Toyota Land Cruiser

Life really sucks sometimes.

Whilst Manchester United cruised the sky at 20,000 feet, across the globe to sunny Tokyo, to teach Palmeiras a foot balling lesson in the Toyota cup, I got to crawl round rainy Manchester 6 foot up in a Toyota Land cruiser.

This test of a Toyota Land cruiser was conducted in the situations that 99% of Land cruisers will find themselves in.

i.e.: I didn’t actually take it off road. So obviously in these circumstances I can only repeat hearsay in saying that it's probably okay off road, if not quite as good as the recognized top dogs and we all know what they are don’t we? It at least looks like it would be up to an off-road stint, short wheelbase, minimal overhangs and big chunky tyres all bode well, but if you sit it next to a defender, it does appear a little lacking in ground clearance.

Toyota Land Cruiser

Although the 4x4 market is dying away as a fashion statement, at present there are still lots to be had and lots of people trying to get them. Most will never venture into serious dirt terrain, so we can realistically say that this 4x4 will do virtually anything that the majority of buyers will ever ask off road. In more day to day situations it bounces up and down kerbs with aplomb. Looks are of course a question of personal taste. For me there are three style's of off-roader, handsome, so-so and just plain ugly. The Landcruiser falls squarely into the so category. It's probably quite difficult to come up with a good looking off-roader within the limitations of a two box design and only three cars have really ever managed it the Jeep (ignoring the many clones), early Range Rover and the Discovery. Being so-so isn't too bad. At least the Land cruiser doesn’t display the effete looks of some of the modern 4x4 renditions . The basic's are right, but it just looks a little too tall and gawky for its own good. That height does have the side effect of giving a big glass area which make vision easy in all directions. To be fair up front this was a rather scabby old cruiser indeed probably having spent to much time on the beach in close proximity to the sea. It had also collected a lot of hard miles reflected in the slightly tatty interior, and various non or malfunctioning electrical equipment. First thing that struck me , or should I say, I nearly struck was a couple of walls and a truck. 

The very first bend I crept around surprised me with how much steering I had to wind on , and then as I tried to accelerate whilst straightening up, the thing kept turning as I desperately tried to take off the unwanted lock. One-nil Toyota and a little reminder that this is not your normal average ride. When my better half took over the controls after a night out, her first bend resulted in the same effect despite my slurred drunken warnings , so it wasn’t just me. Picking up a new car in the dark is always fraught with problems, typically the interior light wouldn’t come on so after fumbling around the controls to find the basics, ( wipers, lights, indicators ), I shot off home only to find on arriving that the key would not come out of the ignition. Two of us tried for 10 mins without success before we resorted to telephoning the font of all car knowledge, who just about managed to squeeze out the fact there was a release button on the steering column, before dying of side splitting hilarity. With his laughter ringing in my ears another 30 second fumbling in the right general area found the required button. Two-nil Toyota.

Toyota Land Cruiser

How you think this monster goes and rides really depends on what you have just climbed out of. First impressions where of a slow, noisy, evil handling, bucking bronco of a car with boat like steering .
But that’s only realistic in straight comparison to a family saloon. After a couple of days slopping around you begin to form a different perspective.

Once you have become quickly accustomed to the car and managed to suss out where in the rev range the engine needs to be kept, you begin to accept the fidgety ride a obvious side effect of the short wheelbase, and the handling's shortcoming as natural side effects of the big dual purpose tyre's, a high centre of gravity and the solid beam axles at either end.

You soon slip into a different style of driving more suited to this kind of vehicle. Corners are fine if treated to slow in slow out and a steady through the middle style. Stability at speed is okay as long as you don’t push it to far though you always need to concentrate on motorways to stop it sidling off across the cats eyes.

The Turbo Diesel motor isn't exactly refined but produces surprisingly good urge when pushed and has good flexibility at least whilst whilst the turbo is spinning. For those of us who are deaf and senseless, Toyota provide a turbo light on the rev counter to tell you when its boosting. The only use I found for the light was to see how fast I could go before it came on (55 on the flat and a very light foot) because when the light shows, the Turbo's blowing and the engines drinking. 

Toyota Land Cruiser Engine

And drink it can, observing the speed limit on the motorway gives mid twenties, getting stuck in normal every rush hour gets down below 18. 30+ is easily possible if your patient but not if you ever go into towns or go on the motorway a lot. 22mpg average doesn’t seem great to me but maybe Im just expecting to much from what is a great big slab fronted truck.


If fuel is no problem to you it will roll down the motor way well above the speed limit and you can still just about hold a conversation, good job really as the radio was one of the malfunctioning items. Acceleration from the light will surprise the dozy too, until you arrive at the recalcitrant second third shift which needs good old brute force to go home solidly every time. It's one thing going but you need to be able to stop too and despite a very soft squashy pedal the Toyota pulls up sharp strong and straight. The mushiness may just be a setup thing with it set up soft to avoid over sharp lock up in the dirt, but then again they may just need new pads and servicing.

