There’s something very Australian about the Toyota LandCruiser. Ever since 1949 when the first ever ‘Cruiser was privately imported to work on the Snowy Mountains Scheme this big rugged off-roader has been the yardstick against which all other serious 4WDs have been measured.
Our distinctive local conditions make it an ideal market for the big 4WD and a considerable amount of development work and testing is carried out here. Rather than rest on its laurels as the perennial best seller in its category, Toyota gave the LC200 an upgrade in March 2012 with a facelift, extra equipment, improved off-road technology and a new more powerful V8 engine.
LandCruiser buyers get plenty of choices. Apart from the two engines there are four equipment levels, in ascending order GX, GXL, VX and Sahara with prices ranging from $77,990 for the diesel-only GX to $118,990 for a diesel Sahara. The new petrol V8 is available in the three higher-specced models and is priced at $5000 below the diesel.
As well, Sahara has Multi-Terrain Monitor that uses four wide-angle cameras to display hidden terrain hazards on a 7.1-inch multi-function display. Standard features in all Toyota LandCruiser models include front, side and curtain airbags, stability and traction control, multi-terrain ABS brakes and luggage tie-down hooks. VX and Sahara get the added safety of driver and front passenger knee airbags.
Also standard are cruise control, enhanced with the Toyota CRAWL system for heavy terrain driving, tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment, and Bluetooth/USB/Auxiliary inputs.
LandCruiser GXL adds a rear spoiler, satellite navigation with a new 6.1-inch touch-screen audio system that includes a single CD and USB input and reversing camera. In addition to these features the VX model has the Multi-Terrain System mentioned previously, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, auto-retracting side mirrors and front and rear parking sensors.
Standard in the flagship LandCruiser Sahara are rear seat entertainment with a 9-inch LCD display and three wireless headphones, power back door, larger (7.1-inch) LCD screen incorporating an Electro Multi Vision (EMV) system that controls a numbers of features including air conditioning, audio, Bluetooth and satellite navigation
Toyota LandCruiser is a big vehicle with all the advantages and disadvantages that entail. On the plus side there’s plenty of interior space (head, leg and shoulder room) for up to eight occupants. Six adults and two children can travel in comfort, a pair of adults in the third row seats would not enjoy the trip.
The visual changes to the 2012 LandCruiser include new grille treatments that vary according to model levels and include new chrome surrounds, revised bumpers, new colour and interior trim choices.
Even with all seats in place there’s a reasonable amount of storage space. This can be expanded by folding the third row seats up against the side of the luggage area.
There’s plenty of in-cabin stowage space including a large, practical centre-console box, large door pockets that can take large drinks bottles and a number of other apertures for smaller items.
The new V8 petrol engine drops from 4.7 to 4.6 litres, but as we’ve come to expect from the new generation of engines across the automotive industry, not only does it generate more power (up by 12.9 per cent to 228 kW) and torque (increased by 7.1 per cent to 439 Nm at 3500rpm), but there’s also a reduction in fuel consumption (by 6.2 per cent to 13.6 litres per 100km) and CO2 emissions (down by 8.2 per cent to 313 grams per kilometre).
Adding to the attraction of the new V8 engine it now gets the impressive six-speed automatic gearbox that so impressed us when we drove the 4.5-litre twin-turbo diesel LandCruiser. The previous V8 petrol was mated to an older five-speed ‘box.
Although Toyota has its LandCruiser 70 Series for serious off-road conditions the more urbane 200 Series still ventures off road more often than anything else in its class, so off-road technology in the upgraded model sees the introduction of a multi-terrain anti-skid braking system that detects and automatically adapts to off-road conditions. The existing vehicle stability control and active traction control are assisted by this new ABS system.
Adding to the LC200’s already excellent off-road credentials the VX and Sahara now both have Multi-Terrain Select that regulates wheel-spin in tough off-road conditions with five driver-selectable modes: Rock, Rock and Dirt, Mogul, Loose Rock, Mud and Sand.
Its handling is softer than the driving enthusiast would prefer but it’s a ‘Cruiser by name and a cruiser by nature and it does what it was designed to do extremely well. That includes NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) suppression and towing, where it has a braked trailer capacity of 3500 kilograms.
Long distance cruising is further enhanced by the inclusion of twin fuel tanks with a capacity of 138 litres (93 litres in the main tank and 45 litres in the back up tank).
The downside to such a large vehicle is that it can be difficult to get into and out of for the less agile and it can be a handful to manoeuvre around the city and suburbs.
GX 4.5-litre turbo-diesel five-door wagon: from $77,990 (automatic)
GXL 4.6-litre petrol five-door wagon:from $83,990 (automatic)
GXL 4.5-litre turbo-diesel five-door wagon: from $88,990 (automatic)
VX 4.6-litre petrol five-door wagon: from $94,990 (automatic)
VX 4.5-litre turbo-diesel five-door wagon: from $99,990 (automatic)
Sahara 4.6-litre petrol five-door wagon: from $113,990 (automatic)
Sahara 4.5-litre turbo-diesel five-door wagon: from $118,990 (automatic)
Toyota LandCruiser 4.6-litre petrol five-door wagon
Price: from $77,990
Warranty: three years/100,000km
Thirst: 13.6/100km, CO2 313g/km
Crash rating: 4 stars
Equipment: 8 airbags, ESP, ABS, EBD, stability and traction controls
Engine: 4.6-litre, V8 petrol, 228 kW/439Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto, 4WD constant
Body: 4-door wagon, 8 seats