LEGENDS grow taller in the telling. The Y61 series of the Nissan Patrol, on sale since 1997, has earned a reputation as a rugged off-roader.
The venerable Patrol offroader is about to fall victim to Euro 5 emissions laws and the need for a safety overhaul to give it a five-star rating.
Simply put, Nissan doesn’t sell enough here to justify the investment on a global level — and it has a replacement at hand in the newer Y62 — which instead of a live axle has independent suspension and replaces the 3.0-litre turbo diesel with a 5.6-litre petrol V8 matched to a seven-speed auto.
Rather than let the Y61 fade into the sunset, Nissan has added what it says is $10,000 worth of help to ensure it retires as a folk hero. The 300 “Legend Edition” examples, with bull bar, winch, roof rack, snorkel, towbar, satnav and reversing camera, are priced from $57,990 drive-away for the five-speed manual and $60,990 on-road for the four-speed auto.
They’re a good thing, as a trip on the billion-year-old rocks in the northern Flinders Ranges demonstrated. The Y61 scrambled along rutted tracks from Leigh Creek to Arkaroola and generally handled some of our oldest terrain without fuss.
On the flip side, we were joined by Y62s — thirst apart, a vastly better proposition. The Y62 starts at $69,990 plus onroads but the extra money shows in vastly better driving manners on bitumen or bush tracks, upgraded safety and an interior that makes the Y61 look and feel archaic.
OFF THE ROAD
Arkaroola is a geological relic, making it a fitting venue to farewell the 19-year-old Y61. That is ancient in car years, though the Benz G-Wagen can lay claim to a longer lineage.
The Patrol copes with the flaky rock outcrops and tyre ruts without ever being stressed but the occupants feel every inch of articulation, be it the wheels rolling over corrugations or climbing a stepped track.
It isn’t the most comfortable driving environment, particularly when you’ve just driven the Y62 over the same terrain with just as little fuss and far less shaking of the occupants.
The new Patrol uses “Hydraulic Body Motion Control” to quell the tossing motion and it works a treat, regulating how much pressure is sent to each shock depending on load and speed.
The same applies to the electronics behind the fourwheel drive rotary dial and buttons that replace the transfer case selector lever in the Y61.
Left in auto on challenging climbs and descents, the Y62 was unperturbed when left to sort out how much power to put where. Occasionally, it could have benefited from selection of the “rock” setting to improve low-speed throttle control.
The cabin also lacks the rattles and squeaks evident in the Y61 and the aircon fan doesn’t drown out conversation. There’s also no dust on the fan vents, something that became quickly evident in the earlier model.
What does the Y61 have going for it? It has the rugged look with Legend gear bolted on and still packs a diesel, which many consider mandatory in a serious off-roader.
Two fuel tanks hold 125L and, on the auto’s claimed thirst of 11.8L/100km, you’re good for more than 1000km. However, given how hard the diesel needs to be pushed to maintain highway speeds on any kind of gradient, don’t expect that range.
The four-speed auto struggles to overcome momentum much beyond 80km/h and feels as if it is working hard. It’s rated to tow 2800kg (3200kg for the manual) but the fuel consumption with a heavy load could be confronting.
In direct contrast, the V8 pulls effortlessly to 100km/h and then purrs along even up moderate slopes. The sound is muted, the performance far from it — there’s enough torque from 1600rpm to shift the 2.7-tonne SUV with real pace.
The downside is claimed thirst of 14.4L/100km … again, don’t expect to get close if you’re toying with the engine’s potential or coming near its 3500kg tow limit.
The Y62 also has six airbags; there are two in its predecessor.
Some will shed a tear for the Y61; others will resort to the Y62’s Americanised looks and big V8 and be happier for it, especially if they’re towing types. It mightn’t have legendary status but the new vehicle is more than capable of carving out its own reputation.