Mastering the 4×4: The Great Duality (Part 2)
After such a spectacular trip, one tends to look back and reflect upon everything, replaying each moment over and over again in the mind. At the core of this of course is the 4×4 and what it represents. They were the corner stone of the whole operation, without which we never could have gone, and upon whom we placed our faith to get back home safe and in one piece. So what should you look out for and which in my humble opinion should you choose?
Firstly and most obviously you’re going to need a vehicle with four wheel drive. Sounds obvious right? Well yes, but it needs to be a proper four wheel drive system. I’m talking low range gearbox and diff lock. If you don’t have that, then you’re not going through the rough stuff, end of story. Next, you’re going to need high ground clearance for getting through dongas, over boulders and along rutted roads.
Secondly the vehicle has to be the right size with the right engine. Too big and the vehicle will get stuck going over ridges, while too small means zero comfort and not enough space for all the equipment required. As for the engine, torque is king out in the rough, as the more torque you have the more pulling power you’ll get, which is of course incredibly useful when towing a trailer through the arse end of nowhere.
Therefore as you’ll undoubtedly have guessed, you’ll need a diesel engine, however great pulling power is not the only thing a diesel provides. When your objective is simply to get yourself from A to B through whatever nature has to throw at you, the last thing you want to have to worry about is fuel consumption. Diesel therefore is the only choice as the greater efficiency means less chance of running dry.
OK so those are the basics, but let’s get to the crux of the matter. Toyota vs Land Rover. Anyone who knows anything about 4×4’s is fanatical about one of these two. It’s one of the great dualities so common in the motoring world; Mercedes or BMW, Rolls Royce or Bentley, Porsche or Ferrari, and yet this one is unique in its characteristics.
The amazing thing about this particular rivalry is that each side acknowledges the other has something great. Each has its own reputation to fall back on in the fight for supremacy. The Toyota is notoriously reliable while the Land Rover is incredibly rugged with years of experience put into each and every design. After spending time with both which side of the fence do I come down on?
Well first off, what the Toyota does better by a country mile is multi-task. It doesn’t really matter which model you take, from the Hilux to the Prado, each one performs incredibly well both around town and into the wild, whereas something like the Land Rover Defender is superb in the rough, but severely lacking on a school run.
In terms of comfort, here again the Toyota has things its own way as while things are pretty even out on the dirt, highway driving is made much more bearable by the Japanese.
Don’t count the Land Rover out however, as this is where it starts to hit back. That experience of making 4×4 cars since the Stone Age shows up in favour of the British as little things begin to shine through when it truly matters. For example, the drive shaft on a Land Rover Defender runs directly underneath the driver instead of down the middle of the car like in most cars. The reasoning behind this is simple and yet brilliant. Rough tracks are very often deeply rutted with the wheels sinking incredibly low and creating a risk of scraping the undercarriage along the middle of the road. With the drive shaft offset, the risk of damage is greatly reduced. Another benefit comes in manoeuvring the vehicle, which changes from steering an excitable, drunk hippopotamus into something far more pleasant.
I could go on talking about the pros and cons of both for far too long, but what it boils down to for me is this. The Land Rover just looks better; it blends in and feels at home. Out in the wild there is no better looking vehicle on the planet, which inspires confidence and belief, both in you and the car. You look at it and think; “I made the right choice, I’m in a Land Rover and I can take on the world no matter what”.
Both will do the job brilliantly. Both have their positives and negatives. Both have the pedigree and more avid supporters than Ferrari at Monza.
But only one makes me want to get out there.
The Land Rover.