Iin place of an old-style transfer lever and part-time four-wheel drive, the Patrol now employs Nissan's electronically controlled All-Mode 4x4 system. Static, it is 100 percent rear drive, but it can send up to 50 percent of torque forward. Via a dial on the dash, the driver can let the software do all the work in Auto mode or lock into 4High or 4Low. Push buttons allow for different setup preferences, be it on-road, sand, rocks, or moguls. It's a lot like the Land Rover Discovery's Terrain Response setup.

In fact, the Land Rover -- and even the Range Rover -- comparisons continue once we're rolling in the Patrol for the first drive. It crystalizes not while driving, but when I'm sitting in the front passenger seat, head down, making notes.

"That's 110 mph," remarks my co-pilot casually. I look up, surprised, I thought we'd been rolling along at 75. Tops.

Okay, it's a smooth, flat freeway somewhere south of the Omani capital, Muscat. The concrete joints of U.S. freeways are noticeably absent, but so is any sense of engine or wind noise. That's impressive considering the speed we are doing, the demands being placed on the engine and the bow wave of hot air we're pushing.

Two things are immediately obvious: This is one heck of an engine, and this thing sure is refined.

Nissan went to town with the unfortunately acronymed VK56VD engine. It now has variable valve timing (VVEL in Nissan-speak), direct injection and, Nissan claims, a complete internal redesign. The on-paper result is 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet, figures that eclipse the Land Cruiser V-8 and -- more important for Infiniti -- the Lexus LX 570.

That was part of Nissan's plan, and it also claims the Patrol is now the fastest in class. No official figures are available on the launch, but some rough timing on a deserted stretch of freeway indicates sub-seven seconds to 60 mph. Now that's impressive.

Both Sumo and Ninja, the engine is a gargantuan performer in a stealthy package. The thought of what it could achieve bolted into a 370Z is drool-inducing.

Fuel economy? Well, where the Patrol does its biggest business, it's a moot point, but the official claim is 13 mpg. And that's with the seven-speed auto recalibrated for more economical running...Poor thing's still busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger swapping multiple gears under acceleration.