Bush-ready GU is as old-school as they come.

It’s one of the old­est new 4x4s you can buy, yet the GU Nis­san Pa­trol is still a hard-work­ing toiler.


The GU – or Y61 Pa­trol – has been with us for 19 years, but its days are num­bered. Old age has fi­nally caught up with it, and it’s time on the Australian new car mar­ket is lim­ited due to ever-in­creas­ing emission laws, safety stan­dards and the fact that it’s tough sell­ing such an old car when there are so many new 4x4 op­tions.

Yet the Pa­trol re­mains a unique of­fer­ing in to­day’s mar­ket and it’s one that many will miss when it’s no longer avail­able. It re­tains all the old-school at­tributes tra­di­tional 4x4 en­thu­si­asts ap­pre­ci­ate. At­tributes that are be­com­ing harder to find in new 4x4s, like a sturdy lad­der chas­sis sup­port­ing live axles front and rear on long travel coil springs, and there’s not a lot of fussy elec­tron­ics or things that di­lute the pure essence of what a 4x4 should be.

With th­ese wor­thy char­ac­ter­is­tics go­ing the way of the horse and cart, we thought it high time we re­vis­ited the GU Pa­trol wagon one last time. After all, it has been more than 10 years since we last drove a new one – and that’s some­thing you can’t say about many four-wheel drives on to­day’s mar­ket!


The old-truck ex­pe­ri­ence starts from the mo­ment you’re handed the keys of a 2016 GU Pa­trol and you’re re­minded that a key fob doesn’t re­quire the com­put­ing power of the space shut­tle. The Pa­trol’s key is slim and light with just un­lock and lock but­tons on it.

The nos­tal­gia con­tin­ues in­side the cabin. It feels small for what looks like a big wagon from the out­side, and the driver’s seat doesn’t go back far enough for tall driv­ers, which leaves legs in a knees-up po­si­tion cramped in the footwell. The steer­ing wheel is ad­justable for height but not reach, and the view over that long bon­net is im­pres­sive. In fact, the view all around is good, with a large glasshouse giv­ing great sight lines around the ve­hi­cle – a sim­ple fea­ture you won’t find in many new ve­hi­cles.

Some­thing else you won’t find in new 4x4s is a stubby lit­tle trans­fer lever along­side the gear shift. In this case the shift is an old-school T-bar com­plete with over­drive but­ton on the side for con­trol­ling the four-speed auto trans­mis­sion. Trans­fer cases in just about all mod­ern 4x4s are shifted us­ing a switch or dial, which isn’t al­ways re­li­able as a switch or dial can’t of­fer the pos­i­tive, pur­pose­ful shift of a lever that’s con­nected di­rectly to the case. There are no wires or com­put­ers here to mud­dle things up.


Twist the key in the ig­ni­tion bar­rel – another trait that is fast dis­ap­pear­ing – and the 3.0-litre diesel en­gine rat­tles to life. This ZD30 en­gine has had its ups and downs in terms of re­li­a­bil­ity since be­ing in­tro­duced to the Pa­trol back in 2000, but it ap­pears Nis­san has fixed it in later mod­els. The en­gine was up­dated to com­mon-rail fuel in­jec­tion in 2007 but it’s still a rel­a­tively small and un­der­pow­ered en­gine for a big heavy 4x4, mak­ing just 118kw at 3600rpm (auto) and a mod­est 354Nm at 2000rpm.

Un­laden, the 3.0-litre Pa­trol is sur­pris­ingly spritely thanks to short gear­ing. It’s noisy by mod­ern stan­dards, but it’s no slouch around town and in traf­fic light drag races (so we’ve heard). How­ever, the Pa­trol is a big wagon built for haul­ing loads (be it pas­sen­gers or cargo). Load up the GU with five adults, some gear and/or a trailer to its 3200kg (man) or 2500kg (auto) ca­pac­ity and per­for­mance takes a dive. More mod­ern 4x4 wag­ons with smaller diesel en­gines will whip

the tailpipe of the big Pa­trol, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be still do­ing it tens of thou­sands of kilo­me­tres later.

A key in­di­ca­tor of the age of the Pa­trol’s driv­e­line is its four­speed auto trans­mis­sion. It al­ways feels like it’s in the wrong gear around town, with huge gaps be­tween ra­tios and harsh kick­downs on up­shifts. Au­to­matic trans­mis­sion tech­nol­ogy, and the adap­ta­tion of more ra­tios within them, has been a lead­ing force in mod­ern ve­hi­cle per­for­mance and econ­omy and, sadly, the Pa­trol has fallen be­hind here. The stan­dard five-speed man­ual ’box would make the Pa­trol a bet­ter drive in all con­di­tions.

