OUT ON THE HIGHWAY

BACK ON BLACK FOR THE PATROL AS IT HEADS INTERSTATE.

AFTER an epic two weeks exploring the Victorian High Country in the Y62 Patrol, it was back to the blacktop for ANU-576, but thankfully not limited to the city commute. A weekend run to Adelaide and back was on the cards, and the big Nissan is a beaut highway tourer. With its luxuriously appointed and spacious interior, and that powerful V8 engine backed by a smooth-shifting sevenspeed automatic transmission, the Patrol makes easy work of long-distance drives, and Melbourne to Adelaide passes like a quick trip.

Itís during a solo drive like this when you really appreciate some of the finer features of the Ti-L Patrol. The Bose audio system is a killer; the leather seats are big and comfortable and can be heated or cooled to your liking, depending on the climate; while the active cruise control makes keeping your speed on the right side of the law much easier.

A lot of four-wheel drivers will tell you all these comfort and convenience features are unnecessary and just something else that could wrong in the bush, and when Iím driving my old Land Cruiser I tend to agree with them. But itís a case of Ďyou wonít miss them until youíve had themí, and I find I want those features again when getting out of the fully equipped Patrol and into lower spec 4x4s. You might scoff at heated leather seats, but how many of you would buy a new vehicle without air-conditioning or power windows? You wonít miss them until youíve had them.

One feature Iíve become accustomed to Ė and one Nissan hasnít got right Ė is the voice recognition software for using the phone. I spend a lot of time in cars, and having an easy-to-use Bluetooth phone system is essential and made even better (and safer) with voice-command dialling. But the Patrolís system never works. It never gets the message and I end up screaming at it in frustration Ė itís lucky the unit is integrated into the dash, because I would have thrown it out the window a long time ago. I reckon it must be a Japanese thing, as the voice command in every Toyota 4x4 Iíve driven is equally as useless and frustrating. Unlike the systems in the Ford Everest and Ranger, Jeeps, and most recently the Mercedes-Benz X-Class, which all work very well, allowing safer use of the phone while driving.

YOU MIGHT SCOFF AT HEATED LEATHER SEATS, BUT HOW N MANY OF YOU WOULD BUY A EW 4X4 WITHOUT AIR-CON?

Driving to Adelaide was also the first time weíd done some serious highway miles with the Toyo Open Country R/T tyres fitted, as well as the Ironman roof rack and accessories mounted up top. The car developed a wind noise that seemed to be coming from up top, which was strange as nothing up there had changed or moved since the High Country trip. I spent the first six hours of the drive trying to pin the annoying whistle down Ė stopping and adjusting the light bar, moving the awning and playing with the rack itself, but to no avail. It was only when the climate control switched from re-circ to fresh and the note of the whistle changed that it twigged it was something else. Opening and closing each of the windows changed the tune again and revealed that the passenger rear window was cracked a millimetre inside the rubber, and that was where the whistle was coming from. It was such a relief to get back to the quiet cabin which remains rattle-free, even after its recent bush bashing.

The Toyo R/Ts are also quiet on the road, but, along with the roof rack, they didnít help with fuel consumption. The Patrol slurped 14.31 litres of PULP on its interstate trip. Not too bad, really, when just sitting on the speed limit on the highway.