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Big, strong and comfortable, the Toyota LandCruiser has long been a favourite with four-wheel drive vehicle buyers. With the improvements in the latest models, it's likely to do even bigger business.
One of the most significant changes in the latest models is the engine. Gone is the long-serving, but outdated 4.0 litre engine and in its place is a brand new multi-valve DOHC 4.5 litre unit.
The new engine, which is now the standard petrol powerplant in both the 75 "workhorse" Series and the 80 Series wagons, gives 40 per cent more power and is much smoother and more responsive than the old engine.
The test vehicle which generated the performance figures shown was a GXL model, but for me, the version that has even more appeal is the new "entry-level" RV. If offers the same levels of performance and much the same off-road ability as the other models, with a little less equipment, but a far more affordable price tag of $41,990 (at the time of writing). The RV is only available in petrol-manual form.
Next up the price ladder is the diesel Std. at $42,196; GXLs start at $45,271 and run to $64,298, while the VX Saharas are $86,539 for petrol and $93,118 for diesel. (both VXs auto only).
Compared to the Std. 80 Series wagon, the RV has an extensive list of upgrades that include full-time 4WD in lieu of part-time 4WD, its 8-seat capacity (6 in the Std.), a horizontally split rear door (instead of vertically split), 50/50 split second row seat instead of a one-piece seat, sliding rear quarter windows (fixed on the Std.), cloth seats in lieu of vinyl, loop-pile carpet instead of vinyl, four floor-mounted child restraint anchorages in place of three roof-mounted anchorages, auto headlamp cut-off, driver's foot rest, front door pockets, passenger-side vanity mirror, 100 Amp alternator (instead of 80 Amp) and bonnet assist struts.
Next up the equipment list is the GXL. It offers a wider choice of engines (petrol, diesel or turbo-diesel), plus auto transmission in petrol and turbo versions. It has wider wheels, wheel arch flares, side-step plates, a tape player and five speakers, central locking, electric windows and power mirrors.
Though an expensive way to go four-wheel driving, the VX Sahara has levels of equipment that many luxury cars can't match. Here's just a sample of what you get: ABS anti-lock brakes (a "second generation" system); viscous-coupled centre differential; front, rear and centre diff locks; alloy wheels; all-leather trim; 12-stack CD auto changer and nine speaker audio system; dual climate-controlled front and rear air conditioning; refrigerator/ice maker and road-speed sensitive power steering.
The following items are all power operated: front seats, moonroof, windows, mirrors and door locks. There's even an optional satellite navigation system if you have a spare $4500 left over!
Safety upgrades across the 80 series range include side intrusion beams in the doors (not yet compulsory on 4WDs), centre high-mount stop lamps and improved child restraint anchorages (RV wagons and upwards have four floor-mounted CRAs - two behind the outboard positions of both second and third row seats).
A check of the NRMA's Theft Score Summary for vehicles in various categories shows the LandCruiser at the top of the list for four-wheel drives tested. It scored 42 points out of a possible 100. Though this is good for a 4WD, locally-made family cars from Ford and Holden do a lot better.
Though crash-test statistics tell us we are better off in cars that crumple and absorb impact energy, I can understand the sense of security that people feel in a big, ruggedly-built vehicle like the LandCruiser. Over all types of terrain, both on and off road, the Cruiser's body felt taut, with no movement or squeaking about doors or panels.
Fit and finish is generally as good as you'll find on any car and Toyota says that a lot of Lexus technology has gone into the new model to reduce noise. This includes the extensive use of mica/asphalt sheeting and on the VX Sahara turbo diesel, a sandwich construction firewall. Interior noise levels recorded during my tests were on par with a medium size car.
Like most vehicles of this type, comfort and space for occupants varies quite a bit depending on which row you're seated in. The driver and front passenger are catered for very well, sitting in a pair of large, comfortable seats with plenty of leg and head room.
Leg room in the second row looks good with the tape measure but in reality, isn't all that spacious due to the limited foot-well. Leg and foot space is satisfactory for average size adults or children. The width of the rear seat cushion is the minimum I consider for three adults to be comfortable.
Life in the third row is not really suited to adults; the size and shape of the seats, and the lack of a foot-well labels this area as suitable for children only.
But provided you can match occupant sizes with the various seating positions, the LandCruiser qualifies as a very good family touring wagon. The ride is comfortable, the seating is high enough for occupants not to feel claustrophobic, flow-through ventilation is excellent and on RV models and above, all outer seating positions have an opening window alongside.