The things that let the GU down around town dis­ap­pear as soon as you hit lower speed gravel tracks: the great all-round vi­sion come to the fore; the mod­est en­gine per­for­mance is ad­e­quate; the de­fi­cien­cies of the au­to­matic trans­mis­sion are less ob­vi­ous; and the tall, sup­ple sus­pen­sion that wal­lows and lurches around the ’burbs gives a smooth and con­trolled ride on rough tracks.

The Pa­trol ex­cels off-road. Pull that stubby trans­fer lever back to locked four-wheel drive and the mod­est 2.02:1 low range will take you just about any­where. The elec­tronic trac­tion con­trol feels a gen­er­a­tion or two older than most cur­rent ve­hi­cles, but the long-travel sus­pen­sion, great ground clearance and suit­ably sized all-ter­rain tyres gets the job done. There’s even a rear diff lock in later Pa­trols. We were able to take this GU up some steep rocky tracks that very few new 4x4 wag­ons would con­quer; although, we did scrape a side­step on a rock be­fore find­ing its lim­its.

Want to go fur­ther? There’s a world of af­ter­mar­ket prod­ucts to give the GU un­told abil­i­ties (see break­out on page 36).


The ST Pa­trol is a seven-seat wagon, while the base-spec DX only has seats for five. As men­tioned, the cabin feels small con­sid­er­ing the di­men­sions of the ve­hi­cle, but the large glasshouse gives a light, open feel to it. The first- and sec­ond-row seats are large and ac­com­mo­dat­ing, while third-row seat­ing is smaller and leaves pas­sen­gers with their knees high up in their chests. The two rear­most seats fold up to the sides when not in use and can be eas­ily re­moved if you’d rather utilise the space for cargo.

The ST Pa­trol is rel­a­tively well-ap­pointed with cruise con­trol; sim­ple air con­di­tion­ing plus rear air-con; power win­dows, mir­rors and door locks; a six-stack CD au­dio sys­tem with USB in­put and Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity; 12-volt power out­lets in the front and rear; plus plenty of stor­age op­tions. It’s a fuss-free of­fer­ing that in­cludes all the es­sen­tials and leaves out the gim­micks.

The three-star ANCAP safety rat­ing is another in­di­ca­tion of the GU Pa­trol’s age and con­struc­tion. It only has airbags at the front and side of the driver and front seat pas­sen­ger, leav­ing back­seat pas­sen­gers in the lurch – the cen­tre rear pas­sen­ger only gets a lap-belt and no head rest! Elec­tronic sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol and ABS are stan­dard but feel old in their op­er­a­tion.


The GU is as bush-ready as any­thing else you’ll find on a new car show­room, matched only by Toy­ota’s 70 Se­ries Land Cruiser. The ST’S tyres are prac­ti­cal 275/65-17s fit­ted to al­loy wheels, there are sturdy re­cov­ery and tow hooks front and rear, and there’s am­ple

The GU is as bush-ready as any­thing else you’ll find on a new car show­room, matched only by Toy­ota’s 70 Se­ries Land Cruiser

This type of ve­hi­cle is be­com­ing harder to find in new-car show­rooms and the GU is one we’ll miss when it’s gone

room in the en­gine bay for ex­tra ac­ces­sories such as a sec­ond bat­tery or air com­pres­sor. The en­gine’s air in­take sucks air through the near-side ’guard and the air cleaner is easy to ser­vice with­out tools.

The ST Pa­trol has two fuel tanks as stan­dard, with a 95-litre main tank and a 35-litre sub-tank to give long tour­ing range. The auto Pa­trol has an 11.8L/100km ARD fuel spec; how­ever, we used 12.9L/100km dur­ing our week with it.


The GU Pa­trol might be old, but in many ways it’s the per­fect 4x4 tour­ing ve­hi­cle. It’s big and ac­com­mo­dat­ing, well-proven and adapt­able, and it has lim­ited gim­micks – the likes of which could leave you stranded in a re­mote place. Sure, the pow­er­train is un­der­done by mod­ern stan­dards and the safety is lack­ing, but get over those fac­tors and you have the ba­sis for a top off-roader. This type of ve­hi­cle is be­com­ing harder to find in new-car show­rooms and the GU is one we’ll miss when it’s gone.

Nis­san hasn’t set a date when the last of the GUS will come to Aus­tralia, but a spokesman said at last year’s NP300 launch that the GU will not be up­dated to meet tighter 2017 emission reg­u­la­tions. Aus­tralia is one of just a few coun­tries still get­ting the GU along­side the more mod­ern Y62 Pa­trol, but those days are draw­ing to a close. Both the GU wagon and ute vari­ants will soon be gone, leav­ing Nis­san with­out a 4x4 wagon or a diesel seven-seat wagon in its range, not to men­tion a heavy­duty ute.

Sim­plis­tic in­te­rior is de­void of un­nec­es­sary gad­gets. Doesn’t bother us!

Bush-ready straight from the show­room floor. A rare thing!

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