You might not have picked up the seismic tremors in North America, but jaws thunked to earth in places as far flung as Australia, Africa, Russia and the Middle East when Nissan confirmed its Patrol heavy-duty SUV was trading in its good ol' live axles for independent underpinnings.

So what's the Patrol and why should you care? Well in plenty of places, it's a 4x4 icon, conquering the tough terrain of the Middle East since the 1950s and in 1962 becoming the first vehicle to successfully cross Australia's scorching Simpson Desert.

So it's a tough, old-style truck -- go anywhere, do anything, tow anything. Mechanically, it's barely altered in the last 25 years. Philosophically, not at all through 60 years and six generations.

But it's all changed now, much to the chagrin of traditional fans, who fear such things as those newfangled double wishbones will compromise the Patrol's legendary off-road ability.

It's the requirements of North America that have a big role to play in this fundamental shift, because the Patrol is finally headed for the world's largest SUV playground, albeit as the new-generation Infiniti QX56.

Scheduled for unveiling in New York in April, the luxury SUV will have its own external and internal styling features, its own seats and instrument panel, but all the important mechanical and technical stuff and much of the equipment will be shared.

Previously the QX was twinned with Armada, both built in Nissan's Canton, Missouri, plant alongside the Titan pickup. The new QX will be built in Kyushi, Japan, on the same line as the Patrol.

So what happens to the Armada? Pretty much nothing, says Carla Bailo, program manager for the P61G Patrol.

"Right now [the future of the Armada] it is still to be determined," she explains. "The current model based on the current Titan we are going to continue building as long as physically possible, meaning as long as it meets all the emissions and safety requirements."

"We are going to have a next Titan, but whether we turn that into an SUV is still TBD."

So what about turning the Patrol into the Armada? "This is a little bit more sophisticated than the Armada, quite frankly," responds Bailo. "So we are not sure if it is right for that segment. We would have to do some tuning and decontenting."