THE current model LandCruiser 200 has been with us for more than 12 years and is well up for replacement.
If you listen to the rumours, that a replacement is not far away and an all-new Cruiser should be with us within the next year.
What form the next LandCruiser takes is all speculation at this point, but with newer rivals in the form of the also ageing Nissan Patrol Y62 and the seemingly sprightly latest Land Rover Discovery, and also the new Defender, the old Cruiser surely needs upgrading.
The LC200 is ageing gracefully and, despite its years, or perhaps because of them, it outsells the sportier Patrol more than five to one (VFACTs figures; April 2020) and the Discovery barely rates a mention, while the Defender is yet to show its form.
As the sun sets on the 200 we thought it time to sample one again and see just what makes it so popular with Australian buyers.
POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE
The LC200 only comes with a single powertrain no matter what specification you go for. The twin-turbocharged version of the 1VD-FTE V8 diesel engine makes a lazy 200kW of power and 650Nm of torque. I say lazy as the Cruiser never seems to raise a sweat in delivering its performance, and those power and torque numbers are moderate when compared to what many smaller capacity modern engines put out.
This conservative tune from Toyota means the big Cruiser ambles along at highway pace yet still has the grunt you want when you put your foot down to overtake, tackle a steep climb or for towing.
The six-speed auto transmission is kept busy when you ask for more performance from the drivetrain as it is geared tall for better fuel economy, and squeezing the go-pedal down will see it shifting back a ratio or two yet the transmission never seems to want for more gears.
RETRO: 2020 Heritage Edition
The power unit is backed by a full-time four-wheel drive system that uses a lockable Torsen-style centre differential with the option of low range for off-road use.
As a big and heavy wagon, the LandCruiser is never going to be what you would call economical and it returned 12.4L/100km over our week of testing against its ADR quoted figure of 9.5L/100km on the combined cycle. Good luck achieving that on a regular basis around town!
THAT effortless performance makes the Cruiser a supreme touring vehicle. Its laid-back gait results in relaxed mile-munching, and a spacious and well-appointed cabin means that the Cruiser is a nice rig to ride in.
Being built on a separate chassis, the body is well-insulated from road noise and vibration. The chassis uses independent suspension with coil springs and wishbones up front, while under the back is a live axle also riding on coils. That live axle can be prone to a bit of axle hop on corrugated gravel roads, and the soft, long-travel suspension wallows and pitches a lot when pushed hard through bends, so it’s a compromise between on- and off-road performance.
Toyota tries to limit this compromise with the clever Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) on upper-spec VX and Sahara models, and it’s available as an option on the GXL. KDSS uses hydraulically linked actuators on the front and rear sway bars to stiffen up or loosen the bars depending on wheel travel. That’s putting it simply, but it does allow the engineers to fit heavier sway bars for improved on-road handling, and the effect of these is lessened when driving off-road at low speeds.
KDSS is not as complex or effective as Nissan’s excellent HBMC as fitted to the Patrol, and the Cruiser will never match the Y62 for on-road dynamics. However, the travel of the rear axle on the Cruiser is a bonus when the going gets rough.
Toyota loves to call its LandCruiser the ‘King Off The Road’ in a reference to the old Roger Miller track, and in many ways its justified.
For a large, semi-luxurious seven-seat wagon, the LC200 is pretty good off-road. The live rear axle offers considerable wheel travel for a stock wagon and it’s this that keeps the tyres on the ground and the Cruiser moving.
Travel at the front end is not so good, but the electronic traction control is effective. Only the centre differential is lockable from the factory, but front and rear lockers are available from the aftermarket.
Like most modern 4x4 vehicles, the LC200 is loaded with electronic aids designed to make your off-roading experience easier. Some, like the traction control, are useful, others less so.
In the Sahara you get things like Multi Terrain Selection, an adaptation of Land Rover’s Terrain response system; Crawl Control, which is like a cruise control for low-speed off-road driving with five preset speeds; and Off-road Turn Assist, which, when enabled, locks the inside wheels on tight U-turns to decrease the radius.
LIMITED RUN: 200 Series Sahara Horizon
But the real winners are the great rear axle travel and effective traction control. These combine to get the Cruiser most places an owner could want to get it.
Visibility from the driver’s seat is good, and manoeuvring the big Cruiser on tracks isn’t difficult. Full surround-view cameras are also there to help in the Sahara.
The LandCruiser has a GVM of 3350kg, but at 2750kg it’s a heavy beast once you start talking about a Sahara with all the bells and whistles.
So while the 200 is a big vehicle, it doesn’t have the payload to match it. Start fitting some off-road accessories and you could easily hit the GVM with four burley blokes onboard. Thankfully, there are GVM upgrades available from the aftermarket that go someway to improving the situation.
All LC200s are rated to tow 3500kg, and with that bulk in the wagon and a torquey V8 diesel engine they tow with relative ease. There’s a 138-litre fuel tank fitted as standard, so you won’t be stopping at every fuel station on the road.
Even in top-of-the-range Sahara spec, the Cruiser has a practical-size 285/60R-18 tyre on its alloy wheels and not some silly ultra-low-profile rubber. We’ve noticed Toyota has in recent years changed the spec on the standard tyres to a V-rated high-speed tyre and, strangely enough, the first time we took one off-road on this tyre, we got a puncture. There are plenty of more off-road-suitable tyres available for the 18-inch wheels.
IT’S a bit rich to call any showroom stock vehicle ‘King Off The Road’, the Cruiser has the potential to get close. While it’ll never be a Jeep Rubicon off-road or a Y62 on it, the LC200 is a supreme all-road tourer, towing rig and outback explorer.
With its unrivalled popularity in sales, Toyota seems to charge what it likes for the big Cruiser and, while the stripped-out, base model GX seems expensive at $80K, $125K for the Sahara feels a bit better given the level of features and comforts in it. Although Patrol fans definitely have a credible argument against that.
As I said at the start, it will be interesting to see what Toyota delivers as a replacement for the LC200 next year, and with the promise of more hybrid models, we might even see a petrol-hybrid Cruiser. Until then we’ll still see the 200 Series sell well, as it delivers what buyers want.
2020 TOYOTA LAND CRUISER SAHARA: SPECS
ENGINE: 4.5L V8 diesel
MAX POWER: 200kW at 3600rpm
MAX TORQUE: 650Nm at 1600 to 2600rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
4X4 SYSTEM: Dual-range full-time
CRAWL RATIO: 34.11:1
CONSTRUCTION: 5-door wagon on ladder chassis
KERB WEIGHT: 2740kg
TOWING CAPACITY: 3500kg
FUEL TANK CAPACITY: 138L
ADR FUEL CLAIM: 9.5L/100km
TEST FUEL CLAIM: 12.4L/100km
BASE PRICE: $123,590 (+ORC)