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Toyota Land Cruiser


Mazda BT-50

Summary

Toyota Land Cruiser

Andrew Chesterton road tests and reviews the new Toyota LC70 LandCruiser GX single cab with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

You take your life into your own hands when you say this, but the 70 Series Toyota LandCruiser isn't perfect. In fact, it isn't perfect in lots of ways.

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But such is the burning passion for this Aussie (well, Japanese) icon that any criticism of it, no matter how fair, is greeted with howls of protests by our bearded brethren of the bush, who will accept nothing less than top marks for the mighty ‘Cruiser.

And it's hard to blame them: if your morning commute includes cresting glorious mountains and powering through standing water deep enough to swallow a hatchback, you'll find few that do it better than the hard-as-nails Toyota

There's a reason people say the 70 Series LandCruiser powers the Aussie bush, and that's because it's the place where this vehicle feels truly at home. When you're thousands of kilometres from anywhere else, durability and reliability count above all. And this tough Toyota offers that in spades.

But… if you live in the city, can see a city from your house, or have ever visited a city (or seen a photo of one), then the 70 Series LandCruiser will feel a touch agricultural. And by that we mean there are forklifts that offer more creature comforts than this thing. 

We spent a week with one of the most utilitarian of the lot - the LC79 GX cab chassis ($64,990) - to see how we'd get along.

Safety rating
Engine Type4.5L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency10.7L/100km
Seating3 seats

Mazda BT-50

Mazda Australia might be reluctant to admit it, but it has always been a bit touchy about the BT-50’s looks. So much so, it went to no end of trouble trying to hide the ute's bulbous conk with a bull bar when it first broke cover back in 2011.

But does a ute need to be handsome? Isn’t getting hung up about the styling of a ute like looking for elegance in a shovel? Apparently not, because the launch of the new 2018 Mazda BT-50 marks the third edit of that curvy front clip, and we're still taking about it. Only this time, it's all good news.

But, if you’re in the market for a gutsy, family friendly ute, the bigger story here is the pricing. Mazda’s BT-50, right across the range, is starting to look like one heck of a bargain.

However, before becoming blinded by the beauty of the new nose or the savings you might find on your local dealer's forecourt, let’s not forget that it was Mazda who put in the hard design and engineering yards into the strong and capable bones – the chassis, 4x4 drivetrain, and suspension dynamics – that sit under both this and the Ford Ranger.

And truth be told, this correspondent has always had a soft spot for the big, hard-grafting Maz’. We’ve hammered the BT-50 off-road and on it, spent countless hours chasing outback horizons behind that gutsy 3.2-litre turbo-diesel, strapped kids into booster seats in the back, tip-toed around shopping centre car-parks, dragged it in and out of rutted ravines and through deep river crossings (mostly with a pooch licking the left ear, or slobbering at a window), and never had reason to doubt that this is a very well-engineered, very strong and very capable multi-purpose holiday/work-truck/family/pooch conveyance. 

And now, with this styling update, and while enjoying a hefty price advantage over the equivalent Ranger, the new BT-50 comes with a whole lot of enhancements inside and out; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto across all model grades, reverse camera across all models, and service intervals that have now been stretched from 10,000km or 12 months to 15,000km or 12 months. 

To introduce us to the charms of this latest BT-50, Mazda Australia took us to the Gawler Ranges in South Australia where we put it through its paces on sand, rock-strewn gravel and bitumen.
 
But more of its driving character later; let’s talk about the styling – and its new-found elegance.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.2L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency8.9L/100km
Seating3 seats

Verdict

Toyota Land Cruiser6.5/10

It’s loud, rough and so overtly masculine you can feel the hairs growing on your chest as you drive it. And while we couldn’t live with it day-to-day, we applaud the fact it exists.

Tell us your best LC70 LandCruiser story in the comments below.


Mazda BT-507.5/10

Our score is based on a summation of the quality of the car, the robustness of the engineering, where it sits feature-for-feature, and the value in the drive-away pricing. You probably have your own views on the new nose on the updated BT-50; we quite like it. 

