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2006 Four Wheeler Of The Year - Final Results

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on February 1, 2006 Comment (0)
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Photographers: The Four Wheeler Staff


What's Hot: Lightweight, rally car-like handling, fun to drive
What's Not: No locker or limited-slip differential, low ground clearance
Our Take: The best value in four-wheel drive
From the Logbook:
* "Interior appointments are nice for the money."
* "Sand champ of the test."
* "It may not be the best performer off-pavement, but this is a damn fine little SUV."
* "I can hear every rock on the trail hitting the undercarriage."
* "Handles and drives like a car."

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What's Hot: Engine, highway manners
What's Not: Limited outward visibility, controversial styling, not as eager on the trails as we expected
Our Take: As a daily driver, the Commander is exceptional, but we expect more trailability from a Jeep.
From the Logbook:
* "Everything that makes the Jeep so enjoyable on the highway prevents it from doing anything particularly well off-pavement."
* "These tires are tough-not even a mark in the sidewalls after the rock trails."
* "Interior is very rich looking, one of my favorite in the test."
* "The Commander tries to get itself stuck in the sand."
* "How could a larger copy of the XJ turn out so ugly?"

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What's Hot: Trailability, fit and finish, crawl ratio, styling, tight chassis
What's Not: Unimpressive engine, limited outward visibility
Our Take: Despite the engine, one of the best factory 4x4s.
From the Logbook:
* "Still needs a front locker and lever-actuated transfer case."
* "The crawl ratio is so low, I actually had to give it gas to get down a steep hill."
* "Hands down, my favorite in the dirt."
* "The steering wheel is almost uncomfortably fat."
* "The H3 lacks any real storage nooks."

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What's Hot: Terrain Response, highway ride and handling
What's Not: Terrain Response, learning curve to electronics
Our Take: With a more powerful engine and stouter tires, could very well have been our winner.
From the Logbook:
* "It feels like I am 'wheeling a laptop."
* "It is obvious that this vehicle was well thought-out in regards to styling, comfort, and performance."
* "The power would be perfect with the blower."
* "Fit and finish is flawless on this vehicle."
* "Seamless."

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Over the years the Toyota Land Cruiser has aged gracefully. It has a classic shape that is instantly recognizable and welcomes you with an old-school seating position, large glass area, low beltline, and clean sightlines in every direction. The wide, flat hood covers the newly upgraded 275hp DOHC 4.7L V-8, which exists in perfect harmony with the five-speed automatic transmission.

Testers praised the Toyota for its refined ride, confident handling, and supple suspension. The interior accommodations are top-notch, and the big Cruiser has storage solutions throughout the cabin. The Cruiser was mid-pack on acceleration, but nearly tied the Range Rover with world-class braking numbers, and won our RTI flex contest with a ramp score of 573. Also the ample underbody protection and recovery points leave nothing to chance in the backcountry.

Final Results

For a body style that has essentially been around since 1998, the Land Cruiser still sets the standard in the segment. While it may not be an all-out trail champ like the H3, or offer the pavement ride of the Range Rover Sport or Commander, it shares most of their strengths with very few of their weaknesses.

If we had to nitpick, we'd love to see Toyota add a rear locker, and update the navigation interface, which looks dated next to the competition. Also, we could say we'd like to see a little more grunt from the V-8, but we'd really be pulling at straws here.

The Toyota Land Cruiser packs classic styling, authentic four-wheeling heritage, and modern capability in a pleasing, go-anywhere package that is both at home on the highway and the trail. We applaud Toyota for manufacturing such a competent vehicle that appeals to the everyday user without forgetting about the true 4x4 enthusiasts who will no doubt find themselves on an off-pavement adventure.

What's Hot: More powerful V-8, maneuverable chassis, serene cabin, classic styling, eight-passenger seating
What's Not: No rear locker, complicated HVAC controls, pricey
Our Take: A traditionalist's SUV that is still the standard in today's competitive market
From the Logbook:
* "A lever for the transfer case - two thumbs up!"
* "Suspension set on High still rides nice, unlike the Land Rover."
* "Hard to believe the most expensive in the test is a Toyota."
* "Fantastic visibility."
* "It has a tailgate - need I say more?"

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