination sufficed as a gentle reminder to the type of off-road driving that most Patrols would likely do. It was hardly testing, but it gave an idea of the Patrol’s ability to handle the rough stuff, which it did exceedingly well. Previously Patrols may have offered a functional and practical platform, where this car adds a significant level of luxury and modern appeal.



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