At these new prices, the BT-50 demands your attention. The fact that you can comfortably take it to the Cape and back, tackle any four-wheel-drive adventure you’d sensibly dream up, and, at the same time, live happily with it as a big, capable, versatile family car, surely adds to the appeal. 

Mazda, the little company “that can”, has been carving out its place in this market off the back of well-engineered cars right across its product range. There is more than one reason why it’s number two in one of the toughest markets on the planet. 

What do you think of the 2018 BT-50? Like the new front end? Tell us in the comments below.

Design

Toyota Land Cruiser6/10

Function over form is the order of the day here. Everything that exists on the exterior of the LC79 is there for a reason, from its chunky and thick tyres, the monstrous plastic snorkel or the chicken wire-style mesh that protects the back windscreen like that honky-tonk bar from The Blues Brothers (Bob's Country Bunker - Ed).

There's an undeniable retro-cool to the look (mostly because it is retro, and has barely changed over the years), mixed with a kind of overt masculinity thanks to its bulbous bonnet scoop and a huge bumper bar that juts forth from the grille like Jay Leno's chin.

Inside, it's clean and functional. Expect no touchscreen here. Nor a digitalised driver's binnacle, reversing camera or electric anything. When you leave the car, for example, you need to push down the door-lock button and then hold the door handle up as you slam the door. The last time I remember doing that I think I had a beeper attached to my belt.

Everywhere you turn there are reminders that this car was born in an era when tough mattered. Even shutting the door requires a monstrous effort, with anything but the most brutal of force resulting in a warning light on the dash that serves as a blinking reminder you lack the physical strength to manhandle this car. Needless to say, we saw that light quite a lot.


Mazda BT-507/10

The answer here is 'yes'. What is interesting about the new BT-50, and its new nose, is that this car is unique to Australia. 

In fact, it was Mazda Australia who designed the new-look front clip. The project began as something of a skunk-works operation between Mazda Australia and Queensland company EGR, who manufacture and supply the factory-approved canopies across the BT-50 range.

With Australia the BT-50's biggest market, it is perhaps no surprise that the design work done here – done, it has to be said, because Aussie buyers were not crazy about the BT-50’s schnoz – won the approval of Mazda in Japan.

While unique to Australia, the new front has all of the attributes – in terms of engineering, pedestrian protection, and aerodynamic efficiencies – of the nose it replaces. Airflow for cooling, in fact, is slightly improved, and drag, the coefficient of resistance, remains unchanged.

And from front-on, thanks to the new chromed grill and stronger horizontal lower lip, the BT-50 could easily be mistaken for an approaching SUV. Visually, there is certainly more conventional appeal in the new look. 

Practicality

Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

Is your view of practicality being able to drive up practically anything? Then Toyota's got good news for you. Better still, the LC79 GX has a claimed payload of 1235kg and a towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes - both of which are impressive numbers. 

Inside, the basic two-seat layout offers a single cupholder to share between passengers, but a storage bin between the seats comes in handy for securing loose items.


Mazda BT-507/10

We only drove the dual-cab GT at launch. And, while the Freestyle cab with its rearward-hinged portal doors and compact cabin is perhaps the more sporting, the dual-cab wins hands-down for practicality. 

There is lots of room in the rear even for adult passengers. And, for children, enough width to go three-abreast. Getting booster seats or capsules in and out is also well served by the square-opening rear doors. And the height is just right for wrangling belts and buckles around junior passengers.

The deep tub out back, while not as cavernous as the Freestyle's, still offers a very useful 1560mm width and 1549mm length. Not even the largest SUVs offer that kind of carrying capacity.

Externally, you’ll pick the dual-cab GT by the standard chromed bars and heavy-duty tub liner in the tray.

Price and features

Toyota Land Cruiser6/10

Cost of entry for the LC79 GX is $64,490 (the same as the LC76 GXL Wagon), which is no picnic no matter how you shake it. And that spend buys you a fairly sparse product.

