Toy­ota Land Cruiser

A 4x4 full of happy sur­prises over dis­tance. Just watch out for pranksters in the back


Don’t touch that lever, son

WHY WE’RE RUN­NING IT To see if a util­ity ve­hi­cle can be an en­dear­ing ev­ery­day ve­hi­cle

When the Toy­ota Land Cruiser ar­rived at Au­to­car Tow­ers it had barely 60 miles on its odome­ter, but now, eight weeks later, it has 6152. I’ve been away for at least three weeks and when I’m around it’s not the only car I drive. Maybe that’s why I’m tired.

The Land Cruiser is a short, rugged, body-on-frame bruiser with a live rear axle and low-range trans­fer gear­box. So nat­u­rally the vast ma­jor­ity of those miles have been on the mo­tor­way.

Where, to my sur­prise, the Land Cruiser is ac­tu­ally re­ally pleas­ant. Yes, it’s high, at 1838mm tall, and at 4565mm quite short (about half­way be­tween a Ford Fo­cus hatch and es­tate length). But it’s still very sta­ble, im­mune to cross­winds and its tyres cut through pud­dles se­curely. It rides qui­etly and rel­a­tively smoothly – al­beit there’s some head-toss ow­ing to the height and un­so­phis­ti­cated, heavy rear end.

It also has other char­ac­ter­is­tics you wouldn’t as­so­ciate with mak­ing for re­laxed long-dis­tance cruis­ing: man­ual air-con­di­tion­ing, a man­ual gear­box, and an ab­sence of DAB dig­i­tal ra­dio. But I seem to find the right tem­per­a­ture eas­ily and the man­ual is smooth, if long of throw. And there’s a USB socket nes­tled be­hind a small panel – pre­sum­ably sen­si­bly placed to keep dust and grime out if you drive in that kind of en­vi­ron­ment rather than spend­ing half of your week on the M40. Which means I’ve also dis­cov­ered pod­casts. I’m so down with the kids.

Worse, though, is that this 3dr Land Cruiser doesn’t get a spare wheel as stan­dard. In fact, you can’t spec a 3dr with a full-size or even space saver at all, de­spite one be­ing avail­able in other coun­tries, as an op­tion, mounted to the tail­gate. I know the LC has big, knob­bly, tyres, less prone to punc­tur­ing than a sa­loon’s, but there’s no ex­cuse for not hav­ing a spare on a rufty-tufty 4x4. Even one that is great at cruis­ing.

I can’t re­mem­ber the last time I drove a car that of­fered such a vari­ance in fuel con­sump­tion, at least not in nor­mal driv­ing. Usu­ally, the Land Cruiser is re­turn­ing around 31mpg, but it’s pos­si­ble to take that to the mid-20s if you’re driv­ing badly, while the other day I drove like my Dad and man­aged 45mpg on the way home, thanks to us­ing hardly any throt­tle and a spot of light slip­stream­ing on the mo­tor­way.

Aside from that, the Land Cruiser has es­tab­lished it­self as a very use­ful tool. I drove it to North Wales for our an­nual Britain’s Best Driver’s Car fea­ture (due to be pub­lished next week, 7 Novem­ber is­sue). It was nabbed by our video pro­duc­tion team be­cause it’s good for car-to-car film­ing and hold­ing a con­sid­er­able amount of kit. The short 380-litre boot rises to 720 litres when you fold the 60/40 back seats down, a twostage tum­ble process. The backs fold first, then you roll the whole thing for­ward, where they move to­wards the fronts and lock in place, leav­ing stor­age space in the rear footwell.

Rear seat space is sur­pris­ingly gen­er­ous. Rear pas­sen­gers can fold the front pas­sen­ger seat out of the way by kick­ing a lever on it, which helps them reach the door. (Or if some­body’s sit­ting in said front pas­sen­ger seat, kick­ing the lever drops the seat back at great speed, which my lad thinks is hi­lar­i­ous. Front seat pas­sen­gers do not agree.)

At 5800 miles, the Ad­blue warn­ing light came on, say­ing I had to top up the ad­di­tive tank within 1500 miles. I was about to stop any­way, so I bought 10 litres of Ad­blue, of which it took about 9.5 litres, via a filler be­neath the bon­net. Next time I’ll know to ig­nore the light for a bit in the hope that a whole 10 litres will fit, to save me hav­ing a con­tainer with half a litre of liq­uid slosh­ing in the boot. Ei­ther a more re­luc­tant warn­ing light or a marginally big­ger tank would be dandy.

Strong econ­omy and space for cam­era crews are plus points

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