Price wars Mahin­dra vs Toy­ota utes

The Mahin­dra Pik-Up 4x4 is a vir­tual un­known on the main­stream 4x4 market. Matt Wood pits the price-point In­dian off-roader against the for­mi­da­ble but more ex­pen­sive Toy­ota 70 Se­ries Landcruiser and comes away very sur­prised

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

First im­pres­sions are very im­por­tant. This was run­ning through my mind when I had to drop my strides in front of a bloke who I’d only just met re­cently. You see, I was stand­ing in the mid­dle of a pad­dock talk­ing to a fella called Rob when a sear­ing pain shot up my thigh, and then an­other, and so on.

It turns out that while Rob was speak­ing to me from the safety of his trac­tor, I was stand­ing on a nest of an­gry lit­tle shiny bas­tard ants. And they got me good.

Thank­fully, Rob saw the funny side of it all as I flapped around be­hind the ute with my pants around my an­kles. I still have the welts to prove it.

But take a look at the two trucks pic­tured on these pages. The 70 Se­ries Toy­ota Landcruiser doesn’t need any in­tro­duc­tion – it’s been the mule of the Aussie bush for over three decades. First im­pres­sions are that it’s tough, rugged and ca­pa­ble. Driv­ing one on a coun­try road will al­ways earn you a coun­try sa­lute and a know­ing nod as you pass.

Then there’s the Mahin­dra 4x4 Pik-Up. First im­pres­sions are that most peo­ple don’t re­ally know what to make of it, and many do a dou­ble take as they pass by.

A BIG PRICE TO PAY

It may seem like a long bow to draw, but these two 4x4s ac­tu­ally have quite a lot in com­mon. How­ever, there’s a huge dif­fer­ence in price – more than $40,000, in fact. The Mahin­dra you see here has a drive-away price of just $32,990 and comes with a three-year 100,000km war­ranty – as does the Toy­ota. The best dealer-sourced pric­ing for this LC78 Landcruiser as it sits, how­ever, was a whop­ping $74,290. You could buy two Mahin­dras for that price and still have enough left over for a hol­i­day in the trop­ics. Or enough for a very sch­mick camper trailer. It may seem like I’ve brought a knife to a gun­fight, but I was cu­ri­ous to see how the lit­tle emerg­ing market Mahin­dra stacked up against the tough guy Toy­ota. So I bul­lied, ca­joled and oth­er­wise pestered veteran 4x4 journo Al­lan Whit­ing into com­ing along for the drive. Nei­ther trucks are per­fect, but the Toy­ota has the runs on the board in terms of rep­u­ta­tion, dealer net­work and dura­bil­ity. I’m not for a minute sug­gest­ing that the Mahin­dra is bet­ter than the ven­er­a­ble Landcruiser, but is the Toy­ota re­ally $40k bet­ter?! In fact the 70, beloved by many, isn’t per­fect by a long shot.

SHORT ON GEARS

The move to the 4.5-litre 1VD-FTV bent eight gave the beast a buck­et­load of torque, 430Nm from 1200-3200rpm and more po­ten­tial power at 151kW. But this is ham­strung by a very low-geared five-speed man­ual which sees the Cruiser scream­ing its head off at high­way speeds.

That said, the up­com­ing Euro 5 up­date of the Toy­ota work­horse later this year will see a taller fifth gear, plus the ad­di­tion of more airbags and elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol and trac­tion con­trol. But it will also see even more added to the al­ready con­sid­er­able sticker price.

The wider front axle to ac­com­mo­date the big diesel eight­iron also left an un­changed rear-axle track that doesn’t do much for the bruiser’s han­dling when lug­ging a load. Per­haps

the big­gest boon for the Landcruiser is its ef­fort­less 3500kg tow­ing ca­pa­bil­ity. It re­mains the best OE ve­hi­cle on the Aussie market for tow­ing big weights over a big dis­tance.

The Mahin­dra sports a mod­est lit­tle AVL 2.2-litre four-pot com­mon rail tur­bod­iesel that pro­vides 88kW as op­posed to the Toy­ota’s 151kW. It also man­ages 280Nm of torque. But it will tow up to 2.5 tonne and can haul a one-tonne pay­load on its back. Maybe just don’t do both at the same time.

