There is something about a lusty V8 engine that captures the imagination and sparks the excitement level. I wonder if that enthusiasm is fuelled further by the fact there are not many modern V8s still doing the rounds here.
Whatever it is, getting behind the wheel of the Toyota LandCruiser Sahara, hearing it’s throaty grumble, not only validates that excitement but also gives a very clear appreciation of how a performance engine of this ilk can enhance driving pleasure.
In the LC200, that performance is about powering such a sizeable machine with smooth efficiency rather than getting from 0-100km/h at the speed of light.
The LC200 may be entering its 13th year – with the obligatory nips and tucks – but it remains a 4x4 to be reckoned with and our family was super excited to have it visit for an extended stay.
Big, bold, brash and beautiful, what isn’t there to like about the Toyota LandCruiser? Okay, so maybe not beautiful but certainly unapologetic.
It has definite presence, this family carrier, one that goes beyond sheer size. Reputation helps of course but so does the LC’s combination of rugged stance, chrome detail and imposing grille.
The LandCruiser’s exterior dimensions give a pretty clear indication of the space to be enjoyed inside.
There may be an exaggerated flare of the hips, but if you have the guts to call the old girl on it, be my guest.
Despite the luxurious appointments of the Sahara, the interior is starting to look just a little bit tired.
The LandCruiser’s exterior dimensions give a pretty clear indication of the space to be enjoyed inside and it is marvellous to be able to fit the kids, their friends and all their gear without the obligatory, “Mum, she’s touching me with her dirty feet…”.
Despite the luxurious appointments of the Sahara, the interior is starting to look just a little bit tired especially given the bells and whistles to be found in some competitors.
Despite its size, the LandCruiser Sahara feels pretty easy to manoeuvre. The 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8 underneath the bonnet is paired with a conventional six-speed auto, dancing partners that are in tune with each other’s performance.
It is hard to go past a real V8, to be honest, and the grunt that this unit brings is probably the main reason the LandCruiser has such a faithful following.
The 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8 underneath the bonnet is paired with a conventional six-speed auto.
Everything feels quite effortless – whether you are powering from standstill, cruising along the highway or overtaking a road train. As we found in our extended period behind the wheel, the LC200 is pretty faultless.
You do have to be very intentional with the accelerator though, so keep that in mind. U-turns can be tricky, as can turning into parking spots, especially as you can’t see over to the bottom of the large bonnet but those are things you learn to work around.
The ride itself is super comfortable with the LandCruiser seemingly unaffected by most road irregularities. Its 'Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System' (KDSS) helps with improving handling and minimising body roll.
We found the Cruiser lost little in terms of performance when towing either the trailer or boat. A braked 3500kg towing capacity adds to the appeal but it does have quite a small payload, so depending on how you intend to use the beast, you may need to consider a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) upgrade.
The ride itself is super comfortable with the LandCruiser seemingly unaffected by most road irregularities.
Off-road, the LandCruiser is also a confident, accomplished performer. Our forays did not include too much pure low-range gear stuff, but we managed to give it a good workout on tight slippery tracks.
The Sahara’s 'Multi-Terrain Select' allows you to choose from 'Mud and Sand', 'Loose Rock', 'Mogul', 'Rock and Dirt', and 'Rock' settings, with the internal workings adapting to your selection.
This, together with the KDDS which aids stability, helps make lighter work of uncomfortable tracks and prevents the kids from complaining about being thrown around.
We thought there was oodles of room but admittedly that was with kids in the back. The Sahara fits seven, two up-front, three in the second row and two in the third. As is often the case with large 4x4s, it is the latter that is the issue when it comes to space, more especially because the LandCruiser’s third row folds to either side rather than flat.
This does impact slightly on cargo room, making it trickier to fit in larger items, especially when camping, but it does well enough to swallow a decent load.
The Sahara fits seven, two up-front, three in the second row and two in the third.
The LandCruiser’s third row folds to either side rather than flat.
Access to the third row for passengers is easier than in most competitors
There's deep door bins and trays in all three rows.
Access to the third row for passengers is easier than in most competitors, helped by large door opening and well placed handles, but it would be better if the third row was electrically operated.
My kids preferred to enter and exit from the boot but they are a bit special that way, a trait from my husband’s side of the family, of course.
With the third row in use there is room to fit about five shopping bags and school or swimming bags, which is reasonable enough.
With the third row in use there is room to fit about five shopping bags.
There is little, however, to complain about for those in the first two rows with the height of the vehicle and breadth of the seating making for comfy accommodations.
You sit quite high in the driver’s seat, which improves visibility, and also makes it easier to reach all the revenant dials and controls in the dash.
I have to admit that the LC200, especially in the top-spec Sahara is not hard to live with. There are great storage options dotted throughout the cabin including cupholders, deep door bins and trays in all three rows, mesh pockets on the back of the front seats and one of the best cool boxes we’ve ever used.
There are great storage options dotted throughout the cabin.
Four-zone climate control with directional vents will keep you cool (or warm) wherever you are seated. The front seats are ventilated and heated with the option to heat the second row, too.
The split tailgate is really useful when you have the boot packed to capacity and need to reach in to grab the snack bag that a certain husband was meant to leave up-front, while the sidesteps were invaluable to help the kids hoist themselves in or to strap surfboards to the roof.
We loved our time in the LC200 Sahara, experiencing first-hand why it is the large 4x4 of choice for so many discerning Australians. Its size and manner are comforting, its practicality and versatility is impressive and we marvelled at the composure and confidence it shows on all surfaces. It may be an aging warrior but it remains a warrior all the same, and it will be interesting to see how the much anticipated LC300 with a punchy 3.3-litre turbo-diesel will measure up.
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