Cape fear

There’s plenty to sug­gest that diesel may be dy­ing in au­to­mo­tive ap­pli­ca­tions, but can a V8 Nis­san Patrol Ti cut it in the bush?

Australian Transport News - - Contents - WORDS MATT W OOD

Head­ing to Cape York in a V8 Nis­san Patrol to see if a petrol en­gine can cut it in the bush

Us­ing a hand winch for off-road re­cov­ery may be hard work, but on the other hand it does give you a chance to pon­der cer­tain things as you haul on the winch bar with sweat drip­ping off the end of your nose.

As I laboured to haul this Nis­san Patrol Y62 out of some rather sticky Cape York mud, a few things came to mind.

The first thought ob­vi­ously be­ing that I re­ally should’ve walked the creek cross­ing be­fore belly flop­ping the Patrol into it.

The sec­ond is­sue to come to mind was the fu­ture of diesel en­gines.

It prob­a­bly didn’t re­ally show up on many peo­ple’s radar, but the Aus­tralian car mar­ket moved to Euro 5 ex­haust emis­sions in Septem­ber last year. Okay, so what’s the big deal? Well, if you’re in the mar­ket for a diesel 4x4 or LCV, it is quite a big deal.

FEEL THE BURN

Over the past few years, many man­u­fac­tur­ers have dropped petrol power plants from their model line-ups due to lack of de­mand. If you want a dual-cab 4x4 ute, for ex­am­ple, aside from the low-vol­ume Toy­ota Hilux V6, you’ll be buy­ing a diesel.

That’s all very well, but the thing is that these en­gines, save Volk­swa­gen’s Amarok, use ex­haust gas re­cir­cu­la­tion (EGR) and diesel par­tic­u­late fi lters (DPFs) to trap ex­haust par­tic­u­lates. (The Amarok, like Ford’s Ever­est wagon, uses SCR and thus takes AdBlue.)

The thing with EGR en­gines equipped with DPFs at Euro 5 emis­sion lev­els is that they now need to re­gen­er­ate or burn off to clear the trapped par­tic­u­late in the DPF.

Of all of the main­stream diesel light com­mer­cials and 4x4 wag­ons on the Aus­tralian mar­ket at this point in time, only one has the op­tion of do­ing a man­u­ally se­lected parked DPF burn-off if the fi lter is clogged. And that’s the 70-se­ries Toy­ota LandCruiser.

The rest rely on the ve­hi­cle be­ing reg­u­larly driven on a high­way to get enough heat in the ex­haust sys­tem to per­form the burn off . Even the 200-se­ries LandCruiser has auto re­gen.

This wouldn’t be so much of a drama if it were just coun­try folk buy­ing these ve­hi­cles. How­ever, the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of diesel 4x4 LCVs as fam­ily cars and ur­ban transport makes this a lit­tle more of an is­sue.

Last year’s best-sell­ing ve­hi­cle in Oz was the turbo-diesel HiLux, aft er all. And that 2.8-litre Toy­ota en­gine uses EGR like the rest of them.

Al­ready there are re­ports of DPF is­sues. Some of these are just clogged DPFs and a warn­ing light on the dash fol­lowed by limp mode. Un­der war­ranty, a dealer will prob­a­bly just clear the code and give it a good run on a free­way. Some may have to also deal with a sticky EGR valve or three. There’s also the risk of oil di­lu­tion. Speak to any busy 4x4 me­chanic and they’ll hap­pily show you the soot- cov­ered in­ter­nals of a choked-up EGR diesel in­duc­tion sys­tem that’s been rum­bling around the burbs more than is re­ally good for it.

Don’t think for a minute that I’m ad­vo­cat­ing for pol­luted skies, hazy hori­zons, and car­cino­genic par­ti­cles in

the air. How­ever, the in­creas­ing me­chan­i­cal com­plex­ity of the mod­ern diesel en­gine is start­ing to tar­nish its at­trac­tive­ness in many LCV and 4x4 roles.

Tra­di­tion­ally, diesel en­gines have had a fol­low­ing be­cause of their econ­omy, sim­plic­ity, dura­bil­ity and low-down torque when haul­ing a load or off-road­ing.

