The truck you see here is the largest sport utility vehicle ever made. I'm not talking about Toyotas in general, or even Land Cruisers in particular. I'm talking about this Toyota Land Cruiser that I just built for my wife. Allow me to explain.
What are SUVs for?
The original promise of the SUV archetype is A vehicle that is able to transport a whole family (plus their belongings) over difficult terrain and through difficult weather, with confidence and comfort.
But this ideal has been lost somewhat over the decades. The way SUVs look became fashionable, but the way they drive never caught on. Much of the development of these vehicles in recent years has focused on improving their road manners and reducing fuel consumption. In many cases, exactly what made SUVs attractive in the first place has been lost – their performance – but the driving dynamics and efficiency of passenger cars have never been fully achieved.
A person who's never off-road probably doesn't have to opt for a clumsy SUV as a daily commuter. In fact, the fashionable nature of SUVs has created an image problem where the general public no longer appreciates the vehicles for what they offer and no longer understands the people who actually use them as they were intended.
hey @indefinitewild: how do you live with the hypocrisy of getting a vasectomy as a way to make a "meaningful impact on the bigger problem [of climate change]" and getting one of the least fuel efficient cars to ever exist. https://t.co/FpGFyTGo1Whttps://t.co/FpGFyTGo1W
— 👻 B👀DAN YAN is lurking in the corner 👻 (@wudanyan) December 10, 2019
I challenge all of this. My family of two people and three dogs travels the western United States, Mexico, and Canada regularly – unless we're in the middle of a pandemic – to pursue our various passions outdoors. Not only do we live in Montana, a place where there are snowstorms every month of the year and where we drive off-road practically every day, but we consciously look for extreme weather and challenging terrain in order to get as far from others as possible People as possible. We don't need a vehicle that looks like an SUV and drives like a car. We need a vehicle that looks like a normal SUV but is even more powerful. So we started with the strongest platform out there and then went a lot further.
The Land Cruiser
I explored the reasons we landed extensively on a 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser last December. The short summary is: The 200-series Land Cruiser is exceptional in its ability to combine Jeep Wrangler capabilities off-road with Range Rover comfort on the road, as well as decades of durability with modern ride comfort and the towing and towing performance of a full-size pickup truck remains a vehicle that must comply with the restrictions that apply to all production vehicles.
But that only makes it ripe for modification. And the Land Cruiser has some unique features that make it particularly suitable for changes. The first is the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), with which the front and rear pendulum rods can be automatically separated in the event of difficult obstacles in the field. Pendulum rods exert downward pressure on the outer suspension when cornering. On paved roads, this helps the vehicle take turns without unduly swaying the body. In the field, however, pendulum bars limit the articulation of the wheel and thus the traction. (If a tire loses contact with the ground, it cannot do its job.) To address this inequality, some of the other best performing all-terrain vehicles also come with removable pendulum rods, but none include a system as simple or robust as KDSS. Since the oil pressure is used through special lines between the individual axles to detect differences in the forces applied (the same pressure in these lines releases or connects the pendulum rods), the KDSS works constantly and without intervention by the driver. And since the system is completely independent of bumps, springs and axles and has no position sensors or other electronic complications, it can be applied to the aftermarket suspension just as easily as to the production material.
Another thing that makes modifying the Land Cruiser so easy is the commonality of the parts it shares with the rest of the Toyota truck lineup. Toyota uses parts such as bushings, bearings, and bolts of the same size and specification for several of its vehicles. The company does this to save money and not allow its customers to swap out parts, but it still gives the range a certain level of Legoability. And that creates some very interesting opportunities.
Long journey, defined
Decades ago all trucks used solid axles at the front and rear. This was simple, powerful, and granted vehicles equipped with the simple ability to access many radar articulations. However, solid axles, especially front axles, impair the driving behavior and handling of a vehicle in any type of journey that does not involve rock creeping. So manufacturers adapted the Independent Front Suspension (IFS) to all-wheel drive vehicles by mounting the front differential on the frame and replacing one-piece drive shafts with insanely intricate parts that flex in multiple directions when turned. These are called CV axes.
