Toyota Land Cruiser VS Mazda BT-50
Toyota Land Cruiser
- V8 engine
- 4WD capability
- Very comfortable
- Old interior
- Lack of practical space
- Sharp drive-away pricing
- Robust, eager drivetrain
- Family friendly on-road comfort and space
- ‘Metallic-shearing’ sound from diesel at low speed
- Non-reach-adjustable steering wheel
- Drab charcoal-coloured dash
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.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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.
|Engine Type||3.2L turbo|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.