Will a basic – and we do mean basic – Land Cruiser cut it as a daily family workhorse? Six months with one should be enough to find out

Our Verdict

Toyota Land Cruiser 2018 review on the road

Toyota’s rough-and-ready, old-school, unstoppable 4x4 gets a bit less rough-and-ready. Likeably simple and functional, and worth considering if you need a genuine dual-purpose SUV

Why we’re running it: To see if a utility vehicle can also be an endearing everyday vehicle

Month 4Month 3 - Month 2 - Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 4

Turns out that gang of 4x4 numberplate thieves may not actually exist, after all - 20th March 2019

Ever wondered why you see serious off-roaders with their front numberplates relocated to the roof rack? Well, now I know. And for this enlightenment, my gratitude to Mitch McCabe, Autocar videographer and a man who, very kindly, agreed to wade the Toyota Land Cruiser Utility very gently along the edge of a shallow pool while I took a couple of panning photographs.

On the return leg, he thought the pictures would look a bit more splendid if he took a run-up. He was right. So as well as getting a more dramatic picture, I’ve had a front numberplate to reaffix, which means something else to write about – an always-welcome bonus for a long-term test car keeper.

Two things to sort, then. The water pressure proved too much for the numberplate fixings – diddy plastic screws (white, black and yellow, available from all good motor factors) that sacrifice themselves sharpish in times of crisis.

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But also it pulled a lug, into which the plate holder screws self-tap, out of the bumper. The plate holder and its screw were intact, ditto the lug. So I unscrewed it, placed a large washer behind the new small hole in the bumper, and screwed it all back together with the washer plugging the small gap. And you’d never know.

It has reminded me, though, of the need to unscrew the numberplate before we start any off-road exercises. It shouldn’t have taken that long for the penny to drop, to be honest – I’ve sunk my hands into enough freezing, muddy puddles over the years trying to retrieve numberplates. But lesson finally learned.

Otherwise, life with the Land Cruiser is as stress-free as always. The miles rack up and it gives me no niggles in daily life, except I have to be incredibly diligent when pressing the clutch pedal to the floor to get the engine to start. If the pedal’s a millimetre away from the carpet, the push-button starter just won’t have it.

The 20,000-mile service will have taken place by the time you read this. It’s a full one rather than the 10,000 interim, and I’m told it’ll take two-and-a-half hours once they get into it. I haven’t had to do much mechanical work other than clean it since the last service, although while the Land Cruiser didn’t drink any oil before its first service, it has wanted a litre of 5W30 over the past 10,000 miles.

Recently, I was starting to become nervy about when the AdBlue warning light would come on again. I checked the fuel log we keep, which suggested it was about time the car would request a top-up. And ping, right on cue, a day later, there the orange light was. You get about 1500 miles’ notice, just in case you’re in the middle of touring Namibia and the local garage doesn’t stock AdBlue. Anyway, I’ll fill it myself before the service, so that it won’t need any when it gets there.

At 4.5 metres long, the 3dr Land Cruiser is a short vehicle for a big 4x4 with a longitudinal engine and a long front overhang, but I’ve eased some 2.4-metre long battens into it recently, by passing them into the front passenger space. Some wider, 1.5-metre yew planks squeezed between the front seats, so I haven’t needed to leave the rear hatch open, though that’s always an option. Or you could fit a roof rack.

Ideally, I suppose, one with space for a numberplate.

Love it:

Quick getaways In cold mornings, the heater/ demister are extremely quick to get the windows clear.

Loathe it:

Awkward fill-ups AdBlue cap is usually very stiff, and its location under the bonnet means it’s a faff to hold a big container in the right place.

Mileage: 19,357

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Seats stick with you - sometimes literally - 27th February 2019

The upholstery is, unusually, almost velour-like. But I like it. The seats are particularly comfortable and I don’t mind that they’re not heated, so maybe the cloth regulates temperature well. It’s also, mind, more effective than a lint roller at pulling pet hair from your clothes. If I ever took the cat for a drive, he’d end up Velcroed to the interior.

