As a bucking young lad, I had a fondness for cars of all shapes and sizes. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, well-to-do individuals had a high-end sedan, but nowadays it seems the market has shifted, and luxury can be found in the most rugged of rigs, and capable machines have transitioned from the frontiers to the fronts of hotels and corporate parking lots.
The Nissan Patrol Royale is a heavy piece of equipment that has been gussied up to crawl through high streets, business districts, and uptowns; all with that off-road potential in its back pocket. I am still so unfamiliar with luxury SUVs because how can something so robust, so tough, and so burly, be as refined as a business class flight on Qatar Airways? Believe me, the 2019 Nissan Patrol Royale is big in parts of the world and big whether in it or standing next to it. Let’s get into the review because I have a lot of ground to cover – and I mean a lot.
I am no stranger to big SUVs, but the Patrol is just something else. It is much taller than other full-size offerings and also feels a lot wider. With a wheelbase of 3,075 mm, a length of 5,165 mm, a width of 1,995 mm, and a height of a towering 1,955 mm, this over two and a half-ton monster in a suit has a classy exterior that has simple lines, elegant touches, and buff panels that may make others think twice before cutting you off in traffic. The front is dominated by a large grille, flanked by two housings for the LED DRLs, low beams, and fog lamps. Halogen high beams are good for what they are and get the job done so I have no complaints here.
The side profile is just as imposing as the front. The front fenders have functional vents to exhaust heat out of the engine bay. I wish the 20-inch wheels, were two-tone though. The beltline is wide, muscular, and all sorts of bulbous. While driving, I had to do double-takes while getting in and out of parking slots to make sure that I won’t clip a pillar. On that note, it’s so tall smaller cars might come out of a side-swipe with tire marks rather than paint transfer, thanks to the 273 mm of ground clearance and thick tires. The roofline is tall and embraces the massiveness with body-color C-pillars, contrasting the blacked-out A-pillars, creating a floating roof effect that points the other way.
Nissan’s Patrol Royale features a classy back, again with simple and puffed panels. There isn’t much to hate about this simple rear, because it’s probably my favorite part of the exterior. One thing that could be polarizing for a few will be the exposed tow hitch. In my humble and honest opinion, I love this shin-splitting device, but only because it is a subtle reminder for people to back off, and nods to the rugged roots of this full-size SUV. So yes, Mr. Hitch, you can stay.
While it is a love affair in looking at the exterior, the interior is a little more polarizing. You get wood trim all around, which was good for a time when geometric patterns were still not big and manufacturers relied on the patterns of nature to create visual interest in the cabin. It’s a throwback, but I’ll be anti-climatic and say it's alright considering the competition. At least Nissan added some interesting facets, rather than play it too safe and square.
Legroom is unquestionably ample in the front and middle rows but only serviceable in the third. The third row is good enough because an average-size Filipino can fit without drama. The second row is fixed, but the legroom is so good that I can see why hinges were chosen over rails. Admittedly, the middle row is better-looking than the front, thanks to the two displays, plus the climate controls and charging ports. The cherry on top of this is the inclusion of two wireless headphones that can connect to either display and blast audio if the NVH insulation of the cabin wasn’t enough to isolate occupants from the noise outside. That being said, the sunroof is tiny in relation to the entire cabin.
Cargo space is yes. Fold the third row down – Mhmm, then tumble the middle row – oh yeah. It goes without saying, but there is so much space. Loading items is made easier thanks to the power tailgate system that is an older-generation iteration, since it has a separate lifting arm, unlike the integrated power liftgate dampers.
There is much to be said about the comfort of the Nissan Patrol Royale. Because the vehicle rides on independent double wishbone suspension with Hydraulic Body Motion Control (HBMC), it comes as no surprise that the Patrol is a plush pillow on wheels. If you go over a hump, rumble strip, or even a deep pothole, the cabin will remain rattle-free thanks to the ground clearance and big wheel/tire combo that Nissan has installed. Everyone who has ridden in the SUV felt comfortable, lauding that it is one of the best-riding cars that they have experienced. Though I’d like to wager that there are better, the Patrol is definitely a standout because humps disappeared under the foot of this giant.
Noise, vibration, and harshness was a non-issue, at any speed. The vehicle remained planted and smooth-sailing even when going at highway speeds. You could have a conversation, and to some extent, whisper to people around you.
Material quality also plays a part in this regard, since the Patrol has plush carpeting and soft seats that is further augmented by the ludicrous amounts of leg space. For the front passengers, take your pick between a heated or cooled posterior. The rear makes do with multiple air vents overhead, as well as a robust set of foot vents that make the front channels look puny, and to add, Nissan still has an amazing air conditioning system.
