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Toyota Land Cruiser


Maserati Levante

Summary

Toyota Land Cruiser

If you’re a fan of the Toyota LandCruiser – and, let's face it, who isn't? – then you’re probably really enjoying the exciting time right now in its long and illustrious history.

A tweaked 200 Series is expected here soon-ish, and the 300 Series is also expected here in the not-too-distant future. Problem is, anyone who wants a 300 will have to choose between smaller-engine options – a V6 diesel, V6 petrol or petrol/hybrid – and will have to cop an even bigger price-tag all-round than the current 200 line-up.

So, is the current 200 Series a LandCruiser enthusiast’s last chance to own a new V8-powered upper large 4WD wagon that’s capable of handling family and work-life, but also be more than capable of taking your family into remote areas in comfort and style?

We tested a top-of-the-range Sahara on- and off-road. Read on.

Safety rating
Engine Type4.6L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency13.4L/100km
Seating7 seats

Maserati Levante

Maserati. What do you reckon that name means to most people? Fast? Loud? Italian? Expensive? SUVs?

Well, maybe not the last one, but it likely will soon. See, with the Levante SUV accounting for half of all Maseratis now sold in Australia, shortly it’ll feel like SUVs are all Maserati makes. 

And that may happen even faster with the arrival of the most affordable Levante ever - the new entry-grade, simply called Levante.

So, if this new cheaper Levante isn’t expensive (in Maserati terms) does that mean it’s not fast, loud or even Italian, now? 

We drove this new, most affordable, Levante at its Australian launch to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency11.8L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Toyota Land Cruiser7.1/10

The LandCruiser 200 Series Sahara is one of the best upper large premium 4WD wagons on the market.

It’s capable and comfortable, with plenty of standard features – some of them handy, some of them not – but the interior feels dated and less than premium, that multimedia system just isn't up to scratch and the price tag just feels too high for what you get.

But none of that will sway any die-hard Cruiser-loving adventurer, who wants a big comfortable and capable 4WD for family life, off-road adventures, or to tow a caravan or boat.

And who can blame them? Afterall, it’s hard to ignore the long-term appeal of a 200 Series.


Maserati Levante7.3/10

The entry-grade Levante is the best choice in the current line-up (Levante, Levante Turbo Diesel and Levante S) because it’s almost identical in performance and features to the pricier S. 

I’d give the GranLusso and GranSport packs a miss on this base Levante, but would consider them on the S where they are possibly worth the extra $10,000 rather than the $35K asking price on the entry car.

The Levante does a lot right – the sound, the safety and the exterior styling. But the quality of the interior, with its FCA shared parts, lowers what should be a prestige feel.

And back seat comfort could be better, Maseratis are grand tourers and an SUV from this brand should be able to accommodate at least four adults in superb comfort – something this one can’t do.


Given the choice and about $130K would you choose a Porsche Cayenne or a Maserati Levante? Tells us what you think in the comments below.

Design

Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

The LandCruiser’s appearance hasn’t changed much in years. This variant does have Sahara-specific branding on the rear horizontal-split door, but otherwise, it remains wholeheartedly 200 Series: a big chunky, distinctively imposing 4WD wagon.

The 200 Series is 4990mm long (with a 2850mm wheelbase), 1980mm wide and 1970mm high. 

The Sahara has three rows of seats; two in the front, three in the second row, and two in the third row, for a total of seven seats. The base-spec GX has five seats in total; the GXL has eight; the VX also has seven.


Maserati Levante7/10

The Levante looks exactly how a Maserati SUV should, with the long bonnet flanked by curvaceous wheel arches with their vents, leading towards a grille that looks ready to eat up slower cars. The heavily raked windscreen and cab-back profile is also very Maserati, as are haunches that muscle over the rear wheels.

If only its bottom was less Maserati. It’s a personal thing, but I find Maserati rear ends lack the drama of their faces and the Levante’s tailgate is no different in that it borders on plain.

Inside, the Levante looks to be a premium, well-crafted place, although closer inspection reveals there are certain items which appear to be shared with other brands which, like Maserati, are owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA)

The window and headlight switches, the ignition button, the air-conditioning controls, even the display screen all can be found in Jeeps and other FCA cars.

There are no functionality issues here, but from a design and style perspective they look a little basic and lack the refinement a buyer may expect from a Maserati.

There’s a lack of technological pizazz inside as well. For example, there’s no head-up display or large virtual instrument cluster as you’ll find in the Levante’s competitors.

