Four Wheel Face-Off: 1/18 Range Rover P38 vs Land Cruiser J100
An old favorite from AutoArt defends its title against a newcomer from the Far East.
The Range Rover. A staple of the automotive history and the British car industry. The name so many people immediately connect with the idea of the sport utility vehicle. The venerable Rangie, as its fans call it, may not have invented the SUV market, but it surely pioneered it, becoming one of the hottest status symbols of all time within its 50 year history. With good reason too, as its high price tag commands a mixture of luxury and off-road prowess that most other brands can't quite seem to lock down.
Emphasis on most.
By the 1990s, every brand around the world was lining up for a big stinking serving of sweet sport utility pie, but the Range Rover still seemed to be on top of the overall heap. Brands such as Jeep and GMC tried their hands at climbing to the peaks with more luxurious offerings of their modest blue-collar SUV models, but none seemed to really capture the echelon of that one British brute. But one very, very stubborn Japanese brand wasn't going to take the fight lying down. Toyota was aiming their Land Cruiser, which had garnered its own cult following within its production run, right at the Range Rover, and just as they had with the luxury car game in 1989, they planned to win.
Toyota's long-term Range Rover-killer strategy started with a sophisticated Lexus variant of the already established J80-series Land Cruiser, called the LX450. The LX450 featured little exterior and mechanical difference from the standard Land Cruiser, but Lexus was allowed to give the flair of their successful luxury cars to the interior, garnishing the cabin with fine leather trim, real-wood accents, and enough features to keep the gang pleased while roving the range (er...cruising the land?). The LX450 was initially successful, selling out of its initial stock at the beginning of its production run in 1996, but Toyota being Toyota, the skunkworks still worked away at what would end up being a real nail in the Range Rover's proverbial tire: the J100.
The J100, unveiled in 1998, was a complete radical departure for the Land Cruiser. It shifted the basic idea of the car from being a no-frills off-roader for the people, to being a far more comfortable SUV with off-road capabilities. Toyota seemingly overshot the idea of just beating the Range Rover, and went on to create the most technologically advanced SUV on the market in their eyes. The new Cruiser went up to bat with electronic air suspension, night-vision cameras, and the first ever available V8 engine in a Land Cruiser model. All of this paired with Toyota's knack for high reliability almost made the Range Rover seem ancient in comparison (which is something that was remedied with the forthcoming L322 Range Rover in 2002).
Toyota had seemingly won this round, but Land Rover would soon strike back, and the rest is history. But is this rivalry worth it enough to own in 1/18 scale, and does the outcome remain the same? Well, that's what we're here to find out.
Our Land Cruiser comes to us from the Far East. I mean, obviously, but even more so than that. This is a 1/18 scale model from China, as part of the new trend of highly-detailed, Chinese dealership models that has risen over the past few years. This model in particular is a refreshed J100 (approximately a 2003) featured in Imperial Jade Mica with some very radical 90s style graphics. I'm not particularly a fan, but I'm not one to argue with the only J100 in 1/18 scale. This model will set you back just a hair over $100, but most if not all of the dealers on eBay are based in China, so expect a delay in shipping times.
There's a definite unique quirk to the Chinese dealer model industry, because the main selling feature seems to be regular every day cars that have followings across the Pacific. We've seen everything from mundane Volkswagens to the latest high-end Cadillac models all represented, and seemingly done so with the same amount of detailing and unique features such as opening gas caps, movable seats, etc. The idea has always captivated me, but the struggle of finding a perfect car to pop this proverbial cherry at the right price was a struggle until this Land Cruiser finally came along.
In terms of overall quality of the model, this Land Cruiser is beautifully done. The entire body is a pure old-school diecast shell, with very little plastic being used on the exterior except for a few trim pieces. The use of materials are so well chosen, giving the model a serious heft while carrying it (I'd estimate it's somewhere between 3-5 lbs, probably making it the heaviest model in my collection). Build quality is decent enough, there are a few issues with how the doors open, but I've yet to break anything (hopefully it stays that way).
Some of the more defining features of this model include fold-out mirrors, sliding front seats, and a full opening tailgate/hatch combo with folding and removable second and third row seating, which has to be the best attention to detail of any model I've had yet, and is such great fun to mess around with.
As far as paint and decal detailing on the interior and under the hood, it's all there, with the requisite wood grain patterns to match the beige leather, detailed gauge and navigation screen modeling, and accurate painting of the engine cover. Something about the attention to detail of this model makes it seem so much more realistic than most others I've seen from a lot of the high-end brands. It's almost like they spent extra time trying to go that extra mile to represent every little feature of the genuine article, which makes me feel like that for just over $100, this model is a definite steal.
Representing our good old chaps from across the pond is this early 2000s Range Rover P38A model from AutoArt. As I've established before in my reviews of the Z06 Corvette and the Lexus GS400, old-school early naughts AutoArt is not quite like the AutoArt we know today. The brand was just coming off of its big rebranding from UT/Gate models after initial introduction in 1998. The models were still some of the best you could find on the market, but the overall quality and detailing isn't nearly as well-done as some of their later models have been. Nevertheless, something keeps drawing me back to these early selections from them, and it's probably the overall variety of the cars that they built during this time. Being an early naughts automotive freak, that's probably the most sane reason.
This model can range you anywhere from $80-140 depending on condition and seller, I managed to find one on the lower end of the spectrum with nothing more than a slightly damaged box which probably lead to the discounted price.
On the surface level, this Range Rover is a decent model. It's got all the right exterior detailing you'd expect to find, with an almost trail-ready look straight out the package. I really love the aesthetics of the P38A, I prefer its mixture of the classic Range Rover's blocky style with the updated softer corners of the 1990s fashion. It gives the model a very utilitarian look, while remaining just as luxurious as before, which is an area that the successor model went way too far in the direction of. So, if anything, I appreciate this model's representation in my collection.
However, in any other area besides that, the Range Rover does feel a tad of a letdown, especially compared to the Toyota. There's a definite dip in overall build quality. I wouldn't call it cheap, per se, but it definitely feels a little more flimsy compared to the huge hunk of metal seen on the J100. It's a diecast model too, which makes it even more of a shocker that this thing feels nearly as light as some of my newer composite AutoArts.
I will give credit to the interior, however, for being very nicely detailed, and better to look at than the Land Cruiser's, at least on the surface level. The black piping and contrast dashboard give it a really enticing, homely feel, and the woodgrain is just as well-represented as what we got from our Chinese companion. However, don't expect to find any movable seats here. While the rear opens in a similar fashion to the Land Cruiser, it's purely for aesthetic display choice, nothing more nothing less. As for the engine department's going, it's a very cold display of black plastic, not nearly as dressed up as the Toyota's fully painted engine bay.
To say I'm disappointed by the Range Rover is a bit strong, but I was expecting a little more for a car I hold so dearly. Nevertheless, nobody's perfect.
In case you weren't keeping score, I do believe that the 1/18 battle between these two four-wheel drive juggernauts ends similarly to the 1/1 showdown, with the Toyota taking the victory. Perhaps it was an unfair comparison to some, but I think it's about as close as we can get to taking these two to court in this hobby. Nevertheless, I will recommend these two at the price point they're in. The Land Cruiser is a nearly perfect model, with so many features that every single new opening I can find wows me every time. The Range Rover is not a modeling masterpiece, but it displays so well with its intricate exterior detailing. You can't really go wrong with either, but if you had to pick one? Go with the Toyota. It won't leave you disappointed, just like the real thing.