Toyota's LandCruiser 200 Series is the undisputed king of 4WD wagons in Australia; it's the big kahuna of beach-and-bush adventure. The LandCruiser, as an Unbreakable brand, has a legion of die-hard fans. And for good reason: it's a handsome, hefty beast offering plenty of room inside, a very comfortable ride, ample towing grunt and stacks of off-road ability.

So, when Toyota launched a tweaked 200 Series in October 2015 – essentially a mild facelift, bumped-up prices across the range, improved fuel economy (the diesel's down to a claimed 9.5L/100km) and comprehensive, consolidated safety tech – there was much rejoicing among the Cruiser's loyal following. They had little choice but to be satisfied with the refreshed offering though because they have to wait until late 2017 or early 2018 for the next-generation Cruiser.

But, you certainly pay to play: prices start at $76,500 (for an entry-level GX) and work their way up to our tester – the Sahara – which nudges $118,500 in diesel form.

The third row is more than the mere afterthought it so often is in other SUVs

This champion of the Upper Large SUV segment may reign supreme in the eyes of many but we sought to find any chinks in its armour by spending a few days with the Sahara in the city and country.

Design

Exterior changes include a new-look grille, headlights, scalloped bonnet, revised door handles and a reworked rear-end with LED tail lights.

Inside is huge: large enough to cop seven seats in the diesel; eight in the petrol. The second row has room enough for three boofy blokes. We tried; it was a bit of a squeeze but it worked. Impressively, the third row is more than the mere afterthought it so often is in other SUVs. It's not palatial but it's roomy. The third-row seats do not fold away flush when not in use, but rather fold up against the rear windows which inhibits rearward vision.

There are two options for the leather interior – black/grey or beige – and we reckon we got the touring-suited best of the two (black/grey). Woodgrain-look interior highlights are a nice touch here.

The upgraded features list inside is a lengthy one and includes, but is not limited to, the great user-friendly Toyota Link system (replete with satnav etc on a nine-inch touchscreen), a Qi wireless charger for smartphones, heated front and second row seats, heated exterior rear view mirrors, DVD screens on the backs of the front seats for second-row passenger entertainment, power tailgate, electrically adjustable steering column with three memory positions – and don't forget the cool box.

About town

The Sahara weighs 2740kg; it's 1945mm high, 4990mm long and 1980mm wide. It doesn't belong in any CBD. Like many of its ilk, this 200 Series is a cumbersome wagon in a city setting; lots of muscle, little grace. Having said that, it handles most city duties admirably, albeit with a touch of awkwardness – parking and negotiating your way down tight, city back streets can be a bit of a challenge at times.

But there is help at hand. The all-new, all-knowing, all-seeing visibility system, which works off cameras at the front, rear and in the side mirrors, provides a multidirectional view of what's around the vehicle when parking or tackling tricky 4WD scenarios (more about that later) – there's even a 'view' from above. All displayed clearly on the touchscreen.

Off-the-mark acceleration for a unit as big as this is great

Also, for when you get out of the inner city, the Sahara has a pre-collision system (but not full AEB), blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and dynamic radar cruise control, and lane-departure alert.

The 4.5-litre twin-turbo V8 diesel produces 200kW@3400rpm and 650Nm@1600rpm. There's a healthy growl from the engine every time you give the throttle a tap in city traffic, a hint of the beast within. Off-the-mark acceleration for a unit as big as this is great and will slap a swift smile on any driver's mug. It makes for easy, smooth and safe movement through traffic.

Speaking of safety, other features aimed at passenger protection include seven airbags, vehicle stability and active traction control, multi-terrain anti-skid brakes, hill-start assist control, trailer-sway control and more.

On the road...

Out of the city limits and on open-road bitumen, you can unleash the beast. And this is when the king of 4WDs proves that it's not simply a champion on the dirty stuff; it is also a sublimely smooth-riding tourer.

The V8 is a real goer; the Sahara rumbles up to highway speed in no time at all, with that aforementioned growl, and holds steady, barely restrained. Overtaking is a no-stress cinch.

Out bush, the Sahara rules

It floats along comfortably with on-road dynamics close to car-like for something so large. The Sahara has Toyota's Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), which, in layman's terms, uses hydraulics linked to the anti-sway bars to temper body roll. It works a treat.

The suspension soaked up any lumps and bumps, on and off road, and yielded flat, controlled handling through a range of driving scenarios: city-smooth streets, back-road bitumen, loose gravel, and punching along at speed on greasy mud tracks.

Steering is generally precise, but with some understeer.

The six-speed auto is a winner, although it sometimes kicked down aggressively out of the blue on steep, twisting country-road downhills.

...and off

Out bush, the Sahara rules.

With its real-world low-range gearing, torquey twin turbodiesel V8 and arsenal of off-road tech (downhill assist etc) working seamlessly together, the Sahara takes on anything and everything. We've tried to stump it before and failed. Same again, this time.

Crawl Control is rock-steady reliable. It uses automatic accelerator and traction control operation to maintain one of three target speeds uphill; it uses engine braking and traction control to do the same on steep descents. There is no need for the driver to touch the accelerator or brake while the system is engaged.

On real slow-going, the camera-based visibility system is a great addition to the Sahara's tech suite; the rotating forward-facing camera depicts the vehicle's tilt angle on the touchscreen, and an under-floor view of about three metres ahead of the Cruiser, gives drivers an indication of where the front wheels are placed on the track.

The 200 Series' sheer size works against it at times; steering around bunched trees can be nerve-racking, squeezing through overgrown tracks can be a groan-worthy exercise in trying to avoid ‘bush-pinstriping', and over-bonnet visibility can be on the wrong side of ideal at times.