Monday, 19 March 2012

I think I’m going to buy a new 4x4 – part-2

About three years ago I wrote an article for Leisure Wheels, mentioning that I had had a near head-on smash and that I didn’t think the compromises in safety with vehicles like the Defender and Land Cruiser 76 were worth it. At the time I considered vehicles like the Pajero and Prado. I was accused of going ‘soft’. I like to think of it as going ‘sensible’. Then I drove the Pajero and realized I might be heading in the wrong direction. Then I drove the Fortuner and thought that IFS front suspension was really very good, and that I needn’t insist on solid axles.

Now again, I have the same dilemma. At the time I chose a Land Cruiser 100 GX. It has much better brakes, ABS and airbags, things that at the time no heavy-duty solid-axled 4x4 were offering. While that has changed to a degree, the handling of all 70-series Land Cruisers and the Defender is diabolical, when compared to say an FJ Cruiser, Discovery, Prado and even Fortuner.

So the big questions remain: is IFS good enough for what I do, considering that while the 4x4 routes I travel are tough, they are not ‘challenge’ tough? And, must it be a station-wagon?

The Discovery expedition up Baboons pass will no doubt answer some questions. Its on-road performance is outstanding. What has surprised me the most, that it’s a bit better on-road than the Land Cruiser 200VX. It’s quieter, smoother, has a nicer interior. Is it as good off-road? Because the LC200 isn’t great in standard form because it can’t take much of a load and it’s too low.

But right now my eyes are avariciously turned toward the FJ.  But it’s too cute to be a serious expedition 4x4 – or is it? I don’t want a Jeep. I don’t want a Ford, or Isuzu. I like the Nissan Patrol, but the diesel is a bit of a dog, and the petrol uses more fuel than a 747. I will wait for the V8 Land Cruisers, as these could add vehicles that right now, are not part of the choice.

So if you don’t hear from me for a while, know that it’s because I’m off answering these questions – and shooting my TV show in the process.


  1. Hi Andrew

    For what it's worth...

    I think the Disco4 with the SDV6 engine is the best all-rounder in the world. It's as luxurious as a premium German saloon, as cavernous as an estate, seats seven adults in comfort only matched by dedicated 'people carriers' and it's about as accomplished off-road as any other production 4x4 out there. Reading your blog, I assume you're impressed by its wide ranging abilities, too?

    For me, the only other vehicle that comes close is the Prado, which gains in utility, but loses on dynamics (engine, seating layout, materials, arguably even off-road ability). We've had Disco2s and Disco3s as family cars and regret 'upgrading' to the Rangie and ML420 we have now (though both are good vehicles). The Toyotas and Nissans seem to have rather gutless diesels in comparison, or thirsty petrols. Maybe the new V8s might change that, but it sounds like two too many cylinders to me.

    Downsides? Well, it's not cheap. Reliability's not JLR's strong point, but it's much better than it used to be. It's heavy. Really heavy. It's not as easy to modify as the Toyota family and JLR's choice of wheel size is problematic (though Grabbers seem to work pretty well). Would you dare take it on a serious trip into the bush? Not sure I would.

    All this said, as a personal choice for use including more extreme overlanding, I'd compromise the luxury of the Disco4 and go for a Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited with the new Pentastar V6 (or ideally 3.0 diesel if only they offered it). Improved ride, ergonomics and massively improved engines feature in the 2012 models. The Rubi gets front and rear lockers, heavy duty Dana44s and sway bar disconnects as standard and is subject to a huge range of modification options. Has to be worth a test drive, at least?

    Good luck with the search and please let us hear your deliberations!

  2. i think the toyotas and the jeeps are the best because they are very strong and i am a jeep fan i have 2 of them