All creature comforts are cost extra. Air-conditioning, for example, adds $2761 to the bottom line. The tray, tow bar, and trailer wiring harness add another $4305 (but that's the fitted cost), and our test car also got diff locks, which add another $1500. All of which brings the final number to a touch over $73k, before on-road costs.

For that, you get cloth seats, plastic door trims and a scattering of ashtrays. Your radio is Bluetooth-equipped, your windows are manually operated and your plastics are so hard they could be used to cut diamonds.

But all of that is superfluous, really. What you're buying is a tried-and-tested workhorse, and this one has been put through an extra 100,000kms of what Toyota calls "extreme heavy-duty local testing". Toyota toured mine sites and cattle farms across the country, taking in the red dirt of the outback to the rocky escarpments of alpine country to the towering sand dunes of the northern NSW, feeding that information back to Japan while the LC79 was being developed.


Mazda BT-509/10

Mazda has always been prepared to take the sharp pencil to the pricing of the BT-50 range. And in terms of the quality feel of the product and the space it occupies in the segment, this car is very good buying. 

Look at the one we’re driving, the top-of-the-range BT-50 3.2-litre dual-cab GT 4X4 with a six-speed auto. Its drive-away price is just $51,990. Line it up, feature by feature, with the equivalent Ranger, and you’ll recognise a saving here of the better part of $10k. It is cheaper, even, than the second-tier Ranger XLS. That kind of saving is not to be sneezed at.

Line it up against the equivalent Isuzu D-Max, and, on that drive-away price, you’ll see a saving of thousands of dollars. It is also cheaper than Mitsubishi’s Triton Exceed, which has long been one of the price leaders in the segment.

The BT-50 range begins at $28,990 drive-away for the 2.2-litre 4x2 cab chassis; the 4x4 range starting at $37,990 drive-away.
 
Some in this segment just can’t hide their ‘workboots’ feel. But there are no ratty plastics in this cabin, and few indicators of the BT-50’s built-for-work origins. The sloping soft-touch dash gives an SUV-like feel to the interior, as does the large (7.0-inch or 8.0-inch) screen occupying the centre stack, as well as the solid feel to the doors and passenger-car ambience when on the road.

Start adding in features across the range - like standard reverse camera, power windows and mirrors, air-conditioning, cruise control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, quality Alpine sound systems, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, rear-view mirror auto dimming, and sat-nav with live traffic updates and off-road maps – and you’ll possibly agree that there is more than a bit of substance packed behind those drive-away prices.

For XTR and GT models, to the list above you can add side steps (tubular, polished), tailgate lock, rain-sensing wipers, and dual-zone climate control. The GT also gets leather trim, an eight-way power front driver’s seat, chrome rear bars and heavy-duty tub-liner. 

Engine & trans

Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

It's a single-engine offering right across the LC70 range, with a torque-rich 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8 paired with a five-speed manual transmission the only combo on offer. The engine generates 151kW at 3400rpm, but a very healthy 430Nm from a low 1,200rpm.

Like the rest of the LC70 range, the LC79 has undergone an engine upgrade in line with Euro5 standards (the very standards that saw the demise of the Land Rover Defender and Nissan Pathfinder), with a diesel particulate filter added and a tweaking of the gear ratios to make second and fifth taller for better fuel economy. Stability and traction control were also included for the first time in October last year.


Mazda BT-509/10

Lift the bonnet and what you are looking at there is grandpa’s axe. The redoubtable five-cylinder, 3.2-litre turbo-diesel, which shares duties under the bonnet of the BT-50 and Ford Ranger (with a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel also available in lower-specced models across both brands), has been around since Adam was a pup. It produces 147kW at 3000rpm and 470Nm at 1750rpm.

It’s essentially the same engine that began life as the Td5 diesel under the bonnets of the Land Rover Defender and Discovery 20-or-so-years back. But it's now vastly more refined, robust, and quiet. And teamed with either a six-speed manual or six-speed auto, it’s as strong as a train.

Fuel consumption

Toyota Land Cruiser6/10

The tweaks have seen fuel economy improve by up to 1.2 litres per hundred kilometres, now a claimed/combined 10.7L/100km. CO2 emissions are also a little better, now 281 grams per kilometres - 32 grams less than before.


