Toyota Land Cruiser VS Volkswagen Amarok
Toyota Land Cruiser
- Driving a living legend
- Tough-truck looks
- Go-anywhere capability
- Driving it on anything that’s not a mountain
- Trying to shut the door
- Contemplating the price
- Tremendous V6
- Great to drive
- Lovely seats
- No AEB or advanced safety
- Short warranty
- Lacking some gear
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.
|Engine Type||4.5L turbo|
When you call something Ultimate, you’d expect it to be at the head of the game for its segment.
Sadly, though, there are some disappointing elements that you need to consider, especially when you’re spending big bucks on what should be the ultimate in dual cab utes. Let’s take a deeper dive.
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.
So the updated and powered up Volkswagen Amarok Ultimate is great to drive, has heaps of power, and lots of appeal - both aesthetically and practically.
But it falls short in a few key areas including the safety situation, and frankly is too expensive considering where its rivals are playing and what you can get there. Whether you’re willing to make the sacrifice is a personal decision, but in all likelihood, we won’t see any of the advanced safety gear until the next-generation Amarok arrives, probably in 2020.
Until then, I’d say it’s not so much the Ultimate - more like the Almost.
Are safety systems as important to you as they are to us? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
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.
I’ve always thought the boxy, muscled look of the Amarok did it plenty of favours, and even after eight years on sale it still looks more appealing than many of its contemporaries.
You can differentiate the new flagship Amarok Ultimate V6 580 model a few ways - the simplest of which being the red 580 badge on the tailgate.
There are other means, of course; the 20-inch wheels are new (up from 19s), and there’s a new silver bashplate at the front end that helps give the vehicle a bit more stance, and presumably has the added benefit of protecting the underbody a bit, too.
Ultimate models also brandish a larger chrome sports bar in the tub, plus they come with a tub-liner as standard.
And for this updated version, there’s a new hero colour, known as ‘Peacock’… well, it is a bit of a show-off.
The dimensions haven’t changed: it’s still 5254mm long (on a 3095mm wheelbase), 1954mm wide and 1834mm tall. And, you guessed it, the interior hasn’t seen any changes to the physical use of space, but it has stepped up a tad in terms of style - check out the interior pictures below to see what I’m talking about.
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.
Inside, the updated Amarok Ultimate V6 580 model gets a new black headlining and pillar trims to accompany the already standard 14-way-adjustable electric front seats with heating and Nappa leather trim.
I reckon the cabin feels pretty good for the sort of money being asked. Admittedly it isn’t super plush, but the supportive seats offer excellent comfort and bolstering, plus the leather trim on the steering wheel feels properly luxurious.
The cabin is well laid out, and there are plenty of loose item storage spots including a dash-top box, a space in front of the gear shifter, decent centre console, and there is a pair of cupholders between the seats, plus all four doors have decent bottle holders and pockets. There's no flip-down rear armrest, but there are two cupholders on the floor.
The media system once set the standard in the class, but is starting to show its age - not just because of its graphics, but also the physical size of the screen (6.33-inch). But it includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and of course there’s also Bluetooth, and you get built-in sat nav, too.
The rear seat of the Amarok falls a bit short on knee room - with the driver’s seat set in my position, my knees were hard up against the seat when sitting tandem (I’m 182cm tall).
It makes up for it with great width, allowing excellent shoulder room - it’s probably the broadest cabin in the class, so fitting three across isn’t too massive an issue, so long as they’re not long in the legs. There is a flip-down armrest with cupholders and you get dual map pockets, too.
And of course there are ISOFIX child seat anchors, which is good news for parents. But there are no rear seat air-vents, and while there’s a 12-volt outlet in the back there are no USB charge points.
It is missing a couple of other vital things from the rear seats - see the safety section for more.
If you want to use the tray as a boot, you’ll be happy to learn that it is huge. The cargo hold measures 1555mm long, 1620mm wide (and 1222mm between the arches - wide enough for a standard Aussie pallet), and 508mm deep.
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.
At a price of $71,990 plus on-road costs, the Amarok Ultimate V6 580 is pretty pricey - the only dual-cab utes dearer than it are the Ford Ranger Raptor and Mercedes-Benz X-Class (oh, and the Toyota LandCruiser, if you consider that a rival).
But for that money you get quite a bit of standard equipment, including 20-inch 'Tacla' alloy wheels with tyre pressure monitoring, a stainless steel styling bar and stainless steel side steps with LED lighting, Durabed cargo area coating, bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, and front fog lights with cornering function.
Inside there’s dual-zone climate control air conditioning, a 6.33-inch media screen with sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, USB connectivity and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, Nappa leather trim, 14-way electrically adjustable front seats with heating, a leather-lined steering wheel, stainless steel pedals, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a colour info display with digital speedometer.
You won’t need to go to the accessories catalog to choose floor mats (tailored carpet mats are included), but you might want to have a look there for items like a bull bar, nudge bar, light bar, hard tonneau, soft tonneau, tow bar or different rims.
As for colours, there are two solid options at no extra cost ('Candy White' and 'Tornado Red'), while 'Indium Grey Metallic', 'Ravenna Blue Metallic', 'Reflex Silver Metallic', 'Peacock Green Metallic', 'Deep Black Pearl Effect', 'Ravenna Blue Matte' and 'Indium Grey Matte' all attract an additional $610.
Things that are missing from the Amarok Ultimate? There’s no push button start or keyless entry, there are no lights for the sunvisor mirrors, there’s no other interior trim colour option (white leather? nope!), and no grade gets rear seat air vents.
No model has DAB digital radio, either, and you can't get adaptive cruise control. You can forget about a surround view camera, too… and there’s quite a bit more missing in terms of safety gear - see the section below for more detail.
