Once I realised my little 2001 WRX was no longer cutting the mustard as a "family car", I had some very hard and long thinking to do.
I needed something bigger. I needed something a little more kid friendly. I needed something that I could still entertain myself and my daughter with on weekends. I needed something that wasn’t boring.
As I worked down my list of "what I want", I’ve got to admit the Toyota LandCruiser Sahara hadn’t yet made the cut. I was all about Nissan Navaras, Jeep SRT’s,Toyota Hiluxes and, of course, lifted Nissan Patrols - because that’s all that came to my mind when I thought ‘Happy Mum Car’. My parents, however, would have been so happy if the words Corolla, Camry, Cruze or Mazda Anything had crossed my mind. But alas, it wasn’t to be.
See, I love cars. I know cars. Cars are pretty much all I know, and popping in and out of a mundane vehicle daily would make for a very mundane life to me. I just couldn’t have that. So I re-evaluated: Something that wouldn’t break the piggy bank, but was still a bit of a head turner. Something that wouldn’t mind the occasional bush bash, safely of course. Something comfortable and child appropriate, with room for all the things that mothers tote along with them every time we leave the house - you need a contingency plan for your contingency plan.
But mostly, it still needed to have a bit of grunt.
That’s when a friend mentioned a LandCruiser. I ummed and ahh'ed, and then I ummed and ahh'ed some more. With so many variations in a Landcruiser, how would I choose my match? Then the word Sahara came to my mind, like an epiphany; a light-bulb moment if you will.
Then I got my research on.
I’m very good at car research. I can research my research and then research it all over again. I started off with value, of course, and went from there. I dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s before I’d even looked at a vehicle. It was very trying, as it could be said that I am very fussy. There’s not an accident or skipped service you can hide from my cleverly trained automotive eye.
Then I found my new mate.
The 2003 LandCruiser UZJ100 4.7-litre V8 Sahara. Balls and beauty is what I saw. Fitted with a vapour injection dual-fuel system, MCC rear bar and rear wheel swing arm carrier, LEDs all around, front bar light, 285/70/R17 muddies, ARB bullbar, winch, darkest legal tint, CB radio, in-dash DVD/GPS/BT Double Din head unit, kicker 12-inch comp sub, complimented by Rockford Fosgate amp, sidesteps and a two-inch lift, all wrapped up in a black body, this four-by called to me.
I called right on back.
Like any relationship, we’ve had our ups and downs; steering rack kaput, starter motor allegedly kaput (starter block fuse-phewwww!) and few batt flatteries, but all-in-all, I found my happy medium.
She takes on the bush and the mud like nobodies' business, then cruises down the freeway with no body sway and only very slight road noise from the chunky muddies. I’m not really a fan of automatic cars, but you can slap the gear selector up and down and easily recover from a wet and muddy situation.
With 7 seats and climate control in the very rear, kids are always happy.
It has it moments, like every car does, but I still smile when I see it in the morning parked out the front. It is safe for my child to travel in for any length of time and it definitely turns heads.
The downside is that it doesn’t sound meaty like a V8 unless you put the boot in or fit a bigger exhaust. I still hate automatics, but Sahara’s don’t come out in a manual for some crazy reason.
Cabin is a good size, with leather and comfortable seats as well as easily removable third row.
The vapour injection can be temperamental and a guzzler unless it’s fine-tuned more often than it should be.
I give it a 6 out of 10. Mostly because I’ve got high expectations and this vehicle has its moments. Everything sort of starts needing to be replaced at about 215,000kms - I’m talking bushes here, there and everywhere, and parts can be very costly. Also maintenance is a killer with 6.8 litres of engine oil needed per oil and filter change.
It’s a good car for what I was looking for. I do love her.
The current Sahara has gone above and beyond with every bit of tech you could ever want, it’s more like a Range Rover than a LandCruiser.