The new Nissan Patrol is likely to be equipped with a Mercedes-Benz diesel engine when it lands in New Zealand and Australia next year.
The agreement in April between the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Benz parent Daimler to share petrol and diesel powertrains expands the diesel choice for the seventh-generation Patrol. Before the agreement, Nissan's only modern diesel option was from partner Renault.
As it stands, the four-wheel-drive Patrol will come with Nissan's new 298kW/550Nm direct-injection 5.6-litre V8 petrol engine, mated to a seven-speed automatic gearbox, when it arrives Downunder.
The 5.6-litre unit was designed mostly for the big-ticket Middle Eastern market, where fuel is cheap and the demand is for large-capacity petrol engines. It was launched at the Abu Dhabi motor show in January 2010.
But big four-wheel-drive markets like Australia are developing a growing demand for diesel power. The same goes for New Zealand.
There is talk in Europe that the Patrol could get a reworked version of the 3-litre V6 that powers the Benz GL-Class off-roader to go alongside the 5.6-litre petrol powerplant.
This engine makes 165kW/510Nm in the GL-Class, but would be beefed up for the Patrol to compete with the Toyota Landcruiser's 4.5-litre V8 diesel and its 195kW/650Nm, and the Land Rover Discovery4's 3-litre V6 diesel and its 180kW/600Nm.
Nissan is claiming a world-first for the new Patrol with its "hydraulic body motion control system" - an automatically adjusting suspension system using oil-filled dampers that keeps the big vehicle steady in the corners and on rugged tracks.
Gone is the old solid-axle suspension, replaced with a four-wheel independent set-up. The Patrol puts power to the ground via a new "Allmode" 4x4 drivetrain that, like Nissan's smaller 4x4 offerings such as the X-Trail, allows the driver to dial up four modes - Sand, On-Road, Snow and Rocks.
The eight-seater cabin is said to have 100mm more rear seat space than the LandCruiser and is expected to be loaded with almost every comfort and safety feature, including lane departure warning and prevention, intelligent cruise control, distance control assist and forward collision warning, among others.
The new Patrol will be launched in Australia to coincide with the 50th anniversary next September of the first crossing of the Simpson Desert.
Geologist and explorer Dr Reginald Sprigg, his wife Griselda and their two young children made the pioneering trip from Andado Station to Birdsville in 1962 in a short-wheelbase Nissan Patrol G60.
The Nissan Patrol became not only the first, but also the only vehicle to complete the Spriggs' gruelling 12-day crossing of the 176,500sq km desert and its 1000 sand dunes.
Two of the original 1962 vehicles will be at next year's anniversary.
The 50th Anniversary Nissan Patrol crossing will largely follow the Spriggs' original route. It will be led by a Nissan Patrol G60 identical to that used on the first crossing.
The Nissan Patrol used in 1962 disappeared many years ago and Nissan Australia has launched a country-wide search to find it in time for the 50th anniversary celebrations.
Reg Sprigg chose the Nissan Patrol G60 for the crossing because of its strength and suitability for the harsh desert terrain.
Based on the first short-wheelbase Nissan Patrol developed in 1951 for military use, his Patrol had a 3956cc overhead valve straight six-cylinder petrol engine, a three-speed dual range transmission, live axles and leaf springs.By Alastair Sloane Email Alastair