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Toyota Land Cruiser 300

Following our visit to the exclusive Cheetah Plains Reserve in the luxurious ZX derivative of the new Land Cruiser 300, we recently got to grips with the GR-S diesel version on a three-day-long road trip up the Cape West Coast and into the Cederberg region.

Toyota South Africa probably could not have asked for a better birthday gift than the new Land Cruiser 300 to celebrate its 60th anniversary as its ancestor, the J40 (known worldwide as the FJ), was instrumental in the founding of the local affiliate. 

As stated by official Toyota sources, the first Land Cruiser was exported to South Africa in June 1959 – eight years after the introduction of the original Toyota BJ Jeep prototype. Impressed by the rugged Cruiser and other models, local entrepreneur Albert Wessels established Toyota South Africa Motors in September 1961.

Over seven decades, the extended Land Cruiser range – cleverly marketed as the “Master of Africa” – established itself on the continent and now, 14 years after the introduction of the 200 Series station wagon, the long-awaited new Cruiser is here. 

Available in all three grades (GX-R, ZX and GR-S) the diesel models – like their petrol counterparts – are now equipped with the new, refined, and advanced F33A-FTV 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 diesel engine delivering 225 kW at 4,000 r/min and a humungous 700 Nm of torque between 1,600 and 2,600 r/min, compared to the 195 kW and 650 Nm of the preceding 1VD-FTV 4.5-litre turbodiesel V8.

In GR-S (Gazoo Racing Sport) guise, the newcomer has an even greater dynamic presence than the more luxurious and image-focused ZX. As the off-road performance model in the range, the GR-S features bespoke exterior styling, with a centre band and white Toyota lettering breaking the large front façade and massive, blacked-out grille.

It features GR badges at the front and rear and in the interior (with either black or a black and dark red colour combination); it is equipped with the new E-KDSS, an evolution of Toyota’s kinetic dynamic suspension system, as well as Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) and 18” tyres (versus the 20” rubber of the ZX).

While more off-road focused, the GR-S is still well-equipped. Its comprehensive specification level includes keyless entry with auto-door-lock, park distance control, climate control with rear zone, power driver-seat adjustment, Multi-Information Display (MID) with built-in navigation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality.

It also features power fold-down third-row seating, a power-operated back door with hands-free function, heated steering wheel, JBL 14-speaker audio system with DVD playback, seat heating and ventilation, a wireless charger and tyre pressure monitoring, multiple power outlets with charging port, a Multi-Terrain Monitor with Panoramic View, Crawl Control and Drive Mode Select.

All-Terrain Companion

The GR-S diesel proved to be a supremely comfortable all-terrain companion, travelling from Paternoster up the West Coast towards Lamberts Bay and negotiating all kinds of road surfaces. With more power from its smooth twin turbo-V6, it felt lithe and lively on the road. Throttle response was immediate, and the new 10-speed auto transmission seamlessly shifted power to the wheels.

Yes, the diesel is slightly noisier than the silky petrol engine, but the oil-burner’s vast reserves of twisting force effortlessly flattened any gradient, slope or obstacle in its way. It made overtaking a breeze, and the only irritation was the over-zealous lane departure system trying to keep the 2.6-ton wagon within the confines of the white lines. Luckily it can be switched off.

The big Cruiser just did everything so effortlessly. Even on very rough dirt roads, it just glided along serenely. With its huge wheel articulation, competent four-wheel-drive system (AIM) and Multi-Terrain Select system, off-roading was a breeze, and the Multi-Terrain Monitor with Panoramic View came in handy to avoid paint-scratching thorn bushes.

Even after a full day of driving, negotiating some of the most scenic passes in the country, one still felt relaxed and fresh. The biggest advantage of the diesel over its petrol-driven compatriot was its consumption – with the GR-S delivering an average consumption of about 11 l/100 km (Toyota claims a figure of 8.9 l/100 km) compared to over 15 l/100 km for the petrol derivatives.

Last Word

The new Land Cruiser 300 diesel models will most probably prove even more popular than the petrol derivatives. They have greatly benefitted from developments in terms of body rigidity and dynamic balance, and the GR-S provides improved off-road capability and performance. The new diesel derivative is a worthy successor to its successful forebears, but the way things now stand, you will have to be very patient if you want one, as production of the new Toyota flagship SUV has been set back quite dramatically by the semi-conductor crisis in the motor industry – and the waiting list is just getting longer.

Report by Ferdi de Vos | Images © Toyota South Africa

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