Mileage: 17,630

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Comfort levels are as high as the mileage being logged - 6th February 2019

This is getting daft. Since mid-September, I’ve driven more than 16,000 miles in the 3dr Utility Toyota Land Cruiser, which will amount to around 40,000 miles over a year unless I start insisting other people spend time with it.

Which, selfishly, I’m not that keen to do, because – Toyota inevitability alert – it’s as painless to run as a Casio wristwatch. More painless than the miles (perhaps the same amount again) that I spend in most other cars.

Having quickly covered more than an average driver’s annual mileage, though, here’s what to expect if you run a Land Cruiser for a year: a 10,000-mile service (£270) and a litre of AdBlue every 550 miles or so. (The Land Rover Discovery I ran previously – bigger, more powerful and heavier as it was – wanted an oil change at 9000 miles and a litre of AdBlue every 300-350 miles.)

Fuel consumption started at near 31mpg and is staying there, though you can get 40mpg on the motorway if you’re very careful. And I’ve repaired a nail in a tyre (£18), but you probably won’t have to. And, despite an absence of city braking, blind spot assist and parking sensors, I haven’t driven it into anyone or anything. I know. Remarkable.

I suppose there’s a point on the scale of infotainment/driver assist options where each of us is happiest. The Toyota’s pretty close to where I’d choose things. I like that it has cruise control, would prefer automatic climate to manual air-conditioning and wouldn’t mind DAB radio. I’d also take an option to cancel the auto headlights, to prevent them zinging on and off every few seconds in winter shadows. I suppose I could just switch them on and leave it.

Beyond that, popping my phone in a cradle and setting up the navigation and a podcast before I set off are seeing me through contentedly, to the extent that I don’t want a car’s entertainment system to try to replicate it, because very few do. Phone mirroring on a bigger screen would be the ideal solution, I guess.

Sixth gear that has the engine spinning at 2000rpm at motorway speeds and an inherently stable demeanour make the Land Cruiser, despite a short wheelbase, as easy as most executive cars to roll along with. Which, with an office 70 miles from home in one direction and a son at school 70 miles from home in precisely the other, is handy.

I had hoped to take two colleagues to France in it in a few weeks. There is quite a lot of rear leg room and the rear seatback angle adjusts, so you get surprisingly few complaints from back there. But on account of the Land Cruiser’s three-door bodystyle, I’ve been asked to take the Cropley S-Class instead, so I’ll let you know how much more comfortable that is.

What an S-Class certainly won’t do, mind, and what I absolutely need to do more of, though, is getting the Land Cruiser filthy. So far I’ve only put it through two off-road excursions. Must try harder.

Love it:

Pushes the buttons Took me ages to spot the lock/ unlock buttons on the bootlid, which are occasionally handy when the key’s in my pocket.

Loathe it:

Put a cap on it The AdBlue cap becomes incredibly stiff to undo. And, as often, is situated under the bonnet in an awkward place to pour into.

Mileage: 16,032

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Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 3

Deflation, not elation - 30th January 2019

There’s something wrong with the Land Cruiser! Relax, relax, turn off the alarms in Toyota City. It’s just a screw in the tyre. The Land Cruiser told me. It has (battery-powered) pressure sensors inside its tyres so knows each one’s exact pressure. I’d still like a spare wheel really, but this time it was fixable, for £18, so of minimal inconvenience.

Mileage: 15,050

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First service interval rolls around quickly (for this tester) - 9th January 2018

The Land Cruiser hit its 10,000-mile service interval barely three months after its arrival, so I booked it into Inchcape Toyota in Oxford. Toyota has fixed-price services, so it doesn’t matter where you go. Inspections showed nothing needed doing (obvs), it got new oil and a filter and nine litres of AdBlue while I did some work and drank coffee. Two hours later I paid £270.

Mileage: 11,190

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Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 2

We’re learning to take the rough with the smooth - 28 November 2018

I have been off-road. Properly, I mean, not just pootling down a wee green lane in Surrey for a few pictures, or crawling around a rough horse yard, which was the previous limit of where I’d asked the Toyota Land Cruiser to boldly go.

