Used buying guide: Nissan Patrol GR
20 September 2021 - autocar
Everybody remembers the Land Rover Defender, Mitsubishi Shogun and Toyota Land Cruiser, but the Nissan Patrol? We see a wrong that needs righting
I have fond memories of the Nissan Patrol from when, as editor of Practical Caravan in the late 1990s, I used one to haul various large tourers (an insider’s term for a caravan) around the UK.
Since the Patrol goes all the way back to 1951, to be clear, mine was the Mk5 version, codenamed Y61, which was on sale in the UK from 1998 to 2009, being facelifted in 2005. It’s the Y61 to me and Nissan insiders, but to the wider public it’s the Patrol GR.
Whatever you call it, it’s a tank-like 4x4 with a traditional ladder-frame chassis, a cavernous seven-seat interior and all the four-wheel-drive trickery that you could wish for. Its 2.8-litre diesel engine is a smooth, torquey six-pot with an intercooler. Stir the gears and it can power the car down the road reasonably quickly.
With a kerb weight of 2335kg (for the five-door version) and a towing capacity of 3500kg, the Patrol GR is a match for any large tourer, too. It’s stable and secure and offers good visibility, although the rearward view is spoiled by only one of the two boot doors having a washer-wiper.
While we’re criticising it, the steering is woolly, the handling is ponderous, the brakes are spongy and refinement is so-so. The Patrol GR is a workhorse, pure and simple, albeit a well-equipped one (some later models even got a head-up compass).
It has always had an image problem, though. Never mind that you could see white ones nightly on TV ferrying aid to stricken areas of the world, most people after a large off-roader either went to Land Rover or, if reliability was more important than badge, Mitsubishi or Toyota.
Our thus forgotten off-roader was offered in short- and long-wheelbase forms, but here we’re interested in the latter, mainly because today it’s the only version available in numbers.
Not big numbers, though. There are only around 1000 Patrols of all generations on the roads and a handful of Patrol GRs in the classifieds, at prices ranging from £3500 to £10,000. Most are 3.0 Di versions; this four-pot, which makes 156bhp and 261lb ft of torque at 2000rpm, replaced the 130bhp 2.8 TD in 2000.
Then in 2003, the short-wheelbase Patrol GR was dropped and the trim levels were tweaked, with generously equipped SVE (foglights, leather seats and a sunroof) replacing SE.
The 2005 facelift ushered in a new but very similar-looking body, a refreshed interior and more standard kit. It also brought an end to the turbo trouble that can plague earlier 3.0 Di examples.
That aside, the Patrol GR is reliable. Servicing is reasonably cheap and straightforward, especially on the 2.8-litre models, while parts availability from third-party suppliers such as Japanese 4x4 Spares is excellent.
There’s a strong club scene, too, so you will never be short of technical support and advice. For a tough, no-nonsense off-roader at a fair price, then, the Patrol GR is hard to beat.
An expert’s view - Zac Dowen, Nissan 4x4 Owners Club: “I grew up in a family of Land Rover enthusiasts but, having seen the grief they suffered, I decided to buy Japanese. I had a Nissan Terrano for a time, then changed it for a Patrol. It was a far better off-roader straight out of the box, with solid live axles front and rear and a centre differential lock.
I prefer the 2.8-litre engine to the later 3.0-litre, which isn’t so reliable. In fact, one of my two Patrols was a 3.0-litre until I changed its engine – that’s how much I prefer it! The Patrol is a fine, well-made utilitarian vehicle that’s fit for purpose. It has motorsport pedigree, too, having competed successfully in the Paris-Dakar Rally.”
Engine: The 2.8, which has a timing belt, can suffer seized glow plugs. Inexpert removal could cost you a cylinder head. Some running issues can be traced to biofuel having been used; this rots the injector pump seals, but they can be replaced. The 3.0-litre engine has a timing chain and also suffers performance issues, leading some owners to blank off the exhaust gas recirculation valve, compounding the turbo trouble early 3.0 cars can suffer.
Gearbox: Check that changes are smooth and that the clutch isn’t slipping. Manual models before 2002 have a weak fifth, so check it engages and stays there.
Brakes, suspension and steering: The brakes aren’t up to much, so many owners fit better EBC pads and discs. The brake lines are steel and corrode. Suspension bushes will be tired, but Superpro items are a popular upgrade. Something like a Pedders replacement suspension kit will transform the ride and handling. The steering can suffer failed joints; Pedders can supply an upgrade kit. Off-roading enthusiasts fit a steering damper to reduce kickback, which can break your thumb.
Body: Check for bubbling on the front wings, above the plastic wheel-arch spats. Rust is so common underneath around the front crossmember that owners call it “standard chassis rust”. The rear subframe rusts badly, too. Check for off-roading scrapes front and rear.
Interior: Feel the carpets for damp (deep wading is a common cause) and make sure the electric windows and air-con work.
Also worth knowing: Patrol 3.0 Di owners will be familiar with the acronym Nads, which stands for Nissan Anti-Detonation System as shorthand for the way that owners stop the four-pot destroying itself (usually caused by the turbo overboosting). The solution is to fit a Dawes needle valve.
How much to spend
£3500-£5999: Early 2.8 TD and 3.0 Di LWB examples with decent mileage and in fair to tidy condition. Includes a 1999 3.0 Di with 87,000 miles for £3500.
£6000-£7499: Good choice of post-2002 3.0 Di cars with decent mileages and good service histories. We found a 2004 3.0 Di SVE with 133,000 miles for £7495.
£7500 and above: The best 3.0 Di examples, made from 2004 to 2007. Includes a very nice one-owner 2004 3.0 Di SVE auto with 95,000 miles for £7995.
One we found - Nissan Patrol GR 2.8 TD SE Touring 5dr, 1998, 119,000 miles, £5890:
This one-owner car has a full, dealer-only service history and benefits from having the smoother engine. It has just had a new Nissan cambelt kit and fresh all-terrain tyres fitted. There is some chassis welding but to a high standard.