Fashion industry trends are what really confuse me these days. We now have so many fashion models around, all trying to get to the top and they all look the same with minor differences.
What distinguishes one from the other when they all have the same thing to offer? As far as I'm concerned, they've all got a similar set of facial expressions and poses, and from a distance of 6.1 m from the ramp, the only difference you see is in their clothes. Is there a continuum between them? Holding that thought, I find a striking similarity creeping into today's SUV market.
Ever since the 1950s the Japanese had the world's 4x4 market under siege with the introduction of many capable off-roaders. Most off-road enthusiasts will agree that one of the most distinguished of the lot and the one that has stood the test of time is the legendary Nissan Patrol.
Fortified with a super strong chassis and suspension, it remains the popular choice even for hardcore off-road enthusiasts who pride themselves in upgrading almost everything in their vehicles. Competing with other giants in the segment, time has proved that the Patrol's strength and reliability are uncompromised.
With the recent invasion of the 4x4 market by many SUVs from luxury car makers, many would say that the days of the pure 4x4 cars are numbered, but a casual drive into the dunes of Bidayer or the expanses of Sweihan will prove otherwise. For the outback adventurers of Australia, Icelandic explorers driving through ice and for sand dune bashers in the Middle East, the Nissan Patrol still remains the 'Weapon of Choice'.
The 2008 Patrol, sporting a platform whose design has not changed over two decades and with few revisions in body shape, still creates an unmistakable and bold image on the roads. Loaded with a Multifunction Garmin Navigation unit that plays DVDs and most music formats, iPod connectivity, rear view camera and Bluetooth compatibility and other features like adjustable HID headlights, fine vision instrument panel and perforated leather covered electric seats, the Patrol leaves little to be desired.
Our vehicle – loaded with a 4,800 cc naturally aspirated, in-line 6 cylinder engine – took us from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.6 seconds which is not bad for 2.6 tonnes of metal on four wheels. When Nissan upgraded the Long Wheel Base Patrol's 4,500 cc engine in 2004, it maintained the in-line 6 cylinder configuration and improved on the power, torque, fuel efficiency and response while increasing the displacement by another 300cc.
Many would agree that this 'in-line' configuration is much more balanced than the now common 'V6' configuration. By restricting this engine to the long wheel base models and providing the older but renowned 4,500 cc engine in the new short wheel base Patrols, Nissan is clearly dividing the target audience and shouting "More power with luxury".
The 460 Nm of torque that this monster produces is exactly what a dune basher needs. Horsepower figures are usually of little consequence when comparing off-road vehicles, since the torque that the engine produces at any given rpm is what really decides how capable it is going to be. Nissan is known for its great engines from their Datsun days to the likes of the 350Z and their latest show stealer the GT-R. The Patrol's 4.8 litre VTC engine is no exception.
A little research into the features of this engine revealed that the Nissan Induction Control System (NICS) aims to maximise the engine torque and performance at low speeds where it is required for optimum off-road ability and boosts power at higher speeds to ensure smooth on-road performance.
The 4.8-litre DOHC 24 valve engines use Valve Timing Control (VTC) to create a wide power and torque-band for enhanced engine performance and flexibility at both low and high engine speeds.
Coupled with the smooth five speed step-tronic transmission, this Shrek of a monster feels great. And it has exactly what Shrek has that makes him so adorable: surplus amounts of raw charm!
Where it lacks the sophisticated interiors and fancy gadgetry that make up the soul of many modern SUVs and microwave ovens, it makes up by sheer performance and getting the job done with passion.
Whether it's cruising along Emirates road, scaling the Jebel Hafeet Mountain, manoeuvring across wadi beds or even leaping off sand dunes, there is a sense of power and control combined with a strong and dignified character that is hard to match. What makes it even more pleasurable to drive is its extremely smooth and responsive 'speed-sensitive' steering.
Expecting car like handling during lane changes and while taking turns would be asking for too much. This is one area where vehicles in this category would fall behind the claims of their crossover SUV counterparts.
What about road presence? Does it stand a chance with some of the oversized 4x4 monsters (that could scare away the inhabitants of Jurassic Park) that you see on the roads these days? Well, those of us who have been in this region a long time will tell you that it takes more than just size to diminish the respect, native ruggedness and road presence that has been characterised by this legendary vehicle.
What then is the difference between the luxury SUVs of today and this new-old timer? What could be the difference between Claudia Schiffer and a newbie called Kimberly who has been trying in vain to get to the top? Sheer performance and a strong personality to match, I would say!
Philip Shane is a freelance writer based in Dubai