You see, I recently had to help my sister move back home after four years in Potchefstroom. As her dorm room is no bigger than a decimal, there was no need to book a bakkie bigger than a Nissan NP200. But why, I wondered, would I do that if I could just as easily get my hands on the biggest, meanest bakkie out there, the Toyota Land Cruiser V8. It would be like taking a bazooka to a kettie fight, which is a war strategy that in theory sounds like there’s absolutely no room for failure.
My plan worked beautifully. The couple of boxes, bookshelf, loads of clothes and a fridge had zero effect on the performance of the Land Cruiser. Like a trusted donkey, he did an admirable job of helping me win the title of Brother of the Year.
And yes, I refer to the Land Cruiser as a ‘he,’ because calling him ‘it’ would be an insult to a motoring institution. The Land Cruiser is a vehicle beloved by thousands of South Africans, so much so that it’s normally given a name and included in all the best and worst stories any given Land Cruiser-owning family has to offer.
Don’t believe me? I have an anecdote for that. I recently went to a friend’s wedding. The groom’s father is a rich Free State farmer with a fleet of luxury vehicles, Hiluxes and one old, run-down Land Cruiser. When it came to choosing the wedding whip, guess what the family went for? In my life I’ve never seen anything so wrong, yet so completely right, as the bride got off of the back of that Land Cruiser.
So there’s really not much to say about this car then. It’s a motoring legend that completely deserves the status bestowed upon it by thousands of adoring fans. Over the years, however, it has been revamped multiple times until we’re now blessed with the best of the breed.
As I said recently in this paper, it’s getting harder to hide a car’s age and nowhere is that more prevalent than in a Land Cruiser. It’s so old school, it probably attended the same high school my ouma went to. The seats are way up in the clouds and the steering is as vague as a stoned graphic-design student.
It’s also a whale of a thing to drive around and above 120km/h there’s no point in having a radio, because the road and wind noise completely drown it out.
So why would I give it a slot in my dream garage? In other cars, you want the unrefined engine noises and mechanical bits to be hidden underneath a veneer of sound deafening and carpet. In the Land Cruiser (and Land Rover Defender) you want the noise and vibrations. It’s part of the charm and reminds you that if you wanted, you could tackle any mountain or forge that strike your fancy.
This part of the Land Cruiser myth is definitely true. It is probably the best off-road vehicle I’ve ever driven. On the launch of the revamped Cruiser a few months ago, one fell over (driver’s fault) and it was simply tipped back over so it could continue the journey. It had a few scratches, but I honestly think it did more damage to the mountain than the mountain did to it.
The main reason I’m writing about this car again is the engine. The Cruiser now comes with a V8 diesel engine that produces enough power to make this monster feel quite spritely. Its 151kW/430Nm output is 55kW and 145Nm more than the famous 4.2-litre straight-six diesel that usually does service in the Land Cruiser.
It’s difficult to find reasonable fault with the Land Cruiser. Yes, it’s not the most comfortable car around and it’s a bit rough around the edges, but the insane off-road ability and legendary toughness more than make up for it.