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Toyota LandCruiser VX 2022 review: off-road test

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Australian car buyers have a global reputation for choosing the most expensive, high-performance variant of a particular make and model. We're over-represented in the BMW M-world, for instance, and Mercedes-AMG loves us for our willingness to option high and spend big.

But, it seems, when it comes to sensible, bought-for-a-purpose vehicles like the Toyota LandCruiser, we're a bit more pragmatic. Which is why the middle-of-the-range VX LandCruiser ultimately emerged as the best seller in the previous Toyota 200 Series.

And, in turn, that means the model to watch in the new 300 Series LandCruiser line-up, is likely to be the same, mid-spec version. Which just happens to also be badged VX.

Although it's not the cheapest version of the LandCruiser, the VX does seem to represent the vehicle that has all the deal-breaker options covered off.

Which is fine, but with a price tag like this one, does the actual driving and ownership experience measure up? We are, after all, talking the sort of numbers that make most accountants run for cover.

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

Ah yes, price. Now, at the risk of scaring the chickens, the starting point for the LandCruiser range is now a coffee and donut less than $90,000. And that's for what we used to call the 'mine-spec' or 'police-spec' variant with rubber mats and steel wheels.

The $101,790 GXL is next but still has you in cloth seats and it misses out on a couple of new safety features.

But the VX addresses those perceived shortcomings with synthetic leather trim, heated and ventilated front seats, four-zone climate control, a bigger 12.3-inch media screen, 10-speaker stereo, a sunroof, 260-degree cameras, daytime-running lights, specific (shiny) alloy wheels to match the silver grille and those extra safety aids, namely automatic wipers and reverse autonomous braking.

The VX addresses comes with synthetic leather trim, and heated and ventilated front seats. The VX addresses comes with synthetic leather trim, and heated and ventilated front seats.

That's on top of Toyota's 'Multi-Terrain Select' and 'Multi-Terrain Monitor' systems. The former allows the driver to select the mode appropriate for the conditions (sand, mud, gravel, snow and rocks) and have the vehicle tailor the responses of its dampers, ride-height, traction-control, braking and torque distribution to suit. The terrain monitoring system, meanwhile, is a network of cameras that shows the driver a view of anything around, near or even under the vehicle that's likely to be an obstacle.

All yours for $113,990. At which point, most buyers and likely to give the even pricier VX Sahara and GR-Sport variants a wide berth.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Toyota clearly understands that hard-core off-roaders are vehicles built with a separate body plonked on a ladder-chassis frame. The alternative design – a monocoque, where the body is the chassis – is great on several levels (weight control, body stiffness, packaging) but the old-school body-on-chassis just can't be beat for ruggedness. And since the LC300 is designed to be an off-roader, regardless of what else it might be in 2022, that counts for a lot.

Even so, with clever manipulation of design and materials, Toyota has managed to pull off a weight saving of anything up to 200kg (depending on model). While that sounds a bit token in the context of a vehicle that weighs the wrong side of 2600kg, it's still bucking the global trend for bigger, fatter vehicles.

Toyota clearly understands that hard-core off-roaders are vehicles built with a separate body plonked on a ladder-chassis frame. Toyota clearly understands that hard-core off-roaders are vehicles built with a separate body plonked on a ladder-chassis frame.

Another interesting tech feature is that Toyota has stuck with conventional, hydraulic power-steering for this vehicle. While electric power-steering is all the rage now, the decision to stick with what's a known technology suggests a conservative approach, but one that will be applauded by outback travellers and remote-area mechanics alike.

On the flip-side, there are some design elements that may not be so gratefully received by the hard-core mob. The first of those is the lack of a standard snorkel. Although the base-model gets one, the VX doesn't. And since every vehicle that tackles the great Aussie outback seems to have one, that's a strange decision. Surely Toyota doesn't imagine the mine-spec Cruiser is the only one that will ever tackle the Old Telegraph Track in Cape York or cross a river in the Victorian high country.

The layout of the new engine with its intake and turbochargers inside the engine's vee has meant the traditional place to position the intercooler (right on top of the engine, out of harm's way) is no longer viable. So, Toyota has moved to twin intercoolers and placed them way up front under the headlights. That makes them quite a bit more susceptible to damage from the great Australian flora and its close relation, roo-strike.

On the flip-side, there are some design elements that may not be so gratefully received by the hard-core mob. On the flip-side, there are some design elements that may not be so gratefully received by the hard-core mob.

Many owners will also lament the passing of the horizontally split tailgate on the previous VX version of the LandCruiser. What once made a lovely picnic table or workbench with its own canopy has been replaced by a one-piece tailgate which is heavy and opens a long way out from the vehicle. More complexity, less amenity?

Even though this is the mid-spec version of the LandCruiser, there's no badging to let other traffic know you've stumped up for the VX over the GX or GXL. And on a related subject, it's either a trick of the white paint on our test car or some very precise dimensional work, but the LC300 doesn't look as big as everyone thinks it will be. Then you study the numbers, and those same people have a point. The LandCruiser is actually 15mm shorter than a Prado (although that vehicle has its spare mounted on the rear door, which the LC300 does not) and has exactly the same wheelbase as a Ford Everest. Hmm.

