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Land Cruising

31 May 2012

I’ve always thought the Land Cruiser 200 to be, well, a little too showy and imposing for my taste. In an age where fuel consumption and CO2 output has become important to a lot of buyers, and where “smaller is better” seems to be a design principle followed by many manufacturers, the Cruiser 200 appeared, to me, to be a bit self-indulgent and politically incorrect.

After all, it is a seriously big SUV. Even the Fortuner, which is not small by any means, seems tiny when parked next to the 200 at a traffic light.

With a price tag hovering around the R1 million mark, it is also a bit pricey to be used as a proper off-roader by the majority of people. Yes, it is plenty capable in an off-road environment, but who would want to expose such an expensive vehicle to dongas and axle twisters. Moreover, the Land Cruiser 200 is about as wide as a barn, meaning that you’re bound to scratch its side panels on narrow, tree-lined trails.

Well, I recently spent a couple of days with the Cruiser, mostly driving it around town. And here are the conclusions that I have come to:

– It is very, very big. Attempting to park it at a shopping centre on a busy Saturday morning is about as difficult as trying to dock an aircraft carrier in Cape Town harbour when all the fishing boats are coming in.

– A Land Cruiser 200 in rush hour traffic often elicits looks of open contempt from other drivers, presumably because they feel that a Cruiser driver demands more than his fair share of the road.

– A Land Cruiser 200 in rush hour traffic often elicits looks of undisguised envy from Fortuner and Prado owners.

– I will never, ever be able to afford its fuel bill.

– I absolutely, unconditionally, positively want a Land Cruiser 200.

Yes it is impractical, especially if you spend most of your time on congested city streets and in tight parking areas. Yes, it burns through fuel at an alarming rate. Yes, it is expensive. And yes, it is a little bit flashy. But it delivers an indescribably smooth ride. You do not ride in a Land Cruiser 200 so much as you float around in it. NVH levels are so low, and its cabin is so plush and refined, that you are completely divorced from the chaos of the outside world. Mortars could be raining down around you, and you would hardly notice. It ensconces you in your own little cocoon of peace and tranquillity. It’s all very Zen.

No wonder you see so many UN employees driving around in them when you travel through Africa. It makes the daily hazards and frustrations of living on the continent so much more bearable.