The Toyota Mega Cruiser is the ultimate Japanese SUV

By topgear, 16 June 2020

The Toyota Land Cruiser and Hilux may be nigh-on indestructible, but they’re nothing compared to this leviathan, which this year is celebrating its 25th birthday.

The Toyota Mega Cruiser, the company’s toughest and biggest SUV to-date, was designed and developed for Japan’s military – the “Japan Ground Self Defence Force”, or JGSDF. It was used by emergency services too, and much like the Hummer H1 (from which it clearly draws inspiration) was offered in limited numbers to members of the public.

Toyota says it built around 100 civilian-spec Mega Cruisers between 1995 and 2002. They were only offered for sale in Japan – a nation famous for its love of tiny cars – in right-hand drive, for the equivalent of £74,000. Which in today’s money isn’t much less than £150,000. Good luck finding one for sale.

At more than five metres long, 2.2m wide and 2.1m high, the Mega Cruiser is way bigger than even the Hummer H1. It weighs almost three tonnes and has a 750kg payload. Power comes from a 4.1-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine making only around 150hp, while a 4spd automatic gearbox drives all four wheels through three diff-locks.

There’s some clever engineering at play here – the Mega Cruiser has inboard brakes, four-wheel steering and a Torsen LSD. A hub reduction mechanism and 37-inch tyres means 420mm of ground clearance (the new Land Rover Defender has, at most, 291mm), and a system for inflating and deflating the tyres on the move was available as an option.

Way cooler than a Hummer, no?

STORY Tom Harrison

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