The Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon has prices around the £40k mark which is a heck of a lot for any motor car. When paying this much for a car unless you have an unlimited budget and the vehicle is going to be one of a stable of exotic cars the you have to be sure the car is going to meet your needs. Do you really need the enormous off-road competence of the Land Cruiser ? Is the car going to be too big for your garage, drive or supermarket car-park? Firstly let's look at just how good it is.
I was fortunate to be able to test-drive the Land Cruiser Amazon at one of Toyota's customer days. The day was held at the Motor Safari centre in Caergwrle near Wrexham. This excellent off-road and driving centre has a superb facility which gives you the opportunity of testing your off-road driving skills and the capabilities of the car on tracks with varying difficulty. A circuit takes you around a wooded area with the ground sloping in all directions and through rutted tracks and up and down gradients. The instructors are very capable and help you get the most out of the car and out of your day. On the day we were there heavy snow had added to excitement as the surface was quite slippery - it also meant it was not possible to accurately tell where the lake in the middle of the track was.
After the off road part the group of us took the dozen Land Cruisers out onto a road circuit to see how the car felt on normal roads. As all the Land Cruisers had been supplied in white it did look a bit like a convoy of UN observers heading through Kosovo.
So how did the Land Cruiser perform? During the off road section this car was just superb. The axle movement is tremendous and the car's ability to transfer power to a wheel where traction was possible was fantastic. At one stage the instructor let us get out to see the way the axles were placed on a particularly sloping rutted section - very impressive. Having got back in the car immediately gained grip and way it went. In the 2.7 litre petrol version we were in the power and torque was more than you could usefully use. Going down near vertical gradients the torque held the car safely down as you rested your feet until you got to the bottom. If your need is for a top-performing off-roader then the Land Cruiser Amazon is a winner.
Alas out on the road the car is less of a winner. All that off-road ability does compromise it as a road vehicle. The steering feels a bit too light and vague and although the driving position is superb visibility looking behind from the drivers seat could be better. The car is also very big and feels it. The average car space at Tesco's is going to tax your parking ability. Whilst fuel consumption was going to concern us whilst Toyota paid, the Land Cruiser in petrol form is not going to travel further than about 16 miles for each of your £4 gallons. Every four mile round trip to the shops is going to cost a quid. The car can shift itself quite well though in a straight line though agility is spoiled by the body roll. The car feels safe as it rolls but passengers might not enjoy it.
Probably though if you can shell out £40k for the car in the first place this is not going to bother you. Buyers probably don't buy it for it for the ultimate off-road ability but if you want to get the horse-box out of a muddy field this is your car. The car's size gives it a superior attitude and again this is a plus point. This is the car for those who say - if I'm going to have a 4x4 I want the best.