The Pik-Up shares the Landcruiser’s body on lad­der chas­sis frame and in sin­gle cab form han­dles the same size tray as the Toy­ota. The frames are near iden­ti­cal. How­ever, where the Cruiser uses a coil-sprung live-axle front end, the Mahin­dra uses tor­sion bars.

DIAL SHIFT-STICK SHIFT

Both use a five-speed man­ual shifter and a two-speed trans­fer case; in the case of the Mahin­dra, this is a BorgWarner elec­tric shift. The Toy­ota still uses a stick and free­wheel­ing hubs.

Mahin­dra is keen to point out that while the 4WD se­lec­tor is a dial, it’s not shift-on-the-fly — how­ever, try it and you’ll even­tu­ally break stuff.

As our test LC78 was a top-of-the-range GXL, it ar­rived with diff-locks front and rear. The Mahin­dra fea­tures an

Ea­ton Au­tolocker on the rear diff as stan­dard kit. The Pik-Up gets cruise con­trol, the Cruiser doesn’t.

To date, Mahin­dra has carved out quite a pres­ence on the trac­tor scene, but its au­to­mo­tive am­bi­tions have made mod­est progress. Its SUV of­fer­ing just copped an auto op­tion for the first time, and the unashamedly vo­ca­tional

4x2 Ge­nio ute has also lobbed lo­cally.

The Pik-Up is squarely aimed at the Ag market as a cheap farm ute. How­ever, my ex­pe­ri­ence with the sub-continental four-by has shown it to be quite a sur­pris­ing and hon­est lit­tle pack­age. The term ‘as hon­est as yoga pants’ springs to mind.

Just to add a lit­tle real world to this com­paro, we also added a 400kg pay­load to each ve­hi­cle.

First stop on our two-day jaunt were some bog­holes in the Beer­bur­rum State For­est, which tested out the trac­tion and ford­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties for both trucks. The re­sult was one-all, with both trucks get­ting stuck. In the case of the Mahin­dra, ground clear­ance is its big­gest is­sue – the tor­sion bar front end is pro­tected by bash plates, but it still runs aground quite eas­ily.

STUCK

I got the ‘Cruiser stuck af­ter los­ing mo­men­tum and hav­ing to re­sort to us­ing the diff-locks – by then it was all over, trac­tion-wise. The only is­sue with the diff-locks in the Toy­ota is that you have to be in low range to se­lect them, and they only en­gage when the wheels spin.

This may not be a big deal if you are slowly crawl­ing through ter­rain that you know, but if you’re rum­bling along in 4H and

hit a soft patch as I did, you lose all mo­men­tum be­fore you can grab the lock­ers.

That is, of course, bear­ing in mind that you shouldn’t try and en­gage any diff-lock with the wheels spin­ning. The auto-locker in the Pik-Up works in all ranges, in­clud­ing 2H, and will help you keep mov­ing be­fore things get too dire. On the open road up to Maleny on the Sun­shine Coast Hin­ter­land, the Landcruiser made good use of its prodi­gious torque on the hills, but that didn’t stop Al­lan drop­ping a cou­ple of cogs in the Mahin­dra and over­tak­ing me on the drag up the hill from Lands­bor­ough.

I’m sure there was a raised mid­dle fin­ger danc­ing in the win­dow as he passed. Smarty pants.

The stiffly sprung Cruiser han­dled the load quite well, with not too much body roll. But the Pik-Up un­der­stand­ably rocked and rolled quite a bit more.

Damp­en­ing is an is­sue for the In­dian-built ute; some af­ter­mar­ket shocks would no doubt take some bounce out of the Mahin­dra over the rough stuff.

PAD­DOCK PLAY

We ar­rived at Rob’s cat­tle (and ant) farm to give these two trucks a play in the bush.

It’s easy to see why the Cruiser is so pop­u­lar in the long pad­docks. It just feels planted off the track, feed­back through the wheel is ex­cel­lent, and it doesn’t keel over much with a load on in un­du­lat­ing ter­rain – though it would be bet­ter with a wider rear track.

The notchy truck-like gearshift of the Toy­ota is easy to live with in this en­vi­ron­ment, and the big bent eight will just lug along qui­etly at any speed. This is where the close ra­tios of the ‘box do come in handy. That said, there are plenty of bushies that still miss the old 1HZ diesel six for its econ­omy, sim­plic­ity and flex­i­bil­ity.