Despite the Jeep-looking bits the Levante is truly Italian. The chief designer Giovanni Ribotta is Italian and the Levante is made at FCA's Mirafiori plant in Turin.

What are the Levante’s dimensions? The Levante is 5.0m long, 2.0m wide and 1.7m tall. So that means space inside is enormous right? Um… let’s talk about that in the next section, shall we? 

Practicality

Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

The Sahara is a seven-seater divided in three rows – two at the front, three and two at the rear – as does the second-from-top spec, the VX. The base-spec 200 Series, the GX, has five seats; the next spec up, the GXL, has eight.

It has a listed kerb weight of 2740kg, as do all the other 200s, except the GX, which is 2640kg.

The 200 Series is a big unit on the outside, but has quite a small interior. It is a bit of a premium space though with leather inserts on seats and around the cabin, woodgrain highlights on the steering wheel and dash, plus chrome-look finishings throughout. 

With all three rows in use, there’s not a lot of space at all. Toyota does not have an official figure for cargo capacity of the rear area, but it’s plain to see that there isn’t much room. We packed a first-aid kit and a portable air-compressor and there wasn’t much room left over. You could probably fit a few other bits and pieces, but not much. There are cargo hooks and a 220V power socket. 

When the third row (side folding, 50/50 split seat backs) is stowed away, the cargo capacity is officially listed as 1276 litres, but the reality is those seats protrude into the cargo area, taking up a lot of useful space.

No cargo capacity figure is officially listed for when the second- and third-row seats are stowed away.

Getting into the third row is not difficult as the door opens wide and there is a side step on the Sahara to aid your ingress, but once you’re in the third row, space is a bit pinched and the seats are rather flat and not really that supportive. It’s comfortable enough and really a kids-only zone, but that’s not a newsflash for a third-row. Bonus: you can watch the second-row 11.6-inch DVD screens, one each on the driver and front passenger head-rest.

There are plenty of storage spaces back there: two cup-holders on each side, stash-away spots for bits and pieces, cup holders in the middle, directional air vents, and lights. 

Passengers in the second-row (40/20/40 split folding feat backs) have access to a lot of controls: air con, seat-warming (outer seats), and DVD remote (hidden in the fold-down centre arm-rest, which also has cup-holders and a shallow grippy tray for the DVD remote or a smartphone). There are also directional air vents, lights and storage spaces in the form of hard-plastic door spaces and mesh pockets on the back of the driver and front-passenger seats.

As mentioned, the DVD screens are on the driver and front passenger head-rests.

The seats here are, as expected, more comfortable than the third row with plenty of support.

Upfront, it seems like a bit more of a premium space, and it’s all well laid-out and easy to navigate – to quickly establish which controls are where – but the dash and centre console is all starting to look and feel a bit dated. Especially when the Sahara carries such a hefty price tag.

That 9.0-inch multimedia touchscreen doesn't help either, because it's a bit clunky to use, with its mix of controls, on-screen and dials.

There are a fair few storage spaces though: glove box, door pockets, the cool box (in between driver and front passenger), and cup holders (with a flip-top lid). There is also a wireless smartphone-charging tray.

There are USB charge points upfront, as well as a 12V power socket.

The Sahara also has a moonroof if your passengers want to look at the sky, night or day, while you’re on the move.

Overall, it’s a well put-together cabin, build quality is very impressive and there’s nothing terribly wrong with the interior, but it just doesn't feel like such a prestige space, worthy of a $125,000 price-tag. It feels old, so a facelift – or better still a 300 Series – can’t arrive soon enough.


Maserati Levante7/10

You know the Tardis from Dr Who? The time machine police phone box that is much bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside? The Levante’s cabin is a reverse Tardis (a Sidrat?) in that even at five metres long and two metres wide, legroom in the second row is tight and at 191cm tall I can only just sit behind my driving position.

Headroom is also getting tight back there because of the swooping roofline. These aren’t major issues, but If you were thinking of using the Levante as a SUV limousine of sorts then the limited room back there just won’t be enough to let your taller passengers stretch out comfortably.

Also ruling it out as a chauffeur car in my view is the ride experience in the second row. I’ll cover this in the driving section below.

The Levante’s cargo capacity is 580 litres (with second row seats up) which is on the small side, and less than the Porsche Cayenne’s 770 litre boot space.

Cabin storage is pretty good, with a giant centre console bin up front with two cupholders inside. There are another two cupholders near the shifter and two more in the fold-down armrest in the rear. Door pockets are on the smaller side, however.

