by Brad Leach - 25/10/12
Over 50-plus years in Australia there is barely a sand dune, creek crossing, rutted track, mine site, dairy farm, cattle station, caravan park, boat ramp or even suburban shopping mall car park which has not been conquered by Toyota LandCruiser.
Even today, despite an avalanche of credentialed rivals, the ‘Cruiser is outselling its closest competitor by more than three-to-one.
Car Showroom tested the mid-grade GXL specification Toyota LandCruiser with the sensational 4.5-litre twin-turbocharged diesel engine and as well as our normal test routine, subjected the ‘Cruiser to a real torture test – a family camping trip. Priced at $87,664, amongst the extras included in Toyota LandCruiser GXL model turbo-diesels are a Torsen centre differential, Downhill Assist Control, sub fuel tank, power windows, upgraded six-speaker audio, keyless entry and start, and dual-zone air-conditioning.
As well as modernized styling inside and out, extra technology and an even stronger chassis (Toyota stuck with the separate frame and body configuration favoured by serious off-roaders), the latest LandCruiser is the largest yet, 60mm longer and 30mm wider than the previous generation.
Included in the new technology are safety items like Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Multi-Terrain ABS brakes plus front side and three-row curtain airbags.
Toyota LandCruiser is a lot of SUV and it’s bursting with technology demanded by off-roaders, commercial operators and rural folk. But perhaps the most telling statistic which underlines LandCruisers popularity is 3500kgs – that would be the towing capacity.
The current generation Toyota LandCruiser steals a significant edge over all rivals under the bonnet. Our GXL model test car was powered by Toyota’s 4.6-litre twin-turbocharged common rail diesel engine, Toyota’s first dual-turbocharged powerplant.
Code-named 1VD-FTV, the stonking twin-turbocharged diesel is a 90-degree V8 and delivers 195kW of power at 3400rpm and peak torque of 650Nm from 1600 to 2600rpm. That’s 220Nm/45kW up on the previous generation’s 4.2-litre six cylinder engine and is a big part of LandCruiser’s popularity with those who tow large caravans, horse floats and boats.
Technology doesn’t stand still, especially at Toyota, and - despite that 50 per-cent more torque and almost one-third extra power - with combined cycle fuel consumption of 10.3l/100kms, the twin-turbo V8 diesel is actually 6.3 per-cent more fuel efficient than the superseded six-cylinder unit.
Unlike LandCruiser’s sold in other markets, Toyota Australia’s engineers specified an air pre-cleaner to cope with our often dusty conditions in rural areas (and of course locations like mine sites where the LandCruiser is a hot-seller with commercial operators).
Drive is via six-speed automatic transmission (also new to the current generation ‘Cruiser) with sequential manual mode.
Toyota was smart in packaging the latest LandCruiser, increasing the interior’s length by 130mm but retaining the 2850mm wheelbase. That extra length was devoted to more occupant space for the eight-seater - between both first and second seating rows and between rows two and three – and a slight increase in cargo capacity.
We liked the one-touch tumble operation of the second row seat – easier access to the third row and easier cargo loading. But there’s no denying it’s a long climb up to access the LandCruiser’s interior - we reckon larger, wider-opening doors would improve things a tad (for example, when loading youngsters into child seats).
Up front, the Toyota LandCruiser reminds the driver of its abundant technology with a cockpit jam-packed with gauges, dials, levers and switches. That’s reassuring in a 2.6-tonne, $87,664 SUV which can take you to the most remote parts of Australia.
The driving position is commanding and the four-spoke steering wheel is on the large side –again as you’d expect in one of the world’s most accomplished off-roaders. To the left is the six-speaker, six-CD audio system which is Bluetooth compatible and includes an auxiliary input jack.
Rear seat space is enormous and the Car Showroom Juniors appreciated the high-mounted seats in both second and third rows.
As for luggage capacity, don’t worry about the golf bag test, you could hold a golf club committee meeting in the back of a Toyota LandCruiser.
While this generation Toyota LandCruiser has now been around for a while, it had been some time since we’d had one in the Car Showroom garage and our new acquaintance reminded just how dominating the ‘Cruiser looks. While some elements of the design have throwbacks to the previous model, you get the impression Toyota’s stylists sought to reinforce the LandCruiser’s position as ‘King’ of the off-roaders.
