Is there a more complete 4WD wagon than the Toyota LandCruiser? The car, which six decades ago, cut its teeth as a workhorse in the Australian bush?
Ruggedness, versatility and durability remain the cornerstone traits of the LandCruiser today.
Toyota has continually evolved the big off-roader, from a little two-door, splintering to a large box-shaped wagon, to become an ‘institution’ to buyers looking for a large, tough, versatile 4X4.
The 200 Series – launched in 2007 – is a far more refined car than its tough-as-boots progenitors, and none more refined and luxurious than the current top-of-the-range Sahara.
Last year the LandCruiser got a freshen up with styling tweaks inside and out, new safety, technology and driver assist features, additional creature comforts along with performance and efficiency boosts to the 4.5-litre twin-turbo V8 diesel.
But it came at a cost a $4900 price hike.
Vehicle Style: Upper Large SUV
Price: $118,500 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 200kW/650Nm 4.5-litre V8 |diesel I 6spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.5 l/100km | tested: 14.5 l/100km
Australians love their LandCruisers. This is the largest single market for Toyota’s off-roading flagship, with more than one in every ten produced, sold here.
Mechanically, Toyota’s engineers have fettled the big 4.5-litre twin turbo diesel as part of the update, giving it new injectors and reworking the mapping to eek out five more kilowatts (now 200kW), and a fuel efficiency improvement of 7.7 percent, with torque unchanged at 650Nm.
Also unchanged is the six-speed automatic gearbox and full-time, dual-range all-wheel-drive system.
The latest camera technology comes to the LandCruiser and presents both a bird’s eye and undercar view, helping drivers trek safely through rough terrain or manoeuvre more capably in tight spots.
Also included in last year’s freshen up is a host of safety upgrades including blind-spot and lane-departure monitoring, auto high beam, rear cross-traffic alerts and radar cruise control that automatically adjusts the vehicle’s speed, to match the car in front.
THE INTERIOR | RATING: 3.5/5
- Standard equipment: Proximity key, electric driver’s and front passenger seat, heated front and row 2 seats, electric tilt and reach steering column with 3 memory settings, illuminated entry & exit, keyless start, partial leather seats, 4-zone climate control, powered, heated and folding door mirrors, power tailgate, coolbox in console, sunroof, power windows, privacy side and rear glass, rain sensing wipers, side steps
- Infotainment: 9-inch touchscreen, 2 x rear seat DVD screens, satellite navigation, music streaming, Bluetooth, vehicle settings, AM/FM/DAB+/CD/USB 9-speaker audio, wireless phone charging
- Cargo volume: 700 litres with third row down, 1276 litres with second row down.
Last year’s revisions have taken the LandCruiser’s interior upmarket, with a rich look and feel that impressed several long time Cruiser owners of my acquaintance when shown the new model.
Once you have climbed on board, from behind the wheel the sheer size of the Landcruiser and the way it dwarfs other vehicles hits you.
The driving position is old-school, looking down on the bonnet rather than along it, but after just one trip into the rough stuff, you will appreciate the high riding perch.
Improvements to the interior include a new instrument panel featuring a digital multi info screen between the large analogue speedo and tacho and a redesigned, chrome bordered console with modern switchgear and a revised layout.
Above that is the new 9-inch infotainment screen for music streaming, sat nav, the panoramic camera, Bluetooth audio, digital radio and a CD player.
Epitomising the upmarket feel are the comfortable perforated leather seats and many soft-to-touch leather surfaces throughout, including a padded section next to the driver’s left and front passenger’s right knee and discreet woodgrain trimmings.
Occupants are spoiled for space with vast expanses of leg, head, shoulder and hip room in the front and second row 40/20/40 split seats. The third row comfortably seats two adults on short trips, and, when occupied, there is still a reasonable amount of luggage room.
The third row seats fold up the old-fashioned way to the sides, not under the floor, as that space is occupied by the long range fuel tank. But they can be removed for more luggage space.
And you won’t hear any complaints from the second row dwellers, with two large DVD screens fitted to the back of the front seats.
For its interior size, we was disappointed by the lack of storage options. There are only two cupholders in the console and a shallow bin at the front, housing the wireless smartphone charger.
