Shooting Gazette - - This Month -

Ja­pan do­nates some of its bud­get to the UN in Toy­ota Land Cruis­ers. Land rover chief de­signer Gerry mcgovern has his own range of £200 swim­ming trunks. Your re­ac­tion to those two facts should tell you all you need to know about why you’d want to buy one car or the other. but, see­ing as I’m paid to write a lit­tle more than that, I’m go­ing to ex­plain it in rather greater de­tail.

The Land Cruiser has been around for ages, and is cred­ited with de­stroy­ing Land rover’s sales fig­ures in Aus­tralia and Africa. Dur­ing the dark, polyester­clad days of 1970s shop stew­ard red robbo and his mates be­ing in charge of work­force mo­ti­va­tion at british Ley­land, Toy­ota stole the lion’s share of mar­kets in which break­ing down might mean be­ing eaten.

but since then, Land rover, Audi and mer­cedes-benz have been build­ing cars that can off-road as much as, or more than, most peo­ple need them to, but which are also com­fort­able, lux­u­ri­ous and, in some cases, re­ally quite fast. And while we like to have a good whinge about any prob­lems, the re­al­ity is that all mod­ern cars are much more re­li­able than even the best were 40 years ago. Some­thing like a Dis­cov­ery 5 is only let down by its tyres in deep mud, with su­perb axle ar­tic­u­la­tion, wad­ing depth, ground clear­ance and me­chan­i­cal and elec­tronic aids to trac­tion. but it is also as re­fined as a lux­ury saloon and has a smooth, mod­ern ex­te­rior and in­te­rior. In fact, it is so pre­mium nowa­days that a Dis­cov­ery has, dare I say it, started to lose its class­less­ness. When com­pared with the Dis­cov­ery 4, it could even be ac­cused of try­ing a bit too hard. And that’s where the Land Cruiser comes in.

It most cer­tainly isn’t try­ing to be any­thing that it’s not. The ver­sion I drove has a slightly dif­fer­ent nose so that it has a bet­ter ap­proach an­gle. It has new head­lights so that they aren’t as eas­ily dam­aged and a dif­fer­ent bon­net so it’s even eas­ier to see where the corners are when pick­ing your way through the jun­gle. It has a lot of but­tons be­cause they are eas­ily oper­ated while wear­ing gloves. It has a four-cylin­der diesel engine be­cause it is sim­ple and will help de­liver on its engi­neers’ brief of giv­ing a 25-year ser­vice life. If you want a car with su­perb off-road abil­ity that will just work and work, the Land Cruiser is it.

It isn’t bad on the road ei­ther and doesn’t pitch and roll too much. And it rides bet­ter than any De­fender ever has. Over­all noise lev­els aren’t as good as they are in a Dis­cov­ery but, like the lack of ac­cel­er­a­tion, it isn’t ac­tu­ally an is­sue. You just slow your pace a bit and loaf com­fort­ably along, en­joy­ing a sur­pris­ing num­ber of bells and whis­tles in the top-of-the-range In­vin­ci­ble ver­sion I tested.

Yet it wasn’t the £55,000 range-top­per that I would han­ker af­ter but the £29,000 (be­fore VAT) Util­ity ver­sion. It comes with two front seats only, can still pull three tonnes and with its short wheel­base steel wheels and com­plete lack of pre­ten­sion, is as close to a De­fender as you can buy new nowa­days. Score: 4/5

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