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Road Test: Toyota LandCruiser

Review by Feann Torr - 23/May/2008

Toyota LandCruiser review

It's larger than a Hummer, has more seats than the average people mover, can navigate dense forests and weighs more than two-and-a-half tonnes.

No, it's not an Indian elephant, but Toyota's new generation 200 Series LandCruiser.

Before you write it off as 'just another SUV' or yet another 'global warming culprit', understand that this vehicle is not completely bereft of practicality or atmospheric kindness.

The LandCruiser's reputation as one of the most capable 4x4s on the planet precedes it, but Toyota has managed to improve the large SUV's everyday usability and its carbon footprint without compromising its off-road abilities.

Performing such automotive magic on a vehicle so large and heavy is achieved not through arcane secrets, but largely via improvements in technology to the engine and chassis. 

It may be big, but don't write it off as bad just yet...

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Exterior 
Interior 

Make: Toyota
Model: LandCruiser GXL
Price: $79,990
Transmission: 6-speed auto
Engine: 4.5-litre, 8-cylinder, turbo, diesel
Seats: 8
Safety: 6 airbags (driver/front passenger (x2), front side curtain (x2)), ABS, EBD, VSC, ATC
Car SupplierToyota Australia

Drive: 3.5/5

Toyota LandCruiser review

The Toyota LandCruiser is more civil vehicle than
previously, yet hasn't lost any of it's ruggedness

Toyota LandCruiser review

Toyota LandCruiser review

Toyota LandCruiser review

Toyota LandCruiser review

Engine: Toyota 4.5-litre Twin Turbo Diesel V8

The longitudinally mounted 4461cc 8-cylinder engine has a cast-iron block and aluminium heads. It gets quad overhead camshafts that actuate 32-valves (4-valves per cylinder). 

Augmented with two turbochargers and a large top-mounted air-to-air intercooler, the engine has a compression ratio of 16.8:1 and has a large 93 litre main fuel tank and a 45 litre auxiliary tank (138 litre total)

Fuel consumption: 10.3L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 273g/km

Max Power: 195kW @ 3400rpm
Max Torque: 650Nm @ 1600rpm

Toyota LandCruiser review

Toyota LandCruiser review

Wheel articulation in the 200 Series LandCruiser is
very impressive, as is it's towing capacity of 3500kg

Toyota LandCruiser review

The LandCruiser's interior has come a long way
from its agricultural beginnings in the late 1960s

After remotely unlocking the big Toyota SUV, you climb up into the LandCruiser's cockpit and upon first glance through the windscreen it's as though you've emerged atop a small hill, able to survey everything around you with ease.

With an encompassing view of the road ahead, the diesel LandCruiser rumbles to life rather quietly. The big 4.5-litre twin turbo diesel engine is felt rather than heard from the drivers seat, and 6-speed automatic does a good job of matching road and engine speeds when you get going.

Initially we drove the LandCruiser along suburban routes to get a feel of what it would be like to steer the thing during hectic times of the day.

While the vehicle itself is remarkably effortless to drive, with super-light steering, responsive brakes, and strong acceleration, it's large size complicates some situations.

For instance, this vehicle is not the kind of thing you'll want to take into underground car parks when in search of a bargain at the shopping centre. The GXL model we tested doesn't get rear parking sensors, but they are available for a few extra bob.

Parallel parking its almost 5.0 metre length (4950mm) and almost 2.0 metre width (1970mm) takes a lot of concentration and it's gigantic size is what makes driving it around the city and the suburbs a bit nerve-wracking.

During one particular drive through Melbourne city - a tram clunking along loudly on the right and parked cars to the left - the feeling of being boxed in with no room to move was harrowing.

That said, if you've driven big 4WDs like the LandCruiser, Land Rover, or Patrol in the past you shouldn't have too much trouble acclimatising.

Navigating peak hour traffic in the LandCruiser is not advised, but it's not as hellish as you might think as the big 4WD has improved handling and control.

Toyota's official figures claim the LandCruiser will drink 10.3 litres of fuel per 100km on the combined cycle, which is a tad optimistic but not too far off the mark. We ended up with an average of around 11L/100km.

Considering the huge mass the motor must propel, the twin turbo diesel V8 does a remarkable job and can really move things along when asked, and LandCruiser fares much better beyond the urban sprawl and out on the freeway. 

Whack it on cruise control and the 4.5-litre diesel lets the 4WD to lope along leisurely, it's twin fuel tanks (93 litre main, 45 litre secondary) totalling 138 litres which provides a big cruising range, good for intrepid explorers.

It wasn't until we headed up towards Kyneton in central Victoria that the LandCruiser really felt at home, however.

Heading into the Lerderderg State Park to give some of the LandCruiser's advanced 4X4 systems a workout, the vehicle was impressively capable from the moment we left the asphalt.