How practical is the space inside?

With no less than seven seats, the VX plays a pretty good practicality card right from the word go. Like most two-three-two layouts of course, the rearmost row is best left to smaller folk who will be better able to wriggle their way in and be comfortable when they get there. They will, however, be treated with USB outlets and cupholders as well as air vents and a decent view out.

The LandCruiser also suffers the usual cargo space problems with all seats occupied when the luggage area shrinks to a narrow space suitable for a couple of soft bags and an umbrella. Fold the rear row down and you're suddenly looking at 1004 litres of space or as much as 1967 litres with both rear rows folded and/or tumbled.

  • The LandCruiser also suffers the usual cargo space problems with all seats occupied. The LandCruiser also suffers the usual cargo space problems with all seats occupied.
  • Fold the rear row down and you’re suddenly looking at 1004 litres of space. Fold the rear row down and you’re suddenly looking at 1004 litres of space.
  • Or as much as 1967 litres with both rear rows folded and/or tumbled. Or as much as 1967 litres with both rear rows folded and/or tumbled.

Better news is that the third row now folds flat into the floor, rather than swinging up to the side as per the previous model. That's also a bonus for those who tour with a fridge in the rear as that piece of equipment can now be mounted closer to the side of the vehicle, rather than having to allow for the fold-up third row seats.

Less rosy is that the packed underbonnet will need a fairly serious rearrangement of the furniture under there to accommodate a second battery to power that fridge. The alternative will be to mount a sealed battery under the second-row seats (maybe). Whichever, it will be interesting to see how end users and the aftermarket tackle these issues.

With no less than seven seats, the VX plays a pretty good practicality card right from the word go. With no less than seven seats, the VX plays a pretty good practicality card right from the word go.

And it could be just us, but the front door openings seem a bit on the small side, making for some slight contortions when entering from the side-step. The header-rail seems awfully close during this manoeuvre, but at least there are plenty of grab-handles.

Our other observation involves the synthetic trim on the seats and other touch-points. It looks like leather, but it feels distinctly synthetic. One out to two ain't bad.

On the basis that Australian's love to accessorise their off-roaders, Toyota has stocked dealerships with just about every kind of factory-approved bull-bar, bonnet protector, roof rack and bash-plate imaginable.

Like most two-three-two layouts of course, the rearmost row is best left to smaller folk who will be better able to wriggle their way in and be comfortable when they get there. Like most two-three-two layouts of course, the rearmost row is best left to smaller folk who will be better able to wriggle their way in and be comfortable when they get there.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Much has been made of Toyota's move from a 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8 to a 3.3-litre V6 diesel, also with twin turbochargers. Many lovers of the old V8 diesel have expressed a view that a smaller V6 will never match the larger engine.

Toyota begs to disagree. In fact, with a power output of 227kW and torque of 700Nm, the new engine outpowers the old V8 by any yardstick.

The new engine is also interesting for its layout. The hot-side-in design places the two turbochargers and their plumbing inside the vee of the engine rather than hanging them off each side. This means a shorter distance between the cylinder head and the turbocharger for improved throttle response, as well as giving Toyota the opportunity of packaging the same engine in a smaller engine bay.

With a power output of 227kW and torque of 700Nm, the new engine outpowers the old V8 by any yardstick. With a power output of 227kW and torque of 700Nm, the new engine outpowers the old V8 by any yardstick.

There's only one transmission choice; a 10-speed conventional automatic with a torque converter.

While Toyota does offer differential locks on its really expensive model as well as the extremely clever 'Kinetic Suspension System 'with active sway-bars, none of that is included on the VX. In fact, it's not even available as an option, at any price.

That leaves the VX with a locking centre differential as well as its full-time four-wheel drive system that includes low-ratio gears in the transfer-case. Of course, combine that with the independent front suspension and live rear axle, and you have a pretty classic formula for a capable off-roader.

What's it like as a daily driver?

It's usually seen as a compliment, but your first impressions of the LandCruiser from the driver's seat is that it isn't as vast as you thought it might be. That extends to not only the way it drives – and visibility is very good – but also to the look and feel of the actual interior. The high centre-stack and high dashboard line probably add to the impression of compactness, not to mention the fairly unrelenting black trim of our test car.

What isn't so great is the way the switchgear is laid out. There seems to be an awful lot of switches, but no real acknowledgement that any one is more important than the others. The dark-chrome buttons on the steering wheel also seem to attract stray reflections, rendering their base-relief graphics indecipherable. The push-down volume-up button is also an ergonomic mystery.

With keyless entry and start, a starter-button is placed high on the dash and cranks things over after a small cold-start delay to run the glow-plugs. The soundtrack of the V6 is clearly high-tech for a diesel, but still very much a diesel. And while you simply can't argue with the efficiency nor potency of the new engine, there's also no doubt that it lacks a little of the charm (or, more precisely, character) of the old V8 turbo-diesel.

