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Toyota Land Cruiser LC79 2020 review: single cab, cab chassis GVM test

The LC79 (like all 70 Series Land Cruisers) is a peerless off-roader.

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4.5/5

Toyota’s 70 Series Land Cruiser is unique in the Australian 4x4 market. With Mercedes-Benz’s decision to cease local sales of its $120K G-Professional in 2019, the LC79 is now the only single-cab cab-chassis off-roader available with the unmatched strength, durability and off-road performance of ‘old school’ rigid axles front and rear.

The impending release of Jeep’s new JT Gladiator, also with twin rigid axles and pick-up body, is about as close as you’ll get to a rival in Australia. However, the dual-cab American off-roader won’t be available with a single-cab or diesel (well, not initially at least) nor will it come close to matching the LC79’s one-tonne-plus payload and massive near-7.0 tonne GVM ratings.

So we thought it timely to reacquaint ourselves with this iconic off-road workhorse for a week, to see why it maintains such a loyal customer base in a rapidly changing automotive world.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Our test vehicle is the premium GXL model grade, which sits above mid-level GX and entry-level WorkMate.

Our test vehicle is the premium GXL model grade. Our test vehicle is the premium GXL model grade.

Available only with a five-speed manual transmission, the GXL has a list price of $69,240 plus the tray of your choice. In this case Toyota’s genuine accessory GPA (General Purpose Aluminium) with either horizontal under-tray spare tyre storage or vertical headboard-mounted, as on our test vehicle. The latter option is popular with those who want to utilise space beneath the tray with slide-out tool draws etc.

The GXL specification is the closest you’ll get to luxury in an LC79. Compared to the mid-level GX the L in GXL costs an extra $2000 and adds model-specific 16 x 7-inch alloy wheels with 265/70 R16 tyres with full-size spare, chrome and painted front bumper, aluminium side-steps, chrome radiator grille, chrome roof drip rails, cloth seat and door trim, floor carpet and driver/front passenger map pockets. All 70 Series grades share the same basic two-speaker radio/CD unit with Bluetooth, AUX-USB inputs and electric telescopic aerial mounted on the front guard.

is there anything interesting about its design?

Some things in life never change. Despite revisions forced on it over the decades to improve comfort, performance and safety, the LC79 remains as basic and rugged as it can be. That’s because its loyal global customer base, which relies on the trusty ‘70’ to get them in and out of the most hostile and remote places on the planet, demand this ‘simple is better’ approach.

Despite revisions forced on it over the decades to improve comfort, performance and safety, the LC79 remains as basic and rugged as it can be. Despite revisions forced on it over the decades to improve comfort, performance and safety, the LC79 remains as basic and rugged as it can be.

And that’s why it’s still only available with a manual gearbox and floor-mounted mechanical shifter for the transfer case, the door mirrors are still mounted on single hoops of bent steel, the steering is still the rugged old-school recirculating ball-type rather than the ubiquitous rack and pinion, there’s still a rigid front axle rather than a fancy independent set-up and the massive ladder-frame chassis with 3180mm wheelbase looks fit for combat duty.

There’s also four-wheel disc brakes, beefed-up coil springs at the front and robust semi-elliptic leaf springs at the back which laugh at one tonne payloads. The LC79 has always been one tough customer - which is just the way its customers want it to stay.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Euro 5-compliant 1VD-FTV 4.5 litre common rail turbo-diesel V8 is a gem of a power-plant and one of the 70 Series’ greatest strengths.

The Euro 5-compliant 1VD-FTV 4.5 litre common rail turbo-diesel V8 is a gem of a power-plant and one of the 70 Series’ greatest strengths. The Euro 5-compliant 1VD-FTV 4.5 litre common rail turbo-diesel V8 is a gem of a power-plant and one of the 70 Series’ greatest strengths.

Its 151kW and 430Nm of torque may sound humble compared to some four cylinder and V6 rivals. However, the big difference here is that the torque curve remains billiard-table flat across a vast 2000rpm band between 1200-3200rpm, which gives it such peerless flexibility for towing, load-carrying and off-road slogging in the toughest conditions.

The five-speed manual gearbox features an ultra-short 4.529:1 first gear, ideally for low-speed off-road work and for getting heavy loads underway. By comparison, the 0.75:1 overdriven top gear provides long enough legs for economical cruising at highway speeds.

The LC79 (like all 70 Series Land Cruisers) is a peerless off-roader. Its part-time, dual-range 4x4 transmission offers a hands-and-knees 44:1 crawl ratio, combined with Toyota’s outstanding A-TRAC active traction control, automatic-locking front hubs and front and rear diff locks. Needless to say, you’d have to try really hard to get stuck in a 70 Series these days.

How practical is the space inside?

A 2175kg kerb weight (without tray) and 3400kg GVM leaves a sizeable 1225kg payload rating. However, the GPA tray on our test vehicle adds 133kg to the kerb weight, with a corresponding drop in payload to 1092kg. Even so that’s still a genuine ‘one tonner’.

This tray can load two 1165mm-square Aussie pallets or (at a squeeze) three 1200 x 800mm Euro pallets. This tray can load two 1165mm-square Aussie pallets or (at a squeeze) three 1200 x 800mm Euro pallets.

It's also rated to tow up to 3500kg of braked trailer and with a GCM (or how much it can legally carry and tow at the same time) of just under 7.0 tonnes (6900kg) it can carry its full one tonne-plus payload while doing it. Most impressive.

Toyota’s rattle-free tray features three drop sides, a headboard frame, 16 internal load anchorage points (that’s eight along each side) and six rope-rails. With a 2400mm overall length and 1755 internal width, this tray can load two 1165mm-square Aussie pallets or (at a squeeze) three 1200 x 800mm Euro pallets.