The soft suspension that isn't very good at cornering is perfectly adapted for traversing large obstacles and rough terrain. 

With plenty of ground clearance (220mm) the LandCruiser had no problems navigating inhospitable terrain, and even deep waterlogged tyre ruts were dealt with flippantly. With so much torque and power on tap the 'Cruiser is almost unstoppable.

The high ride height and surfeit of twin turbo torque allow the LandCruiser to grind and plough its way through muddy bogs, so long as you keep it moving. 

The low ratio gearing modes give it an impressive hill climbing ability and it's approach, departure and breakover angles are also pretty good:

  • Approach angle: 30°

  • Departure angle: 20°

  • Breakover angle: 25°

Toyota has developed a range of off-road modes for the LandCruiser, most of them activated by putting the vehicle in to neutral and simply turning a dial or pressing a button. And they aren't just for show. They actually work. 

The downhill assist control, or DAC, proved to be quite useful when heading down very steep inclines (petrol LandCruisers get 'crawl control' in lieu of DAC).

Letting your foot off the brake when looking down a sheer drop and trusting the car's electronic DAC system was a real leap of faith at first, but the system works well.

At first we thought something was amiss when the DAC was engaged and we rolled over the zenith into our first descent, but the loud staccato grinding is simply the combined electronic systems applying varying pressure incredibly rapidly to the brakes.

The DAC works well, which was all well and good until our steep downhill journey was blocked by a fallen tree. Someone forgot to bring the chainsaw...

We used the L4 (4WD low) mode the most, which is good for climbing steep inclines with loose surfaces. You can also lock the centre differential without having to get out of the vehicle, and this mode was good for low friction surfaces.

By and large the 6-speed automatic transmission is a capable unit, but even in L4 mode there wasn't enough engine brake to slow the vehicles descent, which means you have to use downhill assist control. In turn, this makes the brakes very hot when you trundling down long descents, reducing their effectiveness until they cool off. 

A manual transmission would help combat this minor issue, but Toyota Australia only offers the 200 Series LandCruiser with automatics. The Toyota Prado is your best bet for a manual gearbox.

As well as hardcore 4x4 modes, the suspension affords the vehicle with remarkable wheel articulation. If you see something that looks too difficult to tackle, too uneven, or too deep, chances are the LandCruiser can cope. The further we pushed the 4WD, the more we were impressed.

The stability control and traction systems can be turned off when go bush, but both have been optimised to work both on and off-road, and at times they do come in handy. Tyre sizes of285/65 R17 were fitted to our test model and coped adequately with most situations.

Had we not taken the LandCruiser off-road, we would not have been so impressed by this vehicle. 

Granted, it's a more user-friendly SUV than its predecessor with better bitumen behaviour than previously. Plus it's got loads of interior space, a large boot, good safety, awesome towing skills, and a smooth ride coupled with a hugely powerful twin turbo diesel engine, all of which will appeal to family buyers who need the space.

Toyota should be commended for improving the vehicle's on-road abilities, but at the end of the day the LandCruiser's heart is in the bush, far beyond the reach of modern civilisation.

While it's a capable vehicle for many commuting needs, the LandCruiser is most satisfying when the mud starts to fly.

Engine: 4/5

There are two engine options in the Toyota LandCruiser range - a V8 twin turbo diesel engine as tested here, or a non-turbo petrol V8.

For the record, the petrol engine emits more C02 per kilometre, uses more fuel and doesn't make as much torque. And torque is what you need most of when motivating a vehicle of this size. 

Accordingly, Toyota expects the diesel models will outsell the petrol versions, even though the diesel LandCruisers are more expensive. But it's worth shelling out the extra coin, because it's one of the best diesels we've ever driven.

With two turbochargers taking huge breaths from a large air-to-air intercooler, there's an incredible amount of torque as soon as you apply pressure to the accelerator pedal, and it was astonishing how quickly the vehicle can move.

Considering the new LandCruiser weighs between 2555 and 2720kg, and how quickly this things boots away from standstill, that 650Nm of torque @ 1600rpm is no exaggeration.

Peak power of 195kW @ 3400rpm is almost as good as the petrol V8's power output and it's when the revs reach 2000rpm that the vehicle really starts to pick up the pace.

Some other interesting figures involve the engine that the diesel V8 replaces. Compared to the 4.2-litre inline turbo diesel of the previous model, the new V8 diesel belts out 220Nm more torque and 45kW more power. That's a serious bump in power and torque.

Best of all is the power delivery. Ultra smooth and effortless are good ways to describe the feeling when you hit the throttle, supplying a mountain of torque whenever you request it. Suffice it to say, the new diesel 'Cruiser is ideal for towing trailers, large and small, and overtaking other vehicles was never a problem either.

It can also be fairly efficient for something so large, sipping a claimed 10.3L/100km on the combined city/highway driving cycle. The 6-speed auto helps the vehicle reach such efficiency levels and rarely misses a beat, seemingly always in the right gear at the right time.

