People Movers – Two Takes on Family Matters
I’ve always been of the opinion that buses, trains and ferries are people movers. Everything else is a car.
Recently I’ve rethought this perspective as I’ve experienced two very different but ultimately parallel interpretations of moving more than the nuclear family about.
Toyota Granvia VX
For all intents and purposes, this is a fully pimped-out Toyota Hiace. It’s quite simply a lounge room on wheels with four electronic and heated reclining ‘captains chairs’ for your passengers as well as plenty of luggage space. Unlike any Hiace that I’ve driven before, the Granvia VX has a silky smooth 2.8L 4 cylinder turbo-diesel engine mated to a 6-speed sequential shift gearbox. I’ve never seen a more luxurious car wearing a Toyota badge.
Toyota LandCruiser Sahara Turbo Diesel
Like the Granvia, the LandCruiser has fantastic road presence. A commodious interior with ample and comfortable seating for 7, the Sahara sits atop the LandCruiser range. A magnificent (and thirsty) 4.5L V8 twin-turbo diesel sits under the bonnet, that itself sits more than a metre off the road. Inside, leather everywhere combined with TV screens in the rear and more than thirty individual buttons, means the driver is in complete control on suburban streets and boggy paddocks.
Back in the 1980s anyone’s parents who were breeders bought a Toyota Tarago. Like the Granvia VX, the top of the line Tarago was (for the time) very well appointed. As you would expect, the Granvia VX takes this to a whole new level. 5.3m long, 1.97m wide, and 1.9m tall, the Granvia VX uses 85% of the cubic metre volume that it could consume if it was a loaf of bread. Available in four colours, (Black, White, Silver, and Gun Metal Grey) with highly polished 17″ alloy wheels, this moves six people in epic style. Chrome accents adorn nearly every flat surface of the Granvia VX – especially the front grille.
The only exterior styling improvement that I would recommend for the Granvia VX is very dark tinting for the rear windows. The kids complained that they felt like they were driving around in a Demir Leather Furniture showroom.
I think the LandCruiser wins this exterior styling popularity contest. Much like the Granvia VX, the LandCruiser Sahara uses a lot of cubic volume. At 4.99m long, 1.98m wide, and 1.97m tall they share almost identical dimensions. The LandCruiser Sahara of course is a dual purpose vehicle so physical measurements is where the similarities end.
The LandCruiser Sahara is held aloft by massive 18″ alloy wheels shod with massive on-road/off-road tyres. Side steps on both sides aid entry and exit from every door for up to 7 passengers. At the front another liberal dose of chrome gives the LandCrusier Sahara a European premium feel with dual-beam LED lights with auto-levelling and high-pressure washers. Massive power retractable mirrors, roof bars and a huge rear door step with integrated tow-bar sets off the exterior styling.
And yes, the rear windows are all tinted which provides privacy and considerable heating and cooling advantages.
When you open either of the power-assisted sliding doors for the first time on the Granvia VX you are greeted by what I imagine is the interior of a Global 8000 business jet. Four Ottoman Captain’s Chairs with 4-way power adjustment and heating fill the cabin, with surprising ease of access. Each chair is trimmed in beautiful quilted leather that is as comfortable as it looks. Each chair is capable of reclining and raising the footrest to such a level that a sound nap is easily achieved. The chairs can also be arranged as all facing forward, or the second row can be turned 180º to face the third row of chairs. Each chair also provides in-armrest storage for a small laptop/iPad or a good book for the longer trips.
Where the exterior is lashed with chrome, the interior sports a number of woodgrain-look accents. The steering wheel of course, but any flat surface and all four doors have had not-unpleasant dark wood accents applied.
Speaking of the steering wheel, the driver’s view of the world is really good. You sit very high and forward of all the bulk in the Granvia VX. The 8-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat is very comfortable although adequate thigh support was lacking due to the high seating position. The front passenger seat is clearly for the butler – no power adjustment, only four-way movement, and no heating.
Whilst not quite as roomy inside due to considerably more rigidity and strength in the body shell, the LandCruiser Sahara puts up a good fight. The driver and front passenger seats are very comfortable thanks to lovely leather with more than adequate support around the kidneys and under your legs. The seats also have almost infinite electric adjustment and ventilation as well as heating.
Moving to the second row we have the customary three-seat layout with headed outer seats as well as twin 11.6″ TV screens on the back of each of the front seats for long-trip amusement and distraction. Thankfully the LandCrusier Sahara comes with three sets of wireless headphones – well played. With a bit of effort the system can take input from a USB stick or from a laptop providing live-streaming capabilities with a strong enough 4G mobile signal.
