Marcus Craft road tests and reviews the latest update to the LandCruiser LC70 ute, wagon and TroopCarrier at its Australian launch.

Loved by outback bushies, farmers and hard-core 4WDers, the LandCruiser 70 Series is here to stay – at least for now anyway. Toyota has quashed rumours about the 70's demise, by keeping the beloved bush legend alive with an engine, body and safety upgrade. The top-selling single cab benefits the most with a fleet-friendly five-star ANCAP rating. Good news? They still go anywhere but they do it with more comfort and less noise. Bad news? The improvements come at a price.

Safety

The big news is the single cab's five-star ANCAP safety rating; only confirmed the day before the October 25 launch. That up-rating makes it much more appealing to fleet buyers than previous 70 Series versions. The rest of the range – the dual-cab (79 Series), wagon (76 Series) and TroopCarrier (aka Troopie or 78 Series) – remain untested/unrated.

For the maximum safety rating, the single cab now has five airbags (two front airbags, driver/passenger curtain airbags and driver's knee airbags).

A stiffer, stronger frame – including thicker-than-before high-tensile steel side rails – doesn't hurt either.

Across the range, the safety pack includes vehicle stability control, active traction control, hill-start assist control, brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution and more.

Price and features

The single cab has also received the bulk of any other changes to the line-up; Toyota has thrown a larger and stiffer frame on it, as well as revised body panels and new front seats.

With those changes have come a weight increase of a few kegs and a price increase of $5500 for the single cab and $3000 for everything else. Pricing is now: Single cab-chassis Workmate ($62,490), GX ($64,490), GXL ($66,490); dual cab: Workmate ($64,990), GXL ($68,990); TroopCarrier: Workmate ($64,890), GXL ($67,990); and Wagon: Workmate ($60,990) and GXL ($64,990).

Aircon is a $2761 option (including installation). Premium paint (anything other than white) is $550.

Cruise control is now standard on all models.

Engine

The gutsy 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8, punching out 151kW@3400rpm and 430Nm@1200-3200rpm, remains, albeit in a tweaked form. It now has piezo-electric injectors to reduce fuel consumption and is now Euro 5 compliant. The upgraded 70 also has a diesel particulate filter with auto regen and manual switch.

If you climb into this thing not expecting sportscar-like ride and handling you won't be disappointed.

The five-speed manual box now has taller gearing in second and fifth gears, making for solid power-on speed and comfortable highway cruising; no whining, stressed engine here at higher speeds. It's a marked improvement over the previous box.

Design

Yep, that's a high score for an ugly vehicle but in the realm of workhorses, ugly as sin is king. Case in point: Toyota has sold 260,167 of the 70 Series since 1985 and I reckon not one of those people bought a 70 based on its looks. It's not a pretty unit.

The 70, in all variants, remains tall and boxy (Part 1): all up and down, squared off and sharp angles. It's bloody awesome. The bonnet bulge is a bit more prominent than before and just adds to the overall functional tough-truck look.

Inside is rather basic in GXL spec (nice cloth seats, power windows) and very basic in entry-level Workmate spec (vinyl seats, fair dinkum hose-out floors and ye olde wind-down windows), but that's a large part of the 70's appeal; it's built for a real-world, hard-working purpose, nothing is for show. Fitting, because many of them have traditionally spent their time in rental, government and business fleets. Hey, it has an audio system and a USB port so stop your whinging!

Practicality

The no-fuss functionality of the 70 Series hasn't changed. It has a plain but well laid-out dash and console in all models. Controls, dials and knobs are chunky and always easy to operate, even in bumpy terrain, damn good for working blokes and 4WD tourers.

Another benefit to its shape (tall and boxy, Part 2) is the amount of room inside for driver and passenger in the single-cab; and driver and passengers in the people-moving models. There is plenty of head, arm and leg room, as well as ample space for gear down the back in the wagons – another positive from its straight up and down styling. There are four tie-down points in the wagons' rear.

Seats – lined with hard-wearing fabric – are more supportive than before.

The engine bay has a new easy-access accessory fuse box up front, making it great for tourers, who love to plug in plenty of accessories when out camping.

The 70 Series is a mongrel bush dog straining against its leash; all muscle and coiled rage.

The 70 Series rides on 16-inch steel wheels (all WorkMate specs and the GXL Troopie) or alloys. The single cab is no longer on 5.5-inch-wide split rims, it is on six-inch-wide single-piece rims.

Wider tubeless tyres – Bridgestone, Dunlop etc – are the go now.

Payload is, at its lowest, 785kg for the Workmate Wagon and tops out at 1235kg in the single-cab GX.

Towing capacity is 750kg (unbraked) and 3500kg (braked) across the whole range.

Fuel consumption

The 70 Series is claimed to use 10.7L/100km (combined) and 9.4L/100km (highway). Every variant has a touring-friendly 130-litre tank, except the Troopies which have a 90-litre main and a 90-litre sub tank – well-suited to long-distance, remote-area travel.

Driving

On the run from Melbourne airport to Robbie Emmins' Melbourne 4x4 Training and Proving Ground at Mt Cottrell, west of the big smoke, we covered a good mix of highway, back roads (bitumen) and some gravel; a nice little introduction to the new quieter, but still grunty 70. We comfortably cruised at 110km/h, no worries, with the engine's low-level growl as a soundtrack. Nice.

If you climb into this thing not expecting sportscar-like ride and handling then you won't be disappointed at all – it's all live axles and leaf springs (on the back) and absolutely fine, for what it is.

NVH levels are more subdued than before, even though the distinctive 70 Series shape (tall and boxy, Part 3) means that there's still a fair bit of wind-rush roar over the body – and the big wing mirrors don't help the cause either.

Never a company to shy away from 4WD challenges, Toyota reckons that their engineers had been working on the 70 Series upgrades for five years or so prior to this launch with 100,000km of Australian "torture testing" an integral part of the process – and the big Toyota really showed its mettle over three tough 4WD routes.

The LC70's engine braking remains un-trucking-believable.

Off-road, the 70 Series is a mongrel bush dog straining against its leash; all muscle and coiled rage, barely restrained. We tackled deep, rutted, caked, mud tracks, ambled up extreme inclines, through mud, through deep creeks, too easy with a 700mm wading depth. All variants handled everything with ease.

The LC70's engine braking remains un-trucking-believable; we crept down severe rutted drop-offs with supreme control – no feet on pedals with the engine doing all of the work.

The hill-start assist control was super smooth on white-knuckled slopes and we locked the rear difflock on one or two sections for extra grab-and-go. Front and rear difflocks are standard on GXL Wagon, GXL Troopie, GXL single cab and GXL dual cab.

Theses things aren't tiny, so bush manoeuvres take some thought; the shortest LC70s are the two Wagons, at 4870mm long (WorkMate) and 4910mm (GXL); the rest are around the 5220mm mark. Kerb weights range from 2165kg (single cab GX) to 2325kg (Troopie GXL), so not insubstantial vehicles but they still manage to feel nimble out bush.

The turning circle (maxing out at 14.4m in the single and dual cabs) makes attentive driving a necessity on tight bends along bush tracks or on sand, tipping the nose down a hill, to slot onto an obscured trail.

In a world of buttons, dials and knobs, switching from high-range to low-range in this thing is still, thankfully, by way of the stumpy gear stick. Good ol' stumpy.

Ownership

The warranty is 3 years/100,000km. Services are scheduled for six months/10,000km, with the cost capped at $340 a pop.