And there’s no deny­ing that the best-bang­for-buck fuel, en­ergy wise, is diesel. Hell, I even own one.

The trou­ble is that diesels aren’t that sim­ple any­more. They’ve be­come in­cred­i­bly me­chan­i­cally com­plex, and I’d even go as far to say that time will show them to not have the dura­bil­ity of diesel en­gines past.

So then there’s the mod­ern petrol en­gine. Not ex­actly sim­ple any­more ei­ther, but it’s not con­strained by the level of emis­sions hard­ware needed by diesels.

As more and more coun­tries have started talk­ing tough on diesel emis­sions, some man­u­fac­tur­ers have moved to drop au­to­mo­tive diesel al­to­gether in over­seas mar­kets, pre­fer­ring to con­cen­trate on petrol en­gine tech­nol­ogy and, in some cases, elec­trifi cation.

PETROL PATROL

Which brings me to the Nis­san Patrol that, aft er much winch­ing, I fi­nally man­aged to lib­er­ate from its murky rest­ing place. The ven­er­a­ble old Y61 Patrol and its 3-litre diesel en­gine were con­signed to his­tory last year – the 3-litre a vic­tim of emis­sions like its still much-soughtafter 4.2-litre pre­de­ces­sor was over a decade ago.

The Mid­dle East-spec petrol-only Y62 V8 is the sole Patrol left on the Aussie mar­ket. It was ini­tially ma­ligned by in­dus­try and public alike be­cause it kind of looks like a bloated X-Trail and there’s no diesel op­tion. Plus, it was a lit­tle pricey – though there has been a sig­nif­i­cant price drop since its 2013 launch.

But I wanted to see how a com­pletely stock Y62 Patrol would han­dle one of this coun­try’s most iconic trips. We headed to Cape York to tackle the Old Tele­graph Track and on­wards to the tip of Aus­tralia. The V8 Patrol is oft en writ­ten off by many as a 4x4 tourer be­cause of its pref­er­ence for pre­mium un­leaded. And maybe also be­cause it looks a lit­tle soft.

Then there’s the thirst fac­tor. Y62 own­ers are a del­i­cate lot, and they get a bit cranky if you point out just how prodi­gious a thirst this baby can have.

Around town, driven un­sym­pa­thet­i­cally, this thing can drink like there’s no to­mor­row. I man­aged to hit 30L/100km, though ad­mit­tedly this was mainly due to me driv­ing with the sun­roof open and lis­ten­ing to the glo­ri­ous en­gine note of that nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 300kW/560Nm bent-eight un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion.

That 5.6-litre Nis­san VK56VD VVEL mill is a beau­ti­ful bit of ma­chin­ery. It comes from the same en­gine fam­ily as the en­gine used in the Nis­san V8 Su­per­car (the Amer­i­can-built VK56DE, which is also E10 fuel- friendly).

VVEL stands for ‘vari­able valve event and lift ’ sys­tem, which al­legedly helps with fuel econ­omy (I’m not con­vinced) and per­for­mance (I’ll buy that claim) es­pe­cially un­der wide-open throttle. It’s an all-al­loy 32-valve twin-cam donk that uses di­rect in­jec­tion to get petrol to the pis­tons. It’s smooth, pow­er­ful and, dare I say it, even fun.

There’s also the added benefi t of this Patrol be­ing quite rea­son­ably priced con­sid­er­ing the amount of kit on off er.

It’s a lot cheaper than its diesel ri­vals: a 200-se­ries LandCruiser VX diesel (the clos­est ri­val in terms of op­tions) has a drive-away price of $106,525. Even opt­ing for Toy­ota’s 4.6-litre petrol V8 doesn’t drop the drive­way price be­low the tonne at $101,221.

The eight-seater Patrol Ti that you see here drives away for $78,393. You can buy a lot of juice for that price diff er­ence. Maybe in this new Euro 5 en­vi­ron­ment the case for shelling out a pre­mium price for a diesel fourby isn’t quite as com­pelling as it used to be?

THE OPEN ROAD

The thing about Cape York is that, un­less you live in Cairns, it’s a big drive from any­where. How­ever, with a full load of camp­ing gear shoved in the back, I pointed the big wagon north and rolled out of Brisbane.

