Tuesday, 13 March 2012

I think I’m going to buy a new 4x4

It’s my luck that over the past two weeks I’ve driven four 4x4s I’ve never driven before: Nissan Navara, Range Rover Evoque, Toyota Land Cruiser FJ and a Discovery-4.

The Navara was LA Sport’s green ‘HULK’, a highly modified version of a vehicle I regard as extremely boring, with an overly hard ride, bland interior but with nice engines. LA Sport’s version, with its huge clearance, certainly makes it much more interesting, but my drive in it was completely overshadowed by the Land Cruiser FJ. This one was also one of LA Sport’s creations, with replacement shocks and springs, wheel arch flares and an ever-so-nice winch-bar and rear bumper.

These two were taken for a spin on the Atlantis dunes. The FJ sped up the dunes like a frightened rabbit. And then I tried the Discovery. What amazed me was, despite the 19’ rims and low profile tyres, it handled the dunes extremely well. I was a bit taken aback. It’s times like these that my understanding of four-wheel drive can be rattled. Why did it do so well? I witnessed BMW X5’s with the same sized tyres fail completely on the Lamberts Bay dunes. Yes, the sand was softer then, but the Disco did so well, I am left to ask, was it the traction-control system that made it so good, and if not, what? I didn’t hear the TC working, nor did I notice the TC light on the dash come on. So I really have no answer, except to know; low profiles are going to hinder progress off road. That’s logical. But the Disco’s performance still baffles me a bit.

Driving these ‘modern’ vehicles, I think it’s time for something new. I am a little tired of the chugging Toyota 1HZ. I mean the FJ is pure fun! No 1HZ vehicle can ever be that. My Land Cruiser 105 is still in my hands despite trying to sell it for a while now, but what will I replace it with? An FJ? It’s too youthful for me, isn’t it? What about a Hilux? Far too ordinary. Fortuner? Too boring, despite being fantastic. Nissan Pathfinder? Yuk. Pajero? After the last time I drove one, (the owners wanted to string me up), it’s the very last I would ever consider. Besides, it’s old and boring and out-performed by every vehicle in its class. Patrol? Ugly, but it’s a good thought. Mercedes G? I just couldn’t, even if I had the money, bring myself to spend that much on an empty tin box. Jeep? I just can’t see myself in one. Discovery? To pricey for me, but even if it wasn’t, I can’t put on smaller rims and fatter tyres. Then I have to ask, does this really matter? I am yet to be convinced, and this month’s trek over Baboons Pass will do doubt answer some more questions.

So, if you had up to R500K to spend on a 4x4, bearing in mind you want to go on off-road expeditions with it, what would you buy?


  1. The new Jeep Grand Cherokee is awesome. You should try it.

  2. No doubt about it, I would buy a Land Cruiser VX or a Prado. I've had my Prado VXL for over a year now and with it, I've gone on many desert camping trips. Of course I've gotten stuck in the really soft sand occasionally,(who hasn't), but it hasn't failed me yet. By the way, when I mean sand, I mean the Empty Quarter in Saudi Arabia, not some playground sandbox!

  3. I would buy one of the new Pentastar v6 Wranglers. The ~R100K change you would get would be plenty to prepare it for any off-road expedition. If you're tired of the ordinary and boring, why not... I may be biased though.

  4. Hi Andrew, I had the same question last year when I decided to ditch my 3 series in favour of something with a bit more off road ability.

    Did lots of research (including watching your youtube review of the Fortuner), so in the end I bought the new generation one, in white!

    I know its a bit boring and that there are about 5 million of them sold a month, but to be honest, I love it. It was my introduction to offroading and I have already (all in my mind) replaced the bumpers, put on a spare wheel carrier, OME suspension, fitted a roofrack and a drawer system. I look forward to the day when I have actually done these mods!

    BTW, while in Plett a while back I came across two of your books at a second hand store, so I promptly snapped them up. Can't check on the titles at the moment as I'm in Ghana.

    However, as you are currently in a 105, I can hardly see you scaling down to a Fortuner! What about a demo Prado? I haven't driven it, but if I could have stretched my budget to one, I would have!

  5. hmmph... well i Just got the Pajero. Personally i think the styling is still great. I tested it at dewildt against a Prado, a jacked up fortuna, a Ranger, Jimny, BT50 and a Disco. The only one that out performed it was the Disco3. The others - well they all agreed it was the best car on the day. So, although i owned it already, my choice was validated (in my opinion). Ground clearance is a bit low, but spacers sort that out, and the motor is noisy. BUT - spares, repairs and reliability - well my research shows it was the best buy for my budget and will likely last me into the next decade. Also, i bought the GLX version specifically because it has far less low-slung tupperware - which still gets bent out of shape on serious exit angles but within 5 minutes, everything is banged and bent back into shape. FJ is a good performer, but i watched a brand new ML 500 show it the middle finger at dewildt too...

    1. Hi Andrew,
      I’ve been in the same dilemma and I stumbled upon a solution wich seems to work perfectly for me.
      I also drive a 105 series Cruiser and share the same sentiments (and frustrations). The 1HZ does get on my nerves sometimes. End last year I decided to get an FJ. The plan was to sell the GX as soon as I get the FJ.
      I received the FJ in Oktober last year and what a pleasure and fun 4 x 4 it is to own. All but for one thing: It seriously lacks packing space… especialy if one is used to the big land cruiser.
      I never got to selling my GX. I ended up keeping both wich actually ended up making perfect sense.
      The FJ is a fantastic daily drive. It puts a smile on your face every time you get behind the wheel. Further more it’s a very potent offroader and a perfect weekend worior.
      I also find myself looking forward driving the GX after a long ride in the FJ and visa verca.
      I actually enjoy driving my GX much much more….. crazy isnt it??
      I think that in the long run there is also a cost saving because kitting out an overlander can easily cost in access of 100K. Keeping down the mileage on the overlander helps keeping it new for longer.
      In the end It boils down to horses for courses: Why cant one have both?
      Overlanding and family trips: SFA, large strong build. Load carring ability: 105 GX, Nissan Patrol , 76 Cruiser, G-wagon, Land Rover.
      Daily runner: Comfort and decent 4 x 4 ability. Prado, Pajero, Discovery, FJ, Jeep… etc etc.
      I think that is about as close one could get to perfection. (If you can justify the cost factor)
      Good luck…. Me thinks you are probably going to end up buying the big “G”….. even if it doesn’t make any sence. …

  6. The Patrol is sensible as it should do most of what you've come to expect from your Cruiser. Everything else will probably come up short over time. However, with a replacement due you'll struggle with resale down the road.

    If you're looking to do something slightly smaller, then perhaps a Prado 150 TX?

    Something very different, perhaps the new Ranger?

    Something smart, a good old Hilux or Fortuner.

    Something to take 10 years off, go for the FJ, why not. It will be like getting yourself a younger girlfriend… just much cheaper.

  7. I would go with the Toyota Land Cruiser FJ performance-wise. It's easy to tell how good it performs off-road while still having that classy look for city driving. That's hitting two birds with one stone if you ask me.

    Arlyne Nelms @ SpartanToyota.com

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