October 21, 2010
The Toyota LandCruiser is the biggest and, in some people's minds, simply the best four-wheel drive vehicle there is. Toyota's big 'Cruiser has long been the benchmark when it comes to four-wheel drives, and while it has been challenged in recent times it remains the leader of the off-road pack.
Other four-wheel drives offer more comfort, more refinement and more fruit, but few, if any, outperform it once the black top stops.
The LandCruiser built its reputation for toughness way back in the 1950s when it showed what it could do working on the Snowy Mountains Scheme, and remains the car by which all others are measured when it comes to toughness.
But in today's world toughness isn't enough for many owners who also want their share of creature comforts in their four-wheel drives. Toyota attempted to address those wants when it launched the 200 in 2007.
There was plenty that was new with the 200, it was bigger, stronger, more fuel efficient, roomier and more refined, but at the same time it still promised the traditional 'Cruiser off-road toughness that had made it the benchmark in the class.
The LandCruiser has always stood alone with its own no-fuss tough-as-nails look, but the 200 had a softer look with a smoother shape that cut through the air with greater efficiency. It was also bigger than the 100 Series it replaced, being longer and wider, with a much roomier cabin.
Inside it had three rows of seats, able to seat eight adults, with more room in each row for greater comfort. For such a big, tough wagon the 200 Series was surprisingly quiet and comfortable on the road. But it remained true to its tough roots with its old-fashioned truck-style design with a body perched atop a separate frame, although the suspension was by coil springs front and back.
Toyota offered two engines in the LandCruiser, an updated 4.7-litre DOHC petrol V8 and a twin-turbo 4.5-litre diesel V8. When on full song the V8 produced 202 kW at 5400 revs and 410 Nm, while diesel produced 195 kW at 3400 revs and 650 Nm from 1600 to 2600 revs. The V8 was linked to a five-speed auto, the diesel to a six-speed auto, both with full-time four-wheel drive.
There were three models in the range, beginning with the GXL entry model, the VX and the fully-equipped Sahara.
IN THE SHOP
Generally the 200 Series is robust and reliable as Toyotas mostly are, but owners have complained about the problems of engaging sixth gear on diesel autos. Sixth gear wouldn't engage below the highway speed limit, which made it rather ineffective on local highways. Toyota developed a software fix and many vehicles were updated, but it's possible some owners never found out about the revision and didn't have their cars reworked. It's worth driving the vehicle on the highway at around 100 km/h to observe if sixth is being engaged or not.
Being the tough off-roader it is you should expect vehicles to have been used offroad, so check for damage sustained in the bush and watch for a lack of proper maintenance.
IN A CRASH
Mass is a big part of the LandCruiser's safety equation, and there's no doubt about its massive size, but it also boasts a host of current safety features from active electronics to an impressive array of front, side and curtain airbags.
UNDER THE PUMP
Carsguide reader Brian Holland's twin-turbo V8 diesel 'Cruiser has averaged 14.18 L/100 km over the 50,000 km he's done since buying it in 2008. When tested by Cars Guide the twin-turbo V8 diesel 'Cruiser averaged a little better returning 13.2 L/100 km. Toyota claimed the diesel would return 10.3 L/100 km and the petrol V8 14.5 L/100 km.
Brian Holland has done 50,000 km in his 2008 twin turbo diesel LandCruiser 200, including some "serious" offroading and the only breakage he's had in that time is a broken shock absorber. His complaints are that you can't engage sixth gear at a legal speed, but says Toyota has installed a software modification that allows him to activate it manually, it was using oil, but has improved since Toyota replaced the vacuum pump, and dust entry is a problem.
He also reckons that for a car costing $80,000-plus it doesn't have enough fruit. There's no trip computer, no drivers seat height adjustment, no radio controls on steering wheel, no rear power outlet etc. But having said all of that, he says the 'Cruiser is by far and away the best four-wheel drive he has ever owned. As a keen four-wheel driver he says it is simply brilliant off road.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Bigger than ever, but still the best in the bush.