Sunday 30 April 2017

Land ahoy! It's Awesome

TOYOTA
LAND CRUISER 4x4 3L
RATING 85/100
TOYOTA LAND CRUISER 4x4 3L RATING 85/100

I have had real difficulty in shaping my approach to the review of this motor. Here was my giant 4x4 Land Cruiser with awesome power and off-road capability. I mean that word 'awesome' because it really is a wonderful piece of machinery to have under you on the roughest of terrain.

Thankfully, or maybe not, I have had limited exposure (abroad let it be said) to such exigencies, but I know how good this can be. But is it relevant on Tarmac Ireland?

You see my conundrum. It is fine for me to extol virtues that are simply so far removed from everyday driving demands. But that doesn't, I would argue shouldn't, exclude it from our orbit. Why? Well, for lots of reasons, including sheer admiration for the quality and quantity of technology.

On its own, the Land Cruiser is simply worth knowing about. It has a part and role in the motoring lexicon. But there is another reason. I know of an increasing number of people who are planning to buy a decent 4x4/Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) so they won't be caught up hill and down dale when the next Irish freeze consigns them to solitary confinement at the end of narrow slippery roads.

Admittedly, not many of them will pay €60,000-plus for a new Land Cruiser with air con and millipede-like grip on the slip. But they may have a look at an older version -- my one on test is the latest incarnation.

And in two or three years' time they may pick up one of this new generation. Because, apart from the obvious pony trailer-towing set, and those in need of such prowess for their farming and/or business pursuits, that is where the realistic demand will come.

Of course you won't be sacrificing anything by way of comfort or driving ease on your motorway. This is set up to sweep you across this island of ours in the height of comfort and with the greatest of ease.

All right, I confess it will not beat the BMW X5 (a Sports Activity Vehicle) on sheer sportiness of engagement with corners, bends and overall suppleness. In fairness, I can probably say the same thing about the merits of the mammoth Audi Q7 as well.

But if you were to ask me which of the trio I'd want under me halfway across Woodfield Bog, or down Bentley's laneway, the Land Cruiser (which I did drive down the latter by the way) would be my choice.

It is not an easy call, but I reckon it would get me out of stickier spots. To be fair that is what it is primarily made to do; the other two have a different focus.

The 3-litre diesel (power up 10pc) I had on test is another manifestation of what they are and have been doing to engines for the past 10 years, although I think the Beemer has a sprightlier feel to it.

There were valleys of room in the cabin and, as you'd expect, room for another boot in the boot if you wanted to drop seats and all that (three rows in my tested version).

These new 4x4s -- this is not an SUV, please remember that -- are something of a rarity on the roads these days because they are pricey and carry too much technology that buyers don't need.

But I remember the bad old days when they were bought for the prestige of ownership.

And you know what? There were moments in the course of driving this when I had flashbacks to those sensations of sitting high and mighty.

Oh, how we loved the sheer power of it all. But, to paraphrase Alex Ferguson, we were soon knocked off that perch.

Good memories, they were nonetheless tinged heavily with sadness now at how everything has become mired in gloom and despair. Not even the Land Cruiser's famed powers of extrication can get us out of that, but if there is a manifestation of all that is capable in go-anywhere motoring, this is as near as any of us will get.

I don't expect too many to buy this passenger version, though the commercials remain a real option for the business folk. They are considerably less expensive and far more relevant.

I love the BMW X5 and have often said if I won the Lotto (with my luck!) I'd buy one and not bother trading in for 10 years. That's because it has a lot of style and drive appeal.

However, after driving this, I have to say that if I was really pushed I'd have a hell of a time deciding between the two. The Beemer for the city and the Land Cruiser for the hills?

But that's where I started off with this review. Who needs either these days? Sadly not many, but it makes me feel good to have driven this.

Its day will come again. Maybe not with the rush and gush of past market madness, but it will always be a benchmark for where the genre is going and what can be achieved.

And who is to say with the winters we've been getting that there won't be a renewed focus on motors like this being bought for their practical applicability?

ecunningham@independent.ie

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