CITY OR THE BUSH
For many bush customers the Land Cruiser wagon has been the vehicle of choice for some years and it is also popular around town. Unlike the new breed of stylish softroaders, Toyota’s hefty workhorse will go just about anywhere and tow a huge caravan or horse float, while doubling as a comfortable family vehicle. The latest UZJ200R series, launched here in November 2007, builds on that tradition but incorporates some impressive new technology into a more stylish package.
A highlight is the twin turbocharged 4.5-litre diesel V8 engine. Not only does this new unit develop 195 kW of power, it does what diesels are best at by dealing out a massive 650 Nm of torque, more than any previous Toyota. In everyday use you can easily get consumption down to about 10 litres per 100 kilometres, unless you do much motoring around town. Where most diesels run out of energy past about 4000 rpm, this engine has none of that breathless feeling and has the bonus of a pleasing V8 sound. But weight remains the enemy of performance and acceleration is good rather than exciting.
Like recent generation Cruisers, this one is comfortable and remarkably spacious. Ergonomics require no reference to the owner’s handbook but the GXL specification does not run to leather trim. And at $79,990, a leather-bound wheel should surely be included. At least there are multiple airbags including full-length side curtain bags for each of the three rows of seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and Smart Start (you just need the key somewhere in the vehicle). There are five 17-inch alloys.
It is a stylish workhorse. Even from the driver’s seat, the appearance is appealing with gracious longitudinal curves in the long bonnet. This Cruiser has more aesthetic appeal than any predecessor, with quite an out-there character; it’s not just a big box on wheels. Strikingly styled headlights and that overwhelming grille with huge Toyota emblem give it great road presence in any rear-view mirror.
This latest Cruiser is more carlike to drive, although you are still conscious of its immense bulk and you can’t hustle through tight corners as you can in a modern sedan. Ride comfort is good. The steering feel is good but the Cruiser is not as responsive to the wheel as some rivals, especially those from Europe. Braking is excellent and calibrated for varied terrain. On all diesel-powered Cruisers, Downhill Assist Control is standard.
Vision all-round is good but the reversing camera included on the premium Sahara model would be welcome, especially in such a family-oriented wagon. Parking in itself is not difficult but you need a long space and you need to get this w-i-d-e wagon close to the kerb.
There is no doubt Toyota has succeeded with the general design of this safe and ultra-competent heavy duty four-wheel drive family wagon. It is better in more conditions and more applications than any rival, but the GXL variant nevertheless has a disappointingly base model feel to it, making the VX with leather, extra airbags, powered front seats, foglights and numerous other additions worth the extra $10K.
Competition runs to the Nissan Patrol, Land Rover Discovery and Toyota’s own Prado. In choosing a Prado you could get a higher level of specification and still save money compared with a Land Cruiser GXL. It is a measure of Toyota’s strength in the 4WD market that the Prado makes greater purchasing sense than the Cruiser, unless you need that extra size and perceived status.
Latest version of the vehicle that dominates our 4WD landscape is as good as you'd expect - styling, engines, performance, safety
Some fine rivals are cheaper; doesn't send a great message about carbon footprints etc