EVERLASTING CRUISER |
Few Toyota products can claim the same downright awe-inspiring appeal of the Land Cruiser 200. For decades, it has been the benchmark for off-road capability, and now receives a nip and tuck to take it another step forward.
If you spend most of your time off-road, or you love trekking up and down the country, you’ll be acutely aware of 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 tackle it.
Where other SUVs have become milder at the expense of off-road ability, the Toyota Land Cruiser has stuck to its guns, 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 throw at it.
There may be 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. The flagship Land Cruiser 200 in top-spec VX-R trim recently benefited from a cosmetic nip and tuck. A distinctive new front grille design with horizontal bars and broader central ‘bridge’ creates an imposing façade befitting its ‘Master of Africa’ status.
For Toyota-obsessed South Africans, the Land Cruiser shape has been love at first sight for decades. Other SUVs might be getting curvier, but the Cruiser still stands tall, slab-sided and refreshingly retro.
There are two Land Cruiser 200 derivatives on offer – both with Toyota’s proven 4.5-litre turbodiesel. The 200 kW V8 is good for a whopping 650 Nm of torque from as low as 1,600 r/min. This engine is an excellent fit for the big SUV and offers quite palatable fuel consumption (for such a massive machine) at 10.2-l/100 km.
Driven tested the Land Cruiser 200 in VX-R trim (R1,575,100), although a de-specced GX-R model is also available at R1,130,100.
LIFE ON THE INSIDE
Owning a Land Cruiser means you will never have to compromise on where your next adventure will take you. Still, it also means you will have to be satisfied with a utilitarian cabin that isn’t as dainty as many 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 aesthetics. Our VX-R variant was also adorned with wood-grain trim, leather seats, and a prominent touchscreen infotainment system.
The large electrically-adjusted seats are incredibly welcoming, offering infinite adjustments for a proper fit. Plus, the Land Cruiser 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.
Although the 200 underwent a significant tech upgrade in 2018, the VX-R model now also comes equipped with wireless headsets – to allow seamless use of the rear entertainment system. Toyota discontinued the Golden Beige Metallic colour last year while adding two new black exterior colour options; Raven Black (solid) and Attitude Black (metallic).
Besides offering excellent passenger protection due to its sheer size, the LC200 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
While the Land Cruiser has successfully avoided being diluted into an urban cruiser over the years, it has gained relatively decent road manners over time. It may not be anything as sporty as a Porsche Cayenne or even a Land Rover Discovery, but it’s excellent at gaining momentum and maintaining it. A word of warning to the wise, though – 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, 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