AKA Land Cruiser vs Range Rover...

In the blue corner! 

We have the by now, familiar shape of my 2001 Toyota Land Cruiser 105 series. It may have a build date from this century, however its underpinnings and design definitely belong in the previous one. Seperate chassis, solid axles at both ends, low stressed naturally aspirated petrol engine, simple 4 speed auto gearbox, two speed transfer case, a very worn rear LSD and that’s about your lot. As regular readers would know, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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In the black corner! 

Is frankly, a space ship in comparison... This is my good mate The Accountant’s new ride (don’t worry he still has the P38), a 2012 L322 Range Rover Vogue the last year of production for that model before the Ford Flex L405 model with the current styling direction arrived... Seperate chassis and unibody construction, long travel, electronically controlled independent air suspension all round, ‘big banger’ 4.4L common rail, twin turbo diesel V8 (with over 700NM/500lb-ft), 8 speed auto hooked up to a low range transfer case, Land Rover’s terrain response system plus more electronic processing power than the space shuttle... Also, importantly, a new set of BFG KO2 all terrain tyres, same as my Cruiser. Keen to see what a current-ish generation Rover can do on proper off-road tyres?

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Yeah, me too. Let’s get to it.


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There was a lot to squeeze into this weekend, so we got a head start by bee lining on Friday afternoon to the lakeside town of Meningie at the northern end of the Coorong. An easy camp, dinner at the pub and a few drinks as we caught up on each others lives since we last saw each other.

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Australia LOVES camper trailers.

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We were keeping it simple for this trip. We didn’t bring any food or were planning on having to feed ourselves, which kind of came to bite us a little on Saturday morning. Being on the road before 7am meant nothing in this part of the world was open on the bitumen section we had to do this morning. By some miracle, we survived...

Taking 42 Mile Crossing (many parts of Australia are named in miles, as it was obviously settled by the English, before converting to the metric system). Which is by far the most well known and heavily trafficked crossing of the Coorong onto the beach that fronts the Southern Ocean.

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Being a hugely popular fishing spot, the beach was already heavily populated with ocean fishermen. Also from our point of view was very soft and chewed up. We had already dropped our tyres, down to 16psi on the Cruiser, having done much sand driving lately I knew a good pressure to start with, for these conditions. We agreed on 20 psi for the the Rangie, knowing it was a heavy beast (around 2.8 metric tons unloaded) and with its 20 inch BFG’s not having quite the same sidewall as on my 16 inch steelies. I thought it best to err on the side of caution, rather than risking rolling/pinching a tyre.

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We joked about having our insurance paid up, popped into low range and hit the beach!

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It actually looked worse than it drove, so we cracked on, we had about 10km to do till the turn off I wanted to take, back through the dunes. We were making good progress, although the trucks were still labouring through the soft sand. All of a sudden the 105 hit a significantly softer patch, I opened the taps full just in time to preserve enough momentum to drag it through on half a turn of oppo. But this was no bounce in, bounce out sand swamp I had to keep the the right pedal hard down for about a 50 metre stretch and then gave it another 50 before stopping to make sure I didn’t get bogged on the restart. I leapt out and started to run back up the beach, furiously waving to the accountant to steer up the beach away from the section I had just struggled through. Too little, too late. Might as well take some photos...

You can see light under the Rangie.

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Not any more...
Down she goes...

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You can clearly see 4 seperate tracks for the Cruiser, as I powered through drift style!

Struggletown.

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Not quite down to the chassis, yet. The Accountant having a good old laugh, knowing that this incident will never be mentioned ever, ever again... ;)

It might be time for some vehicle to vehicle coms...

So the big Tata was truly stuck in the soft sand. I jogged back for the tracks while the Accountant understandably was keen to drive the starship enterprise out of it’s current predicament. Selecting different modes and easing onto the throttle just served to dig the beast further into the beach, with so much torque each spin of the wheel displaced a wheelbarrow worth of sand before the traction control got a hold of it. Soon it was down to the chassis on the beach. We agreed that more pressure needed to come out of the tyres and MaxTraxs saved the day, again.

