After 30,000 KM – We Still Love the Toyota Landcruiser.

Kylie is without doubt a Landcruiser girl...!
Recently, we were driving home along Victoria’s Goulburn Valley Highway after spending a relaxing weekend with friends in Gough’s Bay, near Lake Eildon. For anyone unfamiliar with this road, it is a fairly typical B grade highway in Victoria, with a single lane in each direction and dotted with occasional overtaking opportunities, tight sweeping bends and varying gradients. During winter, this road is packed with skiers heading up to Mt Buller in their all-wheel drive Subaru’s and Audi’s. It’s the perfect road for a hot hatch. During summer, the snow melts in the mountains to reveal the vast eucalypt forests of the Victorian High Country, the exclusive domain of real 4WDs. These vehicles are the norm along the Goulburn Valley Highway this time of year despite not being so well suited to this type of road.

Not so Olaf, our Toyota Landcruiser 200. It seems to defy the laws of physics as it trundles along occasionally challenging the speed limit, eating up hills like they weren’t there and negotiating corners faster than a 2,800kg of BHP’s finest should be able to. I was really enjoying the drive home, revelling in the Cruiser’s silky smooth twin turbo V8 as it dispatched the miles behind us. Olaf had recently ticked over 30,000km and I started to reflect on just how good this car is and how much better it seems to get as time goes by.

Olaf at Woods Point, Victoria. Luckily we didn't need to fill up here...!
First…a bit of a history lesson. I never liked Landsruisers and their owners annoyed me. I hated the way they seemed to make 4wding look easy. Then there was their smugness when I had to call on one of them to get me out of a bog or other situation where I lacked forward momentum. Their ‘generosity’ was always accompanied with the same mantra; “Why don’t you just buy yourself a Landcruiser?” It was like nails down a chalk-board. The fact of the matter was that I secretly coveted my neighbours’ cruisers but steadfastly refused to succumb to the temtation. I swore I would never buy one.

That was up until February 2015 when we ordered our new caravan. A 3,500kg town house on wheels. Our hand was forced into buying a new 4wd to tow it and our choices were few. On the list was the 200 series Landcruiser and as much as I wanted to continue by love/hate relationship with them, there was no denying it was the car for us. When we went for our test drive, I hoped it would be awful or that Kylie would find it too big for her to drive every day. None of that eventuated and today the prejudice was well and truly put to the past. We love Olaf and for good reason.

First time taking the rig Off Road...! The cruiser did it with ease.
You see, unless you buy an American pick-up truck, there really are few options for a good, solid, full size 4WD towing vehicle and when you take into account the availability of service centres around the country, Toyota is as good as it gets and a long way better than all the alternatives. Nissan had a new Patrol on the market with a big V8 petrol engine which, by all accounts, is an awesome vehicle.  Regardless, having experienced owning a petrol V8 4wd in the past, it would take a lot of convincing to get me to buy another one. The fuel use can be scary.

The Cruiser’s engine is magic and it seems to have loosened up considerably since we first got it. It feels smoother and more willing to rev. At first, I thought Toyota had got the transmission all wrong but now that I’ve driven it and gotten used to it, I reckon Toyota knew exactly what they were doing. You very rarely find yourself in the wrong gear. If you do, all it takes is a slight depression of the loud pedal and it kicks down a cog and rockets on in a satisfying swell of torque.

The Toyota steel bullbar has actually turned out to be pretty good. I reckon its the best looking one for this series.
What continually amazes me is just how economic the Cruiser is. We don’t drive it like we’ve stolen it but we don’t baby it either. This trip, in particular, I drove a little more enthusiastically than I might otherwise and it still returned an average of 11.4l/100ks. Granted this is not as good as some of the other modern 4wds but for a big V8, this is outstanding. It challenges the fuel economy of my old 2.5l Discovery and is way better than our 3.0 Patrol…!

Overtaking on a road like the Goulburn is when you really appreciate the V8. Sink the boot in and the motor responds with a satisfying shove in the kidneys accompanied by a nice soundtrack. It feels unstoppable. Unrelenting. Awesome.

Putting the big van on the back changes the equation somewhat but the Cruiser takes this in its stride. The long travel accelerator requires a decent stomp to get the whole rig moving, but it does get going much better that you might expect. It will cruise all day at the speed limit with the van on the back and, apart from the shorter distances between fuel stops, it’s easy to forget the caravan is there.

We’ve done pretty much all the mods we intend to do for the time being. Dual battery system, UHF radio, drawer system, power outlets in the rear, tire pressure monitoring system, Scanguage, rear view camera and driving lights. The Lovell’s GVM upgrade suspension has proved to be a wise decision. Surprisingly, I reckon the Toyota steel bull bar is the best looking of all the alternatives. Once the warranty has run out we plan to up the performance a bit with a modified exhaust and performance chip. We did the same thing to our Patrol and the results of that were amazing.

Other mods we have planned are a catch can and perhaps a secondary fuel filter.  For now, Olaf is doing the job extremely well. It’s powerful, comfortable, reliable, and reasonably economic to run plus it tows like a dream. You can’t really ask for much more…!