And, while there’s storage space under the armrest, that’s also where the coolbox lives (so it’s a case of trading off storage or keeping things cool).
ON THE ROAD | RATING: 3.75/5
- Engine: [email protected],600rpm [email protected] twin turbocharged diesel V8
- Transmission: 6-speed auto transmission full-time 4WD with centre differential & dual range transfer case
- Suspension: Double-wishbone front with coil springs, four-link rear live axle with coil springs and Panhard rodBrakes: Ventilated 340mm front and 345mm rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted rack-and-pinion, 11.8 metre turning circle
- Towing capacity: 750kgs unbraked, 3500kgs braked
- Approach/departure angles: 32 degrees/24 degrees
- Ground clearance: 230mm
It is around town that you are constantly aware of the Landcruiser’s size. Navigating narrow streets or parking gets the heart rate up, even with the panoramic camera.
You can sense the almost three-tonne weight of the Landcruiser when accelerating and braking, and feel the 4.5 litre engine working from standstill.
With 650Nm commencing at 1600rpm, it gathers speed with ease and if you engage the ECT Power (that holds each gear longer) acceleration becomes brisk.
On the open road is where the big Toyota shines, effortlessly eating up highway kilometres and making it perfect for long-distance journeys.
It is ‘limousine quiet’ at all speeds and on most surfaces, with occupants shut off from outside noises in a vault.
The steering is light but still gives decent feedback from the road below.
The supple Australian-developed Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System means it can tow 3.5 tonnes yet still deliver a car-like ride on smooth roads with three on board; a testament to the engineers at Toyota Australia.
The long-travel soft suspension and balloon-like Dunlops ensure it floats over bumps with consummate ease, both on and off-road. Yet while there is noticeable body roll – more so when loaded with people and luggage – it remains reasonably composed when cornering – though its bulk makes rapid directional changes a bit clumsy.
OFF ROAD | RATING: 4.5/5
We also took the LandCruiser back to its roots. On bush tracks and the steep climbs we tackled, we found the big ‘Cruiser’ easily and effortlessly equal to the task.
With a ground clearance of 230mm, 32-degree approach and 24-degree departure angles, bush tracks, creek crossings, and crests are dispatched with ease. It traversed everything effortlessly and rapidly builds confidence in its capabilities for whoever is at the wheel.
What makes tackling fire-tracks easier is the ‘set and forget’ full-time four-wheel-drive system which is enormously capable.
We played with both high and low ranges along with the crawl control, while feeling our way along. The Crawl Control takes away any uncertainty behind the wheel as it applies an automatic accelerator and traction control to maintain a target speed going uphill and employs engine braking and traction control to mirror that on steep descents.
It’s so good, even on steep descents you will find you will not have to touch the brake or accelerator, and can just leave things to the car.
SAFETY | RATING: 5/5
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars – This model scored 33.09 out of 37 possible points in ANCAP crash testing
Safety features: Ten airbags, vehicle stability and traction control, multi-terrain ABS, blind spot and lane departure monitoring, auto high beam, rear cross-traffic alerts, radar cruise control, hill-start assist control, downhill assist, trailer sway control and an emergency brake signal
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Nissan Patrol is the LandCruiser’s only direct rival and the fact that the Toyota outsells the Nissan by roughly five-to-one tells the story.
The Patrol, which made its debut in February 2013 has the same towing capacity as the ‘Cruiser, but is only available with a petrol engine and falls way short of the LandCruiser in economy, range and cache.
- Nissan Patrol
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL RATING: 4.5/5
You won’t find any better if you want to head off-road or on outback adventures in a big, comfortable, dependable, four-wheel-drive, seven-seat wagon.
The LandCruiser will tow boats and caravans with ease and for its size, it is surprisingly easy to live with around town, once you get used to its size.
Low servicing costs and LandCruiser’s outstanding resale value, make it the only choice in the class.
Those who have a big job to do, or want to get to every corner of this very big country, know that Toyota’s Landcruiser is the benchmark. It deserves its hard-won reputation; it’s pricey in Sahara trim, but is arguably still the best you can buy.