For decades, the Nissan Patrol has served as a potent symbol of power and authority. It is favored by military brass and UN peacekeepers for its ruggedness and durability, thanks mainly to its heavy-duty live axles and undercarriage. And while Philippine presidents may favor Toyota Land Cruisers and Mercedes-Benz limousines, the Presidential Security Group is steadfastly loyal to the Patrol. However, military use always meant long product cycles and comfort taking a backseat to utility.
But things have changed with the Y62 Patrol Royale. Okay, so the Y62 is now entering its 11th year of production, so that part hasn’t changed. But this is the first Patrol with an independent suspension and a V8. And, bewilderingly, it’s comfortable. Luxurious, even. But 10 years on, is it still a good choice? And why does Nissan still sell the 23-year-old Y61 Patrol in other countries if the new one is so good?
Back in 2010, the Y62’s bulbous hood and tall flanks seemed awkward in comparison to the Y61. But the lines have aged well, giving the Patrol a muscular, imposing presence compared to overwrought, over-chromed, competitors.
There’s minimal chintz aside from the fake fender vents, and the 20-inch alloy wheels are perfectly matched to the vehicle’s bulk. The classic grille even provides inspiration for the new Navara. Though the Land Cruiser uses boxy flares, chrome garnishes, and graphic decals to visually bulk up, the Patrol, even in bare paint, looks imposingly large next to it.
That impression carries over to the expansive interior. An odd mixture of high-tech and old school, the wood grain paneling and the button-festooned center stack look like they come from an earlier era, and the arching dashboard layout presents a distinctly nautical theme. On the other hand, the leather draped over all the high-contact surfaces is wonderfully supple and modern. The softly padded seats present no zero-gravity pretensions. They’re big and flat, and provide just enough thigh and adjustable lumbar support for you to snooze in while waiting for the boss in the parking lot.
Even without the driver’s adjustable lumbar support, passengers likewise have it good. Compared to the gargantuan Land Cruiser, the Patrol has a couple fingers’ worth of extra legroom in the second and third rows. The center-console box is even big enough for a baby to sit in. Not comfortably, no, and don’t close the lid on the poor baby.
While the confusing cornucopia of controls is mostly confined to the driver, rear-seat passengers also get separate A/C controls, integrated rear headrest monitors, and headphone jacks for audio. There’s also a gaggle of power and connectivity sockets, but out of reach, near the floor. Or, in the case of the HDMI port, literally on the floor.
The Patrol’s most impressive toy, however, is under the hood. The alphabet soup ‘VVEL-DIG’ badge out back stands for ‘Variable Valve Event and Lift—Direct Injection Gasoline.’ Which means the 5.6-liter VK56VD V8 breathes fire, howls thunder, and makes nearly a hundred horsepower more than the original Patrol V8.
With 400hp and 560Nm of torque, you can simply idle forward in traffic. With the seven-speed automatic, the V8 ticks by at just a little over idle at 80kph. You won’t be seeing much more than 8.5km/L on the highway, unless you kill the A/C. But consider that the V8 diesel in the Landcruiser is only good for 11km/L at the same speed. In traffic, you’ll be lucky to get any better than 3-3.5km/L, where the Toyota is more likely to do 4-5km/L. Yes, driving an SUV can be hazardous to your wallet.
But the trade-off is a burbly, quiet idle and growling performance when the mood strikes. We saw 0-100kph come up in an astonishing 7.7sec. A few tenths short of the claimed factory time, but given the engine hasn’t been broken in yet, and the extra weight of the power accessories, the seats, and the bulky accumulators and plumbing of the Hydraulic Body Motion Control System (HBMC), that’s understandable.
The HBMC is worth the extra weight—and a shiny chrome badge as well. Where the Land Cruiser’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System uses hydraulically linked anti-roll bars, Nissan’s system passively distributes hydraulic pressure to the suspension dampers at each wheel. Similar to the interconnected suspension once used on Formula 1 cars, it connects the upper chambers of the dampers on each side to the lower chambers on the other. Hydraulic pressure builds up when they compress in turns to prevent body roll, but does not hinder wheel articulation off-road or over single-wheel bumps.
The result is a waftingly soft ride combined with an unusually flat cornering attitude, without the associated cost and fragility of air suspension. You will literally slide out of the flat seats before you notice appreciable body roll or any squealing from the gigantic 275/60 R20 Bridgestone Dueler HT tires. The steering, while feather-light, provides enough feedback for you to weave through traffic with confidence. Along with the gutsy engine, these factors makes the Patrol drive more like a large sedan rather than a 2.8-ton brick.
Around town, there’s no disguising the Patrol’s bulk. While it has a surprisingly tidy turning circle for its size, edging up to payment windows takes quite a bit of practice. You’re constantly thanking the electronic gods for the automatic front and rear proximity alert and cameras when driving through tight spots, and constantly cursing them when passing motorcycles set the alarms off in traffic.
Aside from the proximity alerts, you also get cruise control, stability control, traction control, hill assist, and the expected multi-mode all-terrain dial, which alters the function of the LSD-equipped 4x4 system to suit. Since I’m not in a position to pay for any scratches to the 20-inch alloy wheels, I didn’t test the latter, but dune bashers around the world have been enjoying the hell out of it for years.
For passenger enjoyment, the Patrol features Bluetooth integration, a DVD player (yes, DVD), those twin rear headrest monitors with individual sound, five USB ports, one HDMI port, and a few 12V sockets for other concerns. The 13-speaker Bose sound system is powerful, but it can sound a bit boomy in the low range. Rounding out the package are keyless entry, push-button ignition, automatic lights and wipers, power-adjustable steering and front seats, a power sunroof, and a power liftgate. Oh, and a tow hook. For towing things.
Not that most owners will end up towing anything. While the Patrol Royale aspires to new heights of luxury, the old Super Safari—sold here until 2017—is still the more utilitarian, more practical choice. Or as practical as any egregiously bourgeois SUV can get.
The Nissan Patrol Royale, on the other hand, offers the ultimate in plush comfort. Granted, it doesn’t have the Land Cruiser’s diesel mill, or even the Ford Expedition’s sophisticated twin-turbo drivetrain, but it rides softer and costs up to a million less than either. The difference in fuel economy between them is so fractional that you’ll never make that difference up in fuel costs. And in the meantime, you get to enjoy the sights, sounds and feel of the best rip-roaring, dune-bashing executive coach ever made.
Price: P3,988,000 (additional P15,000 for Pearl White exterior color)
Engine: 5.6-liter gasoline V8
Power: 400hp @ 5,800rpm
Torque: 560Nm @ 4,000rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic