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Toyota Land Cruiser 200 Series 2019 off-road review: VX

The Toyota LandCruiser is a deadset off-roading legend, its reputation built on a lifetime of reliability, toughness, capability, not to mention the availability of Toyota parts Australia-wide.

The 200 Series has been around for more than a decade and, until the 300 Series arrives here in about two years, it's your only option if you want to climb into a brand-new Cruiser.

The Toyota LandCruiser is an off-roading legend. The Toyota LandCruiser is an off-roading legend.

Toyota reckons the 200 is the “King off the road” so we took it into the bush to test that claim. Is the 200 actually still any good? Or does it now rely too much on technology, rather than old-school mechanicals?

Read on.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Including a 9.0-inch central touch-screen Including a 9.0-inch central touch-screenThis is the VX, the second-from-top-spec 200 Series, in a four-variant range. Price as tested is $100,865 (plus on-road costs). That's a lot of cash, even for a large luxury SUV wagon, but it does get a reasonable line-up of standard features, including a 9.0-inch central touch-screen with satnav, Bluetooth connectivity, steering-wheel-mounted controls for everything, power leather-accented seats, woodgrain-look interior highlights, a moonroof, Bi-LED headlamps (with dynamic auto-levelling), LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, 18-inch alloy wheels, black anodised side steps and more.

The 200 series features power leather-accented seats. The 200 series features power leather-accented seats.

Decent changes have come in terms of safety tech because the VX benefitted from the last round of range updates, gaining what were up to then only on the top-spec Sahara, including a multi-terrain monitor (based on four cameras mounted to the Cruiser's exterior), auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, and blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.

 

KDSS (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System), which varies sway bar tension to suit the terrain you’re on, is also standard.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The 200 Series has a 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8 engine – producing 200kW at 3600rpm and 650Nm at 1600-2600rpm – and is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. As befitting a 4WD beast's power plant, the engine is torquey with plenty of grunt.

It has full-time four-wheel drive with dual-range gearing and a limited slip centre diff. It also has a stack of driver-assist tech for off-roading – including hill start assist, crawl control, turn-assist and more – but more about that later.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

From the outside, the 200 is a big imposing unit, and its squared-off appearance is one that's changed little over the years. It’s a basic, blocky large SUV, which looks a bit like what you'd imagine a family-friendly weekend-adventure machine would resemble. So, what’s not to like about that?

The 200 is a big imposing unit. The 200 is a big imposing unit.

How practical is the space inside?

It’s a cavernous interior, split over three rows of seats and all the way back to the rear cargo area. 

The inside is well-appointed – as mentioned, leather and woodgrain abound – and the fit and finish is very impressive.

The cabin has a real practical feel about it. The cabin has a real practical feel about it.

As well as being a premium space, the cabin has a real practical feel about it: it’s comfortable and functional and there are plenty of storage spaces. 

In terms of that interior room and comfort, the 200 Series really sets the bar high: all seats are comfortable and supportive – easy to spend long hours in – and even the rear two seats offer more than adequate levels of comfort, though if you’re an adult you won’t want to be caught in there for too long.

There's a place for everything – bottles, cups and all of your other bits and pieces – with even the third-row passengers getting a cupholder each. 

The only problem is that the third-row seats, when stowed away to the sides, impact the rear cargo space.

The cabin has a real practical feel about it. The cabin has a real practical feel about it.

Up front, there's a USB port and 12V outlet.

What's it like as a daily driver?

The 200 is plush, spacious and easy to spend loads of time in. But it's rather big (4950mm long, 1970mm wide) and heavy (kerb weight is listed as 2720kg) and so, in the city and suburbs, the 200 Series is somewhat hamstrung by its bulk – not terribly so, but noticeably so. What it lacks in responsiveness around town, however, it makes up for with its torquey engine and intelligent auto.

 The 200 has a very quiet cabin. The 200 has a very quiet cabin.

Its on-road ride and handling are mostly tighter than the lumpy Cruiser has any right for it to be, but as the big unit gets out onto country roads with longer sweeping corners, understeer and body roll start to creep in, despite its KDSS working to smooth those out – none of that is diabolical, however.

Its generous dimensions mean that the 200 is simply not as dynamic and lively to drive as some of its rivals, such as the Land Rover Discovery, but it's not a couch on wheels either.

For something so bulky, the 200 has a very quiet cabin with only a low-level background hum evident.

What's it like for touring?

On gravel, it drives supremely well. Steering remains pretty sharp on loose uneven surfaces, with a nice weight about it, and, despite its bulk, the 200 is reasonably easy to manoeuvre. It sits nice and solid on the track and even sharp corrugations and surprise potholes don't unsettle it.

The coil-spring suspension yields a spongy, comfortable ride even through lumpier gravel stretches, with minimal body roll through corners, no matter how big and ponderous it seems.

The coil-spring suspension yields a spongy, comfortable ride. The coil-spring suspension yields a spongy, comfortable ride.

The Cruiser’s KDSS, part of the overall comfort-focussed suspension set-up, works pretty well to yield a softer ride off-road and a firmer on-road state of affairs.