Now, though, I’ve spent a day in a disused quarry, working the Land Cruiser’s axle articulation and trying, and by and large failing, to get it stuck. This is the problem with the Land Cruiser: you ask it to do something that would seem extreme to most SUVs, and it just mooches along like it’s on a trip to the shops – because, in some countries, that’s what a trip to the shops looks like.

Anyway, the resulting story, which featured the new Suzuki Jimny alongside the Toyota, was on these pages and on YouTube a couple of weeks ago, so the result is known: the Land Cruiser will go further offroad than a Jimny (which probably shouldn’t be a huge surprise), although there are areas where, down to sheer manoeuvrability, life is easier in the tiny, scampering Suzuki. But with a tight turning circle and short wheelbase, in this three-door form I wonder if the Ford Focus-length Land Cruiser isn’t the next most agile ‘proper’ off-roader currently on sale.

Of course, when you’re a real 4x4 of small exterior proportions, much of which appears to be frontal overhang, there are payoffs. One is a side profile shared with a roller skate, the other is dealing with a relatively small, 380-litre boot when the rear seats are in place.

Flipping them forwards and raising that to 720 litres doesn’t take long, but the load cover – which doesn’t have much space to cross between seats and tailgate – appears to be fitted across the widest part of the interior, so getting it in and out of the car takes real dexterity and is something, if you regularly take big bags, you have to do a lot. There’s also no easy other place to store it in the cabin, so were it not for my occasional need to hide what’s in the boot for security’s sake, I’d just take it out and leave it in the garage.

The rear seat backs, though, can be set to various positions: upright to maximise boot space, or more reclined than is usual in a car – handy for nippers who want to doze off on long journeys.

They are still the kind of trips I’m giving the Land Cruiser most of the time: regular everyday motorway drives, on which it’s very comfortable, with leggy gearing and a relaxed gait and low noise levels, which makes settling into a 70mph cruise extremely easy but does leave people like me open to accusations of needlessly driving a big 4x4. Thing is, like a lot of people, sometimes I need its more extreme abilities, and presumably it’s better, as well as considerably cheaper, to only own a single all-purpose car than two specific-purpose ones.

The Land Cruiser is proving so all-purpose that between sporadic bouts of articulating its axles, within three months of having it, I’ve covered more than 9000 miles and already need to book it in for a minor service. More on which next time.

Love it:

Four wheels… Still love the steel wheels, although the Bridgestone Duelers don’t look as tough as they seem to be.

Loathe it:

But no fifth… I like the split tailgate but am not using it much – and it prevents a spare wheel going on the back.

Mileage: 9743

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Headlight headaches - 7th November 2018

You can’t switch the Land Cruiser’s automatic headlights out of auto mode, save for leaving them on, and they’re hypersensitive. On autumn roads with long shadows, the lights repeatedly flick between on and off, a few seconds apart, and I wonder if it irritates whoever I’m following. The amazing thing about eyes is they know when it’s getting dark.

Mileage: 7132

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Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 1

A 4x4 full of happy surprises over distance. Just watch out for pranksters in the back - 31st October 2018

When the Toyota Land Cruiser arrived at Autocar Towers it had barely 60 miles on its odometer, but now, eight weeks later, it has 6152. I’ve been away for at least three weeks and when I’m around it’s not the only car I drive. Maybe that’s why I’m tired.

The Land Cruiser is a short, rugged, body-on-frame bruiser with a live rear axle and low-range transfer gearbox. So naturally the vast majority of those miles have been on the motorway.

Where, to my surprise, the Land Cruiser is actually really pleasant. Yes, it’s high, at 1838mm tall, and at 4565mm quite short (about halfway between a Ford Focus hatch and estate length). But it’s still very stable, immune to crosswinds and its tyres cut through puddles securely. It rides quietly and relatively smoothly – albeit there’s some head-toss owing to the height and unsophisticated, heavy rear end.

It also has other characteristics you wouldn’t associate with making for relaxed long-distance cruising: manual air-conditioning, a manual gearbox, and an absence of DAB digital radio. But I seem to find the right temperature easily and the manual is smooth, if long of throw.

