Many a giraffe has had its day on the Serengeti interrupted by the sight of a Toyota Land Cruiser bounding across Africa's plains. For more than 40 years, the Land Cruiser has been one of the world's definitive, tough-terrain, wild-and-woolly vehicles-a classic sport utility wagon designed for landscape that's usually off-limits to all but the hooves-and-hides set. Its colorful character helps explain why the Land Cruiser is so revered. Only about 10,000 vehicles each year make it to the United States, and they're swallowed up as if they were rare coins, which you might want to have a few of if you're planning on buying this brute-its base MSRP is a whopping $34,268. A logical question emerges: Why would there be such devotion to a vehicle so costly, especially considering the typical U.S. driver is hardly faced with jungle-like conditions? The answer is that few vehicles in the world have built such a reputation for outright muscle and maneuverability. And you don't have to be on safari to appreciate the value there. A Midwest driver will find the Land Cruiser worthwhile on a winter weekend at the lake. The driver in Tennessee or Colorado will say thanks on a slippery mountain slope when this vehicle's front and rear locking differentials take the shivers out of a steep, snowy situation. Even the suburban commuter can enjoy the Land Cruiser's blend of brashness and charm. Although at 12 mpg in the city and with an option package that can take the Land Cruiser past the $40,000 mark, this clearly is a sport utility wagon for the well-heeled. It's also for those who like lots of horses under the hood. A 4.5-liter, inline six-cylinder engine, with dual overhead cams, 24 valves and electronic fuel injection, packs 212 hp at 4,600 rpms. Add to that the locking differentials (for tough, slow-road situations), the optional anti-lock brakes (ABS) with rear disc brakes instead of drums and the standard four-speed electronically controlled transmission with overdrive, and this is a world-class road wrestler that also brings design, spaciousness and interior pluses to the overall picture.
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