PUTTING IN THE MILES
What the Toyota Land Cruiser lacks in delicate grace, it makes up for in Herculean strength, size and endurance, says Neil Lyndon
The Toyota Land Cruiser proves that big is beautiful
‘What a beautiful car!’ exclaimed our hostess as I was parking the new Toyota Land Cruiser in the underground garage of her apartment building in Paris.
Perhaps she was trying to be kind. Many terms might apply to the Land Cruiser but ‘beautiful’ would not be the first on many lips.
‘Immense’, would have been acutely fitting in the circumstances, seeing as the Land Cruiser’s roof, standing more than six feet from the ground, only slid under her garage ceiling with the width of a matchstick to spare.
Our test car was the latest version with redesigned headlights and bonnet and updated interior; but, essentially, it is the same as the version that was introduced in 2009. ‘Expensive’ would also work quite well for a car that costs at least £35,000 even in its most spartan form and goes up to about £55,000 for the five-door, seven-seat version we borrowed with its luxurious, high-tech Invincible specification.
However, the word for which our hostess may have been groping, on seeing the Land Cruiser for the first time in Paris, is ‘inappropriate’. Nobody could deny the accuracy of that term. In an age teeming with lookalike ‘crossovers’ and urban SUVs which are bought for their looks and their performance on the road, the Land Cruiser stands apart as a genuine maverick – a true hardcore off-roader that can take anything the world might throw at it.
Forging a track into the darkest Orinoco? The Land Cruiser will get there without breaking a sweat. Crossing the Outback? The Land Cruiser will bring you home safely. Taking the family to Paris? Perhaps we should be thinking of something a trifle more soigné.
The Land Cruiser’s origins date back to the middle of the last century and it has remained recognisably much the same for decades. It has been in continuous production longer than any other Toyota model and is sold in more countries of the world than any other car. In the farthest outposts of human civilisation on Earth, you will always find a Land Cruiser.
They all have the same combination of qualities: a powerful engine, low-ratio transfer gearbox, four-wheel drive transmission combined with high ground clearance and indestructible build quality.
So why did we take one within sniffing distance of one of Europe’s most congested cities? Well, we were on a family trip to the battlefields of the Somme where I occasionally wanted to forge off the beaten track. And we were also fulfilling a long-standing promise to our daughters to take them to Disneyland Paris. For this mix of tasks, the Land Cruiser was perfect.
The latest version is at least half-civilised in being serenely silent and comfortable on motorways. It won’t take a corner without ten minutes’ notice but its high seating and Lexus-like levels of kit and accessorisation make it ideal accommodation for the long autoroute slog from Calais to the Paris périphérique. The six-speed automatic 2.8 diesel in our test car could barely top 30 mpg or accelerate from 0-60 mph in under 11 seconds but it could cruise at 80mph until the end of time.
The massive rear door swings out on vertical hinges rather than up, like a tailgate. With the rear row of seats folded, however, the loadspace is big enough for a family to go away for a year.
In my eyes, it truly is beautiful.
“It is a true hardcore off-roader that can take anything the world might throw at it
Below: Big and the bold, the Toyota Land Cruiser.