First drive: 2016 Nissan Patrol Desert Edition in Liwa UAE
The Nissan Patrol is probably the first proper car in the history of the world to be designed specifically for the Gulf, right from the design stage. How else would you explain its massive size, its V8-only engine choices, its ample space and its overkill of a/c vents all the way to the third-row seats. We’ve already reviewed the regular Nissan Patrol, so we’ll jump straight into what makes this latest version unique — the Nissan Patrol Desert Edition, brought to you by local rally legend Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
Indeed, Ben Sulayem apparently worked with Nissan Middle East to specify the aftermarket components from several international brands, all of which were locally added to the Desert Edition, so these cars don’t quite come with the mods from the factory in Japan itself.
The mods include extensive underbody skidplates front and rear, bead-lock wheels and offroad tyres, special springs and nitrogen shocks, built-in air compressor, wheel-arch extensions, attachable flag, kinetic tow rope, sand-recovery ramps and clip-on sun shades, aside from badges denoting “Desert Edition” and Ben Sulayem’s signature on the D-pillars.
The Desert Edition is based on the base Patrol LE model, which means it comes with the 400 hp 5.7-litre engine, manually-adjusted cloth seats, navigation and, most notably, regular suspension instead of the fancy hydraulic body-control system that the top-spec Patrols get. Nissan says the Desert Edition will be limited to 200 cars, but they continued to hint that they might sell the parts to build your own anyway.
That’s great, but how does it drive? Well, it did perfectly fine in the deserts of Liwa in Abu Dhabi, rarely requiring above 2000 rpm to traverse minor dunes, and managing the tallest dunes with no shortage of power at higher revs, all within second gear.
The modded Patrol was unstressed, even with no obvious increase in ground clearance compared to a regular Patrol. About the only issue we could see was that all the test cars had front bumpers that had popped out at the sides, no doubt due to the overexuberance of the safari drivers who were hired to give us trickier “pro” rides, which they conducted with aplomb.
All the driving was conducted in 4-high mode, and the big car felt nigh-on unsinkable with the more-aggressive tyres deflated for soft-sand duty. If you leave the ESP off, you don’t even need to fiddle with the “terrain management” settings that seemed to be stuck in “on-road” mode in our specific test car.
We didn’t drive the Desert Edition on the road and we didn’t drive it back-to-back with a regular Patrol for comparison, so we can’t comment on either. But it’s safe to say that it probably handles soft sand a bit better and can take harder knocks more frequently.
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Photos by Nissan Middle East.