Can Toyota make the Land Cruiser much better than it already is? Short of dropping $10K off the price, it would be tough. For 2000, the Land Cruiser gets new skid control and traction control systems integrated with the ABS brakes, but is otherwise unchanged. Power comes from the silken 230hp 4.7L DOHC 32-valve V-8.
That same glorious engine is available in the full-size Tundra pickup which went on sale in May. Available in either standard or four-door Xtracab models, the Indiana-built Tundra comes with the 3.4L V-6 standard and the 4.7L iForce V-8 optional.
Independent Suspensions vs. Solid AxlesTwo decades ago, virtually every vehicle with four-wheel drive had solid axles at both the front and the rear. Today, solid rear axles are common, but many (if not most) trucks and SUVs have independent front suspensions. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
The big advantage of solid axles is that they have less moving parts and, hence, less can go wrong. They're extremely rugged and, because their differential is integral, will often move that differential up and out of the way when going over an obstacle. Though many people claim that solid axles harm ride quality, two of the best riding and best handling SUVs, the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Range Rover, have solid axles in both the front and back.
Independent suspensions let each tire react to a situation independently from any other tire. That means the tires can often present a squarer face to whatever ground they're on and, hopefully, get better traction. That results in better handling on road and, it's argued, better traction off. Every GM four-wheel-drive vehicle now has an independent front suspension, and new-technology 4x4s like the Mercedes M-class sport the system in both the front and back.
Buying OnlineIt used to be that buying a new car or truck meant going down to a local dealer and thrashing out a deal. Not any more. According to J.D. Power and Associates it's expected that 50 percent of new vehicle buyers will use the Internet to car shop by 2000. That's up from 16 percent in 1997. If you want to get the best deal on your next vehicle, you need a computer. It's no coincidence that we listed every manufacturer's Web site in this guide.
Most consumers use the Internet as a way to research prices, features, and products before finally heading off to a dealer to hash out the purchase. Toward that end some of the best resources on the Web are sites that archive comparison tests of vehicles and show both retail and invoice prices. Sites run by 4-Wheel & Off-Road's sister magazines Motor Trend (www.motortrend.com), Truck Trend (www.trucktrend.com) and Four Wheeler (www.fourwheeler.com) are all good places to harvest honest heads-up comparisons and tests of whatever vehicles you're interested in. If you're interested in how much a vehicle will cost to operate over its life, try Intellichoice (www.intellichoice.com), and if you think of 4x4s as just big appliances, try Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org).
Knowing how much the dealer paid for the vehicle in which you're interested is critical, and no site does that better than Edmund's (www.edmunds.com). It's not a fancy site, but its pricing information is up-to-date, comprehensive, and invaluable. Consumer Reports maintains similar information on its web site and also has a useful section that helps determine if buying or leasing is better for you, but they charge for it.