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For the record I had checked the tide times before heading out, so even though the sea looks close, it was just after high tide and would only be heading the favourable way.

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Tyres down to 15psi, we did the rest of the beach run easy. I found ‘Shipwreck Crossing’ the shipwreck is long gone, but this track and I have some history.

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Still looks remote, despite having seen many fellows on the way here. Previously we had seen no one getting to this point, worth noting.

I was keen to go back to where I got the Pajero stuck, and see 1: how a traditional live axle 4x4 goes up there, and 2: if my judgement of the difficulty (or lack of) of that hill is any different now.

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Well, I knew that hill as soon as we got to it. You don’t spend four of the more intensive hours of your life somewhere without having a pretty clear memory of it. Still, looks like nothing in the photos, doesn’t look much worse in real life, although it was maybe a bit looser back in the day.

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This is from last time I was here, the holes look a bit worse and the surface softer, but this was post recovery so hard to say.

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However it obviously had the perfect combination of holes and sandy surface to undo the Pajero’s combination of independent suspension and open differentials. The 105 waddled straight up, as expected. The Rover made it look like a drive to the shops.

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We then hit back on the main dirt road, the Accountant’s ‘Fisher Price My First Compressor’ lasted about 1.25 BFG re-inflates, so my ARB single serviced both trucks.

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After a reasonable yet fast drive (unless you have to do the entire thing in low-range as I did in the Pajero - its fate was already sealed by then, but that was an extra, very sturdy nail in its coffin), we stopped off at Kingston SE for some much needed baked goods before hot footing it to Mount Gambier.

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Legend of the Lakes.

This is the name of an annual hill climb event held on a spectacular scenic road out the back of the town of Mount Gambier. A couple of our friends were competing, so this was the main reason for coming down this way. Although I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity for a little 4x4 recreation on the way or the way back.

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This event attracts competitors from interstate and even overseas. Mt Gambier is known for its spectacular Blue Lake.

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Here are some photos from the hill climb.

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Our friend’s WRX. She was having a great weekend until it lost drive on the start line. looks like we’re pulling the gearbox out this weekend...

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Champ’s Evo.

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This was snapped by the excellent Turn 8 photography during the first run on Sunday morning.

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That turn would be about 100km/h, so that’s Champ making the save of the year! Probably wishing for about another half turn of opposite lock at this point...

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We were staying at the picturesque Port MacDonnel. The Accountant and I did some minor exploration that afternoon, then we all met up for dinner. Seeing friends I only seem to run into at motorsport events. Good times.

Piccaninnie Ponds. Crystal clear limestone filtered pools. Need to come back with a wet suit and a snorkelling permit.

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Even the sea is crystal clear in these parts.

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Sunrise from the swag on Sunday morning.

The plan for Sunday was to run the well know Beachport to Robe track, while the racers went back to racing. Now we were joined by our mates Ashley and Steve, in Ashley’s Hilux (plus Boof the legend!). Ash was meant to be racing this weekend but doing some serious damage to his finger at work ruled him out. Just a finger you ask? He runs an R31 Skyline with over 500hp, so to say he is quite busy at the wheel is an understatement... So I offered them to join us on the Sunday. Steve would drive his Hilux on the off-road sections, he had also run this track before so would lead us in, which was a nice change for me and no doubt saved a lot of time finding the start, etc.

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The Beachport to Robe track is an absolute cracker, great scenery, varied and just challenging enough terrain.

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It was good being at the back for a while, watching the Rover do it’s thing through the more technical stuff.

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The Hilux struggled in a few places, with an open front diff and fairly limited travel independent suspension. However this isn’t Steve’s first Rodeo, so he didn’t need to take more than a couple of bites at any particular section.

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Although...

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Doesn’t look too bad from this side, should be able to drive it out.

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Maybe not...

So? You guessed it.

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So we all had go at this little fun hill.

