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Why the Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series is an overhyped and overrated 4WD | Opinion

The boxy LandCruiser 70 Series is great for remote driving, but why would you own on in the city?

Ah, Toyota’s 70 Series LandCruiser. So beloved of real off-road adventurers, cane farmers, cattle property owners and Insta poseurs everywhere.

Remote-area work, desert touring, country town pub carparks and B&S balls just wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for Toyota’s dead-set legend of a 4WD.

But is it really that good? I’m about to tell you why you might be wrong about the 70 Series, a vehicle that feels so old and so out of date that it appears to be stuck in its launch year of 1984.

With the upcoming launch of the new 70 Series to be staged at Broken Hill this month, it feels timely to remind you why the current 70 Series is such an overhyped and overrated 4WD.

Note: In this yarn, I’ll focus on the 79 Series double cab (the ute), simply because I want to, but really any similar or same criticisms can be just as easily be levelled at the 76 Series (the four-door wagon) or the 78 Series (the Troop Carrier).

Read on.

The 70 Series LandCruiser is not a good vehicle (full stop)

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time in all of the 70 Series variants, in a private and professional capacity. I’ve carried people and loads in them and I’ve towed camper-trailers and caravans with them; I’ve driven them on beach and desert sand; I’ve driven them through waist-deep mudholes and bonnet-deep water crossings, and up and down very steep rocky hills.

But, geez, they’re full of quirks (read: flaws); some of them mildly annoying, some of them downright disappointing.

Let’s work through some of the more notable foibles, one by one.

The 70 Series LandCruiser is noisy: it’s unashamedly gruff and agricultural in character, but it’s also like being inside the cab of a 1970s tractor: bloody noisy. Whereas every other vehicle in the world has benefited from advances in sound deadening and insulation treatment, the NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels in the 70 Series cabin remain just below those considered auditory torture.

The upcoming launch of the new 70 Series will be staged at Broken Hill this month.

The LC79 is horrible to drive anywhere but on the dirt: It’s a ute so, of course, when it’s unladen the 79 Series rides like a nervous pig – no surprises for those in the know – but also, with a turning circle of 14.4m, steering the 79 around feels similar to driving a mini-bus stuffed full of tantrum-prone school kids.

It’s a floaty, unwieldy ute with a too-short first gear and crunchy gear-changes all the way to a fifth that feels like it needs another one or two ratios above it to feel more at home on the open road.

The 70 Series has a 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8, producing 151kW at 3400rpm and 430Nm at 1200-3200rpm, and that’s teamed with a five-speed manual gearbox.

Cheaper and more city-centric wagons and utes beat the 70 Series’ power and torque figures but the LC70’s engine-and-gearbox combination, which offers a stack of useable torque across a long flat curve, ideal for low-range 4WDing and towing.

The 70 Series LandCruiser is unashamedly gruff and agricultural in character.

All LandCruiser 79 series have a transfer case with high- and low-range gearing working off a traditional stubby shifter – no buttons or dials here.

The 70 Series LandCruiser has very little driver-assist / safety tech. Only the single-cab LC79 has the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating. At least now the entire 70 Series range has AEB.

But missing are active safety tech, such as a lane-departure alert, lane keeping assistance, rear cross-traffic alert, rear AEB and more – all advanced safety technologies included in many other, much cheaper, contemporary vehicles.

The 70 Series LandCruiser’s interior is spartan – and that’s a generous description. Cloth seats, hard plastics, a 6.0-inch touchscreen sans Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and air-con was only introduced as standard in MY23, before that it was an extra-cost option. The LC79 interior is like a jail cell only smaller.

The NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels in the 70 Series cabin remain just below those considered auditory torture.

The 70 Series LandCruiser’s mismatched wheel track is horrible. When the V8 was brought into the line-up in 2007, the front axle track had to be stretched 80mm (in the base-spec Workmate) and 120mm (in the GX and GXL), so the frame could accomodate the V8 engine and its bigger radiator.

