Sand, sand, and even more sand.
That's pretty much the view from the driver's seat here in the Arabian desert, specifically in the UAE. Google tells us the temperature outside is 40-degrees centigrade. But coupled with the sun, the real feel is probably much higher.
Not that it matters inside this 2020 Nissan Patrol with its climate control working at its brand new prime, all while we sailed through the flats of the deserts. The camels can only look on in envy as we drove by at a leisurely pace.
The 2020 Patrol isn't a completely new one. This model may have just debuted in Abu Dhabi the night before we went out, but in large part, it's still the original Y62 chassis that Nissan debuted in 2010.
We're not complaining. Many frame-based SUVs have exceptionally long lifespans given the ruggedness built right in from the start. The Land Cruiser, in current J200 or LC200 form, is already 12 years old. The Pajero (AKA: Montero) is even older at 13 years. So all in all, the Patrol is actually younger at 9 years.
And it's a proven frame not just on the road or on the dirt, it's also proven on the sales charts particularly in the Middle East. Nissan shares that the Patrol is actually the UAE’s favorite SUV with a market share of over 45%. We didn’t really believe it until we saw how many Patrols were on the road during our four-day stay. In terms of sighting frequency, the Patrol is basically their Vios.
The 2020 version is actually their second refresh of the model, and this time the Patrol actually gets a kind of dual-citizenship: one for the city and another for the off-road. What is common for both that they get a new large grille, flanked with c-shaped headlamps with rather large LED daytime running lights.
The city version also gets a restyled bumper with a serious dose of chrome on both corners surrounding the LED foglamps. There are some “air vents” just to break the big blank space here. It's a bit flashy for us, but it might work for the more mature target market that's more liberal with chrome on a car.
The off-road version meanwhile sheds the chrome on the bumper and gets a slightly angled bottom for a better approach angle at over 32-degrees. That will minimize scrapes and gashes when going off-the-beaten-path.
The sides are pretty much the same save for a fresh set of wheels in 18-inch diameter for “standard” models. Premium trims get 20-inch alloys in polished aluminum with gunmetal accents. Nothing really out of the ordinary to report, though if you peek under the wing mirrors, you'll see integrated cameras that work with the 360-view system.
The Patrol gets a butt-lift too with a refreshed tailgate with a side-to-side application of chrome than spans from the middle to the new enlarged tail lamps. The Patrol actually has quite a bit of satin-finish chrome which tones down the bling; shiny, mirror-finish chrome isn’t as widely appealing as it used to be. The overall treatment gives it an illusion of width and a better presence on the road when seen from behind.
As we drove around Abu Dhabi, we can tell that the Patrol really has a huge fanbase. We base that on the reaction from fellow motorists on the road; many were haphazardly filming and snapping away as we were driving. The auto paparazzi were out in force, and we were the marks.
Showbiz factor or not, what really mattered to us behind the wheel and sitting inside the cabin was the interior. The unforgiving desert heat couldn't really faze our drive of the Patrol because Nissan says they have applied a new clear heat reduction film on all windows from the factory to reduce UV and IR to lower cabin temperature. This in addition to improvements to the already legendary Nissan aircon system, made us feel like the coolest drivers out in the desert heat as we drove hundreds of kilometers around the UAE.
One thing we really did appreciate was the upholstery. It's really nice. Nissan says the Patrol has “GT-R tan leather”; clearly, it was inspired by the interior of the GT-R high-performance sports coupe. It comes with a quilted stitching pattern that is luxurious with a handmade look. Oddly enough, it feels sporty too. It may look all hand finished, but Nissan says only the steering wheel of top-grade versions get that kind of handmade leather wrap. Several surfaces were also made softer and stitched leather finishes were applied to the center console as well.
There are also plenty of new tech features. The Patrol finally gets a pair of touchscreen infotainment panels; 8-inches up top, 7-inches at the bottom. Truth be told, they had a bit of a learning curve, but once you got familiar with them, they were alright. The Patrol now also gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a feature long been demanded by its fans. Heck, even manong-driver has an Android phone.
Under the hood is still the same VK56 5.6-liter V8 rated at 400 PS and 560 Nm mated with the 7-speed automatic transmission. Performance is the same as there wasn’t much to change. Other markets do get the option for a 4.2-liter V6, though we didn't have any examples on hand to try out.
Floor the throttle and a somewhat muted growl comes from the engine bay. Some say there isn't really a replacement for displacement, but fuel economy will not be this Patrol's strong suit. Acceleration, however, is.
That V8 has a lot of grunt down low in the RPM range for a petrol motor, and we like the shifting of its 7-speed auto. Too bad we didn't have as much space to really open up the tap, nor would we want to attract the attention of the UAE's Five-Oh... unless we want to know what it's like to be chased down by Bugatti Veyrons or McLarens. Yes, those are their police cars here.
While the manufacturer did say the new V8 comes with an “Eco” mode button, we couldn’t quite find it. Not that it matters as gas is cheap here, but we sure hope they spec Philippine-bound units with it. We spotted a retail unit that was labeled with an 8.2 km/l fuel efficiency rating under GCC standards, but that could be deceiving: their cities aren’t as congested as ours.
While the engine and transmission remain, engineers were busy when it came to the HBMC, otherwise known as hydraulic body motion control. It's an adaptive suspension system that gives more refinement in the city and adjusts to give it better off-road capability. As the roads were mostly, if not all smooth, we weren’t really able to put comfort to the ultimate test. It did handle slightly better on the 11.7-kilometer winding road leading up to Jebel Hafeet mountain, or about 1.3 kilometers above sea level.
In terms of safety, it gets new features such as an automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, and auto high beam assist. These new features add to the features already available in the Middle East such as blind-spot warning/intervention, around-view-monitor with moving object detection, adaptive cruise control, backup collision warning/intervention, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning/intervention, and intelligent rear-view mirror. That's a lot, right? We do hope these all come with the Philippine version.
At the end of our stint with the 2020 Patrol, we already know what a lot are going to say: this Patrol is just a facelift, nothing more.
True, the obvious changes are cosmetic but Rich Miller, Nissan's head for their global LCV (light commercial vehicle) program, was quick to point out that 30% of the vehicle has actually been changed. It just so happens that 30% is mostly where we don't see it.
We like the features, the tech, and the new look, but we do wish Nissan had done something about the powertrain. Perhaps a downsized turbo petrol engine would work or some of their electrification technology like E-Power. Yes, many of us would want a diesel, but the world is already moving away from that engine thanks to Germany's dieselgate emissions scandals.
Nevertheless, fuel cost isn't going to be a big issue with Patrol customers in the Philippines because they can easily afford it. There isn't a problem with fuel prices here in Abu Dhabi either; a liter of gas is about the same as a 1.5-liter bottle of pure drinking water.
No wonder Nissan held the launch here.