With all seats in use, luggage space is fairly limited, but by folding one or both the third row seats to the side, a good size area is available. The middle row seat is divided 50/50 to provide even greater load length when required. The upper and lower tailgate design provides a handy seat-cum-load load platform when open however without any rub strips, the carpet could become damaged unless careful. Four handy luggage tie-down hooks are provided.
Though it's a big vehicle, the LandCruiser is a relatively easy vehicle to drive, particularly in automatic form. The high seating position affords drivers a good view of what's around them, though vision to the rear corners is restricted when the rear seats are folded up.
The power-assisted steering makes light work of manoeuvring, the only drawbacks when you're parking are the large turning circle and the vehicle's overall size.
The instrument panel is well laid out and all controls are where you expect to find them. I wonder though, how many drivers will use the altimeter on a regular basis. Worthy of praise is the sound system; not only for its operation, but for its clear, concise control layout that eliminates having to search for buttons.
The new 4.5 litre engine would do justice to any large car; it's smooth, powerful and responsive, and does an admirable job of providing what is after all, a heavy vehicle, with good performance in all conditions.
The combination of 2.1 tonne vehicle mass and large capacity six-cylinder engine is never going to produce low fuel consumption, but I guess you either accept that or buy something smaller. Overall consumption during the NRMA test was 17.8 litres/100 km. This is much the same as returned by other large 4WDs such as the Nissan Patrol and Range Rover.
Handling and stability of the whole 80 series range have benefited from a general stiffening of the four-coil suspension and revisions to the steering box have improved steering response and sharpness. The good news is that the ability of the long travel suspension to absorb bumps hasn't been comprised and the ride is very comfortable in all conditions.
The new brake package includes larger diameter, wider disc rotors at the front and large diameter discs at the rear. The brakes have a fairly demanding assignment on a vehicle such as the LandCruiser, but my tests showed them to be well up to the task. Emergency stops from 80 km/h resulted in relatively short stopping distances, with only minor tyre "chirping" and resistance to fade was good. Pedal effort for normal stops is a little higher than average, but you get used to it.
There was a time when automatic transmission in a 4WD vehicle would be treated with a degree of scorn but apart from not having the same amount of engine braking on steep descents, an auto will make life much easier in everyday running. I'm not a big fan of autos with extra buttons, but the LandCruiser's transmission works well, showing good response to throttle needs and shifting smoothly and quietly.
With full-time 4WD (RV up), plenty of power, suitable gearing and options like front and rear diff locks, off-roading in the 80-series is a breeze. They're the sort of vehicles in which even inexperienced four-wheel drivers shouldn't have any trouble getting around (provided of course, they don't try something foolhardy!).
I would prefer to see the spare wheel and tyre mounted higher up on the back of the vehicle as it looks vulnerable suspended underneath at the back, but I didn't have any trouble with it scraping during off-road excursions of average difficulty.
In their latest form, the 80 Series Toyota LandCruiser wagons rate as very desirable vehicles for families who like to venture off the beaten track. The new engine is a delight, the finish and comfort is to car standards and the levels of equipment leave little to be desired.
The only real drawbacks as far as I'm concerned are the sheer size of the vehicle for parking or driving in congested conditions, the liking it has for petrol (particularly around town) and the ever rising prices of imported Japanese models thanks to the strength of the Yen against our dollar.
Test Vehicle: supplied by Toyota Motor Corporation Aust.
|Model||LandCruiser 80 Series GXL|
|Price of vehicle tested||$93,118|
Performance and smoothness of new engine
|Country of manufacture||Japan|
|Warranty||2 years, 50,000 km|
RV - petrol, manual
$41,990 - RV - petrol, manual
|Number of cylinders||6|
|Engine size||4.5 L|
|Claimed max power (kW)||158 kW @ 4000 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||373 Nm @ 3200 rpm|
|Wheel size||16 "|
|Type||Dunlop Grand Trek|
|Type||Power assisted, ball and nut|
|Turns to lock||3.8 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||1930 mm|
|Seating capacity||6 in standard, 8 in others|
|Fuel capacity||145 litres|
NRMA Theft Rating
|Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best)||42|
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||5.8 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||8.1 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||8.5 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||12.8 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||16.2 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||20.0 L/100km|
|Average on test||17.8 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||35.6 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||68 dB(A)|