BIG CITY LIFE

A MONTH OF SHOPPING CENTRES AND URBAN DUTIES.

WORDS MATT RAUDONIKIS

THE Land Cruiser was reduced to urban travel this month, as we didn’t leave Melbourne. That meant commuting to 4X4 Australia HQ in Oakleigh day after day and putting up with the city crawl when we’d rather be rock-crawling.

The LC79 is a bit big for city travel, and the long tray overhangs the marked parking spaces in most shopping centres. It would be nice to have a reversing camera fitted to warn you before you back that tray over anyone’s bonnet – this would be a handy aftermarket fit-up.

The wide turning circle also means you usually have to take a couple of bites at squeezing into the parking spots. The factory Toyota tray fitted to our single-cab has a couple of prongs on top of the headboard hoop that work as ladder racks, and they are a good marker for height when entering garage doors and undercover carparks.

Out on the streets the cab of the 79 is a great place to be. The line of sight is high through the big windows surrounding the driver. The new seats are comfy, the controls all fall easily to hand, and the gear shift is smooth and direct. The hill assist is nice and smooth when crawling in stop-start traffic through hilly suburbs – it holds the brakes for a few seconds after you lift off the pedal.

While we’re talking soft-cock stuff I have to admit I miss a couple of creature comforts, like a better sound system, power adjustment for the door mirrors and a factory sat-nav system. The HEMA HN7 has taken a permanent home on the dash to help us find our way around the tight streets of the big smoke.

The bottom-end torque of the V8 diesel engine and its low gearing means the Cruiser lopes along in fourth gear at 40km/h in the ’burbs, and it does that comfortably. Second gear take-offs are still the norm, even though second is now taller than it used to be, and it easily pulls away from low speeds in third or fourth when the traffic allows.

Once you’re moving, it can be driven around town like an auto by leaving it in third gear.

As Bruce says of the GU Patrol in his Rabbit Proof Fence Drive (see p44), the 79 really comes into its own the further you get away from town. The open roads and bush tracks are the terrain the Cruiser was made for, and we can’t wait to get back out there with it again.

The only problem we have right now is the VDJ78 TroopCarrier sitting next to the 79 in the carpark – I can only drive one at a time!