4WD Showdown - Nissan Patrol versus Toyota LandCruiser

Nissan and Toyota badges

Holden or Ford, Engel or Waeco, Coke or Pepsi, Beatles or Stones and of course that old chestnut, Nissan or Toyota, and who makes the best four wheel drive on the market.

Nissan and Toyota got serious about selling 4x4 vehicles back in the 1950's when both manufacturers released rugged 2 door soft tops for the Japanese military.

Heavily styled around the famous Willys 'Jeep' these compact and utilitarian units set the stage for the brand rivalry that continues to polarise the four wheel drive fraternity today.

Going By the Numbers

The title-fight is naturally staged between the Nissan Patrol and the Toyota LandCruiser while the Navara and Hilux have kept the crowds entertained in the mid-weight division.

If we look historically at the numbers of new vehicles sold in Australia Toyota is miles ahead of the pack, not only in the off-road stakes but in vehicle sales overall.

Mining companies and pastoralists pump thousands of utes and sedans into the bush every year and the LandCruiser has become the undisputed workhorse of rural Australia.

But do sales statistics alone hand the victory to Toyota? Perhaps not.

In the U.S. the iconic Jeep Grand Cherokee is streets ahead of the large 4x4 pack in terms of sales while in Europe, Land Rover is the leading large SUV manufacturer in many countries.

In reality sales statistics can't really paint an accurate picture of the best 4WD. Suzuki Vitara's outsell Porche Cayenne's by the thousands in the SUV crossover market but which one would you rather own?

A Bit of History

Over the years the Patrol and LandCruiser have competed series for series, each marque taking it's turn to innovate and style while the other plays catch-up.

  • Round 1. (1960 - 1980) - Patrol 60 Series versus LandCruiser 50 & 60 Series
  • Round 2. (1980 - 1994) - Patrol 160 MQ Series versus LandCruiser 60 & 70 Series
  • Round 3. (1987 - 1998) - Patrol Y60 GQ versus LandCruiser 70 & 80 Series
  • Round 4. (1997 - 2010) - Patrol Y62 GU versus LandCruiser 70 & 100 Series
  • Round 5. (2010 - ____) - Patrol Y62 versus LandCruiser 70 & 200 Series

Nissan Patrol 60 Series vs. Toyota LandCruiser 50 & 60 Series.

Round 1 saw basic styling and performance from both Nissan (Nissan-Datsun back then) and Toyota. Both manufacturers were finding their feet in the 4WD stakes and the Patrol and LandCruiser were yet to break the shackles of their military heritage. The 60 Series Patrol was the first vehicle to cross the Simpson Desert after a series of Land Rover failures while LandCruisers were being used to get around the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme.

- Winner: Draw

Nissan Patrol 160 Series vs. Toyota LandCruiser 60 & 70 Series.

Round 2 and both vehicles were starting to take the form of the four wheel drives we drive today. Gone were the Jeep like grills and tank-like interiors as the designers began to insert a little comfort and functionality. Toyota introduced the 70 Series - timeless styling that continues today. The new 6 cylinder diesel engines began to forge LandCruisers reputation as solid and reliable performers. Nissan finally realised that 4x4's needed a rear limited slip differential as standard equipment while both manufacturers developed a turbo charging system for their engines - helping to move these big cumbersome beasts along in a slightly more enthusiastic fashion.

- Winner: Toyota

Nissan Patrol Y60 Series vs. Toyota LandCruiser 70 & 80 Series.

Round 3 and Nissan got it's act together and produced the GQ Patrol while Toyota pumped out thousands of 80 Series wagons. The 80 Series proved to be a spectacular seller but it was Nissan who stole the show with new coil sprung suspension that delivered a much more comfortable ride. Neither the Patrol or 'Cruiser were great city cars, both are heavy lumbering beasts that struggle to cover-up their truck like manners. The Y60 gets our vote because it proved that a kidney transplant wasn't required after a weekend of rock-bashing and because it promised better things to come with interior refinements more inline with a passenger car.

- Winner: Nissan

Patrol Y62 GU vs. LandCruiser 70 & 100 Series

Round 4 is tough because both marques dug their heels in and produced great off-road vehicles. The 100 series 'Cruiser won a bagful of industry awards while the GU Patrol earned the enviable reputation of having the strongest driveline on the market. Both rigs produced bundles of power and cruised the highways or the bush with ease. These 4x4's will tow a train or climb over an elephant and although the LandCruiser edged ahead technologically the 6 cylinder turbo Patrol was under-developed and could be tweaked to produced huge horsepower.

- Winner: Draw

Patrol Y62 vs. LandCruiser 70 & 200 Series

Round 5 and the new Patrol Y62 has a 5.6-litre V8, a seven-speed automatic and an interior that looks like it should be in a modern European luxury car. With a host of electronic and technological advances it is a world apart from previous Patrols. The 200 Series LandCruiser has continued building on the enviable reputation of earlier models but it looks like the new Patrol is going to give it a real shake up. Time will decide who wins this one.

