Plenty of drivers have been waiting for it, and here it is: the brand- spanking-new 2020 Nissan Patrol. And it needs little introduction. A stalwart on UAE roads for decades, even the most wilfully out-of-touch friend (the one who isn't sure what a smartphone does and would have to read the instructions on how to prepare a Pop Tart) will know about this vehicle.
These days, it’s as much a part of the local landscape as the sand blowing gently across the highways and the camels peering bemusedly into the middle distance.
This latest model made its first appearance before the world’s motoring media on the tarmac of a posh hotel in Abu Dhabi in September. The response was positive. “Rapturous” is a word often used to depict enthusiastic crowd reactions, but at that hotel, on that hot day, it accurately described the audience response.
No great surprise, as the Patrol is a vehicle synonymous with the Emirates. Since its first appearance here way back in 1951, it’s been tested both on the country’s sands and in the most crowded urban environments. This country, therefore, was an obvious location for the 2020 Patrol’s global reveal.
There will be very few astonished looks when we reveal that this vehicle is the UAE's most popular SUV. Yes, the hardiest of off-roaders and trucks of all hues (and, let's face it, there are plenty of them) have been left in the Nissan's wake.
What of the 2020 model, though? Is it as good, or better?
Well, you won’t mistake it for anything other than what it is. The stylings are broadly similar to the last version, although the designers say it has a stronger and more sophisticated look.
The lines at the front have been softened and there is now a distinctive C-shape to the front and rear LED headlights. It also has what's termed as a V-motion grille and a choice of bumpers designed for either city use or off-roading. Power comes from the strongest engines in the car's segment, says Nissan, these being a four-litre V6 and 5.6-litre V8. The high-end models also have something called Hydraulic Body Motion Control, which ensures a more comfortable ride. Across the board, though, Nissan's engineers have been able to reduce noise and vibration in the cabin.
Otherwise, inside, the new Patrol has quilted leather seats and a new centre console that features dual displays. All the safety features on any modern, luxury SUV are also in place.
And driving it? Well, you feel like you're behind the wheel of a juggernaut. No surprise there, either. Like its ancestors, it's no dirt-swerver, this 2020 model. The car is being marketed under the slogan 'Conquer Everywhere'. With that mighty powertrain and four-wheel-drive capability, it's difficult to imagine the kind of extreme terrain the Patrol couldn't handle. Equally, you'll feel entirely comfortable getting out of one under the watchful gaze of the smart set when you're attending a swanky party on Yas Island, Dubai Marina or, if you're really honoured, a Sea Palace barza.
The sensation of speed in this vehicle is negligible, so judging how fast you're going (which is important, Patrollers) can be an issue. Mind you, the big dashboard in the 2020 version is easy to navigate and probably large enough to serve as a replacement deck for an aircraft carrier.
This car has a lightness to it that shows something of an engineering masterstroke. You can almost steer with two fingers (don’t try this on the open road, maybe just your driveway), a feature that lulls you into thinking you’re driving a much smaller car. This plus has a negative, though – bringing us back to that point about it being difficult to tell how fast you’re going.
The dashboard graphics show all the detail you need to drive safely, but you will need to refer to this frequently. The gentle thrum of the powertrain lets you know you're moving faster with a slight increase in noise and vibration, but the sensations caused by that are deceptive. It's likely you'll be going faster than you think. This is common in many large, high-up vehicles, but the Patrol enjoys a sense of calm inside the cabin that can make this more acute than in many of its rivals. Bear in mind, no collision in a vehicle of this size is going to have a happy ending. Hit anything and the unfortunate object is likely to end up in Muscat, Riyadh or the Arabian Gulf, depending upon direction of travel.
Amid the Patrol's sparkles, there are odd features. For example, the 2020 still requires drivers to manually engage the parking brake with a sturdy left-foot shove. This seems old-school in a vehicle of this quality. You wouldn't catch any of the prominent German manufacturers putting something so basic in their latest vehicles.
Additionally, while this is undoubtedly a fine car, it will suck fuel up like Homer Simpson does doughnuts. However, Nissan (and almost every other vehicle manufacturer thinking about both its future and that of the planet) is almost certainly working on alternative propulsion systems as we speak. As such, cars like the new Patrol might be a final salute for vehicles taking this much power from a fossil-fuel engine.
All this aside, Patrols will be flying out of Nissan showrooms, so, really, the only drawback about buying one is that question of exclusivity. Still, for those who are quite happy to run with the crowd, you can’t go far wrong.
The test Nissan Patrol was provided by Al Masaood Automobiles of Abu Dhabi