The Pik-Up had more of a ten­dency to heel over on its sus­pen­sion, but noth­ing star­tling. The gearshift in the Mahin­dra is pretty vague and has a huge throw, but the key to get­ting the lit­tle red beast over rough coun­try is to keep the revs up, make sure you’re in the right gear, and stay in it. The Toy­ota is un­der­stand­ably more for­giv­ing in this depart­ment.

Ground clear­ance also played to the Toy­ota amongst the rocks and tus­socks. The Cruiser would still cock a leg when clam­ber­ing over em­bank­ments, but the Mahin­dra was more prone to show­ing day­light un­der its nether re­gions.

SAND ’N’ SURF

A romp on the beach at Bri­bie Is­land, how­ever, played to the Mahin­dra’s strengths. This thing loves a squirt in the sand. With tyre pres­sures down and a boot­ful of revs, the Pik-Up hap­pily clam­bered along the tracks and com­fort­ably trun­dled along the beach. In this en­vi­ron­ment, the ‘Cruiser feels a lot less nim­ble. It roars through the soft stuff, while the Pik-Up seems a more re­laxed drive.

Sure, the Toy­ota re­mains the pick of the two, but at a huge pre­mium. That pre­mium does give you a mas­sive dealer and parts net­work.

Plus there’s the re­sale fac­tor based largely on a for­mi­da­ble rep­u­ta­tion earned over more than five decades in this coun­try. Call it Toy­ota tax if you will.

RE­SALE EQUA­TION

Show me a used LC78 any­where near the new price of the Mahin­dra and I’ll show you a truck that has spent its work­ing life parked in muck up to the door han­dles on a mine site some­where. Even well-loved five-year-old ex­am­ples are fetch­ing over $50k.

The Mahin­dra’s re­sale, how­ever, dis­ap­pears into the base­ment as soon as you drive out of the deal­er­ship. You buy it, you own it.

The Mahin­dra Pik-Up is a tough lit­tle cus­tomer, and I sus­pect time will prove it quite a durable jig­ger. It’s a ba­sic, sim­ple de­sign that holds lit­tle in the way of sur­prises.

The growth in the Ag side of the Mahin­dra busi­ness means that the brand is quite well rep­re­sented in coun­try ar­eas. A set of af­ter­mar­ket shocks, an air-bagged rear end and some tor­sion bar ad­just­ment would eas­ily crank up the ground clear­ance of the Pik-Up, as well as ad­dress­ing the bounce. There’s even a power chip avail­able for it.

Let’s face it, how many peo­ple leave their 4x4s com­pletely stock, any­way? That still leaves a lot of spare change from Toy­ota money.

And that’s the rub.

As the Toy­ota sits, most will at least put a power chip and ex­haust on it to make the most of the great eight. And many will also ad­dress the rear-axle track, adding quite a bit of dosh on top of an al­ready big out­lay.

It may not be cool, and it may even be odd look­ing. But the Mahin­dra Pik-Up cer­tainly pro­vides some bang for your buck. If you’ve got ants in your pants about buy­ing a new 4x4 ute and can’t come up with Toy­ota money, it’s worth a look.

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Main pic: It may not be sexy, but the Mahin­dra is a tough lit­tle cus­tomer

1: The Cruiser’s V8 cer­tainly isn’t short of grunt, though it’s ham­strung by gear­ing. The Pik-Up does a lot with what it’s got

2: Live-axle and coil-sprung, the Toy­ota’s sus­pen­sion makes it tough and ca­pa­ble

3: The bash plate on the Pik-Up copped a bit of a flog­ging. To be fair, it ac­tu­ally hangs a lot lower than the parts it’s try­ing to pro­tect

4: TA 400kg pay­load didn’t make ei­ther

truck work that hard

5: The Pik-Up uses a dial and elec­tric shift for its trans­fer case, but it’s not shift-on-the-fly 2 3 4

1

5

6: Both trucks are ca­pa­ble 4x4s, but tow­ing is the Toy­ota’s forte

7: It’s hard to ar­gue with 4.5 litres of V8 power! 6

7

8: It’s func­tional and com­fort­able in the Cruiser, but also

very com­mer­cial

9: Styling in­side and out isn’t a strong point for the Mahin­dra.

But it’s func­tional enough

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