First drive: 2019 Nissan Patrol Y61 Super Safari, Falcon & Gazelle X in the UAE
A couple of months ago, if you remember (before the whole debacle over Nissan’s CEO pay in Japan that has nothing to do with the products), some new variants of the Patrol Y61 were launched just for the GCC, joining the Patrol Super Safari that debuted a year earlier. We actually drove some of these new models, marking our first time properly driving a Y61 after all these decades in the UAE.
The Y61 Patrol debuted a whopping two decades ago, receiving its last proper facelift maybe 15 years ago. Since then, this reveal of new variants — Falcon, Gazelle and Gazelle X — has been the biggest thing to happen to the model that soldiers on in only a handful of markets.
The first version we drove was the Nissan Patrol Falcon, with a 5-speed manual gearbox no less. The most obvious clues that this is a Falcon are the black fender flares (we’d paint them body-colour), chrome front-bumper garnishes with an LED light bar, halo running lights and a chrome jerry can mounted on the tailgate alongside a massive falcon motif on the spare wheel cover.
Inside, the Falcon features premium-looking tan-leather seats embroidered with a falcon badge, a refrigerated cooler box, dual front airbags, keyless entry system, manual a/c with rear cooling and a basic stereo.
The cabin is airy, although rear legroom is average, while the boot floor is high with two side-hinged tailgate doors. Trim materials don’t look premium, but there are a lot of soft-touch surfaces.
The drivetrain remains unchanged, with a 280 “gross hp” 4.8-litre inline-6 (or about 248 net hp) mated to a 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic. The manual version we drove had long shifter throws, feeling occasionally notchy. Interestingly, the old-school clutch pedal is rock-hard when the engine is off, but becomes light enough for daily driving once the car is turned on. It’s not the most enjoyable manual gearbox on the road, and we prefer the 5-speed automatic instead.
We also drove the automatic version of the Patrol Super Safari, which is more expensive than the Falcon and differs only in terms of outer paintjob, trim bits and additional accessories such as an optional winch and a touchscreen stereo. The old-school gearbox does the job fine, and easy to keep limited to the lower gears when you need it to.
And then there are the Gazelle and the Gazelle X models. The Gazelle is easily identifiable by its “mud” body decals, larger fender flares, snorkel, winch, lift kit and 17-inch offroad wheels with 285mm multi-terrain tyres, among other mods. The Gazelle X further adds a roof rack, offroad bumpers, metal storage drawers in the boot, free-flow exhaust, a 4-inch lift kit and much more.
While the Y61 doesn’t feel particularly quick, the Gazelle X on the other hand has been regeared with shorter ratios, which means it feels far quicker and actually quite entertaining, especially as its louder exhaust note lets the world know you are coming.
The Y61 with regular tyres offers ride quality that is surprisingly smooth for the most part, even with live-axle suspension. Cabin noise is reasonably subdued on the highway too, although the Gazelle models with offroad tyres are a bit louder. Moderate body roll is obvious in all the versions, while the Gazelle X leans particularly hard when corners are taken quickly. Grip limits can be easily explored and the brakes are adequate, while the steering is slightly rubbery in its responses.
The five-door Y61 expectedly shines offroad, as the torque-heavy engine helps the Safari push along on the dunes. We drove the automatic Falcon, the Super Safari and the Gazelle X in the desert. The first two were fairly good, occasionally bogging down on some dunes but never getting stuck. However, the Gazelle X is on a different level altogether, as it charges over the softest terrain without even flinching. The tall height needs to be watched if you intend to side-slope on the dunes, but otherwise, the Gazelle X is the definition of point-and-shoot offroading.
The Gazelle X is the most expensive on the price ladder though, so the Falcon and the Super Safari represent the best value for money if you’re starting out in offroading and don’t intend to go exploring the edges of the planet. Only the Super Safari can be had in 3-door trim for now, and that is a good bargain option for serious offroad enthusiasts too.
The Y61 is too blast-from-the-past for our tastes as a daily driver, but if you want a serious offroader that can also take the family around, there are very few left like it.
For prices and specs, visit the Nissan buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique H. Chowdhury and Nissan Middle East.