With IFS, the movement of the wheel is controlled by upper and lower A-arms, while a unitary shock absorber and spring arrangement (called a coilover kit) lifts the vehicle's weight and dampens its movement. Production vehicles use suspension that has to compromise between cost and safety. And these factors have traditionally limited the amount of articulation available. When desert racers got their hands on IFS trucks, they found that the same reasons the chassis had ridden so well had the potential to soar over rough surfaces at unprecedented speeds if they just added back a portion of that articulation could. And they did this by increasing the length of the upper and lower wishbones; A wider arch is a longer arch.
This arrangement was called the long travel and required longer synchronized axes to accommodate the increased track width and longer, remote shock absorbers of the reservoir The Made it easier to move the shock pistons by channeling the shock fluid into an external reservoir, which freed up more space in the shock body – something that is complicated but worthwhile. By increasing the bike path, you are effectively reducing the impact that a shock of a certain magnitude has on the suspension. And by making big bumps, you drastically improve ride quality and control.
The racing suspension works great (when it works), but it requires extremely short maintenance intervals and often only works well under very specific circumstances. A Baja 1000 racing car may land jumps at 100 mph, as if it were floating on an air cushion. However, if you hit a pothole in one at 20 mph, you will lose teeth.
That's the problem Ford wanted to solve when it designed its first F-150 Raptor, which hit the market in 2010. This vehicle adopted the front suspension approach developed by desert racers in a production vehicle by using factory-quality parts that were durable, long service intervals, prioritized ride quality and wear and tear in both daily driving and inclement weather. The result changed the trucking world forever. Ford was able to sell a vehicle in its showrooms that came with a warranty but could safely land big jumps and still get you home from the mall in comfort.
I took a similar approach with this Land Cruiser.
(Photo: Stuart Palley)
Don't believe everything you read on the internet
One of the things that convinced my wife and I to buy a Land Cruiser were reviews on the Owners Forum confirming that you can easily swap out the front suspension parts for parts designed for a Toyota Tundra – and with which a long-stroke suspension system can be achieved three inches of additional track width. Potential benefits included everything detailed above plus the ability to clean larger tires than is possible on Land Cruisers with stock wishbones. Tempted, I reached out to some people who had taken this approach and they seemed to know what they were talking about, so we decided to take the plunge.
Backed up the New Land Cruiser, I told all my friends what I was up to, and thereby cut off the obligation to hold on. I'm practical, but not enough, to develop a custom suspension system for a truck that will quickly cross the $ 100,000 mark. That's why I looked for an expert. Graeme MacPherson from GoFastCampers introduced me to Hudson Hall, who worked for racing driver Robby Gordon on the Dakar Rally. I wrote him what I thought and he replied, "No problem." We planned for him to visit us in Montana, and I set out to collect all the necessary pieces.
The other person I texted was Ed Loh, an old buddy from my auto magazine days who now runs MotorTrend. He drives his own Frankenstein Land Cruiser, a model from the 1980s that he imported from Japan via Canada and that is equipped with a different generation of diesel engines. Loh was enthusiastic about the project and introduced me to a few people at Toyota. A few weeks later a pallet appeared with all of the parts I needed for the project.
Convincing the most conservative conservative Japanese automaker to endorse parts for a mind-boggling project is unprecedented. But that didn't necessarily help anywhere else. While this setup uses a number of off-the-shelf Tundra parts, it also requires installing the aftermarket upper control arms, front coilovers, and rear shocks and springs. I made an early decision to run ARB's BP-51 internal bypass suspension system. It fits in well with the goals of the project and, in addition to good weather resistance, offers exceptional ride quality and very long maintenance intervals. The BP-51 only needs to be rebuilt once every 50,000 miles – that's roughly five times the maintenance interval of most race-minded competitors, who are also struggling to get close to the Australian company's smooth ride. And with internal bypass channels within the shock absorber bodies that provide five different positions of progressive damping (from soft to hard, assuming that ride quality and the ability to handle big landings), the BP-51 also meets the ideal long-travel performance profile. Setup too.
