If you want a definition of the term `workhorse' look no further than Toyota's 70-Series LandCruiser. Whether it's carrying miners or carting hay bales in every farming community in Australia, the 70-Series is hard-working 4x4 that earns its keep day-in day-out, year-in, year-out.
To put the 70-Series through its paces we took it to where it is most relevant: the pastures of south-east Queensland and a disused tin mining area, now known as Sundown National Park, just south of Stanthorpe, a 4WD-only park.
About the first thing you notice when you leave the urban environment in south-east Queensland is the number of 70-Series single cab utes on cattle properties. These vehicles are rarely seen in major towns. Go to a mining area and the 70-Series that dominates those sites are wagons known as troopcarriers or in the vernacular `troopies'.
The LandCruiser 70 is an old-school 4WD that comes as either a wagon or a cab chassis, the latter range recently expanded to include the option of a dual cab. While the addition of the rear seats was primarily for the mining and rural sectors, we would not be surprised to see a few picked up by serious off-roaders as the family getaway vehicle.
Our test vehicle was the dual-cab cab chassis in top-of-the-range (GXL) spec. This means differential locks are standard, remote locking with a new key fob and a new in-dash clock with multi functions. Just to keep owners grounded the 70-Series still has manual front locking hubs and rear suspension leaf springs.
All variants are powered, and we mean powered, by a 4.5-litre V8 turbo diesel engine.
This is where the 70-Series gets exciting. This 4.5-litre V8 turbocharged and intercooled engine develops 430 Nm of torque, on tap from just 1200 to 3200 rpm run through a five-speed manual gearbox. There is a transfer box with low range gearing and options of 2WD, 4WD high and 4WD low.
The GXL also comes standard with front and rear differential locks available in 4WD high and low at the flick of a switch to the left of the steering column, firstly engaging the rear diff lock and if needed the front diff lock.
Since being introduced in 1984 as a replacement for the FJ40 series, the 70-Series has externally not changed a lot. It has an angular body that replaced the curved lines of the FJ40 line.
Those original FJ40 smooth lines are now apparent on the Toyota FJ Cruiser, introduced in early 2011. The dual cab 70-Series ute is all about function and that is reflected in the basic design.
Like the rest of the vehicle, the interior is designed for function not for looks. With a fair step up to get into the 70-Series there are seven grab handles to make it that bit easier for all five passengers. The front seats are comfortable, but lack a centre armrest.
Also missing is cruise control, which is surprising given these are basically rural-use vehicles. The dash and instrument layout is user-friendly. We like the small rectangular mobile telephone holder just in front of the cup holder. We also liked the location of the 12V outlet that we used for our GPS.
The rear seat has a fairly upright back and would test comfort levels for adults on long hauls. The rear seat has a fold and tumble ability should you need secure interior cargo space. The air conditioning worked well in hot, trying conditions.
The bad news is this. Toyota will not be upgrading the 70-Series to modern safety standards and so the vehicle is likely to end production in around four years. In short one of the major customers for the 70-Series is the mining industry that is now, understandably, demanding 5-Star safety standards.
Toyota is already developing the HiLux to these standards and is on the record as stating the 70-Series will not be upgraded with the likes of six airbags and stability control. As is stands the 70-Series has a three star rating but has just two airbags and recently gained ABS brakes. So this much loved fourby has entered the home straight in its 29th year.
For a vehicle that runs a pretty basic rigid live axle suspension, with leaf springs at the rear, the 70-Series handles remarkably well. Yes, the rear end can get a little twitchy on rough surfaces at speed and those same springs cause a pitching feeling on-road, which we suspect would calm down greatly with a load in the tray or a couple of passengers in the rear seat.
On-road the vehicle has plenty of oomph, despite the gearing being aimed at slower, off-road conditions. In our drive out to Sundown we were rarely passed and the vehicle ate the steep Cunningham's Gap for breakfast in fifth gear. Although most of the tracks are not difficult they are rough-as-guts and it took around two hours of solid driving to travel 20 km. For most of the drive we used high range second gear, thanks to the enormous amount of torque on tap between 800 and 1200 rpm.
The 70-Series GXL dual cab may well find a home with 4WD fanatics that like off-roading in difficult areas. They will not be disappointed. It may be old-school, but it's a hell of a truck.
Workmate 4.5-litre turbodiesel single cab chassis: $58,790 (manual)
GX 4.5-litre turbodiesel single cab chassis: $60,790 (manual)
GXL 4.5-litre turbodiesel single cab chassis: $62,790 (manual)
Workmate 4.5-litre turbodiesel double cab chassis: $63,990 (manual)
GXL 4.5-litre turbodiesel double cab chassis: $67,990(manual)
Troop Carrier Workmate 4.5-litre turbodiesel five-door wagon: $65,790 (manual)
Troop Carrier GXL 4.5-litre turbodiesel five-door wagon: $67,790 (manual)
Workmate 4.5-litre turbodiesel five-door wagon: $59,990 (manual)
GXL 4.5-litre turbodiesel five-door wagon: $64,290 (manual)
Toyota LandCruiser 70-Series GXL 4.5-litre turbodiesel double cab
Price: from $67,990
Engine: 4.5 litre turbodiesel, 151kW/430Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4WD
Thirst: 11.9 L/100km