The word ‘icon’ gets bandied about a lot when we discuss cars (it’s never a polite chat, it’s more an angry debate...) and we all have our opinions on what is deserving of it and what isn’t. The most standout models are usually based on their design, popularity, and performance and the word absolutely applies if the vehicle in question is, say, an Aston Martin DB5, Ford GT40 or BMW M1. There are hundreds more that deserve the label and, for instance, it’d be impossible to sum up the Land Cruiser without the ‘I’ word cropping up closely followed by ‘legend’ and maybe even ‘unbreakable’ (I’ve never rammed one into a wall myself...) and the much-loved Toyota deserves them all. Rugged and reliable, the SUV has set the benchmark in the segment for over 60 years. Designed to survive the harshest of terrains in the world from day one, it’s a firm favourite here in the GCC. We’ve grown accustomed to being tailgated and flashed by them; imposing and aggressive, they’re a mean sight to behold in your rear-view but there are even more extreme versions of the venerable LC — one such called the Xtreme in fact. Having driven this for a couple of days I can wholeheartedly say that it is a very apt moniker — and I don’t just mean that because I found getting in to the roomy cabin extremely difficult… The ride height is enormous. A stepladder would have been a nice extra, sadly, that’s missing from the options list.
The Xtreme, a package for the LC, has been available for the SUV since 2008 and makes the Toyota look like it’s been injected with steroids. You have Icelandic firm Arctic Trucks to thank for that. All of the modifications are carried out here in the UAE by the company and you get a full UAE dealer warranty from Al-Futtaim Motors; this isn’t a back street Sharjah garage job — it’s done by the best in the business when it comes to building vehicles as hard as nails.
The most important and most visible change they have made to it is the two-inch lift kit which gives the LC additional ground clearance and improves its off-road credentials. They’ve also widened the track to help improve stability (since the centre of gravity has been increased by the lift kit, the extra width helps to counter balance this) and it’s been adorned with fender flares which gives the exterior a more muscular look but it also stops the tyres — a massive set of 285/60 BFGoodrich All-Terrains — from sticking out of the body. They’re wrapped around 18in gloss black rims and although they are a tad understated (the black hides much of their details) they alone do a sterling job in shouting out that this is no ordinary LC. Finishing it all off are a pair of ‘Xtreme’ badges on rear quarters and overall, it’s evident that this Toyota can and wants to go everywhere.
The ride height is enormous. A stepladder would have been a nice extra, sadly, that’s missing from the options list.
Inside, not much changes but the dash and centre console don’t look as fresh as some of Toyota’s rivals and could use a proper revamp (the digital clock with rather large numbers looks very Eighties...) but aside from that, everything is well built and within reach however, I dislike the wooden trim on the steering; it keeps slipping from your grasp making off-roading trickier than usual. The infotainment system — a 9.0in touchscreen — houses the lot (from the sat-nav to the AC) and it’s very intuitive but the best feature is the on-board air compressor. It can fill air in two tyres simultaneously and has an automatic cut-off at the desired pressure. The cream colour leather seats are as comfy as ever (they also hold you in place when you start manhandling the SUV) and there’s even a cooler box inside the centre console, ideal for keeping drinks inside — you’ll need refreshments after thrashing this off the beaten track.
Out in the rough, it’s near unstoppable; it already comes with the world’s first Crawl Control feature allowing the Xtreme to automatically maintain a low speed as it traverses dunes and extra rocky roads. And with a Multi-Terrain Select system that gives you the ability to match the vehicle’s settings to the terrain, low range, all four wheels digging in for traction and above all the lift kit allowing you to ride over literally anything, the Xtreme is a hoot. However, with it tipping the scales at 3,350kg, there’s no getting around its heft and this is more apparent on the road. Apart from some tyre roar and a heavy steering caused by those fat BFGoodrichs, you can feel the weight of the large LC in the corners and it’s best advised to take it slow on the blacktop and especially when met with a bend. There is some roll in spite of the suspension’s best efforts and the 4.6-litre V8 mated to a six-speed automatic struggles a little to get the SUV moving quickly; it makes 304bhp and 439Nm of torque which proves enough when you’re off-roading, but the 5.7-litre V8 would be my choice.
The sheer amount of Land Cruisers on the road isn’t surprising whatsoever as they’re superb family haulers and perfect for weekends spent in the desert — but if you want to keep on pressing ahead when everyone else in your group reaches their limits, then you want to be sure that you’re wheeling the Xtreme. As the name implies, it’s one wild ride.