Though the new LandCruiser will rarely be mentioned in the same sentence as the Toyota Prius, the diesel model's CO2 emissions of 273g/km are well below the 341g/km of the petrol version and relatively low for such a large turbo 8-cylinder engine dragging around more than 2.5 tonnes of metal.

Toyota has developed a silky smooth, massively powerful and dare I say frugal V8 engine, proving that having an 8-cylinder tractor doesn't necessarily mean you have to mortgage the house every time you fill up the fuel tank. Very impressive.

Exterior: 3.5/5

The new look may not seem all that different to the casual observer, but owners of the previous LandCruiser will probably notice the changes. 

New brake lights at the rear look good and together with a roof spoiler they give the rear end an attractive design, but the front end - while also modern and attractive - was denigrated by another LandCruiser driver who decided to share his thoughts with us in theLerderderg State Park.

It's certainly a smarter look than the previous model, with a more advanced design applied to the wraparound headlights, and with standard issue 17-inch alloy wheels it's got some fancy footwear too. It's very much a case of form following function here, but considering it's size and how tall it is, the LandCruiser presents quite well.

At the end of the weekend though, the new LandCruiser looks best when splattered with mud and encrusted with filth.

Interior: 3.5/5

The Toyota LandCruiser is a troop carrier of the first order. You can get eight occupants into the 'Cruiser without too much trouble and unless they're taller than 5'9" they'll find the leg room ample.

A proximity key fob makes unlocking and locking the vehicle ultra simple, and with the third row seats folded away there's a huge 700 litres of boot space to store even the bulkiest sports equipment. 

It is a tall vehicle, but loading and unloading goods from the boot isn't too bad thanks to the split tailgate.

All three seating rows get air vents and lap sash seat belts, and there's also a lot of sixes in the entry-level GXL diesel V8 model: six cup holders, six speaker CD stereo, six airbags and six handgrips (or Jesus handles, as one passenger called them during an off-road detour).

While the range-topping VX and Sahara models get 10 airbags, the six airbags in the GXL still cover all occupants, with the side-curtain airbags protecting second and third row passengers in the event of a side impact.

Cloth seats are the order of the day with the GXL models, and they're not too bad with good cushioning and decent low back support: even on long journeys they didn't provoke any outcries of maltreatment.

If you want luxury seats and more razzle-dazzle, try the $104,990 range-topping Sahara model as it's a far more lavish affair.

First impression of the GXL's interior decor from the driver's seat? Some areas look a bit dated, especially around the doors as some of the plastics are a bituninspired, but overall it's a far more contemporary place to be than the previous model.

The instrument cluster has a pleasingly modern look, with dynamic speedo and tacho dials that light up with a pale blue-white glow at night. There's also a plethora of clearly demarcated buttons and dials that relate to everything from the various 4WD modes to the climate control and stereo settings.

Being a wide vehicle, there's a super large storage bin/armrest between the driver and front passenger that also creates a huge gulf between driver and front passenger. This could be a good thing for some couples...

The absence of steering wheel controls was a bit disappointing on the GXL model, with the cruise control stalk positioned behind the wheel, but a dual zone climate control system with pollen filter was a nice touch.

On top of the six airbags, some of the safety features include multi-terrain ABS, EBD, brake assist, vehicle stability control, active traction control, hill-start assist and full-time 4WD. It's got a full-sized spare wheel too.

Overall: 4/5


It's been an Australian icon for four decades now but it took time to warm to the Toyota LandCruiser. After a anxious start the 200 Series turned out to be a very purposeful vehicle and is easily the best LandCruiser yet.

It's massive bulk and considerable mass can make it a handful in congested traffic and especially in tight squeezes, but even then the smooth diesel engine, intelligent auto gearbox and light steering ensure that anyone can drive it.

Potential buyers who don't plan on taking the LandCruiser off-road and just want an SUV with troop carrying capacity will appreciate the fuel consumption reductions, the improved ride and cavernous interior space. Those who live on remote properties, 4WD enthusiasts and their ilk, will also find the changes largely to their benefit, with a slew of new 4x4 features and a few old fashioned tweaks here and there making sure the big SUV is still one of the most capable mud slingers in the country.

For mine, the V8 turbo diesel engine is the vehicle's best asset, a truly flexible tangle of sophisticated machinery with awesome power and decent efficiency.

Though marginally larger than its predecessor, the new LandCruiser is easier to live with than before, more efficient, safer, and more enjoyable to drive. And unlike an Indian elephant it won't leave a mess in the garage.

Pros:

Cons:

  • V8 Diesel Engine
  • Easy To Drive
  • Huge Interior
  • Off-road Ability
  • No Manual Gearbox
  • Large Size Can Be Prohibitive

Comments on the review? The Car? Your Car? Email us.

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