The Nissan Patrol Super Safari is all set to take on the desert

A bruise-free dune-bashing trip convinces us that Nissan’s off-roader is making a welcome comeback.

It takes a brave company to admit when it is wrong, but that’s exactly what Nissan has done with the new Patrol Super Safari. In 2010, for reasons best known to itself, the Japanese carmaker ditched the extreme off-roading variant of its hugely popular four-wheel drive, only to be besieged by customer demand in the Middle East. In the end, it had to relent, and this is the long-­awaited result.

It’s easy to see why the Super Safari has enjoyed such enduring appeal: this is a long way from the armchair on wheels that the regular Patrol has bloated into. It’s meaner, leaner and replete with a raised front bumper to avoid unpleasant inconveniences such as losing half of the front of your vehicle on particularly steep dunes. The retro styling, harking back to Patrols of the 1980s and 1990s, ensures that it’s a much finer- looking beast than its puffier contemporary big brother.

Rather like the Patrol V6 detailed in our article here, however, the Super Safari isn't all about brute V8 power. It has a 4.8L, in-line six-cylinder engine that produces 280hp. Those are, you might suggest, hardly mind-boggling figures for a such a sizeable unit.

Nissan, however, rightly reasons that the parameters are different for a car that it hopes will spend as much of its life on sand as it will on the tarmac. So much so that it’s attempting to pioneer a new measurement unit of off-road performance – “camelpower” – even going so far as devising a legitimate scientific formula to give weight to the initially gimmicky-­sounding term.

That was part of the focus of the Super Safari’s recent relaunch in the Dubai dunes near Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa. Nissan demonstrated, via a video test, that, as you might expect, taking a horsepower-­dripping sports car such as a GT-R into the wilds doesn’t exactly produce the finest results in terms of actually moving anywhere. With less than three-quarters of the horsepower, but plenty of torque (451Nm, to be precise), the Super Safari makes light work of the landscape as we pilot a short, relatively low-speed dune-bashing course. It takes everything that is thrown at it in its capable stride without barely breaking a sweat, sure-footed even when putting the power down through its big Bridgestones. And while our photographer, who is almost bounced out of the sunroof while attempting to take shots, might disagree, the ride over even humpback inclines is sufficiently smooth that you don’t emerge feeling battered and bruised around the backside like in many bouncier off-road rivals – I’m looking at you, Jeep. That can probably be attributed to intensive testing in GCC deserts, including in the Liwa Desert, near the border with Saudi Arabia.

This doesn’t mean the Super Safari’s interior is a basic place to reside, despite the throwback economy of the dash design, including analogue dials with endearing mini digital displays that could have originated from a 30-year-old Casio wristwatch. Far from it: the standard kit features a refrigerated cool box, navigation system, reversing camera and parking sensors, while optional extras include an electric winch.

While we don’t get the opportunity to steer the Super Safari on the road, with prices starting from about Dh186,000, for hard-core off-roaders, it might very well be the best off-the-peg value for money available right now. It remains to be seen whether camelpower will last as long in the general consciousness as the Super Safari, however.

aworkman@thenational.ae