I called my friends at ARB who listened patiently as I described what I was up to and then in more polite terms told myself I was crazy. When I wanted to run BP-51 I was alone. So I handed over my credit card details in exchange for two coilovers the length of tundra and a setup for the rear suspension for an actual Land Cruiser.
Calling Total Chaos Fabrication was a lot easier, mostly because this company is used to building expensive Toyotas specifically to jump off sand dunes. In fact, the company sells its own racing-spec, long-range kit, which provides an additional 7 '' gauge (but requires custom fiberglass fenders), mostly to customers in the Middle East, where the Land Cruiser is the local equivalent of a Ford F-. 150. I asked about upper wishbones that were designed for a truck that was very different from the one we own, and people there just asked for my address.
A few days later, I drove the Land Cruiser into a friend's garage, helped Hudson unload a huge pile of Tundra parts – plus a mix of aftermarket items designed for both the Land Cruiser and the Tundra – and let him figure it all out while I had new tires fitted to new rims.
It was Hudson's first attempt at installing a Frankenstein long-range setup on a Land Cruiser. But he had an easier time with his job than I with the wheels and tires. A couple of other owners with similar suspensions told me I had no problem adding zero offset large tire wheels into the stock fenders, but when I got back from the tire shop, Hudson and I did a test fit and found that tires Mounted on these wheels protruded at least two inches from the fender. That would have crushed the body before it reached full articulation.
(Photo: Wes Siler)
Wheel sizes are more complicated than just a diameter and bolt pattern. You also need to consider offset, which is the location of the rim inside or outside of the hub. Most off-road aftermarket wheels are made without offset because most customers like the look of an extra width, don't install crazy suspension systems, and it is much cheaper for a company to make and store a single offset. The stock Toyota wheels are +56, which means the tires sit 2.2 inches further in than most aftermarket wheels. I'm not sure if I somehow had more suspension width than other people who tried this setup, but that's the only offset that works on our suspension. The distance between the fenders is so narrow that the tire width is also limited on the standard bikes. Eleven inches is the widest tire that will fit, and due to the vagueness of the tire sizes available, this has also limited our tire height.
That said, a tire that is 33.2 "high and 10.8" wide (versus a 34 "high and more than 11" wide) tire helps keep unsprung weight down, and I like the look of the stock wheels now that they're flush with the Land Cruiser's body. They give the truck a more subtle look than the aftermarket wheels and completely hide how much suspension it now carries.
Oh, and I should mention that using Tundra lower wishbones, resumes, and other parts actually increases part availability and lowers part prices for anything that might break or wear out. If the suspension is not only higher but also wider, the resumes can also be operated at less extreme angles, reducing the chances of those ever breaking. It is unprecedented to achieve such a dramatic increase in suspension performance while making the system more reliable.
(Photo: Stuart Palley)
What all adds up
Is the end product worth all the effort and expense? While the truck was still in the elevator, we pulled out a tape measure and took an initial bike path measurement: 11.4 inches. Same number for the Stock Land Cruiser is 9.05 inches.
An additional 2.35 inches of travel might not sound like a huge amount, but let me put that into context. That is an increase of 26 percent. If all other things are the same, a bump of any size now feels 26 percent smaller. Every bump, every day, every mile now has 26 percent less impact on the suspension.
Another good comparison is with other 4x4s. One of the main selling points of the new Ford Bronco is that at 10.2 inches it can easily exceed the front wheel travel of the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with a living axle. This Bronco will be the most capable 4×4 ever sold, but my wife's Land Cruiser can outperform its front articulation by over 10 percent.
