Steering Column

Big day for dirt monkeys

It’s an important week in the 4×4 world. Toyota has just launched a new version of its awesome Land Cruiser, one which the company says is as tough as ever when it comes to handling the dirt, but more poised when trawling the tarmac.

There is one basic model available but with a choice of three packages of equipment accreting to it as the prices climb from just under £30,000 to nearly £45,000.

It’s a huge five-door off-roader, powered by a “revised” three-litre turbocharged diesel engine which turns out 171bhp. Revised or not, it is the same output as it has been for some time and, to be honest, a bit disappointing when compared with some of the competition. The drive is fed through a five-speed automatic gearbox. There is no manual option.

The new Land Cruiser has full-time all-wheel-drive with a limited slip differential to keep it going when things get a bit out of sorts. You can also dial drive characteristics into the control systems though what’s known as the Multi-Terrain Select system. Basically you tell the machine what sort of terrain you’re crossing and it will set the off-road systems to cope.

As you move up through the models available, more pieces of innovative technology become available to help you on your way.

The Multi-Terrain Monitor system is for the mud. While off-road, cameras mounted on the front and side help you see the things you ought to know about like boulders or bogs. It makes a change from the old days of leaning out the window, watching the front offside tyre negotiating the boulders on the hill.

“Crawl Control” is what Toyota calls its feet-off system of taking you forward at a steady pace through the muck or when wading through water. On my old Series II we had a hand throttle in the dash.

Pull out onto the road and the “Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System” whirrs into life to minimise body roll in the corners. The same system works in reverse to maximise axle articulation when negotiating rough terrain.

The car is marginally larger than its predecessor but we’re told there is quite a bit more space inside. All except the base model have seven seats in them, the third row folding flat at the touch of a button.

The tailgate swings open sideways, but if you’re in a tight parking slot on the roadside, you can open the glass hatch and load your shopping in through the top.

Style wise, there is nothing here to startle the animals. Although the car is meant to be all-new, there is no doubting it’s a Toyota Land Cruiser. You’d have to be a bit of a car nerd to instantly spot the differences.

Orders are being taken now and first deliveries will begin early next month.

The age of Discovery

Land Rover is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the Discovery.

Designed virtually out of a box of bits from other cars, it was to bridge the yawning chasm between the utilitarian go-anywhere work­horse Defender, and the luxurious country cruiser, the Range Rover.

The car changed the popular perception of what a 4×4 could be and arguably spawned a new generation of relatively affordable off-roaders that were perfectly passable as primarily road-cars.

It obviously touched a soft spot. Over the years more than 900,000 of them have been sold around the world. Nowadays, they can be bought in an amazing 91 countries.

To be honest, they had a reputation for many years for having niggling faults, but the latest model seems to have finally evolved from the primal mire.

Don’t take my word for it – the Discovery 4 was this week voted Scottish Car of the Year by the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers.

Mike Grundon


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