The middle seat passenger does have at their feet a NASA style control panel of HVAC for the 4-zone climate control, the AV controls and USB and HDMI sockets for phones as well as a 12V/120W fast-charge socket.
Into the rear, we have an additional two smaller seats that are surprisingly comfortable for even a modest trip. On older LandCrusier’s the third row of seats were often removed as they were incredibly bulky and took up a lot of space only to be useful on the occasional trip. These are still quite bulky but relative to the size of the luggage space, they are not so painful to live with.
Some of the plastics are pretty nasty in the LandCrusier Sahara given the price, but they will take an absolute thrashing during their life and will last forever. Like the Granvia VX, there is a smattering of woodgrain-look highlights such as on the lovely thick leather steering wheel and on the door trims.
The Granvia VX’s party piece are those four magnificent chairs. Beyond those sumptuous leather recliners, the Granvia VX is very well appointed but nothing earth shattering – and there are one or two niggles.
The other arrow in the quiver of the Granvia VX is that it’s super cool. It’s like a 5m long panther gliding through the streets sitting close to the road, propelled by the smooth 2.8L turbo-diesel engine that sips from the 70L fuel tank. No other people mover gets more stares at night.
The driving position as I’ve mentioned is surprisingly good in the Granvia VX. Like most vans, you feel as though you are sitting on them, rather than in them. That being said, the triangulation of the pedals, the driver’s seat and the steering wheel is pretty good.
The gear-selector for the 6-speed sequential gearbox is raised out of the centre console so you don’t feel as though you have to stoop down every time you set off on a journey.
A touch-screen 8″ multifunction display controls most of the key functions although some of the buttons are hard to spot and hit when you’re driving alone. Thankfully Apple Car Play and Android Auto are fitted as standard and take away most of the in-car entertainment and navigation pain. The 12 speaker Pioneer sound system is excellent with plenty of power to fill the large cabin.
The other thing that was very good at filling the cabin was the climate control with separate controls for the rear passengers. There is also an ambient lighting feature in the rear that cycles through a number of colours that turn the rear into the Business Class section of a 787 Dreamliner at night. Thankfully, like a modern airliner, there are loads of USB sockets to plug in your devices – especially in the rear.
The lovely leather steering wheel is mounted with the usual set of cruise control and sound-system controls. I did like that the lane departure and speed limiter controls had their own on/off switches as the Lane Departure system, in particular, was really annoying as it tried to throw me back into a lane driving over the tapestry of lane markings on some Sydney roads.
On to the couple of things that would take some getting used to. The power side doors are incredibly slow to open and close. Small children and pets are easily going to make a break for it.
The other thing was the lack of a power tailgate! I wasn’t able to weigh the back door, however, it’s very heavy and opens the full height of the back of the Granvia VX. It wasn’t too difficult to open as it had some ‘springed assistance’ but closing it was tough. Impossible to do with one hand or if you’re five-foot tall.
The LandCruiser Sahara is appointed with tech and luxury to within an inch of its life. The interior is a really nice combination of leather, above average plastics, a bit of woodgrain, and some chrome highlights – but not at all gaudy. A huge 9″ touch screen display commands the centre console but sadly like the Toyota Supra we recently reviewed, no Apple Car Play or Android Auto. Thankfully the 9 speaker sound system makes up the short-fall with great sound via the Bluetooth Audio. The tune, track and volume dials as situated below the 4-zone climate control buttons which is a bit weird. The dials are large and chunky so you don’t need to take your eyes off the road to operate them.
Situated below the volume controls is what looks like a little glovebox. It’s actually a wireless charging cubby hole which will take a standard-sized iPhone and still close. Below the wireless charging are the buttons for the three stage heating and ventilation for the front seats as well as another USB and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Surrounding the gear-shift for the 6-speed sequential shift transmission is all manner of switches for the 4×4 system. As you would expect on a LandCruiser, this is incredibly sophisticated and easy to manage. A single large dial manages the shit from High-Range 4×4 to Low-Range 4×4 for the really heavy-duty off-roading. Another highly polished chrome dial controls the Multi-Terrain Selection (MTS) system where up to five different levels of grip and torque can be provided depending on the terrain. In addition, the LandCruiser Sahara has a limited-slip centre differential, crawl control with steering assist for really tight off-road spots, and the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) that hydraulically controls the anti-roll bar and makes intelligent adjustments depending on whether greater off-road wheel articulation or more competent on-road handling is required. There really isn’t anywhere that this machine is going that you can’t get back from.
