Last week I think I met my spiritual automotive-double.
It was a vehicle that fits in perfectly with my life spent heaving stuff home from builder’s merchants, towing mini diggers, replenishing my decimated firewood stack and transporting my large, slobbery dog.
I instantly clicked with its off-radar, no frills looks and silver steel wheels. Its hose-down rubber mats (back and front) appealed to my practical sensibilities as did its immensely grunty diesel engine – just the job for towing heavy loads.
It’s called the Land Cruiser Commercial Utility and it looks like the sort of vehicle you’d see the International Red Cross rocking up in at some major International emergency.
With its incredibly high sills, short wheelbase and stubby front and rear overhangs I’m guessing there aren’t many places inaccessible to the Land Cruiser Commercial. With permanent four wheel drive it looks and feels like it’d be as happy traversing slippery muddy slopes as it is fording waist-deep river crossings.
Not that there was any of that kind of fun and nonsense for me last week. Nope, just traffic filled, rain swamped roads around Sussex and whilst I managed to discover some pretty savage pot-holes, this was about as extreme as my off-road experience got.
I half expected the Land Cruiser Commercial to be a bit of a bone-jarring, un-ergonomic experience on the road. But that’s part of the beauty of long travel suspension and high profile Bridgestone Duelers, a tyre well known for its cushioning, cossetting ride qualities.
In essence, no, it’s not the ride quality I (and probably you) would expect. Sure there’s a lot of nose down dive when braking hard and a lot of nose up action under power but it floats nicely over road imperfections in a way that belies its undoubted off road capabilities. You’ve got to be quite kind to it in rapid direction changes due to its high roll centre, short wheelbase and excessive wheel travel but it’s no biggie.
In sixth gear at 70mph the engine’s spinning over at a lowly 2,100RPM which keeps things hushed and relaxed in the cabin. Without the luxury of sumptuous upholstery and deep carpets (or rear seats) to deaden the sound, this is a useful trick in itself. By glorious coincidence, 2,100RPM also mark the point where the Turbo boost fully peaks so if you need to create an almost instant gap in the blink of an eye, all it takes is a quick prod on the accelerator and the car instantly shoots forward. It is, it has to be said, surprisingly nippy.
Another no-nonsense aspect I also appreciated was the fact that the heating and ventilation is controlled by good old buttons which (if you also possess fingers akin to Cumberland Sausages) can be reached without even taking your hand off the gear lever. I detest touch screen controls on the basis that they constitute a lack of due care and attention way beyond using a mobile phone. A simple button to control heat and others to control direction and ferocity can be learned in a short period of time. LCD touch screens demand your full ocular attention when really that attention should be focused on your mirrors and the road ahead.
It’s rare that I drive test cars whilst simultaneously planning ownership. In fact, I’m struggling to conjure up another example. Lotus Elise back in 2005?
But the fact of the matter is that I love the un-flashiness and Ronseal appeal of the Land Cruiser Commercial Utility. It’s going to have to wait a while though. I am waaaaaayyyy too tight fisted to buy a new or nearly new car. Even if it does cost considerably less than a posh Land Cruiser at £28,000. I prefer to let other people take the meatiest depreciation hits for me.
I wonder where the Red Cross dispose of all their used vehicles? Time to do some Googling…