Nissan has added common-rail turbodiesel power to their rugged off-road workhorse, the Patrol bakkie, whilst rekindling the legendary Safari name too.
In the world's war zones and disputed exploration escarpments, where terrain is beyond forbidding and breakdowns mean death, the Nissan Patrol bakkie has been relied on to endure.
Vastly popular in Australia and African markets, sales have never been commensurate to the vehicle's ability locally. You can almost say it's nearly slipped off the local market consciousness at times, but more about slipping later...
For 2008 Nissan have turbocharged the 4.2-litre, six-cylinder straight-six diesel engine, and brought back the legendary Safari name - Nissan 4x4 acolytes will fondly remember it from the '80s - in the form of a factory spec, overland workhorse, accessory pack.
Basic, unbreakable, bakkie
Aesthetically things have remained largely unchanged, with the attractive bakkie styling intact, featuring a new grille and bonnet-scoop for the turbo.
Safari spec models have a real overlander look. Equipped with a snorkel, heavy duty front bull-bar with winch-box (winch is a factory option), double spot lights, heavy duty roll bar, side steps and neat twin toolboxes mounted behind the cab under the load-box, Safari models want for little from the fertile imagination of intrepid off-road explorers.
The interior features cloth covered seats, a new steering wheel, and standard air-conditioning, central locking and two-way power windows.
Two cup holders and six drinks holders ensure game stalking will never be a thirsty affair, especially as two of the drink holders can accommodate 2-litre Coke bottles, the mixer of choice for hard-core off-road adventurers. You'll have to spec a radio from your own pocket though...
Featuring heavy-duty coil spring suspension in the front with progressive rate leaf springs at the rear on a full floating axle the essentials are there to tackle even the most fearsome off-road terrain.
Approach and departure angles are an impressive 42- and 30-degrees respectively and loadability is generous, with an 1 150 kg payload capacity. Water obstacle crossing capability is keen too, with a 700 mm wading depth.
The new 4.2-litre, common-rail injected turbodiesel produces 5 kW more than the naturally aspirated unit is replaces, producing 90 kW at 3 600 r/min and 282 Nm of torque at 2 000 r/min - up 18 Nm. It still lags behind its chief nemesis, the Land Cruiser 70, which has similar capacity, is normally aspirated, and takes 96 kW and 285 Nm worth of diesel power to the bush.
Nissan claims 13.2l/100 km consumption, which should see you cover a Livingstonian 1 300 km when employing the auxiliary fuel tank, which bumps up capacity to 175 litres.
On and off-road
In practice the Patrol has changed little on tar. The individual cloth covered seats are an improvement on the previous vinyl items which stuck to your thighs when you drove in shorts.
On road performance is still ponderous, and really, the new 4.2 TDi engine must be the most under stressed application of common-rail turbodiesel technology ever. Offering only a scant five more kilowatts than its naturally aspirated predecessor, and you'd be hard press to notice them on the road, one wonders if the extra mechanical complexity is justified.
Out in the bush it does come into its own. Although featuring reliable manual-locking front hubs, you're able to engage high-range four-wheel drive at up to 60 km/h on the move. The low-range transfer case is simple to use, and features a dummy-neutral between high-and low-range to guard against inadvertent engagement of low-range whilst on the move.
With its basic construction, low-range diesel lugging power and off-road biased suspension the Patrol eases over demanding terrain. Axle articulation allows one to amble over even the most daunting obstacles, and if things get too bouncy in the cabin you can grab the hand-throttle to steady yourself over obstacles at crawling speed without throttle jerkiness.
Ride quality is a revelation, easily besting the Cruiser 70 bakkies. The Patrol soaks up harsh punishment without handing it out to cabin occupants. A critical omission though, is the absence of a rear differential lock.
Although the Patrol does have a rear limited-slip differential as standard, in truly forbidding terrain - long, steep, shale strewn inclines and treacherous slipways - the traction security afforded by a rear differential lock is incomparable. The Cruiser 70 has both front and rear-differential locks as standard, and practically any 4x4 bakkie currently on sale in South Africa with low-range has a rear 'locker'.
Retailing at R299 825 the Patrol undercuts its chief rival, the Cruiser 70 bakkie, which retails for R331 300, quite comprehensively. The Safari pack is a very worthwhile R35 000 option, and there is a veritable treasure trove of additional configuration accessories available direct from the factory.
Patrol 4.2TDi is an attractive, redoubtably tough bakkie, with reliable, if uncannily lazy turbodiesel power and exemplarity off-road ride quality considering its utilitarian underpinnings.
Hard-core off-roaders would probably opt for the standard model, and fit an aftermarket air-locker to the rear differential, which should allow it to still undercut the Cruiser on price.
Nissan Patrol 4.2TDi 4x4 bakkie R299 825 (Safari pack: R334 881)