Tuesday, 27 March 2012 9:25 AM
Aspirations are usually healthy.
I was watching an episode of Restoration Man the other day with architect George Clarke. This particular programme was about a builder who had grown up on a council estate and purchased a historic folly, ploughing over £1m into renovating it. He just fulfilled his dream despite suffering a massive heart attack in the process. Fulfilling that dream was almost one step too far.
A more accessible ambition perhaps is the Toyota Land Cruiser diesel, costing £51,995 – and a mere drop in the ocean for any Arabian oil giant – these are hugely popular in that part of the world where it seems that virtually everybody has one.
Last year I drove the petrol version and my only criticism was that it was a little thirsty. The solution to the problem is the very capable and efficient three-litre diesel, which if driven sensibly can cover over 500 miles on its 87-litre tank returning around 40mpg (extra urban). Considering it’s such a brute, this is a very reasonable achievement.
It falls squarely into Range Rover and Land Rover territory and during my test drive a new Range Rover Evoque passes - it’s surprising that the Land Cruiser is almost twice the height and far more butch!
Our first day together sees it stuck in major tailbacks. A main road is closed due to an oil spillage following a collision between two lorries. But the Land Cruiser takes it all in its stride. The automatic five-speed gearbox makes light work of changing between gears. However, it can be lethargic when driving it within the confines of the automatic eco mode – push the accelerator or lift the cruise control a little too much and the green light fades out on the dash.
Those eager to get to their destination without concern for economy will enjoy reaching 0 to 60mph in 11 seconds. The high up driving position is on a par to being on horseback but far more comfy - akin to sitting in a high up sofa in fact.
The quality of materials is positively Lexus-like – no surprise there although it would be nice to see real wood making a comeback… However, the dash looks a little boxy particularly in the centre, which has a raised area incorporating air vents.
Everything is electrically operated such as the third row of seats, which rise and fall at the click of a switch – great fun to operate - right through to the cool box beneath the centre armrest, the windows, suspension settings and electrically adjustable heated front seats. There are even external cameras that provide the driver with all round vision. My only qualm is that during foggy conditions when the headlights are on automatic setting, they sometimes switch off.
This isn’t a vehicle for commuting up and down the motorway although full-time all-wheel drive ensures absolute grip on all surfaces. It is clearly far more at home trekking across fields and you can almost feel its change of heart as it senses thick mud beneath its wheels.
During a trip to Hinton Ampner, the National Trust property in Bramdean, Hampshire, driving conditions up to the house were pretty treacherous.
A lot of visitors meant that the thin driveway quickly got clogged with traffic. Just as well we were in the Land Cruiser as we could create our own track.
Parkers, the car experts, say: “Off-roaders that are truly capable off-road are becoming harder to find with most 4x4s designed primarily for tarmac roads than muddy tracks. But the Land Cruiser sticks to its traditional roots as a vehicle that has the ability to go pretty much anywhere. On difficult terrain it’s hugely impressive, helped by sophisticated and genuinely useful off-road systems, allowing it to tackle seemingly impassable ground.”
This is a vehicle that I did not want to return!
Toyota Land Cruiser 3-litre diesel
Top speed: 109mph
Economy: 39.8mpg (extra urban)