Toyota Land Cruiser

 (Question: Why do all off-roaders have gear changes out of a scammel truck. Don’t tell me its to deal with the power and 4wd stress , AUDI Quattros have more than 3 times this power and lay more rubber on the road but can still manage a light slick short gearshift.)


The interior would please your granny in its multitone brown and beige splendor. Most of the fittings are fairy robust and workmanlike although the tin glove lid box would grate if it was on your child's cheapest Christmas present. The seating arrangement is pleasant enough, and certainly much better than a Defender with plenty of adjustment in the seat and the steering column to allow the tallest and the shortest some form of comfort. The seat are thin, firm and cheap but are really quite comfortable at least for 2 hour longest stint I did in one.Land Cruiser Interior

It really wouldn’t be Japanese if it didn’t have load of equipment now would it. Front and rear spot and fog lights are fitted which work fine though I found the headlamps to be more than powerful enough and the spot lamps were simply drowned out by them. Rear wiper, electric sunroof and big clear non vibrating mirrors were the plus points, sticky electric windows and cheap thin rattling baked bean tin side steps needed attention but are worthy extras.

Of dubious value is the plethora of dials on the console. The Speedo is a legality, engine temp, fuel level necessity, oil pressure and battery gauge niceties, but really the Altimeter and pitch and roll gauges really are a load of old tat. The roll gauges tell you not to exceed 30 degrees, man these must be degrees of terror you would need to be fairly empty between the ears to attempt to get anywhere near this without a roll cage. Then there is the rev counter with integral turbo lights, this is of dubious value as below the turbo cutting in point just under 2000 revs the car rattles like a tin of marbles if you try to accelerate in the wrong gear, so you don’t need showing how slow the engine is turning and after 3500 revs the engine starts to boom like a Motorhead concert with all semblance of power falling off by 4000, its definitely much quicker to change at 3500 - 4000 revs than to hold on to the grim death a 5000 revs , forget the rev counter change down if it rattles and up when it starts to drown out conversation . Don’t worry if your deaf either as the noise is accompanied by body shaking rattles and vibrations as a little extra reminder.

The Heater was also poor in this car and never really managing to get a decent stream of hot air into the cabin despite a 4 speed fan, though the auxiliary rear heater with it’s own control pumped out a fair amount of warmth for those in the back.

Toyota Land Cruiser

The four by four controls are pretty slick in this motor, a single lever engages low range 4 wheel drive, preferably when stationary. And an electrical switch engages hi-ratio 4 wheel drive at low speed which would be really sharp, if your passenger didn’t have to jump out and engage the freewheel front hubs at the same time. Auto locking hubs as fitted to pretend off-roaders like the Frontera would have been a much better option.

Practicality is often the reason touted for buying a 4x4, go anywhere, pull anything, carry everything. It’s a promise this short wheelbase Landcruiser can't live up to. The rear wheel is handily stored on the rear door to, on face value to create more interior space, but more realistically because it looks well hard, and it wouldn’t actually fit anywhere. Upon opening the rear door, that other 4x4 bugbear appears as the door drops where the weight of the wheel has trashed the hinges. Once you've got around that shock, then you wonder why you bothered, the boot is pathetic. Ok its 5 foot tall and 5 foot wide but its only about a foot deep, if you want a 4x4 to get a dog in the back then your dogs going to have to be a Yorkie or a Jack Russell

Of course you can fold down the rear seats to create a voluminous cube of space, but even they are compromised by lack of a split fold facility. So its either 2 people and loads of gear or 3 to 5 with no gear at all. I suppose you could always fit a roof rack.

Or maybe not if you ever park on a multi-storey.

These are euphemistically called lifestyle vehicles. Well it would certainly effect mine. As I park on a multi-storey and the top floors have a height restriction, which I suspect the Landcruiser would not be able to limbo under, I would end up having to get up earlier just to get on the lower floors of the car park.

To be fair multi-storeys are normally a bit of an Achilles heel for cars such as this, at least with its short wheel base and surprisingly tight turning circle getting around one isn't to bad in this. But on one unfortunate occasion I got directed to the top of a rather large block going 16 floors up wasn’t too bad and I almost got the chance to test the altimeter, but this one was arranged as a set of 180 degree right hand bends all the way down, arm twirling in extremis followed as the Toyota trundled down on second gear engine braking lurching like a drunken donkey.

Despite all its faults, the Landcruiser actually quite fun to drive in a rough animal sort of way. It does actually feed back driving sensations both good and bad at legal speeds that most mainstream saloons would manage to hide from their driver. But that’s because this isn't meant to be just transport, if you just want to go from A to B without actually having to think about driving then this isn't the car for you.

For me it would need to be at least a foot longer in the rear and have split rear seats, and preferably not be quite so thirsty though that’s of secondary importance.

If you like the looks, need the strength and can cope with the rough edges and lack of boot space it may just be the one for you.

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