On the road Land Rover vs Land Cruiser
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.