“As a mileeater, the Patrol is awe­some. It cruises ef­fort­lessly on the open road”

As a mile- eater, the Patrol is awe­some. It cruises ef­fort­lessly on the open road and is im­pres­sively com­fort­able. Hav­ing all those killer watts on tap made for ef­fort­less cruis­ing and over­tak­ing. My open-road fuel av­er­age to Cairns was a re­spectable 12.5L/ 100km and I wasn’t walk­ing like a half- shut pock­etknife when I ar­rived.

Cairns proved to be the last time that the Patrol was go­ing to see PULP for over a week. With the 140-litre tank full to the brim, I pointed it over the Great Di­vid­ing Range and be­yond to the Penin­sula Devel­op­ment Road.

Many moan that the drive to the Cape isn’t the ad­ven­ture that it used to be, which is easy to say un­less you ac­tu­ally have to live there! The PDR can be cor­ru­gated but it’s wide and has plenty of sealed sec­tions these days. With a bit of care you could do it in a 2WD hatch­back.

It’s on the PDR where one of the Patrol’s best as­sets re­ally shines through: its Hy­draulic

Mo­tion Body Con­trol sus­pen­sion sys­tem. The coil-sprung in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion feeds hy­draulic fluid to re­mote ac­cu­mu­la­tors mounted be­tween the front and rear axles, which al­lows the sys­tem to di­rect more hy­draulic pres­sure to the wheels that are un­der the most pres­sure. On the road, this makes for flat­ter cor­ner­ing at speed and vir­tu­ally no body roll.

The big wagon just floated over the gravel at speed. It pro­vided an im­pres­sive ride with sen­sa­tional han­dling.

When I pulled up at the Bramwell Junc­tion Road­house, which is the last chance for a cof­fee and fuel be­fore tack­ling the OTT, the poor old stock Patrol looked a lit­tle goofy next to the barred-out and lift ed LandCruis­ers, utes and old-school Y61 Pa­trols.

NO-GO ZONE

I hit the OTT full of op­ti­mism, but it turned out that Palm Creek, the fi rst ma­jor ob­sta­cle on the track, was go­ing to be too much for a stock Patrol with no built-in winch and only one load-rated tow point at the rear. As it was early in the sea­son there was still plenty of mud and wa­ter around, and plenty of traffi c too.

An at­tempt to get close saw the rear of the Nis­san come into con­tact with the ground; there wasn’t even a tow bar to pro­tect it. This popped the en­tire bumper panel out from the body on the right-hand side. Some duct tape and zip ties kind of neat­ened up the panel so we could keep on mov­ing.

Af­ter col­lect­ing a wal­laby on the front RHS back near Coen on the PDR, the Nis­san was start­ing to look a lit­tle bedrag­gled! It did, how­ever, point out the im­por­tance of a good front bar out in the back blocks. So I elected to head up the Ba­m­aga Road and take the Gun­shot by­pass track to the OTT and then head south back to the creek and turn around. This way we’d still do the bulk of the track.

Gun­shot Creek is fa­mous for its nose­dive cross­ing, so I fi gured dis­cre­tion on this one was the bet­ter part of val­our and I took the chicken track. I had vi­sions of drop­ping over the edge of Gun­shot, hit­ting the bot­tom with the nose and then the airbags go­ing off.

Rolling north through the sandy heath­land, the Patrol was in its el­e­ment. It tack­led the var­i­ous creek cross­ings and fords with aplomb.

The HBMC sys­tem came into its own here too. It tries to em­u­late the per­for­mance of a live axle off-road by push­ing the wheel that is

“Rolling north through the sandy heath­land, the Patrol was in its el­e­ment”

off the ground down to full stretch. For dou­ble wish­bone sus­pen­sion, the Patrol does have pretty im­pres­sive ar­tic­u­la­tion.

There was plenty of wa­ter around, which meant the Patrol’s 700mm wad­ing depth was put to the test a cou­ple of times. The en­gine breathes through a sen­si­bly lo­cated in­take high up on the left -hand front guard.