The PomPonazzi paint coating looks amazing and actually does provide real protection.

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Roadstar Safari Tamer

Custom Awning Shade

Nissan Patrol CRD

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New additions to Olaf

With our impending trip to Stradbroke Island rapidly approaching, I thought it was about time I got busy with some additions to our Landcruiser, Olaf.

First off was the installation of a ScanGuage to monitor Olaf’s vital information like transmission temperature and fuel use.

13775476_1047165028701492_3516954095091178221_nNext was to put some 12v power outlets in the rear storage area so we can run our fridge and other accessories.

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As with anything we do to Olaf, Kylie doesn’t want it to look like the DeLorean from the movie Back to the Future.  She wants everything to look stock and no holes drilled in the trim.  Fortunately I managed to do this with both which made my life a lot easier.

I’m pretty happy with the results.  More detailed notes on the installations can be found at the links below.

Safe travels.

ScanGauge Installation and Review

12v Power Board for Rear Storage System

 

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Long Term Test – X-Plorer G2500 Inverter Generator

imageI finally got a chance to set up and test the generator we got with the Safari Tamer.  Its not exactly a name brand unit like a Honda or Yamaha, but early indications are that, for a cheap generator, this is pretty good.

Owning a generator is a major investment for many caravaners wanting to do a lot of free camping but the decision to purchase either a name brand unit or a cheap eBay special is a difficult one.

Here we look at the ongoing performance of the X-Plorer G2500 inverter generator that was supplied with our van.  Its basically the same as any cheap inverter generator made in China that you can buy from eBay for approximately $600.

If first impressions are any indication, this should prove to be a useful accessory to our van.

You can follow this long term review by clicking here.

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River Eliminator Off Road Caravan – ‘Mick’

After our last trip to Northern Australia in the camper, Kylie put her foot down and said she was sick of canvass. We were travelling with her parents who had a Coromal 505 Seeka off road pop top which went pretty much everywhere we went without any issues. I figured happy wife happy life.

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Everything about the Eliminator is engineered to last. The high checkerplate all round, the rubber matting on the front, even the gas bottle holders were more robust that what most owners would need. This is one tough caravan.

We were looking for a very specific design that being a single axle off road van with a cut away rear end similar to the Coromal the in-laws owned. We wanted a shower and toilet and the whole setup needed to be suitable for extended outback touring. We looked at heaps of other brands but the River was as close to the perfect layout as we could find at the time. The only real compromise was a combo shower and toilet. The staff at Caravan Court and River could not have been more accommodating in customising the van to our needs although there really wasn’t much we needed to do as practically everything we wanted was standard.

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You get a lot of steel for your money with River caravans. The chassis is very strong, the control rider suspension has its own subframe and even the rear bar looks the business. The rear dovetail means it has stacks of clearence for serious off road work.

Some of the features and options fitted are:

  • 160w solar and 200ah batteries with Plasmatronics PL-20 controller.
  • 700w inverter with remote control and battery monitor.
  • Strong G&S chassis with control rider suspension and extended triple drawbar.
  • Raised bed height to accommodate second fridge and extra storage.
  • Raised side steps with trap door storage.
  • Metal draw runners and piano hinges thought the interior.
  • Updated ATM for additional cargo capacity.
  • 180l water capacity.
  • Huge, gal lined front boot.
  • DO-35 hitch.
  • Wheels and tyres matched to the Patrol.
  • 4 x Jerry can holders.
  • Reverse camera.
  • LED lighting throughout.
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While we had to make some compromises with the interior layout, it still offered plenty of space and was a pleasant place to be in. The bed height was raised to accomodate a 50l Waeco fridge.

The weight is pretty heavy for a single axel and I was aware of that when we bought it. I certainly wouldn’t want to go any bigger that’s for sure. So far it’s been absolutely fine. It actually tows better with a full load. We do have to be careful about how we pack so as to maintain sufficient weight over the towball but so far that hasn’t proved to be an issue. The front boot is huge and we have most of our heavy stuff in there. We have gone on a bit of a weight reducing exercise recently by turfing some unnecessarily heavy items that we weren’t using.

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Even though the kitchen was small, it uses the available space well. The top drawer on the left is actually an extendable workbench. The combination shower/toilet never presents us with any problems. In fact it is quite spacious.

The biggest issue with towing it is it is so high off the ground, driving into anything resembling a head wind really knocks the socks out of the Patrol’s fuel consumption. Again, if I was so worried about fuel consumption, I wouldn’t have bought the van in the first place…! It averages out in the end. We get anything between 16 and 20l/100ks travelling at about 90-100kph.

The only mods to date include a light under the bed, a shower curtain in the shower/toilet, concealed GPS tracking system and a DNOTV sign on the back. Nothing else.

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For such a big single axel van, the River Eliminator towed beautifully and always sat perfectly balanced behind the Patrol. It never gave us a single moment of concern.

 

 

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