Forget your 10-speed electronic autos, terrain-response systems and downhill assists because these Patrols are for the desert aficionados who like to shift between high and low range via a proper transfer case and preferably change gears manually.
You could argue that for just under Dh300,000 for the range-topping Patrol Gazelle X you could buy the most sophisticated SUV out there but Nissan says that’s missing the point as the Falcon and Gazelle are aimed as weekend toys rather than as daily drivers.
Instead of modern LCD screens for things like navigation park assist, lane departure warnings, USB ports or intelligent cruise control, your money buys you a comprehensively stacked vehicle aimed at doing one thing well, bashing dunes.
Items like a satin silver front skid plate, chrome bumper guard with an LED light bar, embedded LED fog lights, 16in black alloys, an analogue air compressor and even a shiny polished silver jerry are all standard on the Dh169,000 Falcon five-speed manual and Dh174,000 five-speed automatic.
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The up-spec Gazelle which weighs in at Dh224,000 and Dh229,000 for the manual and auto respectively, steps it up by adding 17in bronze alloys on 285mm multi terrain tyres, blackened head and taillights, a power front winch, snorkel, a digital air compressor and remote tuned reservoir shock suspension on a two-inch lift kit.
It’s all very serious and with those big balloon tyres, it’s an easier car to drive in the desert than it is trying to keep it in one lane on the roads, however there’s still more left in the options basket for the flagship Gazelle X.
For Dh293,000 for the manual and Dh298,000 for the auto, the Gazelle X is a turnkey desert monster with every conceivable option as standard. In addition to the above it adds heavy duty front and rear steel bumpers with tow hooks, LED cube lights, a 30in LED light bar mounted on the roof rack, 315mm tyres, custom skid plates and oddly, a fake bonnet scoop.
Inside there’s a custom-built storage unit in the back behind a rear safety cage that house tow ropes, a safety kit, sand ramps, a high-mounted flag and two digital air compressors.
While all this comes at a price and some could argue that you could spec it yourself using aftermarket products for less, Nissan’s case is that buying it this way includes a full factory bumper-to-bumper, three-year 100,000km warranty, whereas the other way voids it. So you literally could walk into the showroom, buy the Gazelle or Falcon and head for a weekend in the Empty Quarter without adding another thing. On road, the inside tyres of our Gazelle X rubbed on the guards as it rolled through roundabouts and it needs more braking distance than conventional SUVs on road tyres but felt perfectly at home in the sand.
The extra fuel you would imagine it uses due to the added weight and wind resistance is compensated by a modified fifth gear overdrive for the manual along with taller diff ratios.
With the snorkel fitted and it carrying a four-inch lift kit, the Gazelle X has a staggering 1,500mm wading depth which is more than double the standard Toyota Land Cruiser’s 700mm claim.
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On the test cars, the Falcon’s interior featured timber capped finishings and dual climate air whereas the Gazelle X came with a basic AM-FM stereo and regular AC while the seats are trimmed in a unique tan on black leather with gazelle imprints on the head rests.
I’d forgotten what driving a proper off-road, four-wheel drive was like in the soft UAE desert sands without the electronic safety nets that are standard in nearly everything these days.
Powered by the venerable 4.8-litre, inline six-cylinder engine, the Patrol develops 280bhp and 341Nm of torque running through the old-school five-speed manual or analogue auto with a manually operated selector for 2WD, 4WD High-Range and 4WD Low-Range. From behind the wheel it doesn’t get much simpler than this.
The popular fifth generation Y61 Patrol which debuted back in 1997 felt right at home with its basic mechanicals and single-minded body kit. With mountains of torque, it plugged along in second or third gear and if the sand caught the wheels, a quick shift to Low-Range plucked it free again. No computer chips required.
Assembled and validated in the UAE, Nissan assures that the Gazelle and Falcon pass all RTA requirements for the options fitted which they claim was assembled following the UAE-based ASMA guidelines.