Mazda BT-507/10

This 3.2-litre diesel is not the most abstemious among the new generation of turbo-diesel, twin-cab 4x4s, and is bettered by the latest 3.0-litre Isuzu D-Max (8.1L/100km claimed) and the 2.8-litre Toyota HiLux (8.5L/100km claimed). 

In our hands, on this trip, we recorded 11.2L/100km on the highway and gravel roads approaching the Gawler Ranges (mostly fair secondary roads with patches of damp red bulldust to watch out for). This rose to 13.2L/100km after some heavy going on a long stretch of sandy inclines.

Mazda claims 10L/100km on the combined cycle for the auto, and 9.7L/100km for the manual. But this is a tarmac-based figure, not the kind of driving we were doing, or that you would do on a family beach or bush adventure.

That said, given the willing output of the diesel – if needing a surge of power, it can summon all 470Nm in very quick time – and the weight of the rig (2161kg for the GT auto), plus its effortless towing capability, the figures we recorded on new engines are not bad, and will give a good indication of what you might achieve in similar driving.  

In sand, that muscular torque sitting across a wide band – from 1750 to 2500rpm – is particularly useful. If you’re carrying some weight behind, it won’t run out of shove and leave you stranded when the going gets heavy. 

The BT-50 has an 80-litre fuel tank.

Driving

Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

A nightmare on anything even resembling an actual road. The steering is the same soft and spongy experience you'll find in most serious four-wheel drives, while the suspension feels like it sees more travel than your average pilot. 

The turning circle, too, is a curiosity, turning even the most rudimentary U-turns into a three-point effort (if you're lucky). Toyota claims the turning circle figure as 14.4 metres, which is considerably longer than the wagon version. The blame is laid at the feet of the cab chassis' longer wheelbase (3180mm versus 2780mm).

But this is a car set up almost entirely for serious off-road work. And we mean serious. Those who tackle nothing harder than the gravel driveway of a Hunter Valley winery need not apply. The floor matts are constructed from hard-wearing (and easy to hose out) plastic, while the gearing is set up with first gear so short is serves almost no purpose on the tarmac.

Get it moving, and there's heaps of torque available for mid-range acceleration, and it's plenty brisk enough for overtaking, but the ride doesn't inspire confidence on the freeway, and we found ourselves travelling at just below the speed limit instead of on it. At 100km/h, though, it buzzes about, even with Toyota's focus on improved NVH this time around.

But all of that is largely irrelevant. If you're buying this car to navigate sealed roads, then there's probably something quite wrong with you. In fact, even if lightweight 4WDing is in your future, this car is overkill. There are plenty of cheaper options (including those from Toyota) that will tackle some pretty serious terrain, but will do it in what will feel like luxurious comfort by comparison.

If you require the battle-hardened services of a retro-styled legend, however, Toyota's 70 Series LandCruiser is the car for you. In fact, with stricter emission programs spelling the end for Nissan's Pathfinder and the Land Rover Defender, it's just about your only option.

Full disclosure: We didn't venture far off road (we saved that for the LC76 GXL Wagon), but with the same basic architecture, the same 4WD set-up (two-speed transfer case with auto-locking front hubs), and the addition of Toyota's off-road focused 'A-TRC' active traction control (which serves as kind of off-road and digital LSD, preventing wheel spin on low-grip surfaces), we're confident it would shine just as brightly.


Mazda BT-507/10

No dual-cab ute will ever be as easy to live with, day to day, as a modern SUV or sedan. There are always compromises with a vehicle of this type in daily driving, especially for city-based families.

That said, it won’t take you long to get used to the more utilitarian feel of the BT-50, nor to the length of the beast (these utes can sometimes feel like aircraft carriers in city carparks). Helping here is the reversing camera (standard across the entire range), the well-weighted power-assisted steering, and the general comfort of the cabin and relatively quiet operation (some diesel noise at lower speeds notwithstanding) of the engine.

Fact is, live with it a while, and you’ll forget about the compromises of its workhorse engineering and learn to love the imperiously high driving position, the ready power, and the convenience of that big tub on the back.

