Our intrepid Overberg explorers, Frieda Lloyd and John Floyd, have been reunited after a short break and decided to celebrate their reunion with an epic vehicle, the Nissan Patrol 5.6 V8 LE Premium, to match the spirit of the Absa Cape Epic that visited our region earlier this month.

John: The Nissan Patrol has been around for more than 60 years and is one of those legendary vehicles that every motoring enthusiast has heard of, but very few have ever encountered in the metal. I must confess that apart from the diesel-engined pick-up of many years ago, this was my first close encounter.

The first impression is one of magnitude. This SUV beast is huge, at just over five metres long, a tad under two metres wide and high, and weighing in at nearly 2.8 tons. In fact, it is the first time I have ever appreciated running boards, usually a restriction off-road, but in this case allowing easier access to the cabin.

Frieda: I heard my ride before I saw John and the Nissan Patrol arriving to take me on a local excursion. In typical V8-style there was a lovely sound effect to my ride that joins the ranks of Prado and Land Cruiser at the top end of the luxury SUV market. And luxurious it is – inside and out. 

The Patrol has plenty of space and can seat 7 people comfortably. Just the right capacity if you want to take a drive up the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley to visit some wineries and scout the Absa Cape Epic route that took 1 300 riders through the regi

on on two consecutive days.

The steep incline at La Vierge was no challenge for this vehicle as the V8 engine played its part to ensure a speedy and smooth acceleration in the same style, I imagined, of Nino Schurter and Lars Forster who tamed the Cape Epic this year. (Almost as smooth as the Chardonnays I was looking forward to tasting.)

John: The interior is well finished, with accent trim in faux wood grain complementing the leather upholstery and satin metal elements. The driver’s seat is truly a command position; good visibility aided by rear- and surround-view cameras ensure that you have good spatial positioning. The dashboard, switchgear, infotainment/navigation screen and instrumentation are easy to read and ergonomically very effective.

Listing the extremely comprehensive specification level requires far more space than I have in this column; just accept that all the bells and whistles are standard equipment.

Our trip took in locations on the R320 Hemel-en-Aarde road, with a visit to two of the splendid wine farms to be found in this beautiful valley. The ride quality of the Patrol was excellent on both the tarred surface and the gravel roads leading to the farms.

Frieda: Our first stop was Bosman Hermanus, a child-friendly winery on the Karwyderskraal Road just beyond the De Bos Dam, which offers light bites to go with their wines and views. On the last Sunday of every month Bosman hosts a Family Fun Day from 12:00 to 15:00 where parents can enjoy a flatbread with a complimentary glass of wine, while the children play on the jungle gym. Besides vineyards, the farm produces proteas and there are just under 5 ha of Pink Ice, Sylvias, Red Rex and King proteas. 

The Patrol was begging for more action and we were keen to take the road upward and onward to continue with our exploration. With so many wineries and farm stalls it is difficult to select one stop only. We took a left at Ataraxia, whose owner/winemaker Kevin Grant is one of four Hermanus winemakers that have been invited to join the ranks of the Cape Winemakers’ Guild – an acknowledgement he received for his Chardonnay, Under the Gavel.

John: After our sojourns at the wineries we took to the hills with a climb to the top of the Highlands Road, which offered more of a challenge for the big Nissan. The road is in fair condition, with a few rough sections under repair, which the 5.6 litre V8 petrol engine and seven-speed automatic transmission had no issues with. Delivering 298 kW and torque of 560 Nm makes life easy and the suspension demonstrated the ability to turn rough, uneven gravel roads into a freeway – a soft ride but great road holding.

This was all accomplished in 2WD and, for a short while, 4WD High. The grip was excellent, as was the power steering and, amazingly, the Patrol belied its size even on the narrower sections. It really is a remarkably competent vehicle which offers driver confidence whatever the road condition – 272 mm minimum ground clearance means there are not too many places it cannot go.

Frieda: Coffee at the Onion Shed took us halfway between two Cape Epic spectator points – Creation Wines and The One Heaven and Earth. The Onion Shed is only 11,7 km from Caledon but a great pitstop for coffee and cake. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday; during the week from 11:00 to 17:00 and weekends from 08:00 to 18:00. 

John: Fuel economy is claimed at an average of 14.4 l/100km – not frugal and a good reason to have the 140-liter fuel tank to provide a reasonable range.

The Nissan Patrol is one of those vehicles that is hard to categorise, but it is a truly capable SUV. With a full seven-seat capacity and the ability to haul up to 3 500 kg of braked trailer, the Patrol must rate as one of a kind in the marketplace.

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