On the road Land Rover vs Land Cruiser

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying Guide -

There is no point in beat­ing about the bush here – both the Toy­ota and the Land Rover re­quire stern limb power and con­cen­tra­tion to main­tain a straight line on tar­mac. Both are ba­si­cally of­froad beasts and as such are as craggy and loud over long dis­tance hauls as each other.

Press­ing down on a clutch seem­ingly set in con­crete pretty much sets the tone for driv­ing the Land Cruiser. It also has heavy yet vague han­dling thrown into the mix. The en­gine is gutsy how­ever, pro­gress­ing up to ur­ban speeds with a nasal thump from the en­gine upon chang­ing gear. Push­ing it be­yond the 30mph bar­rier is hard work, and re­sults in a noise from be­yond the bulk­head that Brian Blessed would be proud of. The el­e­vated driv­ing po­si­tion means the sense of speed is sur­pris­ingly en­joy­able, yet en­counter so much as a dip in the road and re­al­ity bites. Hit a pot­hole or an off-road ob­sta­cle at speed and the Land Cruiser will re­ward you with the sort of tum­ble dryer ex­pe­ri­ence you won’t want to re­peat in a hurry.

The Land Rover is as com­pro­mised on the road as it is in­vin­ci­ble off it. High speed driv­ing in a Se­ries III is best left to fan­ta­sists – its com­fort­able cruising speed is around the 50mph mark. How quickly you can ma­noeu­vre de­pends on your abil­ity to hold onto the steer­ing wheel, while slow speed ac­tions feel more like pulling a church bell rope.

The 2.25-litre petrol en­gine is pretty perky though and the charis­matic gear­box whine is strangely ad­dic­tive – in any other ve­hi­cle you would as­sume the gear­box was bro­ken. The woolly han­dling, mean­while, leaves you wan­der­ing about on the road in a fash­ion not dis­sim­i­lar to that of an in­tox­i­cated gi­raffe. It’s pos­si­ble to screech the tyres on cor­ners, but such be­hav­iour above 40mph risks the sort of rolling over that Lassie would be proud of. Both ve­hi­cles have a cen­tre of grav­ity higher than Bob Mar­ley (who owned a Se­ries III him­self).

Yet the off-road agility of both is sub­lime. Its course plot­ting may feel loose on the road, but the Land Rover’s steer­ing makes per­fect sense over rough ground. The feed­back al­lows you to grasp ev­ery­thing un­der the chas­sis, the slack steer­ing sen­sa­tion help­ing to avert strained wrists and bro­ken fin­gers over dif­fi­cult ter­rain. Flat-out, the Landie is lethar­gic, but de­vel­ops enough torque to con­quer ob­sta­cles and gra­di­ents and cre­ate the sort of ex­plorer’s vibe that will leave you grinning inanely.

The Land Cruiser ap­pears to of­fer ex­tra ground clear­ance over the Se­ries III, but in re­al­ity it makes no dif­fer­ence – the Land Rover will scram­ble over any­thing the Toy­ota can. Where they dif­fer is in their re­spec­tive four-wheel drive sys­tems.

In the Se­ries III, the driver uses yel­low and red levers to switch be­tween four- and two-wheel drive and low/high range. The Toy­ota’s drive selec­tor isn’t dif­fi­cult to op­er­ate but feels less ef­fi­cient be­cause one lever con­trols ev­ery­thing.

You cer­tainly feel se­cure over­land­ing in the Toy­ota, but the Land Rover’s stance pro­vides ex­tra con­fi­dence, and while each has the same de­par­ture and ap­proach an­gles, the Land Rover is the vic­tor in the rough. If the Toy­ota has a prob­lem, it’s that it’s too rigid – which is re­ally say­ing some­thing be­cause the Se­ries III isn’t ex­actly com­fort­able.

The Land Cruiser’s dash­board is a riot of di­als and stick­ers placed seem­ingly at ran­dom to cre­ate a dis­tinct over­load of in­for­ma­tion. The lo­ca­tion of the three horn presses makes it dif­fi­cult to op­er­at­ing what sounds like a foghorn when turn­ing the wheel and while there is in­deed room for your el­bow, the ta­pered de­sign leaves the driver with the un­easy feel­ing that the door isn’t shut.

Care­less move­ment in the Land Rover’s cabin may re­sult in sundry bruises, but its dash­board is more user friendly with am­ple stor­age, and the three-seat lay­out pro­vides space – just – for an ex­tra pas­sen­ger. A higher roofline means there’s more room in the back too – de­sir­able when you’re be­ing thrown about off-road.

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