In a rapidly changing world, it's nice to know that some things stay the same. One of those is Toyota's iconic 70 Series Land Cruiser, which arrived in 1985 when most cars still had cigarette lighters, carburettors and cassette players.
However, unlike those items and many others which have been consigned to automotive history, the venerable 70 Series has not only survived but continues to thrive as the preferred choice for many industry fleets and a solid core of loyal recreational buyers.
It remains a tangible link with simpler times, when a 4x4 was designed primarily to work and play hard in the toughest off-road conditions. Admittedly, increasing demand for creature comforts, higher safety ratings and emissions standards has required compromise in its bare-boned simplicity and higher prices, but the 70's inherent ruggedness and 'can do' character remain as strong as ever even in 'luxury' GXL trim.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The cab-chassis LC79 is available in either single cab or dual cab and three model grades comprising Workmate, GX and GXL. Our test vehicle was the premium GXL grade ($69,240) fitted with a heavy duty aluminium drop-side tray and 3500kg tow bar from Toyota's genuine accessories range, which pushes the price well north of $70K. And that's a lot of coin.
The 16 x 7-inch alloy wheels and 265/70 R16 115R tyres are shared with the GX grade. (image: Mark Oastler)
The top-shelf GXL is as luxurious as a 70 Series gets. The extra $2000 you pay to put the L in GXL brings floor carpet, cloth trim, aluminium side steps, variable intermittent wipers, power windows, central locking and remote keyless entry. Importantly, GXL also includes front and rear diff locks which can be worth their weight in gold off road.
The 16 x 7-inch alloy wheels and 265/70 R16 115R tyres with full-size spare are shared with the GX grade. Other useful features, like cruise control and height/reach adjustable steering wheel, are shared across all grades.
It comes with a full-size spare. (image: Mark Oastler)
Is there anything interesting about its design?
The LC79 single cab shares the same 3180mm wheelbase as its dual cab sibling, along with a wider front wheel track than the rear; the result of a lateral stretch required to fit the big turbo diesel V8 back in 2007.
The massive steel ladder-frame chassis, coil-sprung front live axle and leaf-sprung rear live axle are as tough as they come and the four-wheel disc brakes provide ample stopping power. Off-road credentials include a 33 degrees approach angle, 27 degrees departure angle and 700mm wading depth.
The top-shelf GXL is as luxurious as a 70 Series gets. (image: Mark Oastler)
Everywhere you look the LC79 has reminders of our 4x4 past, like the five-speed manual gearbox with no automatic option, recirculating ball steering with low gearing and ample free-play, big transfer case shift lever poking up through the floor next to the gearstick, cigarette lighter and ashtray, telescopic metal radio aerial and circa-1980s sound quality, doors which always require a hefty slam to close properly and a large blank-faced steering wheel devoid of any remote audio/phone controls.
The huge door mirrors, which after all these years are still mounted on crude steel frames that can only be adjusted outside by hand (or by nudging a handy fence post or tree trunk) are kept simple for good reason. When you're a long way out in the bush, the less gadgets there are to break, the better. And that's exactly the way its loyal customers want it.
The genuine Toyota heavy duty aluminium tray is 2400mm long and 1842mm wide with 253mm-high drop-sides. (image: Mark Oastler)
With its big bluff front and near-vertical windscreen, aerodynamics has never been a strong point but the driving position could not be better off-road. Even though the seats have no height adjustment, the driver sits high relative to the dashboard, providing a commanding view over the bonnet. The low door heights, which finish just above the driver's knee, allow ample side vision and make it easy to lean out and see the front and rear tyres when accurate wheel placement is needed. The left footrest is also well positioned.
Our only major criticism is the massive turning circle, which with the GXL's wider wheels and tyres is at its worst at 14.4 metres. Not such an issue in open rural areas but in typical city and suburban parking and on narrow bush tracks it ensures that many manoeuvres require at least a three-point turn.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
The Euro 5-compliant 1VD-FTV 4.5 litre common rail turbo-diesel V8 produces 151kW at 3400rpm and 430Nm from 1200rpm. That's not a huge serving of torque given that it's matched by the much smaller 2.4 litre four in the Mitsubishi Triton. However, it's the way those 430Nm are served that gives the 70 Series its excellent off road/load carrying/towing ability, as it peaks across a very broad 2000rpm torque curve from 1200-3200rpm.
The Euro 5-compliant 1VD-FTV 4.5 litre common rail turbo-diesel V8 produces 151kW at 3400rpm and 430Nm from 1200rpm. (image: Mark Oastler)
A long overdue upgrade of the five-speed gearbox in 2016 included a taller second gear to better fill the gap between second and third and a taller fifth to provide a much needed 800rpm drop at highway speeds.
