Lux­ury Pa­trol leads an army of new mod­els Big gun fires

Nis­san hopes to boost its mar­ket share with a new-look line-up, writes Bruce McMahon

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

NIS­SAN is out to be Aus­tralia’s No.1 ve­hi­cle im­porter, a goal backed by a small army of fresh ma­chin­ery headed this way. And while the first will be the tid­dler of the bunch— the all-new Mi­cra ar­riv­ing next month — there’s a good deal of fire­power on the way and some brag­ging rights to be bandied around. For the past 18 months, says Nis­san Aus­tralia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Dan Thomp­son, his com­pany has been brand-build­ing with the GT-R, the 370Z twins and the new Max­ima. Now comes the build­ing of vol­ume. From next month the new Mi­cra will sell in three grades, with a choice of en­gines and trans­mis­sions. Thomp­son says this five-door hatch­back could be worth 18,000 cars a year. A sedan ver­sion Mi­cra will fol­low and in 2012 a new Ti­ida (with per­haps the Pul­sar badge re­in­stated) will ar­rive as well as the big­ger, more lux­u­ri­ous Pa­trol. This wagon is to be a true flag­ship model for sail­ing across coun­try. The sev­enth-gen­er­a­tion Pa­trol has a 5.6 litre

V8, seven-speed auto and a ‘‘ world-first’’ Hy­draulic Body Mo­tion Sys­tem, said to be taken from rally cars.

This elim­i­nates sta­biliser bars (al­low­ing for greater wheel ar­tic­u­la­tion in the rough stuff) and keeps the big wagon on an amaz­ingly even keel when thrown around on the bi­tu­men.

There are a host of other driver aids, in­clud­ing Hill De­scent Con­trol and Hill Start As­sist, al­lied to trac­tion, sta­bil­ity con­trols and more.

Then there’s a four-wheel drive mode but­ton (not un­like that on Land Rovers) that changes en­gine map­ping and such for a va­ri­ety of ter­rain.

It is a big, big truck, at more than 5m long and al­most 2m tall and wide.

Not ev­ery­one’s in love with the style but it does have a real pres­ence and a tonne of cabin space.

A quick trot through the scrub in a left-hand drive ver­sion shows it to be a very ca­pa­ble, com­fort­able ma­chine. It has moved a fair way from the util­i­tar­ian style of the cur­rent Pa­trol and into Range Rover league.

A quick on-road run high­lights ex­cel­lent road man­ners for a high-rid­ing 2.7 tonne ma­chine.

There is a deal of prom­ise here, backed by 298kW and 550Nm of torque.

And 550Nm of torque is closer for the smaller Pathfinder wagon and Nis­san’s dual cab Navara with a 3 litre, 170kW V6 diesel op­tion for both from early next year.

Max­i­mum torque (up 100Nm over the ST-X’s four-cylin­der diesel) ar­rives from a pretty low 1750rpm then works through a seven-speed auto for some pretty smart ac­cel­er­a­tion at all types of speed. It makes for a very flex­i­ble, most drive­able ute. The price will jump to $60,990 — the dear­est of all dual cabs — for the Span­ish-built ST-X 550, here in Jan­uary.

Ex­tras over the four-cylin­der ST-X in­clude roof bars, hard and lock­able ton­neau cover and un­der-seat stor­age, as well as the most power in its class.

The Pathfinder scores the same en­gine op­tion, tak­ing the price tag to $75,990 and tow­ing ca­pac­ity to 3500kg. This ver­sion, ac­cord­ing to Nis­san, fills a gap be­tween the medium and large four-wheel drive wag­ons.

The Pathfinder Ti 550 scores up­graded brakes, auto head­lights and wind­screen wipers among other new gear for 2011.

Fur­ther down the line Nis­san’s X-Trail has had some mi­nor up­grades (mainly, a tele­scopic steer­ing col­umn and rear knee im­prove­ment).

Prices have dropped across most of the range, now start­ing from $31,990, and fuel con­sump­tion is down for diesel and petrol en­gines.

And from Jan­uary the X-Trail will also be of­fered as a two-wheel drive ver­sion, petrol en­gine only and in ST and ST-L grades.

Nis­san be­lieve one in three ve­hi­cles sold in this com­pact SUV class will be two-wheel drive by 2012.

Be­low the X-Trail sits the two and all-wheel drive Dualis wag­ons, which from July will also be avail­able as the seven-seater Dualis +2.

All these four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive and two-wheel drive wag­ons and utes un­der­pin Nis­san Aus­tralia’s drive to make it to the top of the im­porters’ list and claim some 10 per cent of the mar­ket in the next few years.

Brand leader: the sev­enth-gen­er­a­tion Pa­trol, at more than5m­long, has a 5.6 litre V8 en­gine and a ‘‘world-first’’ Hy­draulic Body Mo­tion Sys­tem, said to be taken from rally cars.

New mod­els: (above) the Navara 550 and (left) the GT-R update.

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