This additional travel combined with the BP-51 and the new tire size to achieve systemic benefits. The 33.2-inch tires are 1.7 inches larger than the standard 31.5-inch tires, so the bumps are 5.4 percent smaller. And those functionally smaller bumps now act on bumps that offer much better control.
(Photo: Stuart Palley)
The end result is simply transformative. Rough dirt roads that people in trucks complain about when traveling at 35 mph now feel as smooth as they do on the freeway. Observe the outside of the Land Cruiser as it flies down the bumpy road at a speed limit of 65 mph, and you'll see the wheels and tires move up and down so fast that they blur, but the bodywork I was floating just went there and didn't seem to notice the storm that was raging below.
And only on unpaved roads. On actual off-road tracks, where speeds are much slower and the obstacles are much larger, the new levels of articulation help the tires stay in contact with the ground in more difficult terrain. Combined with the added grip of the Toyo Open Country A / T III tires, this setup is an easy mode for off-roading. Navigating this Land Cruiser through conditions that challenge even my built Ford Ranger has become so easy and smooth it is almost obscene.
That confidence comes not only from the added articulation, ride quality and grip, but also from the new track width, which has increased by three inches. It helps compensate for any instabilities created by the three inches of extra height. Off-road situations in which the vehicle leans terrifyingly to one side feel more stable. Stability on the road increases, which may have been lost due to the increased center of gravity.
And here the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System also contributes to the systemic advantages listed above. Since it always works and the pendulum rods are constantly activated or deactivated, this is a raised truck that still turns completely flat even when driving aggressively on mountain roads and yet can easily roll over large obstacles in the terrain without the driver being involved beyond anything slower. The combination of KDSS, additional bike path, unusual shock absorbers and grippy tires really shine on these uneven roads. By constantly disconnecting and reconnecting, as the surface dictates, the body remains level both in high-speed turns and over large, uneven potholes. These are traditionally conflicting circumstances that no other suspension system on any other vehicle can handle as well as the suspension on my wife's Land Cruiser. And since rough dirt roads make up so many of our miles to pursue outdoor activities, our setup is just ideal for our needs.
(Photo: Stuart Palley)
And it's protected too
We live in the larger Yellowstone ecosystem and we spend a lot of time digging deeper into that ecosystem. Seeing wolves, bears, moose, and moose roaming wild is a big part of the reason we choose to live here, but the same abundance of wildlife also carries a significant additional hazard: street dwellers.
The best way not to run into a large animal is to drive slowly, be attentive and try not to drive at dawn, dusk or at night in order to detect the presence of animals as early as possible is just common sense to give your vehicle the protection it needs to survive an animal strike. That is why all three of our trucks are equipped with steel bumpers and powerful driving lights.
Obviously, this Land Cruiser build is about the best possible solutions. In addition to being the most protective bumper on the market, the ARB Summit also offers full compatibility with all of a vehicle's safety systems. This allows us to survive most collisions with an animal unscathed, without compromising the Land Cruiser's crumple zones, airbags and automatic emergency braking ability to save the lives of its occupants in a major accident. ARB manufactures its bumpers to a standard that isn’t out of place even on a brand new Land Cruiser, and enables the installation of Lightforce HTX2 driving lights along with Warn’s finest wind, the Zeon 12-S.
(Photo: Stuart Palley)
Steel bumpers also increase protection from the scratches and bumps that are common off-road and add to your approach and take-off angles while allowing you to get the most out of these, safe in the knowledge that you will not damage your vehicle. That's why I also attached an ARB bumper to the rear of the truck. In addition to providing full protection, the bumper offers very bright brake light and turn signal repeaters, increasing the visibility of the Land Cruiser to other drivers and further increasing safety.