And there’s a USB socket nestled behind a small panel – presumably sensibly placed to keep dust and grime out if you drive in that kind of environment rather than spending half of your week on the M40. Which means I’ve also discovered podcasts. I’m so down with the kids.

Worse, though, is that this 3dr Land Cruiser doesn’t get a spare wheel as standard. In fact, you can’t spec a 3dr with a full-size or even space saver at all, despite one being available in other countries, as an option, mounted to the tailgate.

I know the LC has big, knobbly, tyres, less prone to puncturing than a saloon’s, but there’s no excuse for not having a spare on a rufty-tufty 4x4. Even one that is great at cruising.

I can’t remember the last time I drove a car that offered such a variance in fuel consumption, at least not in normal driving. Usually, the Land Cruiser is returning around 31mpg, but it’s possible to take that to the mid-20s if you’re driving badly, while the other day I drove like my Dad and managed 45mpg on the way home, thanks to using hardly any throttle and a spot of light slipstreaming on the motorway.

Aside from that, the Land Cruiser has established itself as a very useful tool. I drove it to North Wales for our annual Britain’s Best Driver’s Car feature. It was nabbed by our video production team because it’s good for car-to-car filming and holding a considerable amount of kit.

The short 380-litre boot rises to 720 litres when you fold the 60/40 back seats down, a two-stage tumble process. The backs fold first, then you roll the whole thing forward, where they move towards the fronts and lock in place, leaving storage space in the rear footwell.

Rear seat space is surprisingly generous. Rear passengers can fold the front passenger seat out of the way by kicking a lever on it, which helps them reach the door. (Or if somebody’s sitting in said front passenger seat, kicking the lever drops the seat back at great speed, which my lad thinks is hilarious. Front seat passengers do not agree.)

At 5800 miles, the AdBlue warning light came on, saying I had to top up the additive tank within 1500 miles. I was about to stop anyway, so I bought 10 litres of AdBlue, of which it took about 9.5 litres, via a filler beneath the bonnet. Next time I’ll know to ignore the light for a bit in the hope that a whole 10 litres will fit, to save me having a container with half a litre of liquid sloshing in the boot. Either a more reluctant warning light or a marginally bigger tank would be dandy.

Love it:

REAR VIEW FOR PARKING Door mirrors are huge, so placing the sides of the car in parking spaces is a doddle.

Loathe it:

LEVER ERGONOMICS The fuel filler lever is right next to the bonnet release. I haven’t pulled the wrong one yet, but give it time.

Mileage: 6152

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Tailgate is practical - just like the rest of it - 10th October 2018

The Land Cruiser has a side-hinged tailgate on account of some versions carrying a spare wheel on the door – those variants don’t get an opening back window like this one. The main tailgate, though, has a gas strut which can be twisted to lock it in the fully open position, to prevent the door slamming closed in the wind or on a slope.

Mileage: 3200

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Welcoming the Land Cruiser to the fleet - 26th September 2018

Here is, I think it’s fair to say, a specification you don’t see every day. Unless you work for the United Nations, presumably. And even then, it’s probably a five-door.

I have small hunch, though, that this, the three-door Toyota Land Cruiser of the latest generation, will become a slightly more familiar sight on British roads than previously, owing to the demise of the Land Rover Defender.

I feel a bit bad comparing the two because, on even the quickest acquaintance, the Land Cruiser shows itself to be vastly superior to a Defender in terms of ride comfort, engine quietness, interior plushness, audio sound, fit and finish, control weight comfort, heating and ventilation, wind noise, turning circle, fuel consumption… well, look, just everything, basically. But I wonder if it’s a car of similar ethos.

Put it this way: when you drive a supercar, small boys and childish men like me stop and point at it. When you drive a Land Cruiser Utility, the people whose heads turn to follow it are usually driving a tractor or a pick-up.

Its basic integrity and functionality, then, is the reason that the UN buys more Land Cruisers than the UK. So when it came to running one, we decided we’d like to run one that was absolutely as basic as possible.