Here is where the Patrol falls a bit short because the head unit is an eight-inch touchscreen that does have Bluetooth, but has a clunky operating system that has too many buttons to use and not enough features to boot. Perhaps the upsides of this unit are the various graphs and meters that you can browse through if you’re a nerd like me. Otherwise, it does have a good 360-degree camera system that automatically detects which camera you need based on the proximity sensors, so it’s smarter than you think. The gauge cluster is also dated and features a monochrome display flanked by the tachometer and speedometer since it is limited in what it can display through a dot-matrix screen.
Contrasting the mediocre head unit is a 13-speaker Bose audio system that is one of the best systems I have heard in a while. The system is capable and well balanced enough to enjoy almost any genre of music. The NVH insulation lets you enjoy your music without any outside intrusion, and the cabin offers a great sound stage even if it is quite large.
Second-row passengers get their own goodies as well You can output a device’s display to these monitors with an HDMI cable, or use iPod connectivity to charge your Apple device and listen to music through the built-in headphones. The sound quality from these headsets are quite alright, and they can pair with either screen.
Being quite large, the Patrol Royale is already a robust vehicle, but expect full airbag coverage with two in the front, with side and curtain units flanking the occupants. The vehicle scored a four-star rating conducted by the NHTSA NCAP, a testing authority in the United States. It has everything that you can expect from a top of the line offering except for speed-sensing door locks, which is a huge head-scratcher for the price point that this SUV commands.
I did enjoy using the Around View Monitor (AVM), it allowed me to carefully squeeze into parking slots without having to poke my head out the window, and helped navigate tight spaces while crawling through unforgiving traffic.
Five-point-six liters, four-hundred horsepower, and five-hundred-sixty Newton-meters of torque. These words spell trouble for fuel economy, but it was worth it. On paper, without looking at anything else, you would be forgiven if you thought that this was a performance car, but it’s the engine that is accelerating this behemoth. It is a pleasure to drive the Patrol with its naturally-aspirated mill and seven-speed gearbox because it accelerates without hesitation. From a dead stop, it can get up to 100 km in about eight seconds or less. The throttle is very responsive and the gear changes are not sluggish like other SUVs. Every input is precise and the brakes had good modulation to them even if they were somewhat lacking in feel at times.
Handling is also another surprising factor that makes me want to drive this thing all day. The steering is lighter than the Nissan Terra’s, which is a good thing. You’re more relaxed in the Patrol, and it handles well for its size thanks to the fully independent suspension on all four corners. Bumps and potholes are absorbed well, and corners can be taken with ease even at speed. City driving is one of the vehicle’s strongest suits, which is ironic given how large it is, but the light steering, responsive engine, and commanding view of the road make this a choice weapon in the concrete jungles of Metro Manila.
I was able to take the Patrol out on the Island of Siquijor, where we were greeted by off-road trails that featured loose gravel. It’s not a problem for this car even with only highway terrain tires. This exercise goes to show that the Patrol never forgot its roots, though a more stringent test is needed to see how good this SUV fares off the beaten path.
With all that power comes great responsibility, in the form of gassing up at your local station with a wad of blue bills in the center console. Enjoyment is not cheap and fuel economy is not the best even on more sedate drives. City figures hovered around 4 - 5 km/L, while highway figures are more forgiving at a 9 km/L. The lowest figure I got was 1.8 km/L going at 5 km/h, in bumper to bumper traffic for more than two hours from Quezon City to Makati and back. Worrying for your wallet, but if you can afford a vehicle like this, why bother?
If you’re looking for a full-size SUV that is comfortable and will ferry you over bumps without fuss, then the Patrol Royale is a choice that you might not regret making. Even if the head unit is not up to snuff, you still get a pleasant ride and a great audio system. The interior may be a little bit dated, but sitting in the back while being isolated from the rest of the world will make you oblivious to what’s happening in the dash. You also get a handsome exterior, which I was proud to flaunt about.
Other offerings in the Philippines are priced over the P4,000,000 mark, which makes the Patrol’s P3,888,000 price tag a relative bargain for the proposition of a full-size SUV with plenty of space and too much practicality – save for a gas-guzzling engine – all while remaining fun to drive while shouting “I can’t believe it’s an SUV,” while flooring it and hearing the V8 noises that come from the engine bay. The only downside to this model is its outdated infotainment system and gauge cluster, as well as the love-it-or-hate-it interior design. All the caveats should fade away in the second row.