A unique feature of ARB's rear bumper is that you can choose it without swing-out tire and fuel box racks. Swing-outs are useful for long off-road trips, but they add weight and make opening the tailgate difficult. Since we're sticking to a tire size that will fit in the storage position under the vehicle, and because we're adding a cleaner, safer auxiliary fuel tank instead of carrying around dirty, leaky gas cans, I made up my mind skipping the pivoting would add to the Land Cruiser's everyday practicality . This also means that we do not interfere with the view through the rearview mirror or the reversing camera.
(Photo: Stuart Palley)
But we're not done yet
We still have to mount the slider and underrun protection. Since it's 2020, the entire project is taking a little longer than originally planned. The slides are installed instead of the standard steps (made of plastic) and protect the area of the body under the doors from damage. This is probably the most common damaged area in an off-road vehicle. These will therefore have priority once we have figured out which part we want to drive.
Body trucks like the Land Cruiser can freely mount most of their sensitive parts between the frame rails. However, one big mistake or bad luck can drill a hole in the exhaust, damage the transfer case, or damage an important cable. This is where underride protection plates come into play. They're nowhere near as important as sliders, so I'm looking for the easiest option.
(Foto: Wes Siler)
Dann möchte ich noch zwei Teile hinzufügen: einen Bordluftkompressor und ein Sperrdifferential hinten. Ich bin sehr zufrieden mit den elektronischen Traktionslösungen von Toyota, da der Lkw jetzt bessere Reifen trägt. Die Jahreszeiten, in denen diese Dinge auf Lager sind, sind so schlecht, dass diese elektronischen Traktionshilfen gezwungen sind, Überstunden zu leisten, um ihren mangelnden Grip zu bekämpfen und sich dadurch invasiv zu fühlen. Mit einem Reifengriff, der die Fähigkeiten des Land Cruiser tatsächlich ergänzt, müssen diese Hilfsmittel nicht mehr annähernd so hart arbeiten. Wenn sie nur gelegentlich einen Bremssattel anpassen, um die Wirkung eines Sperrdifferentials nachzuahmen, bemerken Sie sie kaum. Diese Hilfsmittel funktionieren jedoch nur im Vier-Tief-Modus. Es wäre schön, wenn Sie die Hinterachse bei höheren Geschwindigkeiten für Gelände wie losen Sand blockieren könnten.
Die Luftschließfächer von ARB werden von den integrierten Luftkompressoren angetrieben und sind für die Lagersysteme eines Fahrzeugs nicht sichtbar. Sie können mit jeder Geschwindigkeit per Knopfdruck ein- oder ausgeschaltet werden. Ich hatte ursprünglich geplant, auch an der Vorderachse ein Luftschließfach anzubringen, aber mit dem Achtganggetriebe, das der Land Cruiser 2016 gewonnen hat, und seinem überarbeiteten Achsantriebsgetriebe (jetzt 3,3 zu 1) ist im Vorderdifferential eigentlich kein Platz mehr Gehäuse für einen von denen. Sie können das beheben, indem Sie auf ein kürzeres Übersetzungsverhältnis zurückgreifen, aber der neue Achtgang benötigt das für Reifengrößen unter 35 Zoll wirklich nicht: 4,3 oder 3,9 würden die Hochgeschwindigkeits-Cruising-Fähigkeit des Lastwagens ruinieren, was Wir werden weit mehr als ein Schließfach verwenden, also behalten wir dieses Setup bei.
Und das ist es. In diesem Build geht es genauso um das, was wir nicht tun wie um das, was wir sind. Ohne übermäßig große Reifen, ohne viel Gewicht auf dem Dach, ohne eine hintere Stoßstange voller zufälliger Scheiße und mit nichts im Inneren als einer Hundesperre bleibt uns ein Fahrzeug, das in der Lage ist, sein Fahrerlebnis zu priorisieren – eines, das es ist in der Lage, unsere Familie und unsere Sachen über herausforderndes Gelände und durch schwieriges Wetter mit mehr Selbstvertrauen und Komfort als alles andere auf dem Planeten zu tragen.
Aber was ist mit der Umwelt?
