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Thursday, April 21

4x4 Test Drives

Brett: We spent the first week in SA looking at 4x4 to buy, testing them out and doing our research:

Toyota Land Cruiser 60 - The one we drove looks cool from the outside, especially being raised to 50cm off the ground, but it was hard work to drive and felt incredibly slow, heavy and ancient.    
Toyota Land Cruiser 80 - These are great to drive on and off road and incredibly tough. We couldn't find any affordable diesels and the petrols are too thirsty. They tend to not go wrong, but are expensive to fix when they do. The non-turbo diesel is the ultimate overland vehicles, but expensive when you factor in the carnet deposit of 200% of the vehicle. 
Toyota Hilux KZTE / 3.0D / 2.7 - The KZTE and 2.7 are great to drive, feel very much like a car with plenty of power. Our research shows that the turbo diesels tend to give problems in older vehicles and is difficult/expensive to fix anywhere remote. The non-turbo diesels are often damaged if not serviced properly or if driven hard (which is common because they are under powered). The 2.7 is another very tough engine and our second choice, but compared to the 2.2, it is slightly less tough and more complicated, so we wouldn't be able to fix it ourselves if something goes wrong. These Hiluxes have Independent Front Axle (vs Solid Front Axle in all the others we considered) - most modern 4x4s have this design which is much better on the road and more comfortable - it is not quite as good off road, but most people consider it to be good enough - we preferred the SFA mostly because it stands up better to abuse. 
Land Rover Defender 110 Tdi - These are still definitely easier to customise and get an ideal layout, having been purpose built for overlanding. We have driven the TD5 before which are great, but these are too complicated for a trip into Africa and there are no spares. We drove the TDI, which felt like you are on an adventure when driving around the neighbourhood, but it was hard work to drive. I think these are ideal if you have a passion for Land Rovers and are a mechanic. 
Hilux 2.2 petrol - We drove this immediately after the Land Cruiser 60 and it was much nicer to drive. It feels incredibly tough, reliable and easy to drive. The 4Y 2.2 engine has the bullet proof reputation and are cheap and easy to fix with parts being shared with the Hiace Taxis found everywhere. It is not as fast as modern petrols or turbo diesels on the road but fast enough and if driven carefully, the additional cost of fuel is less than the cost of servicing of a diesel. They are excellent off-road with a lot of wheel reticulation and a diff lock. The engine has enough power for soft sand and has plenty of torque and is responsive for steep climbs. The hard suspension and low seats take some getting used to. 

In SA, the Hilux 2.2 and Defender are the cheapest of the options and often come with kit, helping the budget. 

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