Price and features

Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

The seven-seat top-shelf* Sahara, as tested, costs $124,996 ($124,396 plus $600 premium paint), plus on-road costs. [* The limited-edition Sahara Horizon costs more, at $129,090 (plus on-road costs), but there are only 400 of those, so I’m not counting those in the mainstream line-up.]

It has a 4.5-litre V8 twin turbo-diesel engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, full-time four-wheel drive with dual-range gearing, a limited-slip centre differential and a stack of driver-assist tech including Toyota Safety Sense (which incorporates Pre-Collision Safety System with Pedestrian Detection (like Autonomous Emergency Braking – AEB), High Speed Active Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert and Automatic High Beam), as well as blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, a multi-terrain system (with various drive modes to suit different terrain), a multi-terrain monitor, crawl control (low-speed off-road cruise control), hill descent control and more. 

As befitting a top-spec vehicle, the Sahara has quite an extensive features list including a 9.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with sat-nav, a wireless smartphone charger, a cool box between the front seats, woodgrain-look steering wheel and throughout the cabin, ventilated front seats, heated front and second-row seats, driver’s seat memory settings, four-zone climate-control air-conditioning, 11.6-inch entertainment screens for rear passengers, a nine-speaker audio system, and a moonroof.

It has daytime running lights, a horizontal-split tailgate, side steps, and 18-inch alloy wheels.


Maserati Levante7/10

Guessing you want to know just how much more affordable this Levante is compared to the other grades in the range? Okay, the entry-level Levante lists for $125,000, before on-road costs.

That may sound expensive but look at it like this: the entry Levante has the same Maserati-designed and Ferrari-made 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V6 as the $179,990 Levante S and an almost identical standard features list. 

So how on this planet is it possible there could be a $55K price difference and yet the cars be almost the same? What’s missing?

Horsepower is missing – the base grade Levante may have the same V6 as the Levante S but it doesn’t have as much grunt. But we’ll get to that in the engine section.

As for the other differences – there aren’t many, almost none. The Levante S comes with a sunroof as standard and front seats that adjust to more positions than the Levante, but both grades come with an 8.4-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, leather upholstery (the S does get more premium leather), a proximity key and 19-inch alloy wheels.

Those standard features are also identical to those in the Turbo-Diesel which sits above the Levante at $159,990.

Apart from less horsepower, no standard sunroof (as on the S) and upholstery which isn’t quite as nice as the S’s another downside to the base grade Levante is that optioning the GranLusso and GranSport packs is expensive… really expensive.

The GranLusso adds luxurious touches to the exterior in the form of metallic trim to the roof rails, the window frames and protection plates to the front bumper, while in the cabin thee front seats come in a choice of Ermenegildo Zegna silk upholstery, Pieno Fiore (full-grain) leather or premium Italian hide.

The GranSport toughens up the exterior with a more aggressive body kit with black elements and adds 12-way power adjustable sports seats, brushed-chrome shifting paddles and aluminium-face sports pedals.

The features those packages offer are nice – those silk and leather seats are sumptuous for example, but each pack costs $35,000. That’s almost 30 per cent of the list price of the entire vehicle, extra. The same packages on the Levante S costs just $10,000.

While the Levante is the most affordable Levante, and also the cheapest Maserati you can buy, it’s more expensive than its Porsche Cayenne (entry V6 petrol) rival which lists for $116,000, while the Range Rover Sport 3.0 SC HSE is $130,000 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE 43 is $135,529.

Is the new entry-grade Levante good value, then? Yes, for a Maserati, if you don’t option the packages, and yes compared to most of its rivals.

Engine & trans

Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

The 200 Series has a 4.5-litre V8 twin turbo diesel engine – producing 200kW@3600rpm and 650Nm@1600-2600rpm. That power figure is not whopping, but the engine is very torquey, with plenty of that on tap at lower revs, and the six-speed auto is a clever smooth-shifter. 

On different tests, I’ve towed camper-trailers and an almost three tonne caravan with a 200 Series, and have been happy with its ability to tow safely and comfortably.

It has full-time 4WD and a limited-slip centre diff, as well as a whole bunch of driver-assist trickery, which I’ll detail later in this yarn. (Head straight down to ‘What's it like to drive?’ Right now if you’re too impatient.)


Maserati Levante8/10

If you’ve just read the section above on price and features, you’re now probably wondering how much less powerful the Levante is compared to the Levante S.

