The original Rocky
In the early 1990’s, a friend of mine worked in Venezuala for 12 months. I have it on good authority that the only car that any employee of the charity drove over there was a Toyota Land Cruiser, because it combined space with excellent on road manners & tremendous off road capability, as well as being legendarily reliable. Whatever you threw at it or wherever you chose to go in it, the Land Cruiser did not let you down.
When you stand next to a Land Cruiser, few cars can match it for road presence. It looks big & it is big, but it’s incredibly easy to drive as well as being extremely comfortable with the 7 seat version seven adults. It is the archetypal SUV, nowadays almost a dying breed as the ‘soft-roaders’ take over the streets of Britain. The Land Cruiser is tall with a combination of bulging wheel arches, chunky roof rails & side hugging running boards adding to the SUV look. Add on the massive LED lamps at the front & rear of the car with super-bright daytime running lights, the huge five-bar chrome grille at the front & there’s no doubt that the Toyota looks imposing, definitely more Sylvester Stallone than Jean Claude Van Damme.
Inside the Land Cruiser it’s old school luxury, with fabulous heated leather seats which heat up in seconds rather than minutes, two air vents on top of the centre console which warm the cabin up equally as quickly, a bank of buttons and dials for the climate control below the standard sat-nav screen & underneath a rotary selector with levers and buttons that operate the off-road modes if required.
My test model the top of the range Invincible, was sumptuously equipped. Even the the base model comes with plenty of kit, including cruise control, keyless go, air-con & Bluetooth. In the back of the Invincible there’s another set of climate controls for the rear seats, while the it also gets a standard-fit Blu-Ray entertainment system with a drop-down screen in the roof, very popular with my teenagers. Even the rear seats are heated & can be adjusted & folded electrically. There is plenty of room too in the second row thanks to large footwell, impressive leg room & a high roof.
There’s just one engine in the Land Cruiser line-up which is a 3.0-litre diesel with 188 bhp. The automatic gear box is smooth to operate & overall the engine does a good job of quietly moving the Land Cruiser around town, whilst simultaneously swallowing the motorway miles whole as in cruise control the miles are literally eaten up as you go. It doesn’t feel slow though. Despite a 0-62 mph time of 11 seconds & a top speed of 109 mph, it’s sheer sizer makes the Land Cruiser feel quicker which I can’t really explain. Unsurprisingly, the unit does feel quite rough compared to the smoother six cylinder diesels you get in off roaders from Land Rover, Mercedes & BMW. However, to worry about this is to miss the point, because the Land Cruiser is a beast compared to all of these & if you’re heading into the Outback & want to get back afterwards, then the and Cruiser with it’s slightly gruffer engine, is the only choice.
Unfortunately the Land Cruiser went back to Toyota two days before we had heavy snowfall locally & I would have loved to have tested its 4X4 capabilties in the snow, seeing that it has a low ratio gearbox with lockable centre differential for improved traction as well as off-road settings for the electronic stability control. Sadly this was not to be & I had to satisfy myself instead with a rumble along the M56 & some cross-country driving around Macclesfield on B roads. eventually notching up 200 miles at an average fuel consumption of 31.3 mpg.
I carried a few of my sons 14 year old rugby playing colleagues to & from a match locally & realised that the boot is huge offering 620 litres of space with the five seats in place. They fitted in easily as did all of their kit bags & the Land Cruiser scored points amongst them as comfortable to sit in with a bonus for the drop-down DVD player.To access the boot you need to swing open the side-hinged tailgate which can be a little awkward, although you do get used to this quite quickly. Furthermore, the separate-opening glass is handy in tight gaps if you just ned to reach in for something located at the rear of the boot space.
The Land Cruiser is both large & very heavy, but the diesel engine manages a claimed 34.9 mpg on the combined. I notched up over 200 miles in my test week at an average fuel consumption of 31.3 mpg, so not too far off the claimed figure. Whilst CO2 emissions are 213g/km, which is not great either for your pocket or the enviroment, it is well to remember that the and Cruiser is not designed for popping to the shops, although it will do this well if you want it to, but for much larger trips to regions of the world largely inaccessible to other vehicles. In this, the Land Cruiser sits almost alone now as the de-facto large off-roader of choice that you can get dirty & is loved by amongst others the UK Motorway Maintenance crews & of course, with the North African & Middle East conflicts all over the media at the moment, anyone who has to drive around a desert landscape, whatever that reason might be.
I can’t really put my finger on it, but I absolutely loved the Land Cruiser, for it’s combination of sheer size & it’s tremendous road presence, I also appreciate it’s ‘I don’t care attitude’ in the face of competition from Land Rover & the like. I’m a Land Cruiser & I’m not afraid to say it, just about sums it up for me. Big, bold, comfortable, quiet, it’s all of these things & more & if you need a workhorse 4X4 then look no further. There is only one Land Cruiser.
A Rocky Balboa 4/5