Lost in translation

Toyota LandCruiser 200

Tokyo may be a long way from the Australian Outback, but at the moment it’s the nearest place to road test the just released 200 Series Landcruiser.

And besides, with other models to look at like the new Skyline GTR and the Lexus LS600h there would be plenty of reasons to make the trip to Japan and I might just get to road test the Japanese health system on my way.

Excluding the obvious fact that there seems to be no grass and thousands of people everywhere my first impressions of Japan were of the omnipresent vending machines and painfully polite people.

Using mobile phones on buses and trains is discouraged lest you “intrude on your neighbour”.

People still wear face masks if they have an URTI, though health regulations seem to allow smoking almost everywhere.

There’s also no law against selling used underwear in Japan the purchase of which I understand forms part of a popular sexual fetish amongst Japanese men.

I regret to report that I wasn’t able to ascertain as to what they actually do with the underwear after acquiring it and no one was interested in buying my under-garments during my trip.

Thinking I was with a Japanese couple in a lift in my hotel I remarked that in Australia we don’t have a 13th floor because it’s considered unlucky.

The couple who were actually Chinese pointed out that where they came from “four” was a number that was best avoided and two Indians chimed in to say that the number “eight” was bad luck from where they came.

Such are the vagaries of local superstitions.

Amongst young Japanese women “cosplay” or the wearing of striking doll-like dresses is very popular as is the wearing of clothes bearing nonsensical English words.

And unlike Australian males, oriental men don’t tattoo Japanese characters on themselves.

After a week in Japan I can assure my readers that I didn’t actually see a Landcruiser of any description on any road I travelled and Toyota only expects to sell 700 per month locally.

So I headed off to the Toyota Theme Park called the “Mega Web” for my test drive.

As the 8th largest company in the world Toyota have spent a small fortune at Odaibo on promoting their product and there is a 1.3 kilometre test track around the facility for evaluating their vehicles.

And though the building is spectacular Toyota still do ask you to pay 150 yen in a vending machine for a brochure on their models.

On the outside the new Landcruiser hasn’t changed its shape all that much and from the front I had to look twice just to make sure that it was the new model.

Sure it’s bigger and more powerful than the 100 Series, but it basically looks the same on the outside.

I didn’t like the bulbous front indicators and integrated bumpers which won’t survive a brush with the Australian bush.

It’s under the skin that Toyota have been at work with the big beast finally getting hill descent control across the range as well as that nifty feature which stops you going backwards on a hill start.

The 4.7 litre V8 now puts out 212 kW and Toyota claim 15.2 l/100km though I’ve always found that Landcruisers average around 22 l/100km (13 mpg) whenever I’ve driven one.

On the plus side it’s still a very reliable vehicle that just won’t get stuck in any terrain.

The models that I drove all had leather seats, mini-disc players and a keyless ignition just like a Lexus.

They also had air-conditioning vents built into the roof and the power steering reservoir sitting where I’d put my second battery.

My Japanese guide couldn’t tell me what the Australian spec cars will come with, but many doctors are eagerly awaiting the 4.5 litre twin turbo diesel V8 with 200 kW and 650 Nm of torque.

With the Arctic sea ice melting it remains to be seen what sort of reception awaits the beefier Landcruiser when it arrives Downunder.

Safe motoring,
Dr Clive Fraser

For: Big and gutsy, just what you need in the bush.

Against: Big and gutsy, sacrilegious for use around town.

This car would suit: Rural GPs.

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    Medical Motoring is an online record of the articles written by Dr Clive Fraser and published in the Australian Medicine magazine by the Australian Medical Association.