WHOA! It was big. Very big. It stretched 15.7 feet, weighed 6,526 pounds with all of its fluids and mechanical accessories, and rested atop a monster suspension and gigantic wheels that gave it a nine-inch ground clearance.
It was the 1991 Toyota Land Cruiser, a four-wheel-drive, sport-utility vehicle. I was not sorry to see it go.
Living with the Land Cruiser was like sharing a tiny, one-bedroom apartment with a sumo wrestler. It consistently got in the way, blocking access to various portals. When it moved, it moved slowly, ponderously, noisily, making the place rumble, disturbing decent folk.
At the gas pump, the Land Cruiser was an embarrassment, a gluttonous thing that brought smirks and smiles from attendants at my local gas station, one of whom remarked:
"Back again? Already? Wow!"
Toyota officials say that the Land Cruiser is "world-renowned," and I suppose it is, particularly in oil-exporting countries. But Toyota's contention that the Land Cruiser does equally well "traversing rugged mountain roads or hauling groceries home" is totally goofy.
Anyone who needs anything this big to bring home the bacon should buy a farm, or get a procurement contract with the Department of Defense.
Background: The Land Cruiser is Toyota's weapon in the battle for the full-size, luxury sport-utility market. Its rivals include Britain's Range Rover, Chrysler's venerable Grand Wagoneer Jeep, and maxed-out versions of Chevrolet's full-size Blazer and, for that matter, the huge Chevy Suburban.
Complaints: The Land Cruiser is just too big, too awkward to make any sense as an everyday vehicle. It lacks the beauty, charm and grace of a Range Rover and the overall maneuverability of most of its Japanese and U.S. competitors.
Praise: It's extremely well-made, which doubtless is why it has scored so high among people who spend much of their lives on rugged terrain. It's a perfect military vehicle -- as long as it does not stray too far from fuel-supply lines.
Head-turning quotient: In-your-face bigness. Hard to miss.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Rough, rough and rough. The Land Cruiser shakes and bounces you about. The gas-pedal feel is so hard, you're almost tempted to push the vehicle's automatic cruise-control button just to go around the block in a 15-mile-per-hour zone.
Acceleration is sluggish, to say the least. The Land Cruiser is equipped with a four-liter, inline, electronically fuel-injected, six-cylinder engine rated 155 horsepower at 4,000 rpm.
Cargo and trailer capacity: It can carry 100.2 cubic feet of cargo with rear seat folded and can pull up to 3,500 pounds.
Sound system: Five-speaker, AM/FM stereo radio, cassette and disc player. Toyota Premium system. Excellent.
Mileage: Choke! Barely 13 to the gallon (25-gallon tank, estimated 310-mile range on usable volume), combined city-highway, carrying one to five occupants and light cargo.
Price: Base price is $21,998, and dealer's invoice price is $18,368. Price as tested is $27,223, including $4,960 in options and a $265 destination charge.
Purse-strings note: Do you really need this? How about a white elephant?
Warren Brown covers the automotive industry for The Washington Post.