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