The Levante has a 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V6 and it sounds magnificent. Yup, the entry-grade Levante lets loose that Maserati high-pitched scream when you open the throttle, just like the S. It may sound the same as the S but the Levante’s V6 has less horsepower. At 257kW/500Nm, the Levante makes 59kW less in power and 80Nm less in torque.

Is there a noticeable difference? Not much. Acceleration isn’t as rapid in the Levante with 0-100km/h coming in six seconds compared to 5.2 seconds in the Levante S.

Shifting gears is an eight-speed ZF-sorced automatic transmission which is super smooth, but a little slow.

Fuel consumption

Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

Fuel consumption is listed as 9.5L/100km (combined). 

I recorded an actual fuel consumption of 12.8L/100km on this test, but I did do a lot of low-range 4WDing.

The 200 Series has a 93-litre main fuel tank and a 45-litre sub tank – that’s a total of 138 litres.


Maserati Levante7/10

Even if you were to drive your Levante conservatively Maserati says you can expect it to use at best 11.6L/100km over a combination of urban and open roads, the Levante S is a bit thirstier at an official 11.8L/100km. 

In reality you can expect the twin-turbo petrol V6 to want more – just open road driving was seeing the trip computer report 12.3L/100km, You can bet that’ll go up in the city and climb higher if you like to keep raising the Levante's beautiful voice.

Driving

Toyota Land Cruiser8/10

As mentioned, the Sahara is 2740kg, but it generally never feels like it’s so big and heavy.

Steering is reach-and-rake power-adjustable and it’s pretty sharp and, despite its bulk, the 200 is easy to manoeuvre in city and suburban settings, although it does feel its size every now and again. Turning circle is 11.8m and, on squeezy city streets, quick turnarounds can become a bit of a challenge.

But the 200 Series turbo diesel V8 is a simple, powerful and effective engine and it works supremely well with that six-speed auto. 

Acceleration is particularly smooth, making for easy off-the-mark blasts from a standstill and also overtaking moves on the highway, but you can’t be shy with the go-pedal.

The coil-spring suspension yields a spongy, comfortable ride but the 200 Series never feels like its prone to wallowing as much as you might imagine.

All-round, it’s very comfortable as a daily driver, if not entirely practical in terms of cargo space, for its size, and for its price.

Gravel and dirt tracks provided ample opportunities for us to again experience how settled and composed the 200 Series is at speed, on irregular surfaces. 

The 200 Series suspension set-up – independent front, live-axle rear and coil springs all-around – helps the Cruiser to sit really nicely on the road. It's not even thrown off its game by deeper potholes or sharper corrugations.

The Sahara and VX also have KDSS (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System), which acts like a swaybar: on-road its aim is to improve handling and to reduce body roll; off-road, the system performs like a swaybar disconnect in that it adjusts to suit the terrain to maximise articulation and stability. (Note: KDSS is not on base-spec GX variants and is an option on the GXL.)

When it comes time for low-speed, low-range 4WDing, the 200 can feel big and bulky, so it does always require considered driving. 

There’s plenty of visibility out of the 200’s windscreen, but the bonnet is quite large and does at times obscure your forward vision, but it's not a deal breaker, and if you’ve spent any time in a 200 Series – or any large 4WD wagon for that matter – it likely won't annoy you too much.

Steering remains light and responsive at lower speeds, and that's important for such a big almost three-ton beast on tight bush tracks and bush routes that twist and turn. 

The 200’s torquey V8 engine, which works really well with the auto off-road as well as on on-road, offers up plenty of that torque at low revs and you can always rely on it. 

Low-range gearing is good and the 200 also has a limited slip centre differential if you get the urge to hit that button as well. 

Wheel travel is pretty decent, but with that KDSS, which acts like a mechanical swaybar disconnect off-road, the Sahara gets even more flex, more wheel travel, to help you get a wheel to the dirt and keep moving.

As well as reliable low-range gearing, good wheel travel and all-around suitability for 4WDing, the Sahara can also tap into a stack of driver-assist tech, including the multi terrain select*, which gives you the capability to dial through five different terrain modes – Mud & Sand, Loose Rock, Mogul, Rock & Dirt, and Rock – and that tweaks, among other things, the traction control system to suit the terrain you're on. (The VX also has multi terrain select, but the GX and GXL do not.)

Crawl Control, which regulates your speed at very low speeds via engine power and brake input to each wheel, gives you the ability to select a different low-speed setting to suit the conditions and terrain. This system incorporates turn-assist, which is handy when you need to make a very tight turn while 4WDing, as it applies brakes to your inside rear wheel at low speeds to help reduce your turning circle.