Cabin storage options are limited. Cabin storage options are limited.

Cabin storage options are limited, in keeping with the 70 Series’ minimalist character. There’s a small glove box, narrow map pockets in the base of each door, a single cup/small bottle holder and mobile phone slot with 12-volt outlet next to the gear-stick, a small storage box with lid between the seats and some useful space directly behind the seats to store soft items like tarpaulins, groundsheets etc.

Thankfully, there’s also a generously-sized open storage bin attached to the rear bulkhead that’s easily accessible from either seat. This is divided into three compartments with enough depth to swallow up to three large bottles plus personal items like phones, keys, wallets etc. In 70 Series tradition, it’s crudely simple but effective.

What’s it like as a daily driver?

For such an uncompromising off-road workhorse, the LC79 is much easier to live with on a daily basis than you would expect.

Sure, it’s a manual with a firm shift action, but the clutch pedal weight is as light as a Corolla’s and with the V8 engine’s massive torque allowing it accelerate smoothly in top gear from as low as 800rpm, there’s no need to row through every cog each time from standing starts. In traffic we just drive it like a three-speeder, using only first, third and fifth, which saves unnecessary shift/pedal work for the driver, not to mention clutch wear.

The LC79 is much easier to live with on a daily basis than you would expect. The LC79 is much easier to live with on a daily basis than you would expect.

The recirculating-ball steering is also low-geared and lightly weighted, with ample free play off-centre (to soften off-road blows) which you quickly get used to. The ride quality, although firm and at times jittery when empty or lightly loaded, is surprisingly civilised (particular when compared to a HiLux 4x2 cab-chassis!) given this vehicle’s massive load capacity.

The air-conditioning is also blizzard-grade, as it’s designed to keep occupants cool in soaring temperatures from Birdsville to Baghdad.  On the ‘warmest’ cool setting it’s cold. On the coldest setting, you could almost deliver frozen goods.

The longer overdriven top gear Toyota mercifully added in 2016 results in tolerable revs at highway speeds and respectable economy. At 100km/h in top gear the turbo-diesel V8 is only doing 2000rpm and barely 2200rpm at 110km/h.

Cabin noise levels are good if not great with the main offender being wind noise emanating from numerous body parts disrupting the airflow, including the near-vertical windscreen, engine air intake snorkel on the driver’s windscreen pillar, door mirrors and the tray’s headboard frame.  The aggressive off-road tyre treads also turn up their volume on coarse bitumen surfaces.

Even so, the LC79 owner can readily accept this in return for the best off-road driving position this side of a Land Rover Defender (now out of production) or Mercedes G-Pro (no longer available here). It really is superb, high and upright with a commanding view over the bonnet and through each door window, allowing accurate vehicle placement in all terrain.

Our only gripes are that the spare wheel and tyre mounted vertically behind the right-hand side of the cabin blocks some of the driver’s over-shoulder view through the rear window. It also eats into load space.

The huge 14.4-metre turning circle can also be a pain at times, making what are normally single turns on full lock into two-point and sometimes three-point turns.

What’s it like for tradie use?

We loaded 860kg onto the tray which with a crew of two equalled a payload of just over one tonne (1010kg), or about 80kg under the payload limit. As expected, the big rear leaf springs compressed less than 40mm and the coil-spring nose only dropped 5mm.

We loaded 860kg onto the tray which with a crew of two equalled a payload of just over one tonne (1010kg), or about 80kg under the payload limit. We loaded 860kg onto the tray which with a crew of two equalled a payload of just over one tonne (1010kg), or about 80kg under the payload limit.

The only noticeable effect was a smoother ride quality resulting from a more favourable sprung-to-unsprung weight ratio. Otherwise you wouldn’t have known there was more than one tonne on board, given no noticeable effect on engine performance or steering/braking effort or response.

We’ve previously tackled our 13 per cent gradient 2.0km set climb with an LC79 under similar load in third gear, which it scoffed at. So this time we tried it in fourth. With accelerator pressed to the floor it almost chugged its way to the top, but fell short within sight of the summit. Even so, to haul more than a tonne that far up a long and steep hill in fourth gear, with a starting speed of only 60km/h, was proof of its outstanding performance under heavy loads.

Engine braking in second gear on the way down was also unmatched by any vehicle we’ve tested, as without once touching the brakes it remained comfortably below the 60km/h posted speed limit with revs remaining below 3500rpm, well clear of its 4500rpm redline. The 70 Series is really in a class of its own in terms of engine braking and further proof of why we like large cubic capacity engines.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Maximum five-star ANCAP rating for the single-cab LC79 is unique in the 70 Series range. However, given that this rating was achieved in 2016, it could not retain that if tested today given the latest five-star requirements like AEB, lane-keeping assist etc are not included. ANCAP waits for no one.

Even so, passive safety features includes driver and passenger front airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver’s knee airbag, plus side-door protection beams. Active safety (across all 70 Series variants) includes electronic vehicle stability control, hill-start assist, electronic brake-force distribution, active traction control, brake assist and Toyota’s excellent A-TRAC active traction control system.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Five-years/unlimited km warranty. Service intervals of 12 months/20,000km initially then every six months/10,000km whichever occurs first. Capped price servicing of $340 for each of the vehicle’s first four scheduled services for 30 months/50,000km, whichever occurs first.

The LC79 seems like a famous guest on a talk show; so familiar to the audience and so universally admired that they need no introduction. Decades of steady evolution has chiselled a unique vehicle out of raw steel that offers what no other can in both design and performance. Nothing has changed here – and we have to say we’re pleased about that.

$69,240

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

4.5/5
Price Guide

$69,240

Based on new car retail price