Carpet killed the concept of hosing out your car, swirling down the same hole in the ground as the Dodo. It used to be a quick way of cleaning out the car, ute or 4WD.
Now, thanks to carpets, it's a huge non-no. Well it was until Toyota presented this family wagon with rubber floors. Now the hose is in action and after a day larking about in beachside dunes, the sill-less floor of the Land Cruiser 200-Series GX is shiny new.
The GX gets the serious drivetrain of the GXL and Sahara in a unique body with rear barn doors, pared back luxury items and a $11,000 price cut on the $88,490 GLX diesel. In terms of value and performance it is, seriously, the best 200-Series you can buy.
The 200-Series GX costs $77,490 and comes only as a V8 turbo-diesel with an automatic transmission. The drivetrain is sh ared with the other 200-Series diesels and isn't the same as the more agricultural 70-Series range.
Toyota has kept the hard-edged bits - full-time 4WD with centre diff lock, six-speed auto, electric-shift transfer case, full steel-plate underbody protection, 17-inch wheels, 138-litre fuel tank, snorkel, hill descent, a “crawl” program (cruise control for snails), and the wide-mouth barn-door access.
But it gets aircon (it's optional in the rival 70-Series), electric windows and mirrors, alloy wheels, cruise control, remote locking, Bluetooth with iPod/USB connectivity and top-shelf safety fittings. It misses out on remote push-button start, seven seats, 18-inch alloys, park sensors, sat-nav, reverse camera, chrome trim and Kinetic suspension. I'm sure we can live without them.
The V8 is the big 195kW/650Nm bi-turbo oiler. It's based on the same 4.5-litre V8 in the 70-Series models, but the 200's extra turbocharger gives 44kW/220Nm more oomph. It is mated to a six-speed sequential auto which drives all wheels. There's an electrically-activated transfer case for the switch from 4WD High to 4WD Low.
The GX doesn't have the WA-developed Kinetic long-travel, disconnecting suspension of the other 200s. The focus is on off-road durab ility, so all the high-end dirt-related equipment is retained (hill descent, the crawl system and so on) while pretty things like the chrome strips, sat-nav, extra speakers and seven seats are ditched. The 17-inch wheels give owners a much bigger tyre choice from street-oriented to specialist off-road rubber - something the 18-inch wheels can't offer.
The barn doors - vertically-hung rear doors with the left-side being half the size of the right-side door - are the give away to this model. There's also the big, ugly black air intake snorkel that sna kes along the right-side windscreen pillar, though it's an option on all 200s. There's 17-inch alloy wheels and a fat, black grille. Open the door and there's rubber floors and seating for five (other 200s take seven) though it's not as basic as you'd think.
Seats are cloth-covered, comfortable and offer plenty of travel. Cabin space is substantial - well, it's the size of an apartment block - and flexible with a split, tumble-fold rear seat. Dash treatment is attractive offering clear, easy to use instruments and switches.
The big wagon doesn't have a crash rating though I suspect it, like the 100-Series, is a four-star car. There is a host of electronic aids including stability and traction control, hill ascent (crawler) and descent, brake assist and even ABS on four huge ventilated-disc brakes. There's six airbags and a full-size spare. It stands 2m high so placing the occupants higher than a passenger car which indicates potential for less injury in side impacts (with a smaller car), though arguably the tall height also makes the wagon more suspect to rollovers.
It's comforting to hit the sand and know you have 138 litres of fuel on board to get you out and back. It's even better when, with the 17-inch Dunlops down to 17psi, you feel the GX float over some impossibly sticky terrain while hardly slowing down. It's a massive car - over 3-tonnes with fuel and myself aboard - but so confident in really poor offroad conditions.
It's a snap to drive unless you plan to park it. The bi-turbo V8 diesel engine so flexible down to 1000rpm, that it makes flicking the switch to 4WD Low seem almost unnecessary. On the bitumen it eats the kilometres, lopping along at 100km/h at 1700rpm. The six-speed auto is smooth and the sequential shift makes easy work of tasks such as slow off-road work and towing up to 3.5-tonnes. Above all, it's very comfortable - even in this base spec.
Missing out on the Kinetic system doesn't appear to make much difference. Fuel economy, however, isn't great. Toyota claims 10.3 L/100km but a day in the dirt and the long country road in between drank at the rate of 16.1 L/100km. Thanks for the big fuel tank. The barn doors open to 90-degrees (no further) so it's easy to load big cargo and, with the rear seats tumbled forward, four mountain bikes without removing their front wheels.
Minimalistic, extremely capable and relatively affordable. One of the best 4WDs.
Toyota Landcruiser GX
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Service interval: 6 months/10,000km
Safety: 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC
Crash rating: n/a
Engine: 4.5-litre V8 bi-turbo diesel, 195kW/650Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto; 2-spd transfer; constant 4WD
Thirst: 10.3L/100km; 273g/km CO2
Dimensions: 5.0m (L), 2.0m (W), 2.0m (H)
Weight: 2635kg SPARE Full-size
Land Rover Defender
Engine: 2.2-litre, 4-cyl turbo-diesel, 90kW/360Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual; 2-spd transfer; constant 4WD
Thirst: 11.1L/100km; CO2 295g/km
Nissan Patrol DX
Engine: 3-litre, 4-cyl turbo-diesel, 118kW/354Nm
Transmission: 4-speed auto; 2-spd transfer; part-time 4WD
Thirst: 11.8L/100km; CO2 313g/km
Toyota 70-Series GXL Wagon
Engine: 4.5-litre, V8 turbo-diesel, 151kW/430Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual; 2-spd transfer; constant 4WD
Thirst: 11.9L/100km; CO2 313g/km