Defending and cruising for titans
Posted Thursday, January 24 2013 at 02:00
The Land Rover Defender has since its debut been a serious off-roader and workhorse off all sorts. It has been used as a military vehicle, an ambulance, a panel van and a pick-up and it did not disappoint. Similary, the Toyota Land Cruiser HZJ 75 series has been helpful in the adventures and challenges that the Defender has been subjected to, including being used as a police patrol pick-up, ambulance, and tourist vehicle among many other duties.
The 1998 Land Rover Defender 110 300TDi and Toyota Land cruiser HZJ75 4.2 diesel are two arch rivals that have left their tyre marks on the harshest terrain around the world. These two vehicles come from a lineage of tough and hardworking utility vehicles that have been around for more than half a century.
They are reputed for their durability, off-road ability as well as adaptability to multi-purpose service in the army as troop carriers and special operations platforms, hospitals as ambulances, aid agencies, game viewing and outdoor leisure transport as well as fire fighting. These vehicles play their different roles in different body designs: as five door station wagons, three door hardtops, soft-tops as well as pickups.
The Defender 300 Tdi was released by Land Rover in 1994. Over the decades the Defender’s evolution started with the release of the Land Rover 90, 110 and 127 (length of wheel base in inches) which replaced the legendary series I, II and III in 1984. The new Land Rover changed a few noticeable features: the full length bonnet to accommodate bigger engines, revised grille, wind down windows instead of sliding ones plus fitting of wheel arch extensions.
Underneath, Land Rover replaced leaf springs with coil springs, part time four wheel drive for permanent four wheel drive with a two speed transfer box and lockable centre differential. Engines in the Land Rover largely remained the same size 2.5 litre for diesel and 3.5 litre for petrol until the introduction of the more powerful V8 petrol and the turbo diesel engines.
The Land Cruiser HZJ75 is an off spring of the 70 series Land Cruisers (70/71/75/77) which evolved from the old utility workhorses the FJ 40 series which dominated the off-road scene more than 25 ago.
Toyota’s changes of the 70 series Land Cruisers over the couple of decades were reminiscent of the 40/45 series: an extension of the bonnet with an angular look and the long wheel base cab chassis to accommodate the bigger celebrated 4.2 litre diesel engines and panel tray pick-ups and hard tops vans. The wind up windows at the front and bigger and more comfortable interior and loading space were some of the aesthetic internal changes.
Land Cruiser’s HZJ 75 ‘steps on the weighing scales’ with the 4.2 litre naturally aspirated diesel engine, an engine almost twice the size of the Defender 110’s 2.5 litre turbo diesel with intercooler. The HZJ75 delivers more acceleration and pulling power than the Defender 110. However, the difference in power output and torque between the two vehicles is negligible taking into consideration the vast difference in their engine sizes and the fact that both vehicles weigh almost the same.
The Defender’s smaller turbo charged engine ‘punches above its weight’ by delivering a considerable amount of power, torque and top gear performance (low range gears do not require high end acceleration). This facilitates Defender’s better fuel economy and engine relief especially when driving uphill, fully loaded or towing a trailer.
The Defender 110’s turbo diesel engine is a more efficient performer. This appeals to the budget conscious Ugandans. That is why Toyota introduced a turbo charger to the 4.2 litre diesel engine of the next generation HZJ78 to increase power by 27 kilowatts and 36 horsepower.
Handling, safety and comfort
The Land Cruiser and Defender by virtue of their height and ‘box like’ construction have a poor centre of gravity and aero dynamism. You cannot comfortably and safely drive them fast as you navigate sharp bends on the Masaka – Mbarara highways or the corrugated upcountry roads in Kanungu or Hoima.
These vehicles are not built to race but to work in the field. While off-road, they are both robust and withstand the stress of off-road duty considerably well. The Defender 300 Tdi has an edge over the Land Cruiser when climbing over boulders and obstacles on the off-road terrain.
The Defender’s beam axle and coil spring suspension give it better articulation and make the ride safer and more comfortable for the passengers. Toyota seems to have seen this point in 2001 when they built the next generation HZJ78 with a front beam axle and coil spring suspension, instead of the front leaf spring suspension in the HZJ75.
On wet and very slippery terrain, the Defender’s full time four wheel drive and wider wheel base gives it better handling due to constant all round enhanced traction. The Defender enjoys the convenience of engaging the differential lock in the vehicle rather than outside (as in the case of the HZJ75 Land Cruiser). Permanent four wheel drive can slightly reduce fuel economy, but the benefits outweigh this little cost.
Reliability, maintenance and resale value
The 1999 Land Cruiser HZJ75 and Defender 110 are reliable vehicles when maintained under a strict service regime. Overall the maintenance cost of the Defender’s turbo charged engine is higher than that of the Land cruiser’s naturally aspirated one.
This is the “price tag’”one has to pay for the efficiency and good performance facilitated by the turbo. However, there are further concerns about the reliability of turbo charged engines in field situations due to sensitivity to engine oil used and driver abuse.
This fear is negated by the fact that when drivers are trained on how to drive and maintain a vehicle with a turbo charged engine, they will avoid costly mistakes. Toyota must have thought the same way when they installed a turbo charger in their next 4.2 litre vehicle two years later.
-Maintenance and repair parts for both vehicles are expensive with limited dealers, however genuine parts once fitted serve for a longer time. The Land Cruiser HZJ75 has a higher purchase price but a better resale value.