This three-door utility is a heavyweight, immensely capable countryside vehicle and the obvious successor to the Defender, says Charlie Flindt. Just with a Toyota badge…
Charlie Flindt finds he is impressed by the new Toyota Land Cruiser Commercial – an immensely capable countryside vehicle that may well be prove itself the Defender’s successor.
For more on what could replace the Defender, read our review of the Dacia Duster Commercial.
TOYOTA LAND CRUISER COMMERCIAL
Well, that’s one mystery solved: the identity of the man sitting in the corner of our rural pub, busily but surreptitiously making notes as a group of country folk discussed what we really, really wanted from the new Land Rover Defender.
He was the Man from Toyota, obviously. It’s the only explanation for the new Land Cruiser Commercial, which almost perfectly matches our mud-machine menu.
For a start, it’s a simple three-door van. (A five-door version is available, but less is more in this case). The load area is vast and there’s a handy grille/bulkhead already installed (although any self-respecting Sealyham would soon wheedle its way through the gaps at the side). It has plain steel wheels with practical tyres. The gearbox and handbrake are both manual, the drive is permanent four-wheel, and off-road driving aids consist of nothing more than a low ratio box and a push-button diff lock.
The side doors are long but not too heavy and the rear door hinges from the side but has a window that opens from the top – very handy for popping things in and out. And that’s about it – and that’s about all we wanted.
Best of all, the whole package feels built to last. Everything is sturdy: the controls, the gearbox – in fact, the heavy clutch could have done with being a little less sturdy, but I was nursing a sore calf (as in muscle, not small animal) that week. But the Land Cruiser gives the impression that in 250,000 miles’ time, little will have changed. No disrespect to the Defender, but….
The Land Cruiser is powered by a simple four-cylinder turbodiesel, which does an excellent job both on and off road. It chunders along at minimal revs when you want to avoid spinning, although the gear ratios had me baffled sometimes: the gap between first and second ‘High’, the definitive farm gears, was too wide. Odd, in a six-speed box. Best of all, it’s equally at home on Tarmac. It’s not particularly fast but its performance matches the handling, which is itself better than expected for such a high-riding vehicle.
The styling is a bit front heavy, with a bumper/front grille combo sticking out a bit too far. It’s hard to judge exactly where they are when nudging gates shut and dopey steers out of the way – the Defender’s boxy styling never had that problem.
The man from Toyota got up and left before we’d finished our boozy wish list, which probably explains why some items haven’t made it to the Land Cruiser: an old-fashioned key start (so you know where the key is); a full-size spare (although it is available on the five-door); leather seats (easier to clean); and a steering wheel that does nothing but steer. Oh, and available in dark green.
But it is a serious, heavyweight, immensely capable countryside vehicle that slotted perfectly into the farm routine. I couldn’t help thinking, as I parked it up after another busy day, that I had been driving the new Defender. It just happens to have a Toyota badge on it.
TOYOTA LAND CRUISER COMMERCIAL 3-DOOR
♦ Engine: 2,755cc turbodiesel
♦ Power: 175bhp
♦ Max speed: 108mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 12.1
♦ Combined fuel economy: 38.1
♦ Insurance group: 43E
♦ Price: £27,561.01 (excl VAT)