But if you love 12-volt outlets, this is your guy. There are three inside - one up front on the dash top, one between the front seats, and a third in the back row - plus there’s a fourth weatherproof one in the tray.
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.
The new engine remains a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6, but this time around the maximum horsepower specifications have been bumped up to 190kW (200kW on overboost) and 580Nm of torque. According to VW, overboost is accessible for 10 seconds, in third or fourth gear, when applying more than 70 per cent throttle.
If you’re into the idea of a proper manual V6 turbo-diesel Amarok with a low-range transfer case, one is coming soon. The six-speed manual V6 Amarok will not be offered in Ultimate guise, though - you’ll have to forego some of the niceties, and it won’t have the full max power outputs, either: the existing TDI550 engine (with 165kW - 180kW on overboost - and 550Nm) will persist in lower grades for the time being.
Towing capacity is rated at 750kg for an unbraked trailer, and 3500kg for a braked trailer, but the maximum ball down-weight is 300kg - keep that in mind.
The official claimed consumption figure for the 580 version of the V6 engine is 8.9 litres per 100 kilometres, which is actually down a tad on the 9.0L/100km claim of the existing TDI550 V6 models.
In day to day driving you’ll likely see about 10.0L/100km, a little higher if you’re towing or pushing it hard.
The fuel tank capacity of the Amarok is 80 litres, and the new engine is Euro 6 compliant, meaning it also requires AdBlue: the AdBlue tank capacity is 13L.
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.
I honestly couldn’t think of a nicer ute to live with on a daily basis. The Amarok has a precision to the way it drives, a German-ness that makes it feel more stable, more comfortable and more refined than many of its competitors.
The drivetrain has a lot to do with that.
The updated V6 not only has more power and torque than the existing model, it is considerably more usable, too. Because the 190kW comes in from 3250-4500rpm, at the end of the torque sweet spot (broadly usable from 1400-3000rpm), there’s a consistency to the way the engine revs, without the peak-then-trough feel that many turbo-diesel engines can offer up when they run out of puff.
For context, the TDI550 drivetrain previously offered in the Ultimate (and still sold in the lower-grade V6 diesel utes) has 165kW from 2500-4500rpm and 550Nm of torque from 1500-2500rpm - note, the new diesel engine accounts for some turbo lag by lowering the torque band a little.
And it isn’t just a software tweak for this new version of the V6 - the engine has new pistons to deal with the enhanced load. It still makes use of the same eight-speed automatic transmission, and still has an unchanged '4Motion' permanent all-wheel drive system. Both are very, very good.
Now while utes are hardly performance vehicles, VW claims the 0-100km/h sprint time for this updated Ultimate model is just 7.3 seconds.
VW claims that figure is down more than half a second, and that it’s considerably quicker than most competitor utes which have “acceleration in the 10s”.
Perhaps more importantly the overtaking performance, or 80-120km/h acceleration, drops for 6.0sec to 5.5. That’s where you feel the grunt, too.
It’s still a ladder frame ute with a leaf spring rear suspension and double wishbone front suspension, and even riding on 20-inch wheels it deals with lumps and bumps nicely. There’s some slight sharpness over hard edges, but dips and potholes are done away with pretty darn well, and the rear never feels as skittish as some of the other utes out there.
The steering is direct and weighty, with the power assisted rack and pinion set-up offering more feel than some of the other vehicles in the class that run electric steering systems. It can be a bit heavy at low speeds and the turning circle isn’t great (12.9m), but that’s a common complaint across this segment.
While there wasn’t an off road review component, I can assure you from previous dirty sessions that the 'Off Road' mode works a treat, and you can forget about concerns over the lack of a low-range transfer case. You get a rear differential lock, and that combined with the car’s clever electronics is more than enough to do what most people will need. Plus you don’t need to worry about shifting between 2H, 4H and 4L.
If you want to know the off-road specs, here they are: ground clearance mm - 192; approach angle deg - 28.0; departure angle deg - 23.6; ramp-over angle deg - 23.0; wading depth mm - 500.
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.
The Volkswagen Amarok range was crash tested way back in 2011, and it scored the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating then. But the world has kept turning since, and it’s falling well behind in terms of equipment.
First off - no rear airbags. The back seat isn’t covered by curtain airbags, because the Amarok doesn’t have them. Instead, there are dual front airbags and front-side airbags only.
Next, there is no advanced safety - for the money being asked, it’s hard to concede missing out on some crucial safety items you can get in competitor utes - auto emergency braking (AEB), lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert - none of which can be had in the Amarok, even optionally.
Suddenly the class-leading safety offered in trucks like the rival Mercedes X-Class and (soon to be added to the) Ford Ranger starts to stack up. Hell, you can even get AEB and further advanced safety kit on the SsangYong Musso, at less than half the price of this Amarok Ultimate model.
It should be noted, though, that the Amarok gets a reversing camera as standard, plus this spec gets front and rear parking sensors, plus a very good stability control system with hill descent and trailer sway systems.
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.
The Amarok range can’t match the best utes in the class in terms of warranty cover - at the time of writing VW is persisting with a three-year/unlimited kilometre plan for all of its models. Plenty of competitors are now offering five year warranty plans. At the very least you get three years’ roadside cover included.
The reputation of the German brand for being costly in terms of ownership isn’t unfounded, with service costs for the Amarok considerably higher than most of its competitors.
Maintenance intervals are every 12 months/15,000km, with a capped price plan spanning five years/75,000km, whichever occurs first. The average cost per visit over that period is $610 - very high for a mainstream ute.
The question is, would you consider this a mainstream ute? I would - VW is pitching it as such, and the segment as a whole is rapidly moving upmarket.