IT'S not often you take a week's holiday and have a carefree glint in your eye when severe storms with flood warnings are forecast. But it's not every day you are equipped with the invincible Toyota Land Cruiser either.
That was my scenario for a break in Devon as storms swept the west coast of England. Gale force winds, flood alerts and torrential downpours couldn't put the dampers on the holiday thanks to the hard-core SUV with ‘proper' off road capabilities.
The latest Land Cruiser boasts a more robust exterior and improved quality within the car. It also features a back-to-basics model aimed at commercial customers that is stripped of many luxuries and creature comforts. And that's the model we clocked up 900 miles in during our break.
The Land Cruiser certainly looks the business and one glance in its direction will leave you with little doubt that this is go-anywhere vehicle.
It features a bold, muscular stance, roof rails, tinted rear windows, a blacked-out grille, sweeping light clusters and chunky wheels.
You have to climb up into the cabin (there are grab handles to assist) and the interior is neatly designed with practicality in mind.
There are lots of wipe-clean, hard surfaces and Bluetooth to connect a smartphone, plus a six-speaker sound system and air conditioning.
It also featured a CD player which is quite rare these days.
If, however, you want lots of techno treats head up the four-trim-level scale to Invincible for the likes of Toyota Touch 2 with Go with its full navigation set-up including real time traffic updates and speed camera warnings, a 14-speaker JBL sound system, triple zone air conditioning, a rearview camera, plus front and rear parking sensors.
Despite its bulky dimensions - the Land Cruiser measures 4.8 metres in length and is 1.8 metres wide - it doesn't take long to feel confident in the way it handles. It weighs 2.2 tonnes so it's not exactly a lightweight vehicle to throw around bends, but it can be pushed along with ease.
Motorway driving is simple and the engine is happy cruising at national speed limits. And thanks to its size it won't be fazed by sudden gusts of wind.
Out on country lanes, the high seated driving position offers a commanding view of the road ahead and above the hedgerows. Sharper bends need to be treated with a degree of respect as there is a fair amount of body sway if driven too eagerly.
In town centres the Land Cruiser was nicely agile and easy to manoeuvre. The lack of any parking sensors or rearview camera can be an issue but it's worth remembering this is the entry level model.
When it comes to practicality, the Land Cruiser is a winner. There is ample room for five adults to travel in comfort and they can bring all the luggage they want too. That's because the boot can swallow 640 litres of kit - a limit that increases to 1,270 litres with the 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat.
Elsewhere, there's a dual-compartment central bin, deep door pockets, cup holders, a glovebox and some trays. The boot is accessed via a side-hinged door that is fine unless someone park too close behind you.
Although we didn't venture off road on this occasion, the Land Cruiser will not be deterred by any of Mother Nature's mood swings. It can wade through water up to 700mm deep, has ground clearance of 215mm, can climb at 42 degrees.
It can also tow a trailer or caravan weighing up to three tonnes.
On the safety front, the higher up the trim grade you go, the more equipment you get.
Our Utility five-door, five-seat model featured electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, active traction control, multi-terrain ABS, vehicle stability control, trailer sway control, Isofix settings and numerous airbags.
The higher grades get Toyota Safety Sense system which includes pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, road sign assist, lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beam.
All in all, the Land Cruiser is excellent fun and a car you feel almost indestructible in.