My primary criteria for the new family hauler were interior space, reliability, safety, comfort and aftermarket support, so I hopped online (as many people do) to start my search. I was currently the happy owner of a mildly built Jeep TJ that had served me well, so that’s where my quest began. Looking at Jeep’s full sized platform, the Grand Cherokee, I felt that it had lost much of the off-road appeal and prowess that earlier generations had, and it had now joined the ranks of the mall wagon.
The unlimited JK was an instant appeal with unrivaled aftermarket support, the fun factor of a removable top and familiarity, so it was high on the list, until I drove one. This was going to be a daily driver, hauling a family and gear many miles day in and day out. The excellent off road capabilities were not enough to compensate for a lack of interior space, road noise and poor handling. If this were going to be a secondary vehicle, it might just have made the cut.
A brief look at Land Rovers was done and the LR3 definitely piqued my interest, but finding a smaller off-road enthusiast community locally, and a general lack of local support for a platform that is not known for reliability made it undesirable. This brought me to Toyota.
Well, I was actually looking at everything at the same time and I kept coming back to Toyota. The brand’s history, reliability and an enthusiast network like nothing I’d ever seen before drew me in and I never looked back. So the model lineup of interest was the fourth gen 4Runner, 100 Series Land Cruiser and first gen Sequoia.
The 4Runner was marked off the list due to a third row only conducive to pets and groceries and the general lack of interior space. For a single adult or a couple, the 4Runner may very well be the perfect platform. With more agility, better fuel economy and a gennerally lower cost of ownership, the 4Runner is a great choice for many. The Sequoia was a favorite, with the largest capacity of anything we had test driven, plenty of power and nice amenities. The lack of aftermarket off-road support was the only concern. Enter the Land Cruiser.
First thoughts were that the 100 series was a Land Cruiser in name only but I soon found that it was a legitimate 4x4 platform. A strong frame, steering and suspension components that were more stout than other similarly sized vehicles and a solid drivetrain were all evident immediately. Moving from a SFA to IFS was a no brainer as well. I had seen IFS vehicles perform as good as their SFA counterparts on moderate terrain and already knew that the on-road and high speed off-road benefits would be appreciated in daily use. The final factor that ultimately persuaded us to go with the 100 series was the fit and finish. With an upscale interior, consistent body gaps, doors that closed with a solid thud, no rattles and an overall higher attention to detail than their counterparts, we knew the 100 series would be equally at home at the mall and on the trail.
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