The Toyota Land Cruiser looks and feels nothing like the original built-for-farming box that it used to be, but has remained dedicated to its original purpose, and BERNIE HELLBERG tackled some hard wearing terrain in the turbodiesel VX-R to prove it.
If most of your time is spent off-road, or towing stuff up and down the country, you’re likely to be irritated at how many urbanites drive what you drive, pretending to do what you do. In recent years, the school run has become over-populated with SUVs, some that will never even smell a gravel road, let alone take it on.
Where other SUVs have become milder at the expense of off-road ability, the Toyota Land Cruiser has stuck to its guns over the years, remaining as capable off-road as anything out there, while adding leather seats, satellite navigation, and intelligent cruise control. Of course, being a Toyota, it will also never break, regardless of the terrain you care to throw at it.
Sure, there are sleeker, prettier, more dynamic SUVs on the road, but when you get off it, few will progress with the indifferent ease of a Land Cruiser. Now with more features and updated styling, the Land Cruiser has loads of contemporary appeal mixed into its all-weather ability.
For Toyota-obsessed South Africans, the Land Cruiser shape has been love at first sight for decades. Other SUV’s might be getting curvier, but the Cruiser still stands tall, slab-sided and refreshingly retro.
And in this vein, new add-ons include LEDs on the front and rear, smart alloy wheels, and interior updates to satisfy most preferences.
There are two engines on offer in the Land Cruiser. There’s a 4.7-litre V8 petrol, putting out 228 kW of power and 439 Nm of twist. No turbochargers here; This is an old-school V8 that’ll cruise along all day without breaking a sweat. Despite its six-speed automatic, the petrol isn’t particularly frugal, with 13.4-l/100 km claimed on the standard testing cycle, which is ambitious, to say the least.
The better option, in our opinion, is the 4.5-litre turbodiesel that Driven had on test recently. Smaller in size and offering a more modest 200 kW, the V8 turbodiesel is good for a whopping 650 Nm of torque from as low as 1,600 r/min. This engine is a better fit for the big SUV and offers much more realistic fuel consumption at 10.2-l/100 km coupled with excellent towing ability – great for the great outdoors.
LIFE ON THE INSIDE
Owning a Land Cruiser means you will never have to compromise on where your next adventure will take you, but it also means you will have to be satisfied with a utilitarian cabin that just ain’t as dainty as urban runabouts have become.
Just about everything is operated manually, with oversized buttons designed to be used comfortably while wearing gloves. The steering wheel is more of the same, with equally large buttons, all intended for usability rather than for aesthetics. Our VX-R variant was also adorned with wood-grain trim, leather seats, and a big touchscreen infotainment system.
The big electrically-adjusted seats are incredibly welcoming, offering infinite adjustments for a proper fit. And it is big, you can fit up to eight people inside this moving town hall, with the second- and third-row seats able to accommodate up to three adults abreast without hassle.
Besides offering excellent passenger protection due to its sheer size, the Land Cruiser is well-equipped to handle any on-road mishaps. All models have at least eight airbags, with our VX-R derivative raising the tally to ten – the extra two are thorax-protection bags for second-row passengers. Our tester was also equipped with active safety kit that included adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, and brake assist. There’s also blind-spot monitoring and cross traffic alert at the rear.
AT THE HELM OF THE CRUISER
While the Land Cruiser has successfully avoided being diluted into an urban cruiser over the years, it has gained relatively decent some road manners over time. It may not be anything as sporty as a Porsche Cayenne or even a Land Rover Discovery; it’s excellent at gaining momentum, and keeping it. But a word of warning to the wise; best get rid of some of that momentum before tackling any significant corners.
The big Cruiser’s mellow suspension is excellent at soaking up road bumps, and Toyota’s dynamic body control system does a fair job of controlling the car’s hefty 3.3-tonne weight, but it still leans around bends more than most.
Of course, where it truly shines is off the road, rather than on it… The body-on-chassis design might not be good for dynamism, but once you’ve engaged low-range and diff-lock, the Land Cruiser becomes unstoppable over the harshest terrain. It scoffs at scrapes and bumps, the big diesel grunting along relentlessly over boulders and through dongas.
Instead of thinking of the Land Cruiser as a luxury that can go off-road, rather see it as an off-roader with added luxury spec. Where other SUVs may do everything to hide their agrarian roots, the Land Cruiser wears its utilitarian heritage as a badge of honour. It is an unapologetic off-roader, and while there are other options out there, few of them come with the kind of earth-moving V8 power that the big Toyota has.
It gets a thumbs-up for honesty, and another for utter indifference.
Report by BERNIE HELLBERG | Images © TOYOTA SOUTH AFRICA