Of all the Land Cruiser variants, there are two types that do well in the UK. The all-singing, all-dancing Invincible seven-seat five-door range-topper is usually the most popular (£52,855). At the other end of the scale is the Utility. We wanted as basic a car as we could bear, and we got pretty close. The only option on our three-door Utility is one of the few options available: metallic paint.

There are six other available options. They’re all different types of tow bar and wiring.

So what do you get? A 2.8-litre, four-cylinder diesel making a steady 175bhp and 310lb ft of torque from just 1400rpm. It drives all four wheels through a lazy but smooth six-speed manual gearbox, which would be good enough for 0-62mph in 12.8sec and go on to 108mph if I were inclined to try either. Which I haven’t been so far.

Of more importance is that it’s only 4.4m long, about the same as a Ford Focus, albeit a more substantial 1885mm wide, and has a fine 10.4m turning diameter. Less useful in daily driving but handy for the kind of thing we’ll ask the Land Cruiser to do are that it can tow three tonnes and has a low-range gearbox, a set of respectable approach, breakover and departure angles (31deg, 22deg and 26deg respectively) and a 700mm wade depth.

You can get a commercial van version of the Land Cruiser but ours has windows and rear seats and that will be essential for me because, as well as being a tool, it’ll be a daily family drive. Handy, too, then, will be an 87-litre fuel tank and the fact that, driven steadily, it seems easily capable of more than 30mpg. I’ll see what it can best do on a long, sedate cruise soon, during which the leggy gearing will let it spin over at barely beyond tickover. Just often recently, I’ve been in a hurry. Soz.

What’s it like? Lovely. The ride quality is really smooth, control weights easy and responsive, and it heats up or cools down quickly inside. It’s a very stable cruiser, too, despite the height and the shortness. I’ve been disinclined to try too much hard cornering, yet, but directly after writing this, I do have to take it off road. Goody.

Sure, it’s basic, by modern standards. There are no parking sensors, but it’s not that long and visibility is great. There’s no sat-nav, but I have a phone with a better system than any OEM one anyway. There’s no DAB radio, but there are aux and USB sockets and my phone has 4G. Problems all solved.

The only other quirk is that the rear tailgate swings open sideways, not from above. That means you can’t shelter under it while getting out of your wellies but also means you’ll see tailgates with a spare wheel tied to them.

It has a separate, top-hinging glass hatch, though, which has been the subject of the Land Cruiser’s only foible so far, and far from its own fault. My neighbour’s lawnmower pinged a stone up and straight through the Land Cruiser’s rear window on the car’s very first day outside my house. My local dealer, who looked after a Toyota GT86 well when I ran one of those, was able to source and would have replaced it within a week for £700 (although, in the end, the pictures you see here and in a twin test you’ll find on PistonHeads were needed in such a hurry that Toyota kindly did it at emergency notice).

It’s an unusual-looking car, the short Land Cruiser, in side profile particularly: big front overhang, cab well back in the short chassis. Like Wile E Coyote’s head in profile, one wag has suggested. And that’s just fine by me. It’s a function not form vehicle. One whose functions I’m particularly excited to discover over the coming months.

Second Opinion

I love it, all scratchy plastic and softly, softly drive. It’s amusing at the national limit, too, because it’s so impervious to bumps and moves around so much that it feels ‘alive’ in a way that most modern SUVs don’t. It transfers the same attitude to off-road, where it feels like it could go anywhere, all day, for about 120 years.

Nic Cackett

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Toyota Land Cruiser Utility 3dr specification

Specs: Price New £33,955 Price as tested: £34,655 Options: Metallic paint £700

Test Data: Engine 2755cc, 4-cylinder, in-line diesel Power 174bhp at 3400rpm Torque 310lb-ft at 1400-2600rpm Top speed 108 0-62mph 12.1 Claimed fuel economy 37.6mpg Test fuel economy 32.1 CO2 199g/km Faults None Expenses None

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Join the debate


3 November 2018

To sell, it needs to be petrol, it needs to be automatic, and it needs better (much wider) wheels.  Oh, and they need to do something about that front end, like completely re-design it.  Only then I might see one on the roads.  As it stands, it's fugly, and will only appeal to an on-site architect with no taste (which is most of them) when he isn't driving his Audi.