Apart from being an eye sore – once you’ve noticed the difference, you’ll never get over it – the LC79 double-cab GXL's different wheel tracks (1555mm at the front, 1460mm at the leaf-sprung rear axle) can be more than a bit annoying at speed through dried-out wheel ruts as the rear tyres try to grind and punch through unbroken or partially unbroken terrain.

But simply adjusting your driving style and staying aware, goes a long way to ironing out a lot of the problems you'll likely face as a result of those mismatched tracks.

There’s a thriving space in the Australia’s dynamic aftermarket for rear-track correction systems – that widen the track of the rear axle so it matches the front – and their fitment.

The 70 Series has a 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8 engine. (Image: Glen Sullivan)

The 70 Series LandCruiser has been subject to DPF-related recalls. In May 2020, Toyota issued an urgent recall for almost 23,000 LandCruiser 70 Series with warnings the vehicles were at risk of catching fire when the DPF cleaning function operates.

As CarsGuide reported at the time: “The recall impacts 22,971 vehicles produced between June 2016 and November 2018, and the fear is that vegetation accumulated under the body of the LandCruiser could ignite when the Diesel Particulate Filter goes through its "regeneration" cleaning function.

“The problem is, as it stands, the driver doesn't decide when that function takes place, and so if you have just returned from an off-road adventure, or if you're parked over dry grass, the accumulated vegetation could cause a fire.”

The 70 Series LandCruiser’s handbrake is less than ideal. You have to yank it up hard in order to get it to work effectively – and it’ll need consistent adjustment. You could always opt for a secondary electric park brake as a back-up. But, alas, that’s just more money you have to spend on your LC70 to actually get it up to the functional state that other standard vehicles are in at purchase time.

The 70 Series LandCruiser’s handbrake is less than ideal. (Image: Glen Sullivan)

Toyota’s bare minimum / less is more approach

You have to admire Toyota’s arrogance … or is it indifference?

This car-maker has done so little for so long on the 70 Series, in terms of introducing any concessions to modern comfort, convenience or driver-assist/safety tech into the vehicle through its various iterations, and yet this range of vehicles continues to sell … and sell … and sell.

Toyota pushes the boundaries of brand loyalty in that it consistently only does the bare minimum to keep buyers coming back for more, because it’s confident that loyal LC70 fans will stick with the brand no matter what.

Cloth seats, hard plastics, grunty engine, plenty of noise, and did I mention that air-con was only added as standard in MY23.

But all of that’s part of the 70 Series' charm, you say. Is it really though?

The 70 Series LandCruiser’s interior features hard plastics and a 6.0-inch touchscreen. (Image: Glen Sullivan)

The hefty price-tag

For your reference, a 2023 LC79 Series double cab GXL will cost from $77,200 excluding on-road costs and the tens of thousands worth of aftermarket gear you’ll attach to it and the extensive modifications you’ll have done to it.

Anyway, good luck finding one because order books are full to bursting.

What I reckon

It’s overpriced and under-specced, so why do so many people love the 70 Series so much?

It's a boxy old-school 4WD that’s essentially impractical anywhere other than on a rural property or mine site, or being driven through Australia’s most remote areas as a work truck or an expedition vehicle. It actually makes very little sense for anything other than hard use in those scenarios.

The 70 Series is a boxy old-school 4WD. (Image: Glen Sullivan)

There are lots of vehicles that are much cheaper, a lot better equipped, are much more comfortable, are far more functional, have more driver-assist tech, and are much nicer to drive than the 70 Series.

Sure the 70 Series makes a great platform for a hardcore work or touring vehicle, but if it’s so damn good why do people, as soon as they buy one, spend $100,000 modifying, chopping and stretching them? Correcting the mismatched wheel track, putting in better seats, chipping the engine, lengthening the chassis, getting better tyres, wing mirrors etc. Why not leave their 70 stock standard if it’s so bloody good in standard form?

Marcus Craft
Contributing Journalist
Raised by dingoes and, later, nuns, Marcus (aka ‘Crafty’) had his first taste of adventure as a cheeky toddler on family 4WD trips to secret fishing spots near Bundaberg, Queensland....
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