The front-end is chunky with a substantial look for the bumper, grille and lights. And the high beltline reinforced this strong on-road presence (remember GM’s Hummer?).
This is offset somewhat by a slightly softer rear-end with nice LED tail-lights (GXL models as tested gain a four-LED centre high-mounted stop light inside the tailgate glass).
Toyota LandCruiser rides on 17-inch alloy wheels.
We’ve previously driven Toyota LandCruiser in off-road conditions which would have Bear Grylls crying for mercy, so this time our most adventurous trek was the family camping trip.
But before we headed out of town we had to contend with our CBD car park (without doubt one of Melbourne’s most miniscule/challenging). Our Toyota LandCruiser’s height (1905mm) had the fire sprinkler heads ducking for cover but the 11.8-metre turning circle got the job done (despite their size, vehicles like this actually need a lot of steering lock for tough off-road conditions).
This generation Toyota LandCruiser - somewhat controversially when first launched - ditched the torsion bar front suspension, adopting an independent double wishbone/coil spring design. Some dinosaurs reckoned ‘Cruiser’s new ‘car-like’ front-end would be less durable but, predictably, they’ve been proved wrong and both serious off-roaders and non-off-roaders alike appreciate the 15 per-cent extra wheel stroke and enhanced ride comfort.
Over our high-speed mountain roads test loop, the Toyota LandCruiser was no more Lexus LFA than Nissan Patrol relates to the GT-R. But with good balance for a vehicle of its size, that thumping 4.5-litre twin turbo-diesel delivering with help from manual gear changes from the six-speed auto and praiseworthy steering precision…well the Toyota LandCruiser was mighty fine in our opinion.
But of course the key to our week in the Toyota LandCruiser GXL was the family camping trip which the ‘Cruiser passed with flying colours. Fully loaded with gear and people, the ‘Cruiser devoured the kilometres in comfort and easily accounted for the ‘assaults’ of the Car Showroom juniors and their camping/sporting equipment – exactly the torture tests for which many LandCruisers are purchased.
In the automotive industry we talk about “execution of design purpose” and you can’t fault Toyota LandCruiser on that score and nor can you can’t challenge a reputation which rivals Land Rover and Jeep as perhaps the best off-roaders we’ve seen.
However time and technology don’t stand still and we reckon the next all-new Toyota LandCruiser (whenever it appears) will provide better side doors/seating layout and B-pillar/C-pillar positioning to make climbing in and out just a bit easier. Toyota need only look at the latest Range Rover models for inspiration.
‘Yardstick’, ‘benchmark’, call it what you like, Toyota LandCruiser remains the full-size SUV by which all others are judged. Not the newest design on the block, Australia’s re-ignited passion for caravans has seen more interest than ever before in vehicles like the ‘Cruiser.
Yep, this is the ‘King’ of off-roaders for good reason.
In the official car industry statistical categorization only Nissan Patrol is listed alongside Toyota LandCruiser in the ‘SUV Upper Large Under $100,000’ segment. Of course Patrol has a price advantage (even the range-topping Ti model is tagged at $72,690 to the $77,690 starting price for ‘Cruiser).
But Nissan’s turbo-diesel is a 118kW/354Nm six-cylinder to the LandCruiser’s 195kW650Nm V8 and the Patrol runs a five-speed automatic transmission to Toyota’s six-speeder. No doubt about Patrol’s toughness and ability though – gets down to how heavy your load.
Mitsubishi Pajero is in the picture although out-sized and out-muscled (like everything else) by Toyota LandCruiser but sharply priced from $49,290 to $76,790. Mitsubishi’s turbo-diesel is a 3.2-litre four-cylinder with 147kW/441Nm so there are some applications (towing etc) where plainly the Pajero can’t compete, but, like ‘Cruiser and Patrol, the Pajero can take you just about anywhere.
And in a similar way, Ford’s superb Territory ($39,990 to $63,240) is out-sized by ‘Cruiser and may fall short in some extreme off-road conditions, but the local SUV is a smooth performer on-road.
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