Access in and out is also good, and at a perfect height for strapping the junior members of the tribe into the back seat. And with the icing being a long feature list and a half-decent sound system, it offers the conveniences of any modern sedan or hatchback. You’ll be surprised by its easy driveability, too. 

For all its strengths, however, the weight inherent to a strong ladder chassis, a heavy-duty 4x4 drivetrain, and the other compromises built of necessity into a dual-purpose vehicle, will take a week or so to get used to.

Wheels are 17-inch alloys on 265/65 R17 AT tyres. Brakes are 302mm ventilated discs at the front and drums at the rear. The BT-50's tray is also handy for both real work and house-and-yard duties, measuring 1549mm long, 1560mm wide and 513mm deep.

Where once these twin-cab dual-purpose 4x4s were a tad raw, with juddery suspension, vague steering, indifferent handling and little in the way of creature comforts, many of the new wave of models, such as this BT-50, have comfort levels close to those of the big 4x4 wagons - and even some SUVs.

I’d happily circumnavigate the continent in the BT-50. The seats are good, it’s quiet on-road (with less tyre noise than some passenger wagons), the feel through the steering is good and well-weighted (if a little vague at the dead-ahead), and there is effortless power underfoot.

Like any other modern car, it swallows highway kilometres with just the gruff muted growl of the turbo-diesel for accompaniment. On gravel – such as you’ll find on any long run through the outback – it can be driven surprisingly quickly and comfortably thanks to the long wheelbase, large wheels (with All-Terrain tyres), and that reasonably compliant suspension; independent double wishbone, coil-over dampers at the front, and live-axle leaf-spring at the rear.

The ride in the BT-50, like the Ranger and VW Amarok, is certainly among the better performers in the segment. Corrugations can have the rear moving around a bit, especially when unladen, but it needs one hell of a whack for bumps, ruts or hollows (like an unexpected washout) to unsettle things in the cabin.

For difficult off-road work, this Mazda's figures – 237mm ground clearance (unladen), and approach, departure and ramp-over angles of 28.2, 26.4 and 25 degrees – all check out.

If trailer towing is your thing, the BT-50 has a maximum towing capacity of 3500kg (braked), 750kg (unbraked) and a towball download of 350kg.

Safety

Toyota Land Cruiser6/10

Part of this latest update saw Toyota upgrade the safety credentials of its LC70 range, and while the wagon variants oddly missed out on some of the changes, the LC79 got the lot. 

The entire range now gets traction control, stability control, hill-start assist, brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution as standard kit, while the single-cab models (including the LC79) got new under-dash padding, new seats and seating frames, and new and stronger body panels.  

The utes also scored three extra airbags (joining the two front bags), including two curtain bags and a driver's knee airbag. The result was a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, tested against 2016 criteria.


Mazda BT-508/10

The BT-50, of course, has a five-star ANCAP safety rating, with all of the expected safety features that sit behind that rating. Importantly, for family duties, the airbag protection extends from the front to the rear cab, with driver and passenger airbags, both front and side, and curtain airbags front and rear. 

Other features include anti-lock braking (ABS), dynamic stability control (DSC), and emergency stop signal. Assisting off-road is hill descent control (4x4 only), hill launch assist, a locking rear differential (4x4 only), traction control and trailer sway control – the latter a Godsend when towing at highway speeds or when on loose surfaces (there are few things caravaners fear more than finding the caravan dictating terms at speed).

Ownership

Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

The LandCruiser LC79 GX is covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty, and will require a visit to a service centre every six months or 10,000 kilometres. 

Toyota's capped-price servicing program limits the cost of each service to $340 for each of the first six services.


Mazda BT-506/10

Mazda’s standard two-year warranty has been sweetened, with servicing intervals now extended from 10,000km/12 months to 15,000km/12 months.

On Mazda’s calculations (as supplied), based on a 15,000km/12 month interval, this will save owners more than $850 after five years of servicing. And, for owners clocking up real-world distances of 25,000km per annum, the potential saving is $1920 over the five years.