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?