The previous generation Nissan Patrol Safari was so popular among the UAE’s off-roading enthusiasts that it was safe at the time to assume that it would only evolve at a pace similar to that of the Mercedes Gelandewagen. It was too good to be altered, and was etched into the collective psyche of the region’s dune-bashers. However, by the late Noughties, there was a big problem. Arch rival Toyota had moved the game on with its groundbreaking J200 series Land Cruiser, which offered a deadly combination of refinement and grit that appealed as much to the affluent city driver as it did to the daring explorer. Suddenly, the Safari looked archaic. The next few years saw the Land Cruiser wipe the SUV market clean and claim up to 80 per cent of it, while the Safari was left with a measly 10 per cent. Rather than be overwhelmed by this onslaught, Nissan pumped in $500 million into developing a modern, comfortable, luxurious, and sophisticated interpretation of the legendary Patrol. It was launched in 2010, complete with a new platform, a design overhaul, an interior that oozed luxury, a new V8 engine, a seven-speed automatic transmission and a new, more capable four-wheel drive system. The rest, as they, is history.
Over the last 8 years, the new Patrol has proved decisively that it is indeed the ‘Hero of All Terrain’. It’s been stamping its authority over the mighty dunes and craggy mountains of Arabia. And unless a radical market shift or a deft move from Toyota forces it to, Nissan can afford to not change anything at all and still sell the Patrol in the thousands. In fact, the brand claims that the car’s popularity is ever-growing, having registered a year-on-year increase in sales of 110 per cent between April and June this year. So it’s not surprising that the updates for 2019 model year Patrol are minimal. Mostly cosmetic, these include the introduction of two new exterior colours to the range, Hermosa Blue and Forged Copper Brown, the latter being the colour of our test car. In addition, the exterior gets some accessories that are exclusive to the UAE and certain select markets, such as newly-designed front and rear diffusers finished in grey that are complemented by distinctive grey side fenders. At the back, there is an optional new tow hitch cover and new exhaust tip, while new roof rails, along with a metallic-slate roof, and sequential side indicators integrated into the car’s wing mirrors round off the changes.
Things are pretty much unchanged in the cabin, which isn’t a bad thing, as the Patrol’s interior has been one of the most spacious and plush in this category. There’s enough room in there for five adults and three kids to travel in comfort. The cabin is also awash in supple leather and wood trim lending it an air of luxury. The good old 400-horsepower 5.6-litre V8 engine is a smooth and refined as ever, and the progress is effortless and stately on highways. While the suspension helps the Patrol deliver a comfortable ride on city roads, it adapts seamlessly to rough terrain thanks to the 4×4 technology switches between sand, on-road, snow and rock drive modes intelligently. It also benefits from the Hydraulic Body Motion Control System with 4-wheel independent suspension that helps optimise stability on rugged and sandy terrain.
The 2020 Patrol also comes packed with the whole lot of Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies including Forward Collision Warning and Brake Assist, Lane Intervention, Blind Spot Intervention, and Back-Up Intervention among others. Other features that augment the vehicle’s off-road capabilities include Locking Rear Differential that makes pulling out of mud or loose sand easier, and the Traction Control System that detects wheel slip and responds by altering throttle to help restore grip. Meanwhile, Vehicle Dynamic Control prevents the Patrol from sliding sideways on slippery surfaces or when negotiating a curve.
Safety is taken care of by SRS airbag system, seatbelt pretensioners and load limiters, crash-sensitive door unlock, active head restraints, automated Hazard Warning Signal, and Tyre Pressure Monitoring System.
The updates for 2019 aren’t significant enough to make someone who was neutral until now to suddenly want to buy a Patrol. But between 2010 and 2018, Nissan has given potential buyers of a full-size SUV enough and more reasons to consider the Patrol over other contenders. These new changed only add to those.