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Which of these big touring 4×4 wagons is the best offroad? Let the battle commence!
Let’s revive age-old rivalries and put these much-loved workhorses to the ultimate torture test to see which of the big buses comes out on top…ah you know what, I can’t be bothered with the usual journalism hype-cliches, you’ll need to generate your own excitement and hyperbole.
I’m also going to pour more water on the hype train and say that the outcome doesn’t really matter. As far as touring Australia by 4×4 is concerned, anything with low range, all-terrains and a modest lift will get your pretty much anywhere worth going, and all these vehicles clear that low bar with a huge leap. Sorry, aftermarket, it’s not actually necessary to throw $40k at a car before you turn onto a dirt road.
But there are differences which are interesting to explore, and of course the more capable the vehicle, the better. I’m also going to clarify here that this test is about off-road capability only, not value, reliability, towability, cargo space or anything else, and it’s touring wagons. Yet on the video I made chronicling what happened…guess what owner group was the most vocal? Nissan? Land Rover? INEOS? Toyota? No, none of them. But…that’s the only four included? Yes, I know…the most vocal were the Jeep owners protesting that I’d not included the Wrangler as a touring wagon, would you believe? Well, if you’ve met a true Jeepist, you’ll understand.
So let’s start in reverse order of age and that means the Patrol, which like the Pajero before it, caused a huge stir when it arrived as it was clearly the work of Satan – no diesel, and not only independent front suspension but independent rear suspension! It was a harrowing time, all over the country Nissan loyalists were spitting their bulk-buy beer straight over their Toyota Recovery Vehicle t-shirts. Values of TD42s shot up, and even the Grenade was looked on more kindly. The heresy! The tragedy! The betrayal!
Fast forwards to 2023 and the Y62 has deservedly gained a loyal following as it’s a well-proven vehicle that is immensely capable as a towcar or offroader, and V8, baby! If you listen carefully, even the live-axle Nissan devotees grumble through their beards an acknowledgement that Y62 can in fact deliver the goods offroad. Despite being fully independent, Nissan engineered a suspension system called HBMC which forces one wheel down when the other goes up, simulating a live axle, and the stock 32s plus independent suspension mean a decent 280mm or so of clearance, something you’d need 37s for on your GU. Add in decent brake traction control (BTC), a lockable centre diff and a rear locker which doesn’t disable BTC on the front axle and you’ve got yourself a capable offroader. The Y62 crowd joke “test drive one and tell us what colour you bought”.
Land Rover Defender
The Defender Defender is next, or is it the JLR Defender? Or JLR, House of Defender, Defender. Who knows, there’s definitely DEFEDNER in there somewhere. It’s certainly not Land Rover any more, and frankly I’m a bit confused about what to call the maker. I did read that a publicity event included the option for guests to use a ‘fragrance sensory lab’ to design a ‘bespoke scent’ for their car, so I really don’t think I’m anywhere near their target audience as my bespoke scents aren’t created in a lab. And in fact is it the new Defender, or is it the new Discovery and the badges got confused?
Who’s to know, but what’s important is that despite it all we have here the pinnacle of the Solihull Company’s (my name for them now) offroad design. It’s fully independent, has a computer controlled centre diff (actually a centre diff and clutch or just clutch depending on age), and this model also has the eDiff, in effect a computer-controlled rear locker. It also has air suspension with a clever cross-link system that works across an axle to replicate the effect of a live axle.
Is it really a Defender?
When the car was released in 2019 the Land Rover faithful were less than impressed. The ancients still hadn’t come to terms with coil springs, so this sleek creature from the future was nothing short of witchcraft to them and absolutely Not To Be Trusted – their quills squeaked furiously on the parchment as they dashed off missives to each other. I never had the chance to discuss it with the late great Rob Emmins, but given the one-way chats I’ve listened to on the subject of even less modern Landies I’ve had liked to have heard his views. Pretty sure there would have been a carpet-bomb of f-words and then some.
The modern Land Rover aficionados who had loved the Discovery 3 and 4 were disappointed but not surprised. Single tears of defeat rolled down well-shaven chins, consoling sips of malt did nothing to allay the concerns their next vehicle would not be a green oval. Little did they know a British billionaire was about to become their Jesus.
300 Series LandCruiser
Next up in age is the LC300, and again we saw Satan’s hand in the design as the V8 was replaced with a V6. The LC200 faithful were appalled, spitting their fine wines straight across the tablecloth before checking their self-managed super funds to see if they could update to the latest model before the world as they knew it ended. Yet again here we are in 2023 and I don’t know a single LC300 owner who’d go back to the 200, even if they miss the tailgate, and LC200 values have dropped from the initial frenzy post-LC300.
As usual, Toyota didn’t take any risks with the 300 despite fourteen years of development; it’s still independent front, live rear, and same 2850mm wheelbase which is apparently the golden measurement, lockable and centre diff. Our model for the comparison is the GR Sport which has eKDSS disconnectable swaybars plus front and rear lockers, the only LC300 model to offer those options as Toyota’s product managers continue the tradition of playing profitable mind games with offroad options and model grades.
Finally we come to the INEOS Grenadier, and I’m sure you know the origin story so I’ll cut straight to the summary; newest design, oldest and least innovative which the company would no doubt consider a virtue. Separate chassis, live axles, optional front and rear lockers, centre diff locked – oh and by the way can we NOT refer to it as triple locked, unless you want to say it has six wheels, four at each corner, spare and steering.
Moving on – metal-key not pushbutton, transfer case lever, 17” wheels and looks like the lovechild of the original Defender and G-Wagen, two handsome and accomplished parents indeed – and that’s not just a figure of speech, take a look at not only the styling but the componentry. Owners are all new to the brand of course; planet INEOS has attracted a mix of modern Land Rover refugees, disaffected Toyota owners wondering what else LC300 money will buy them and miscellaneous 4X4 aficionados looking for what they hope will be the ultimate offroad vehicle. Upstanding individuals, pillars of society and examples to us all particularly as a lot of them support me on Patreon.
Okay, that’s a thousand words. Next up, we’ll get into how these four perform.