Visibility is good all around, as there’s plenty of glass at the front, rear and to the sides but, as stated earlier, that large bonnet can obscure your forward vision, especially when you’re cresting hills. If you’re finding your vision is hampered, then you can always make use of the multi terrain monitor – standard also in the VX and Sahara, but not available in the other variants.This system is a four-camera set-up designed to offer you views at the front, back, and down the sides, but I wouldn't rely on it. The lenses easily become dirty, as they did on our stint, and it only provides quite a basic, distorted view. Instead of relying on these cameras, the driver should get out, walk the track to see where you're going to drive or, at the very least, stick your head out the window to make sure you can see where you’re going, just to be on the safe side.

Engine braking is good, as is the hill descent control, although on some of the very slippery muddy hills we tackled, the 200 tended to run away a bit on the downhill runs.

The Cruiser has 225mm of ground clearance and a wading depth of 700mm, so we had no problems driving through deeper wheel ruts and mud-holes.

An easily-fixed weakness in the 200’s off-road armoury are its standard-issue Dunlop Grandtrek AT25s (285/60R18), which are not aggressive enough for anything more than light off-roading, I reckon. So get rid of those if you plan any four-wheel driving and replace with a set of decent all-terrains. That standard rubber’s on 18-inch alloy wheels. (GX and GXL variants get 17-inch wheels and tyres.)

The 200 Series has a full-sized spare tyre.

It has a 750kg unbraked towing capacity and 3500g braked towing capacity. 


Maserati Levante8/10

When I reviewed the Levante S at its launch in 2017 I enjoyed its good handling and comfortable ride. But impressed as I was with performance from the engine I felt the car could be quicker.

So how then would a less powerful version of the same car feel? Not much different, actually. The base grade Levante is only 0.8s slower to 100km/h than the S at six seconds. The air suspension is the same as the S’s and returns a comfortable and compliant ride, and handling with the dampers in the firm setting is impressive for a two tonne, five-metre long vehicle.

Front brakes in the Levante base grade car are smaller (345 x 32mm) than in the S (380 x 34mm) and the tyres aren’t staggered either with 265/50 R19 all around.

The variable-ratio, electrically-assisted power steering is well weighted, but too quick. I found the car turned in too far, too quickly, with regular mid-corner corrections a tiresome necessity.

To me there’s no point going for the S based on the assumption that it’s going to be a much higher performing car. The Levante and Levante S and are both mild in their power delivery and have better dynamics than an average large SUV.

If you are after a true high-performance Maserati SUV then you might be best off waiting for the Levante GTS coming in 2020 with a 404kW V8.

The base grade Levante V6 sounds just as beautiful as the S’s, but there's one place where it isn’t very pleasant. The back seat.

At the launch of the Levante S in 2017 I didn’t have the chance to ride in the rear seats. This time around I let my co-driver steer for half-an-hour while I sat in the left rear position. 

For starters it’s louder back there – the exhaust note is almost too loud to be pleasant. Plus, the seats aren’t supportive or comfortable. 

There’s also a slightly claustrophobic, cave-like feeling in the second row, largely due to the roof's accentuated slope towards the rear. This, to me, rules it out almost completely as something to ferry guests around in comfort.

Safety

Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

The 200 Series has a five-star ANCAP rating (from testing conducted in 2011), 10 airbags and plenty of driver-assist tech, including blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, multi terrain monitor, front and rear parking sensors and more. 


Maserati Levante8/10

The Levante is yet to be tested by ANCAP. That said, the Levante has six airbags and is equipped with advanced safety equipment such as AEB, lane keeping assistance and lane departure warning, blind spot warning with steering assistance, traffic sign recognition and adaptive cruise control.

A puncture repair kit is under the boot floor.

Ownership

Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

As of 1 January 2020, the service pricing for a LC200 Sahara turbo-diesel under Toyota’s capped price servicing is $300 per service for three years/60,000km (up to the first six services). The service interval is every six months/10,000km.

The warranty period for any new vehicle bought after 1 January 2019 is a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty that covers any part, panel and accessory made by Toyota. In addition to this, Toyota will extend your engine and driveline warranty from five to seven years if the annual service schedule is adhered to.


Maserati Levante6/10

The Levante is covered by Maserati’s three year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended at two year or 20,000km intervals. More brands are moving to longer warranties and it would be good to see Maserati offer its buyers longer coverage.