Who's Got the Best Bits?
  • Patrols have a reputation for building extremely strong driveline components.
  • Toyota's 6 cylinder diesel engine is near bullet proof and can rack upwards of a million kilometres.
  • Nissan makes great limited slip differentials that find traction where others fail.
  • Toyota knows how to gear their 4x4's better than anyone else. They seem to match the engine torque and gear ratios ratios so their vehicles just tractor through the rough stuff.
  • Nissan 6 cylinder turbo diesels are under-tuned and enormous power gains can be wrought from them.
  • 70 Series 'Cruisers have good ground clearance straight from the factory.
  • Nissan worked out early on how to create a comfortable ride by dropping leaf spring suspension in favour of coils springs.
  • Toyota's 4.5 litre V8 turbo diesel is an absolute ripper.
  • Nissan developed interior comfort levels that should have embarrassed LandCruiser designers.
  • 70 Series 'Cruisers have good axle articulation for a leaf sprung 4x4 - making for a capable scrambler.
  • Toyota learned how to make better use of the available cabin space although Nissan gives more leg room.
Who's Got the Worst Bits?
  • Patrols tend to skimp when it comes to engine cooling using smallish radiators which can be problematic when combined with a turbo.
  • LandCruiser limited slip differentials are under-performers.
  • Nissan should have used larger front wheel bearings in all models. Small bearings mean high maintenance tending towards unreliability.
  • Maybe Toyota doesn't know how to rust proof their 4x4's or maybe their vehicles spend most of their time around salt water because LandCruisers seem prone to corrosion.
  • GQ Patrols that have been pushed hard can bend front axle housings, panhard rods and rear trailing arms.
  • 5th gear in 70 & 80 Series LandCruiser manual boxes are prone to failure.
  • Nissans 3.0-litre ZD30 diesel was a disaster with fuel system dramas and a tendency to self destruct.
  • The starter motor in 70 & 80 Series Toyota's can suffer premature failure.
  • GQ & GU Nissan with rear coils springs tend to develop cracks in the chassis and around coil spring mounts.
  • Toyota didn't make a decent seat until the advent of the 100 Series.
  • The Nissan 3.0 litre turbo diesel is a poor match for this style of 4WD. Too 'peaky' delivering it's power in the wrong places.
  • The front ball joints on 80 Series 'Cruisers could pack it in when subjected to high torque situations whilst turning.
  • Early Nissan GU manual gearboxes were suspect.
  • 70 & 80 Series LandCruisers have a seal on the transfer case input shaft which fails regularly.
  • GU Patrol's fitted with 3.0L diesels suffered from early clutch failure.
  • LandCruiser 200 Series have a problem engaging 6th gear under 120kph.
  • Nissan coil springs begin to sag early in life.
  • LandCruiser 100 Series with independent front suspension are prone to cracking the lower control arms.
  • GQ petrol engines were prone to developing cracks in the head.
Which One Performs the Best?

Lets face it these are big heavy rigs. All the models here tip the scales at well over 2 tonnes. They eat fuel to boot. Compared to your nice civilised city commuter these things are fuel monsters. Diesel engines tend to fare a little better than the petrol jobs, delivering longer range and better economy and if you're really serious about four wheel drive capability then the low down torque of the diesel generally provides more workable power.

Part of the compromise of owning a vehicle designed for serious off-road work is the understanding that road handling suffers.

Heavy bodies with a high centre of gravity equate to body roll around corners and less than perfect braking ability.

All of the models listed above display similar handling symptoms. It's just part of the genre. The latest models are much more sophisticated in their handling and power delivery. As a general rule of thumb the older the series the less capable and less comfortable. 4WD's aren't like 1970's Jaguars which can still compete against todays bubble cars where comfort is concerned. The older the 4WD - the lumpier the ride.

As to which marque is the best Toyota LandCruiser or Nissan Patrol, the answer is …it depends.

Tall people tend to feel a bit cramped in a Toyota with shorter legroom. The Nissan ride leans towards greater comfort levels with unbreakable drive trains - ideal for a bang-up bush bashing or as the platform for a competition build up.

Every mechanic in every town in Australia can work on a Toyota LandCruiser and source parts from the wreck down the road or straight off the shelf. The Australian Army once bought 270 LandCruisers to deploy in the Northern Territory on the basis that a diff or gearbox or anything else could be sourced from any mine site or cattle station in the event of a military emergency.

We like the way Toyota puts the power to the ground. The geometry between engine torque and gear ratios has a real synchronicity that delivers instant feedback and throttle control.

Nissan's rear limited slip differential just keeps finding the traction that keeps both rear wheels churning through the sticky stuff.

We hate the way Toyota window winders disintegrate and we hate the way things rattle loose on Nissans.

Good servicing returns good lifespan. Regular oil changes, especially on turbo models, diff and gear oil inspections and good clean air can make or break a vehicle that is asked to perform in less than perfect conditions.

It really doesn't matter if you choose a LandCruiser or a Patrol. Both 4WD's are purpose designed for a specific job and both models make an admirable job of it. Nissan and Toyota have passed the TopDog mantle backwards and forwards since the 1950's and that looks set to continue. Both manufacturers make good four wheel drives. Some models have problems like Nissans 3.0 litre turbo diesel and it's usually best to stay well clear until they've been properly sorted out. For the most part both Nissan and Toyota make strong, reliable off road tourers. Brand loyalty is persuasive and the most devoted fan is always the loudest.

When we talk about 'The Best 4WD' most Patrol and LandCruiser fans forget it was Land Rover that pioneered the tracks throughout Australia and Africa that have now become iconic 4x4 routes. It's also easy to forget that the much misaligned Mitsubishi Pajero has dominated the Paris-Dakar Rally since 1985.

Four Wheel Drives are much like everything else - it's usually the Indian and not the Arrow that makes all the difference in hitting the target.

Oh and by the way, everyone knows that Holden make the best cars, the Beatles murder the Rolling Stones and that Pepsi tastes like fertiliser.

Check out some individual model reviews in the 'Used 4x4 Reviews' section or have a look at what we consider Essential 4WD Equipment to setup your vehicle for an assault on the Outback.

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