Stock ground clear­ance is 287mm. Un­like com­pet­ing four­bies, it’s a lit­tle com­pli­cated to mod­ify the HBMC sus­pen­sion. Given its per­for­mance on and off road, I can’t re­ally see a rea­son to muck around with it any­way.

The af­ter­mar­ket, how­ever, does cater for some ex­tra lift to the HBMC sys­tem by us­ing cus­tom lower con­trol arms.

Some smaller-ca­pac­ity mod­ern petrol en­gines are re­ly­ing on se­quen­tial tur­bocharg­ing to try and cre­ate a diesel-like torque curve. This nat­u­rally as­pi­rated Nis­san donk, how­ever, isn’t one of them. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it old-school, but peak torque is at 4000rpm and peak power at 5800rpm. And I’d be ly­ing if I said that it didn’t sound awe­some as we scrab­bled out of Cock­a­too Creek. Hav­ing all that power on tap means that, for the most part, you rarely have to wring its neck.

The last ford be­fore Nolan’s Brook was the deep­est we en­coun­tered and it saw the Patrol float a lit­tle at the rear as the front wheels clawed at the creek bed. I can now con­firm that the Patrol’s door seals work well.

I walked it to check the depth only to be ad­vised later that there was a res­i­dent fresh­wa­ter croc in that bil­l­abong. I’m glad we didn’t have a face-to-face meet­ing be­cause I doubt I would’ve been in­ter­view­ing it to fi nd out if it was a salty or not! There may have been a bit of squid ink in the wa­ter.

The off-road an­tics saw fuel con­sump­tion rise a lit­tle but not as much as ex­pected, av­er­ag­ing 13.8L/ 100km. This was the worst fuel fig­ure for the en­tire 6497km trip. Com­par­ing notes with fel­low trav­ellers run­ning diesels found con­sump­tion around this fi gure and up to even 17L/100km.

A steady diet of reg­u­lar un­leaded only took a lit­tle edge off the per­for­mance of the Nis­san once north of the Jar­dine River.

But this kind of rough road tour­ing is right up the Patrol’s al­ley. The big fuel tank meant that range wasn’t an is­sue at all on this route. From Ba­m­aga we took the track though Roma Flats, get­ting bogged again be­fore tri­umphantly park­ing the Patrol on the beach near the tip.

A sav­age pa­per wasp at­tack that had me blun­der­ing around the jun­gle wav­ing my arms and shout­ing for a bit did lit­tle to curb my en­thu­si­asm for the ac­com­plish­ment. Even though those lit­tle bas­tards have quite a nip on them!

THE BOT­TOM LINE

Out in the bush there are plenty of rea­sons to hang on to the diesel. For those on the land it means that you only need one type of fuel stored on site, and the same goes for work­ing wheels. High­way kays keep the DPF happy. Around town EGR is not, how­ever, a recipe for hap­pi­ness.

For ev­ery­one else, the case for buy­ing an oil-burner starts to look a lit­tle less invit­ing. There’s a pre­mium price for tick­ing the diesel box at pur­chase, and there’s also the pre­mium price paid for ser­vic­ing. In some parts of the coun­try you’ll even pay more at the pump for diesel. And now there’s added com­plex­ity that has the po­ten­tial to tar­nish diesel’s rep­u­ta­tion for re­li­a­bil­ity and dura­bil­ity.

I’m not talk­ing about your old 1HZ LandCruis­ers and TD42 Pa­trols that have done a mil­lion kays and are still tick­ing over. I’m talk­ing about brand-new ve­hi­cles on the mar­ket now. With those fac­tors in mind, I reckon opt­ing for petrol power could be a com­pelling case in the fu­ture.

Above: The Nis­san Patrol Y62 is more com­pe­tent off road than it looks

Be­low: How a Patrol should look, cov­ered in mud and glory

Above: The 287mm of ground clear­ance came in handy. Not too shabby for a wish­bone-sus­pended wagon

Top: Parked at the tip. The Nis­san coped with most of what was thrown at it

Above left: A sen­si­bly lo­cated air in­take makes for a de­cent 700mm wad­ing depth

Not a diesel par­tic­u­late  lter lter in sight! The nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 5.6- 5.6-litre­litre Nis­san V8 is a crack­ing unit with heaps of grunt and not as thirsty as ex­pected

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