It’s usually seen as a compliment, but your first impressions of the LandCruiser from the driver’s seat is that it isn’t as vast as you thought it might be. It’s usually seen as a compliment, but your first impressions of the LandCruiser from the driver’s seat is that it isn’t as vast as you thought it might be.

The fact is, the LC300 is so quiet in every other way, that you will hear some typically diesel harmonics when the engine is under load or revving hard. It's never terrible, but it's there, although at a steady cruising speed, there's virtually no mechanical noise whatsoever. Part of that is the tall gearing that sees just 1400rpm at 100km/h in ninth gear. Why not 10th gear? Because the gearing is so tall that, at Aussie cruising speeds, the Cruiser will almost never select top gear.

Suspension-wise, there's a small amount of jiggling when crossing small-amplitude bumps. This is down to the suspension rates required to control so much weight carried so high, but it remains that as speeds rise and the bumps become larger, the Toyota starts to cope better. The steering, meantime, is calibrated to work off-road, so can feel a little distant and remote on road. But the turning circle is tiny for such a big machine and makes life easier in the city.

Overall, the LandCruiser is a much more precise, accurate vehicle than its size and off-road smarts would suggest. It's no high-performance SUV, but then it was never meant to be.

What's it like for touring?

The lack of a standard snorkel notwithstanding, the LandCruiser VX is going to make a brilliant outback touring rig. It has the ruggedness and practicality to cope with a family on tour and the off-road abilities to take that family to all the best spots.

The loss of the horizontally-split tailgate is a bit of a blow, as the new one-piece unit lacks the ability to provide the instant picnic table or impromptu work-bench.

The lack of a standard snorkel notwithstanding, the LandCruiser VX is going to make a brilliant outback touring rig. The lack of a standard snorkel notwithstanding, the LandCruiser VX is going to make a brilliant outback touring rig.

Off-road, the latest array of driver aids such as the crawl function, hill-descent control and selectable drive modes seem to have taken this concept to a new level of convenience and safety. The crawl function, in particular, is a brilliant piece of tech for the way it leads a big vehicle up pretty much any track, while the hill-descent is similarly well thought out and executed. The lack of paddle-shifters are a shame at this price, however, and would make off-road work even more foolproof.

The LC300's other touring long-suit will emerge when the typical end user hitches up a caravan. With a braked towing capacity of 3500kg and the grunt to match, the LC300 promises to be a fine tow-vehicle.

How much fuel does it consume?

The improved efficiency of the new V6 engine has meant Toyota could reduce the capacity of the LandCruiser's fuel tanks and still achieve an acceptable range (one of the major reasons off-roaders tend to be diesel-powered in this country). And since fuel range is such a huge issue in Australia, that's worth investigating.

With a main tank of 80 litres and a sub-tank of 30, the new Cruiser's total is well down on the previous model's 138 litres. But when you drag out the calculator, you can see that the 200 Series' combined fuel number of 9.5 litres per 100km, would have given it a theoretical range of just over 1300km. The new vehicle, based on its combined number of 8.9 litres per 100km and 110-litre tank, should still be good for better than 1000km.

In the real world, the 300 Series is much better placed to achieve its on-paper figure, too (the 200 was never as frugal as its official numbers suggested) so the difference is probably even less than it looks here.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The new LandCruiser is fitted with what Toyota calls 'Safety Sense', now in its third generation on the LC300. The suite of driver aids includes autonomous emergency braking, pre-collision functions, daytime cyclist recognition, pedestrian recognition, intersection-turn assist and steering assist.

The VX we tested here is the lowest grade to be fitted with curve speed reduction where the vehicle on cruise-control will lower its speed in a corner if it ‘thinks' the speed is set too high for that bend. Lane-keeping assistance with a steering-wheel vibration function is also part of the package.

All LC300s feature automatic high-beam, 10 air-bags and a reversing camera and the vehicle is fitted with a tracking device to deter thieves.

The LandCruiser 300 scored a maximum five-star ANCAP rating against the latest 2022 assessment criteria.

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

Toyota's new-car warranty for the LandCruiser changed from three years to five years back in 2019. The factory warranty also includes unlimited kilometres, so the brand is about equal with its main competitors on this subject.

Where the 300 Series is not so strong is in terms of its service intervals. Basically, Toyota recommends servicing about twice as often as some of the opposition, with 10,000km/six-month intervals. That's offset a little by the capped-price servicing available for $375 for the first 10 services (five years' worth). But the bigger issue for fleets and business customers is going to be the down-time associated with that service regime.

Toyota’s new-car warranty for the LandCruiser changed from three years to five years back in 2019. Toyota’s new-car warranty for the LandCruiser changed from three years to five years back in 2019.

Perhaps the 300 Series hasn't moved the full-sized off-road wagon game on as some predicted it would. But even accusing the LC300 of being more of the same, simply means it's more of the same very, very good thing.

And in VX form as tested here, the combination of price and equipment seems to have hit a bit of a sweet spot. Just as the VX version of the previous model did.

$113,990

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Adventure score

4/5

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'

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.