Große, angehobene Lastwagen wie dieser Land Cruiser symbolisieren die persönlichen Auswirkungen auf den Klimawandel. Und die 200er-Serie ist bekannt dafür, sehr viel Kraftstoff zu verbrennen. Aufgrund seines überbauten Charakters wiegt es nicht nur fast 6.000 Pfund, noch bevor Sie anfangen, Dinge daran zu befestigen, sondern auch das komplizierte Vollzeit-Allradsystem, das ihm sowohl bei schlechtem Wetter als auch im Gelände so viel Traktion verleiht fügt auch Drag hinzu. Und diese Faktoren kombinieren sich mit dem großen, leistungsstarken V-8, um im kombinierten Stadt-Autobahn-Testzyklus der Environmental Protection Agency nur 14 Meilen pro Gallone zu liefern. Wie können wir es wagen, etwas so ineffizientes zu fahren? Nun, es stellt sich heraus, dass CO2-Fußabdrücke etwas nuancierter sind, wenn Sie bereit sind, Ihre tatsächlich zu untersuchen.
Während ich mich mit dem Thema Kraftstoffverbrauch befasse, sollte ich wahrscheinlich über unseren sprechen. Die von den Autoherstellern angegebenen EPA-Kraftstoffverbrauchszahlen werden unter kontrollierten Bedingungen ermittelt, um Ihnen den Vergleich der relativen Effizienz verschiedener Fahrzeuge zu ermöglichen. Wie wir alle wissen, weil Dollarzeichen an Zapfsäulen vorbeirollen, übertragen sich diese angegebenen Zahlen nicht oft auf das Fahren in der realen Welt – insbesondere, wenn Sie Faktoren wie Höhenlagen, steile Gebirgspässe, unbefestigte Straßen oder hohe Geschwindigkeiten berücksichtigen . In a state full of big mountains and 80-mile-per-hour speed limits, and given that half our miles are done on dirt, we’ve averaged about 13 miles per gallon in the Land Cruiser. Notably, that number does not seem to have been altered by the modifications. All that torque and all those gears don’t seem bothered by the addition of relatively minimal weight and height. Other trucks that may advertise better fuel-economy numbers in stock form would be lucky to match our fuel economy with similar modifications and use.
It looks like we’re on track to put about 10,000 miles a year on this truck, which adds up to approximately six metric tons of carbon emissions, according to the calculator at Carbon Footprint. That may sound like a lot, but let’s put it in perspective. One of the trips we hope to take next year, if this whole pandemic thing gets solved, is to Todos Santos, Mexico, where we got married in March, for our first anniversary. For both of us to fly into San José del Cabo, connecting through Los Angeles, the carbon footprint would be ten metric tons. And that doesn’t include the car we’d need to rent when we got there.
That a single plane trip, of the kind most of us probably take at least once in a normal year, can easily eclipse the entire annual emissions of a Land Cruiser isn’t my point, though. It’s that the entire cycle of consumption each of us is responsible for is much more complex and likely much larger than it may appear on the surface. That’s why deciding not to have a child reduces a potential parent’s carbon footprint by 58 tons annually. If you do not need the extreme capability a heavily modified SUV like ours offers, then drive something more suitable to your life. But let’s talk about big solutions we can achieve as a society before we try and shame individual people for leading the kind of existence that justifies building a truck like this.
Of course, we won’t be flying to Baja; we’ll drive so we can take the dogs. And because we’ll be doing that drive in our long-travel Land Cruiser, we’ll be able to comfortably tackle the peninsula’s most challenging off-road trails in order to camp on beaches we’ll have all to ourselves, safe in the knowledge that we’re driving through those remote areas in the vehicle with the lowest odds of mechanical trouble, and which is now equipped with the greatest possible ability to avoid getting stuck or damaged. That’s the kind of experience this SUV is uniquely able to deliver.
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Lead Photo: Stuart Palley
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