The 200 feels even more at home tackling low-speed 4WDing. For a vehicle to excel at this sort of stuff it helps to, among other things, have a seamless balance of old-school mechanicals and high-tech driver-assist aids – and the Cruiser strikes a pretty good balance between the two.

And, though it's a big unit, the 200's off-road measures are decent enough all-round. Approach, departure, and ramp-over angles are claimed as 32, 24 and 21 respectively. The 200 has a listed ground clearance of 225mm, which is only 5mm more than something like a Subaru Forester, and the LandCruiser often feels even lower than that, so it has to be driven with extra concentration and consideration. It has a wading depth of 700mm.

Low-range gearing is gutsy, traction control is efficient and the Cruiser’s Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) system has five settings – Mud & Sand, Loose Rock, Mogul, Rock & Dirt, and Rock – with each designed to adjust grip assistance, throttle input, gear changes and shift times to suit the terrain. MTS is effective, and it's an added weapon in the Cruiser’s off-road arsenal, but make sure you don't rely on this or any other driver-assist tech, for that matter.

The 200's off-road measures are decent enough all-round. The 200's off-road measures are decent enough all-round.

The Multi-Terrain Monitor (MTM) uses four cameras mounted on the Cruiser’s exterior to show the driver obstacles you might otherwise not be able to see. It’s effective and offers the driver greater visibility but, for me, it was a bit glitchy and tricky to get properly working and, besides, I reckon nothing beats sticking your head out the window or, even better, getting out of the vehicle and walking a hill, track or water crossing before taking it on. Because that's when you want to discover the track needs clearing or building, before you've committed to driving it, not while you're actually trying to drive it. 

Tech does have its place though and, when tracks become tight and tree-ed in, the Cruiser’s turn-assist system, which applies the brakes to your inside rear wheel at low speeds to help reduce your turning circle, comes in pretty handy.

It was never troubled through deep mud-holes or wheel ruts. It has decent wheel travel but its KDSS also helps to deliver even more suspension flex as you go through ruts.

A hill-climb is a good challenge for any off-roader, so it’s a top spot to test the 200’s all-round capability – but we bit off more than we could chew this time.

On a very steep hill consisting of loose gravel, then a sharp rock crest leading into a deep wash-out and, higher up the slope, even steeper, smooth, slippery rock, the Cruiser failed to get even half-way up the incline. In the 200's defence, it was riding on Dunlop Grandtrek AT25 tyres, which (though marketed as an off-road tyre) lack efficacy in the rough stuff, and those were left at a gravel-road-friendly 34 psi rather than a lower rock-crawling-suited psi measure, for this 200, like 20-25 psi. Also, the hill looks like it's only ever been successfully attempted by heavily modified 4WDs.

 It was riding on Dunlop Grandtrek AT25 tyres. It was riding on Dunlop Grandtrek AT25 tyres.

We shifted our challenge to a nearby hill that had a short steep section and the 200, with its great low-range gearing in action as well as crawl control engaged, tackled it without any strife; up and then down in a safe, steady, controlled fashion as a result of strong engine braking and traction control. You can cycle through crawl control's fixed low speeds on a centre console dial to minimise loss of traction or wheel slip in order to adjust the vehicle's momentum to suit the severity of the terrain's slope.

It’s all quite effective tech, especially when used to complement each other, but nothing beats a proper recon of the route ahead and safe, controlled driving when you’re actually driving it.

A bit of a dent in the 200's potential as a realistic off-road tourer has nothing to do with its 4WD capability, but everything to do with its packability, as it loses valuable cargo space to those third-row seats that, when stowed away, protrude into the cargo area.

It has a 750kg unbraked towing capacity and 3500g braked towing capacity. It has a 750kg unbraked towing capacity and 3500g braked towing capacity.

But there's denying the 200 is a heavy hauler – so much so that we'd used it as the control vehicle during a recent Tesla Model X tow test. It has a 750kg unbraked towing capacity and 3500g braked towing capacity.

A full-sized spare tyre is mounted under the Cruiser.

How much fuel does it consume?

Fuel consumption is listed as 9.5L/100km (combined). We recorded 12.6L/100km, but that included a lot of low-range 4WDing.

The 200 Series has a 93-litre main fuel tank and a 45-litre sub tank, making a total of 138 litres.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The 200 has plenty of driver-assist tech (including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, trailer-sway control and that multi-terrain monitor), as well as 10 airbags.

It has a five-star ANCAP rating from testing conducted in 2011.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

A five-year/unlimited km warranty applies to this wagon. Service intervals are scheduled for every six months/10,000km at an average cost of $280 per service (over three years), for a total of $1680 (over three years).

The 200 Series makes a great platform for an off-road tourer or recreational tow vehicle. 

It's not perfect – it's big, heavy and expensive – but it's one of the best in the large SUV mob. It’s a roomy, capable 4WD wagon and there are lots of accessories available for it. 

It handles everything with supreme ease; it’s never going to feel as dynamic or as lively as some of its rivals, but it’s more capable than many.

If you're looking to build a bush-and-beach-adventure machine, rather than spend $100k on a VX, consider buying one of the lower-spec 200s – a GX or GXL – and spend the cash you save on genuine accessories or aftermarket equipment to gear it up for action.

$98,510

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Adventure score

3.8/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'