by Brad Leach - 08/07/10
No other vehicle dominates Australia’s 4WD landscape like the Toyota Landcruiser. With justification, they say it is the vehicle upon which much of our outback has been built.
In more than 50 years of sales in Australia, almost 600,00 Toyota Landcruiser's have been sold – that’s one in 10 of all Toyota Landcruisers ever built, making Australia its global number one best-selling market. It has won countless awards and even been honored with its own Australia Post stamp.
Newer models like the Toyota Prado and Toyota Kluger now sell in greater numbers, but last year the Toyota Landcruiser more than doubled sales of its nearest rival - Nissan’s Patrol. So far this year, the story is unchanged and by the end of April, Toyota Landcruiser had accounted for almost 76 per cent of sales in the ‘SUV Large’ segment.
Now a few years into its model life, the latest 200 Series Landcruiser has already been upgraded with improvements like standard fitment of a reversing camera – a real safety feature for large SUVs – and a 45-litre sub fuel tank, supplementing the existing 93-litre tank to provide a range between refills in excess of 1300kms.
Car Showroom has just spent a week in the entry-level Toyota Landcruiser GXL model wagon powered by Toyota’s 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8. By any measure it is a remarkable vehicle and for those with large trailers, the mammoth 3.5-tonnes towing capacity is a major attraction.
Not surprisingly, with its 50-year history, Toyota knows what buyers in this segment want and interior space/practicality ranks high. So while the latest V8 engines are dimensionally smaller than their predecessors, the Toyota Landcruiser 200 Series is actually 60mm longer and 30mm wider to provide even more interior room.
With seating for eight and a luggage capacity of 700 litres, Toyota Landcruiser's appeal to large families is readily apparent.
Not to be overlooked is Toyota Landcruiser's staggering off-road ability and the already gargantuan list of specialist technology has recently been boosted by the adoption of CRAWL control for the diesel-powered models. CRAWL replaced Downhill Assist Control and allows the driver to take his feet off the pedals to literally clamber over obstacles and tricky terrain at the extreme limits of off-road going.
For the 200 Series Toyota replaced the six-cylinder turbo-diesel with a new 4.5-litre twin-turbo V8. With 195kW at 3400 rpm and 650Nm from 1600 rpm, it has an extra 220Nm/45kW over the previous six-cylinder.
And despite the almost 33 per cent extra power and 50 per cent more torque, the new turbo-diesel V8 returns fuel consumption of 10.3l/100kms. Toyota says that’s 6.3 per cent better than the previous six-cylinder engine.
We had a rival diesel SUV in our garage at the same time as the Toyota Landcruiser and our team was very impressed with supremely quiet operation at all speeds of Toyota’s V8.
A key requirement for the Toyota team in developing the 200 Series Landcruiser was to substantially boost interior comfort and space.
This is immediately noticeable when you climb aboard with the extra space noticeable in width and legroom for both front seat and second row occupants. Front seats slide through a range of 240mm while the second row can actually slide too through 105mm.
The driver scores comprehensive instrumentation with the two main gauges providing significant supplemental information including gauges for oil pressure, engine temperature and volts (unusual in contemporary designs which make do with warning lights). A tilt and telescopic adjustment for the steering wheel provides a comfortable driving position and the front row seats are large.
To the left on the center console is the audio system/reversing camera screen and switches for the drive mode (operating via a new Torsen limited-slip differential) and CRAWL control speed. The audio system is a six-speaker, six-CD system that’s got MP3 and Bluetooth plus an auxiliary input jack.
The second row seats have abundant legroom, split-fold 60:40 and feature a one-touch tumble function for increased luggage space. Third row seats store along the side of the luggage area when not in use and while not massive in the legroom department, the Car Showroom juniors were happy.
With 700 litres of cargo space, even large families should be able to fit everything they need for an extended holiday. Families will also appreciate the standard six airbags including two three-row side curtain airbags.
Compared to previous LandCruisers, the 200 Series presents an altogether softer look that’s surprisingly aerodynamic. For a 2.6-tonne, 4.9 metre, eight-seater, the drag Cd of 0.35 is impressive.
At the front, Toyota Landcruiser’s trademark thick, grille gives it the required ‘muscle’ – a look boosted by the large, contemporary design headlights. Same at the rear where the standard roof spoiler and 66 LEDs in the taillights combine to give a modern interpretation of the classically strong LandCruiser tail.
From the side, the beltline is noticeably higher than previous Toyota Landcruiser and character lines around the front and rear doors are part of the overall softening.
The diesel Toyota Landcruiser GXL drives through a new six-speed gearbox and electric motor activated full-time four-wheel-drive transfer. Under deceleration, the fuel cut has been maximized to improve fuel consumption.
Underneath, the torsion bar suspension of predecessors has been replaced by a new multi-link system with a double wishbone front design and four-link/solid axle rear.
It’s all very well sorted and our Toyota Landcruiser GXL test car genuinely surprised us with its agility and poise around town. Sure you’re aware of the exterior dimensions, but the Toyota Landcruiser was astoundingly nimble negotiating roundabouts and tight CBD streets.
And while the 11.8-metre turning circle is large, the direct steering with just 3.1 turns lock-to-lock - combined with the reversing camera - meant our inner city car park was drama-free for the Toyota Landcruiser (the 1905mm height may be an issue in some car parks).
Out on the open road, the Toyota Landcruiser is a comfortable beast with low levels of wind and mechanical noise and high levels of suspension refinement. Over our high-speed loop there was the usual 4WD body roll, but it was considerably better than some rivals.
In both environments the strong acceleration and remarkable quietness of the V8 turbo-diesel was appreciated.
Like most large-size SUVs, you don’t ‘enter’ the Toyota Landcruiser , rather you ‘climb up’ and then in. One of our female testers found this disconcerting in heels, but that’s life in one of these go-anywhere machines, which need that ride height for off-road prowess.
You can’t argue with almost 600,000 sales – the Toyota Landcruiser succeeds…well because it has all of the virtues that have made previous Toyota Landcruiser so popular. For large families, recreationalists and those who tow it delivers remarkable performance, practicality and comfort.
And the armada of safety, technology and fuel-saving technology included in the 200 Series lineup shows this Toyota Landcruiser has been developed for 2010 and beyond.
Nissan’s Patrol is about to be replaced by an all-new model. Expect the new Patrol to add the sort of luxury features included in the LandCruiser.
The Jeep Commander puts an American twist into the Large SUV segment with beefy styling to match. Handy pricing means you should consider the Jeep if you can’t stretch to a Toyota Landcruiser.
It’s the king of 4WDs for good reason – massive space and technology combine with a stunning V8 diesel
Its price is up there
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