The part time, dual-range 4x4 transmission features automatic locking front hubs and a snail-like 44:1 crawl ratio in low range. Combined with Toyota's excellent A-TRC active traction control system, which effectively replaces the need for mechanical limited slip diffs, plus the GXL's lockable front and rear diffs, the 70 Series is a formidable off roader.
How much fuel does it consume?
Toyota claims a combined 10.7L/100km but our figures crunched from diesel bowser and trip meter readings (including a GVM test) came in at 12.3L/100km. Thanks to its big 130-litre fuel tank, you could expect a vast driving range of around 1000km.
How practical is the space inside?
The 2175kg kerb weight and 3400kg GVM results in an impressive 1225kg payload rating. However, the addition of Toyota's heavy duty aluminium tray as fitted to our test vehicle adds another 170kg, reducing the legal payload to 1055kg. The 3500kg tow bar also fitted to our vehicle adds more weight (30-50kg). However, that still leaves about 1000kg of payload capacity.
It's also rated to tow up to 3500kg of braked trailer and its huge 6900kg GCM means that it can legally tow that weight without requiring a reduction in payload, which is most impressive. Keep in mind, though, that up to 350kg of tow-ball download has to be included in any payload figure, so always do your sums.
Cabin storage options are limited. (image: Mark Oastler)
The genuine Toyota heavy duty aluminium tray is 2400mm long and 1842mm wide with 253mm-high drop-sides, which when raised provide more than 1.1 cubic metres of enclosed load volume. There's also plenty of load anchorage points, a sturdy headboard and a choice of either under-tray or headboard storage for the full-size alloy spare.
Cabin storage options are limited to narrow map pockets in the base of each door, a single bottle holder and mobile phone slot with 12-volt outlet next to the gearstick, a tiny lidded storage box between the seats and a handy open storage cubby attached to the rear bulkhead which is ideal for large drink bottles.
There is a tiny lidded storage box between the seats and a handy open storage cubby attached to the rear bulkhead. (image: Mark Oastler)
What's it like to drive?
Given the LC79's GCM rating of just under 7.0 tonnes, it's no surprise that the robust suspension and axles designed to deal with such loads result in a firm and at times jittery ride when empty or lightly loaded.
However, its load-carrying ability became apparent after we strapped 830kg onto the tray, which with a driver and full tank of diesel was nudging our 1000kg payload limit. The big rear leaf springs compressed only 40mm with ample bump stop clearance, while the front coils dropped 10mm. Tyre pressures were set at the recommended 36psi front and 51psi rear.
Fact is, the 70 Series behaved like the load wasn't there. There was no noticeable decline in engine, steering or braking response and the increase in sprung weight resulted in a welcome improvement in ride quality.
The 2175kg kerb weight and 3400kg GVM results in an impressive 1225kg payload rating. (image: Mark Oastler)
On the highway the big V8 used only 2000rpm at 100km/h and 2250rpm at 110km/h. However, engine noise and tyre roar were mildly intrusive at these speeds, along with wind noise caused largely by the intake snorkel on the driver's windscreen pillar and the big door mirrors.
On a variety of sealed/unsealed roads and bush tracks, the GXL was in its element. It easily coped with our 13 per cent gradient 2.0km set climb, finding its sweet spot in third gear at 2400rpm (which was bang in the middle of its fat torque curve) all the way to the top with minimal throttle required.
Engine braking on the way down was easily the best of any ute we've tested, maintaining the 60km/h speed limit in second gear and reaching only 3800rpm on over-run (4500rpm redline) without once needing to touch the brake pedal. That's fantastic engine braking given the payload. You'd be hard pressed to find a better ute for heavy haulage, particularly in hilly country.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
The five star ANCAP rating for the single cab LC79 is unique in the 70 Series line-up and largely driven by OH&S fleet requirements. Passive safety includes driver and passenger front airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver's knee airbag. Active safety (across all 70 Series variants) includes electronic vehicle stability control, active traction control, hill start assist, brake assist and brake force distribution, but no AEB.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
Three years/100,000km plus 5 years/100,000km body corrosion perforation warranty. Service intervals of 6 months/10,000km. Capped price servicing of $340 for each of the vehicle's first six scheduled services for three years/60,000km whichever occurs first.
A snip under $70K is a lot for a single cab cab-chassis 4x4 without tray, even in premium GXL grade. It can seem overpriced for what you get. However, compared to the only other twin live axle, 4x4 single cab-chassis - the Mercedes Benz G Pro with its higher GVM but $120K price - the 70 Series GXL is relatively good value. And what it lacks in refinement it more than makes up for with heavy duty GVM/GCM ratings and proven 'old school' ruggedness designed to withstand years of brutal treatment. It's not a vehicle for everyone, but for everyone who owns one, there's still no better vehicle.
Is the LC79 GXL single cab-chassis, at almost $70,000, overpriced in your opinion? Let us know what you think in the comments below.