I say my bit, then go. So although I'm interested in what you may initially say, I don't care what you think about what I've written, so I won't read whatever your reply is.

3 November 2018

That bloke is wrong in almost everything he says.

The Landcruiser is the worlds best off road no nonsense vehicle in the world bar none.

Its sold for decades now because of it reliability and sheer toughness to people who want no-nonsense vehicles not interested in poseurs, 

There is no substitute.

12 February 2019
I don’t know anything about pdf, I just use it for printing. But I heard I can know all about it on altocompresspdf.com. Is it true that I can find everything about pdf on that site without any difficulty?

3 November 2018
That bloke wrote:

To sell, it needs to be petrol, it needs to be automatic, and it needs better (much wider) wheels.  Oh, and they need to do something about that front end, like completely re-design it.  Only then I might see one on the roads.  As it stands, it's fugly, and will only appeal to an on-site architect with no taste (which is most of them) when he isn't driving his Audi.


It's one of the best vehicles in the world.  The 'proper' Land Cruiser (not sure why the Poms only get povo versions of cars) is obviously better, but it's VERY expensive in comparison.  The Prado will do WAY more than the majoroity of owners will ever require.

3 November 2018

OK I don’t get the Land Cruiser all. The old Discovery is much better value. The old Discovery is about the same off road, better inside and frankly a nicer place to be. So now consider this. If Land Rover make the new Defender to be like the old Discovery what’s actually is the point of the Land cruiser? It makes no sense at all. Even the Jeep Cherokee is better. No one in the U.K. buys the Land Cruiser this is why!

4 November 2018
TStag wrote:

OK I don’t get the Land Cruiser all. The old Discovery is much better value. The old Discovery is about the same off road, better inside and frankly a nicer place to be. So now consider this. If Land Rover make the new Defender to be like the old Discovery what’s actually is the point of the Land cruiser? It makes no sense at all. Even the Jeep Cherokee is better. No one in the U.K. buys the Land Cruiser this is why!

I agree to a point, the mk1 was a great all round car (based on the first range rover) which is still very popular all over the world.  Trouble is, in the western world we now need ABS, ESP and electronic engine management plus the rear space was a little tight in the early discovery so, if you revised the the original one to modern expectation you would probably end up with a simplified discovery 3. steel springs and solid axles.  Lets hope the new defender is what we want.

I still see a demand to bring back the original dicsovery for use in the undeveloped world.

4 November 2018

Ever owned or driven one long term- nah didnt think so. most of the people who buy JLR products are badge snobs- thats all. The rest of world swear by Landcruisers and if you lived in the Australian outback as I do a lot of the year, the last thing I would want to rely on is anything to do with landrovers. Total misearable unreliable rubbish


4 November 2018

With your blindfolded JLR fanboy view of life of course you wouldnt get the Land Cruiser.

Two things though....the new Defender, when it finally puts in an appearence, wont be a workhorse like the old Disco 1.....it will be far more glossy and urban and a lot more expensive.

What it will be unless JLR make a colossal change in m.o. is unreliable with poor longevity......AND thats why people would buy a stripped out Land Cruiser instead. Its a proper work horse which will keep on working without frequent bouts of welding, gearbox/transmission replacements etc for 20 + years. It doesnt even have alloy wheels (good thing for a true utility vehicle. I bet you wont be able to buy a new Defender with steel wheels! It will be the darling of the Kings Road!!!

4 November 2018

Spot on

5 November 2018

The point of the Landcruiser is that is is by far and away the most reliable off roader in the world. In places where that counts, like Africa, the Middle East and the Australian outback you will never see a Land Rover, only Landcruisers and the occassional Nissan Patrol. In the 2018 J D Power quality rankings Land Rover came 32nd out of 32 major manufacturers. The Australians have a saying "If you want to go into the bush it doesn't matter whether you take a Landcruiser or a Land Rover, but if you want to come back out, take a Landcruiser." However you do have a point, but only for UK buyers, "If you want to go into the village to by a pint of milk it doesn't matter whether you take a Landcruiser or a Land Rover or anything at all."


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