Steve got the Hilux up pretty far.

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Then the earth moving machinery had a good go, or two.

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Weight is something I’m often harping on about, and you could see the difference it made between the Rover, the Hilux, and even the Cruiser. However it was still an awesome thing to watch, and hats off to the Accountant for putting his new toy to proper use.

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Rightyho, time to show them how it was done in the Cruiser...

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That’s all I managed, compacting the sand into two wheel walls and a matching indent for the diff pumpkin. I know when it’s close to making it, and this wasn’t it. Time to move on.

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Luckily the Rover had been ceramic coated before this trip, as we all copped it through the coastal bush sections.

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Most of the challenging sections were getting on and off the beach.

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About halfway you pop out into the fishing and shack community of Nora Creina, back onto dirt roads for a short time, then back into it.

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Then you come to this beach.

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Steve has history here, after trying to cross in convoy the lead vehicle air filter housing popped off, dropping the engine into limp mode and promptly grinding it and everyone following to a halt. Meaning a several hour recovery to get off the beach.

We had a chat about it. Deciding to run a single vehicle at a time, stay high and if in doubt? Flat. Out.

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Hilux go!

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and stop. Ahem, engage 4wd... and Go!

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We watched the ‘Lux buck and slew its way around the cove, never straight, always on oppo one way or another, at times seeming to almost stop, then it’s off again. Until it disappeared around the headland.

I went next up in the Cruiser, the beach was a challenge no doubt. Just as you would get up to speed, and I was carrying A LOT of speed, flat out in low range top gear. Then it would jump out of the tracks into the unploughed sand, the 105 would shuffle down gears like a practiced croupier dealing cards, frantically trying to get the required torque to the wheels. Multiple times I thought that was it, I would be the one needing the MaxTraxs. Yet every time the 105 managed to pull itself out of the mire and would roar back off again. You would have to be a manual transmission wizard not to get bogged through here.

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I parked up next to the Hilux.

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Never doubting the big Tata’s ability on the soft sand. We were just unloading the tracks when Big Betty came roaring around the headland!

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Steve suggested I lead with the sand flag equipped Cruiser. Followed by the Hilux to save it having to follow in the Rover’s tracks.

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There were still many cool things to see.

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So, how did the big Tata fair? Well you can’t really compare it to the Cruiser or the Hilux, the nature of it’s design means that the electronics manage everything and if they only get it so far there isn’t much you can do as a driver, having another go will invariably end in the same result. I’m sure as he gets used to it, the Accountant will get more out of it once he utilises all it’s electronic tools fully. I know people have used them as expedition vehicles but that seems a bit mental to me, the thing is so heavy to start with and to be honest, just too posh inside and out to be using it for dragging dirty camping gear through the bush.

The other reason you can’t compare it to the Toyotas, is that as on road transport it is not just in a different league, they are not even playing the same game. We took it out to dinner on Saturday night, and loaded up with 5 blokes, we would pull out to overtake someone and it was like we had taken a well cushioned hit from a runaway locomotive. Such was the seemingly unstoppable way it would smoothly reel in the horizon. I haven’t experienced them but I can’t imagine an Merc S Class or BMW 7 Series of similar vintage would be any better as luxury road transport, and yet it DID go everywhere the Cruiser did off road, the majority of the time not even looking like it was trying.

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Reassuringly it still felt like a Range Rover, that intangible quality and just the way they feel to ride around in that I got in both the Classic and the P38.

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There are many, many side tracks and I take a ‘wrong’ turn. We cut through some more inland tracks.

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By now time is ticking on and we are still 4 hours from home with a school day tomorrow. I make the call to bail. Steve assures me there are many more tracks and trails to do, they will have to wait for another day. We air up.

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The hose on my compressor cries enough, after 10 odd years. Not surprising as the outlet gets way too hot to touch. Luckily the fitting is designed to be easy to cut off the damaged section of hose and re-attach.

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Aired up. Slightly sunburnt, we shake hands and go our seperate ways.

Good weekend.