Two large cup holders sit in front of a huge cool box that will easily swallow two large bottles and keep them super-chilled to your destination.
Other features that you’d expect on the LandCruiser Sahara include rain sensing wipers, dusk sensing LED headlights and a power tailgate. Driver’s seat memory position (x3) and auto high-beam sensors are also standard.
In terms of safety, the LandCruiser Sahara is equally well-stocked. ABS, Blind Spot Monitoring (very handy in something so vast), rear cross-traffic sensors, traction control, reversing camera, and lane departure assist are all standard. Parking sensors surround the LandCruiser Sahara, however, the kerbside mirror does not dip so you will find yourself using the Multi-Terrain Monitor system with 4 externals cameras to see if you’ve nailed the reverse park at school pick-up. A fleet of airbags will keep you safe should the worst ever happen and three child restraint anchor points will keep the little ones secure.
Driving Impressions & Final Thoughts
The Granvia VX is a really easy car to love. It’s easy to drive and even easier to look at. I was really surprised at how quickly you become comfortable with the size of it. I thought parking of any kind would be a nightmare – it wasn’t. It wasn’t particularly fast, but at 3.34 tonnes nothing is. The driving position as I’ve said is really nice. Not 8 hours to Byron Bay nice – I’d rather be in the back with a book or a movie – but for day-to-day driving it’s good.
For $82,437 drive-away, there are far more expensive ways to move six people around and there are cheaper ways too, but none are going to be this cool – once we get the windows tinted.
After driving the LandCruiser Sahara for a week, a couple of things became clear. Firstly, I couldn’t see how anyone of sound mind would pick any other large SUV if you had a budget of up to $150K. The Sahara is $133,542 on the road which gives you $16K in change for diesel – which you’re going to need. It can take more passengers than an X5 or GLE. It’s more capable off-road than a Discovery or Range Rover, and it’s better appointed than a Q7. Most importantly, and I’ve heard this for years, it’s a Toyota so you can get it fixed pretty much anywhere if it goes wrong.
The other point that dawned on me was the quality of the experience of driving a LandCruiser Sahara. I know there’s a reason that Lexus exists, but for the additional $50K for the similar spec Lexus LX570, I’m looking forward to seeing where that money goes. The Sahara is pretty special.
I can also vouch for the fact that the family pet will be well at home in the LandCruiser Sahara.
It’s big and bulky and thirsty (you’ll be lucky to do better than 13L/100km in the city) but it’s a LandCruiser, therefore it’s pretty perfect at almost everything. Day to day it takes some getting used to. Tipping the scales at 3.5 tonnes it’s not nimble by any stretch of the imagination. Try to dart into a gap in city traffic and you quickly realise how much torque is required to move such vast bulk from here to there.
However, small victories grow into large ones. In spite of the kerbside exterior mirror’s shortcomings, it’s surprising easy to park once you get the hang of it. This is aided by the 285/60R18 tyres where the sidewalls are taller than most suburban kerbs so you simply mount the kerb rather than leave a ‘concrete autograph’ on the 18″ alloy wheels.
It’s easy to get in and out of. It will swallow everything you could possibly want to cart around. The 93L main fuel tank and the 45L sub-tank mean you don’t go to the service station that often, even with the 4.5L twin-turbo engine’s thirst.
The luxuries abound in the LandCruiser Sahara and for that reason I think it would be my choice – even for the $50K premium over the Granvia VX – if I had to pick one for my family. I think I’d get one in black though so I could capture some of the Granvia’s dripping coolness.
|Granvia VX||LandCruiser Sahara|
|Price (Drive Away)||$82,437||$133,542|
|Engine||2.8L turbo-diesel engine||4.5 litre V8 Twin Turbo diesel engine with intercooler and direct injection|
|Transmission||6-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift||Automatic 6-speed Electronic Control Transmission with Artificial Intelligence Shift Control and Sequential Shift|
|450/1600-2400||650/1600 – 2600|
|Towing Capacity (kg)|
|Turning Circle (m)||11.0||11.8|
|Brakes||Front: ventilated disc brake with floating caliper with 2-cylinder|
Rear: ventilated disc brake with floating caliper 1-cylinder
|Front: 354mm ventilated discs|
Rear: 345mm ventilated discs