2010 Toyota Landcruiser 76 Series GXL Wagon Road Test and Review
FOR AS LONG as Toyota has been in Australia, the indomitable LandCruiser has been its ultimate 'tough as nails' workhorse.
In fact, when the first batch of early-model LandCruisers chugged off the boat in 1958, destined for the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme, that day heralded the company's arrival on these shores.
Since then, the LandCruiser has forged a million paths into Australia's forests, farms and deserts, bashed its way in and out of outback mines, through construction sites and up fire-trails and earned an enviable reputation for versatility, ruggedness and dependability.
The latest iteration of the industry-spec LandCruiser formula is the 70 Series. Mid last year, Toyota freshened it up with some mild updates - so we thought it was time to put it through its paces.
We took a top-of-the-line LandCruiser 76 GXL Wagon high into Victoriaâ€™s snow country to see just how good the humble â€˜Cruiser is off-road â€“ and whether it can still match its reputation.
Looking at the LandCruiser 76 is like gazing into a time warp â€“ the basic 70 Series body has been around since 1984.
Front-end styling was altered in 2007 to accommodate the larger V8 engine that was introduced at the same time, which resulted in the deletion of the traditional front wings, inboard headlights and ear-like indicator housings.
A large letterbox-style scoop was added to the bonnet, and feeds cold air to the engineâ€™s top-mounted intercooler. The front bumper was elongated in July 2009 to enable the fitment of airbags, and it also incorporates a handy stepping surface on its topside.
Other than that, the 70 Series sports an almost anachronistic design; a design that features nary a curved surface and pays little heed to modern vehicle styling conventions.
Traditionalists will love it. LandCruiser die-hards will be pleased to see that Toyota has largely resisted the urge to mess with the basic form of its hard-working off-roader.
The front bumper and plastic fender flares are painted in grey, with chrome-finish inlays on the front bumper. The rear bumper is made of chrome-plated steel, and incorporates an aluminium step in the centre.
Thereâ€™s no recovery point on the rear bumper as standard, however there is provision for one to be installed.
Alloy sidesteps are factory fitment, and a pair of foglights are fixed to the front bumper. The rear doors are split 60/40, and the spare wheel is carried on the larger door.
For the GXL, 16x7-inch alloys are the standard wheel and wear 265/70R16 Dunlop Grandtreks.
As with the outside, thereâ€™s a definite sense of nostalgia when sitting in the LandCruiser 76â€™s cabin.
Hard plastics, exposed sheetmetal, and a dashboard that could probably be used as a setsquare characterise the LandCruiserâ€™s interior with styling best described as â€œutilitarianâ€. Function dominates form in here. This cabin is designed to be rugged and useful, not pretty.
But thatâ€™s not to say Toyota hasnâ€™t tried to refine it. The dashboard is a new design that features (slightly) softer styling, a reconfigured centre stack, repositioned air outlets, provision for the passenger airbag and a plastic glovebox lid instead of the old metal one.
Another addition for 2009 â€“ a single bottle holder has been bolted to the transmission tunnel, to the side of the gearshift.
The new dashboard is taller than the one itâ€™s replaced, and the passenger grab handle has been lost in the transition. There are still grab handles on the A and B-pillars as well as above the doors though.
The front seats adjust for slide and backrest tilt, but height is fixed. At the wheel you constantly feel like youâ€™re towering over other traffic â€“ which in truth, you are. The seats arenâ€™t especially comfortable for long journeys, and they struggle to hold you in place during proper off-roading.
Trimmed in cloth, the interior of the GXL is at least slightly more luxurious than the vinyl-clad interior of the lower-spec Workmate.
The steering wheel adjusts for reach as well as rake, and the new four-spoke design is comfortable to hold. The floor-mounted shifter for the 5-speed manual gearbox is long and comes within easy reach, while the new layout for the centre stack puts most buttons further up and closer to the driver.
All-around visibility is good, however the wider mirrors of the cab-chassis LandCruiser 79 would do much to improve rearward vision on the wagon.
The rear bench is flat and, like the front seats, not particularly comfortable for long stints. Your fellow tradesmen wonâ€™t complain, but your family probably will.
Folding the seats out of the way is an easy process that involves flipping two catches and tumbling the rear bench forward, unlocking even more luggage room in the Wagonâ€™s already cavernous interior.
More storage space is available in the centre console box and glovebox, while the front doors are fitted with narrow map pockets.
Equipment and Features
In terms of equipment, thereâ€™s not much to see inside the LandCruiser 76. In 2009 Toyota Australia updated the 70-Series range with a few modest additions to the carâ€™s spec sheet, but the car is still incredibly Spartan by modern standards.
Safety equipment saw the biggest changes, with dual front airbags added to the LandCruiserâ€™s standard equipment list.
Other safety aids such as ABS, traction control or stability control are conspicuously absent however, and the centre position on the rear bench makes do with a lap-only seatbelt.
The audio system has been comprehensively upgraded, with the double-DIN unit from the Corolla being grafted into the LandCruiserâ€™s dashboard.
A simple AM/FM tuner with a slot-loading single CD player, the headunit pipes sound to four speakers and features both 3.5mm and USB auxillary inputs for portable music players. Bluetooth integration for mobile phones is standard.
A handy feature of the audio system is the power retractable aerial mast, which can be raised or lowered from the driver's seat via a button mounted on the dash.
Itâ€™s not exactly cutting-edge tech, but it does mean thereâ€™s no longer any excuse for snagging (and bending) the aerial on overhanging foliage.
Air-conditioning is optional, but power windows on all four passenger doors are standard. The wing mirrors can only be adjusted manually, however.
The centerpiece of the LandCruiser 70 Series is its 4.5 litre turbodiesel V8 engine. With a single turbocharger pumping air into its eight cylinders, the LandCruiserâ€™s V8 churns out 151kW at 3400rpm and 430Nm between 1200-3200rpm.
A snorkel is standard, allowing the Toyotaâ€™s engine to breathe easy when fording streams. A 90 litre fuel tank supplies the engine with diesel, and fuel consumption is claimed to be 11.9 l/100km.
Our own combined cycle testing produced an average fuel economy figure of 11.27 l/100km, giving the Wagon a theoretical maximum range of 798km.
A five-speed manual gearbox is the only transmission choice and feeds the V8â€™s output into a dual-range transfer case, which in turn takes drive to either the rear wheels or all four wheels.
Switching between 2WD high-range, 4WD high-range and 4WD low-range is done via a lever next to the gearshift, and the transmission can be completely decoupled from the wheels via the neutral position.
A rear limited slip differential is standard, but can be replaced by optional electronically-locking front and rear diffs.
Locking each diff is achieved by turning a simple rotary switch mounted on the dashboard, making extricating the car from slippery surfaces an easier task. The front wheel hubs have a freewheeling function, but must be manually set to do so.
Much like the rest of the car, the LandCruiser 70â€™s suspension is strictly old-school. Solid live axles connect the front and rear wheels, with the front sprung by coils and the rear by leaf springs. The body is mounted on a separate ladder-frame chassis, improving strength.
Steering is power-assisted, but the live-axle setup necessitates a recirculating-ball system instead of a more-precise rack and pinion setup.
Four-piston fixed calipers are mounted to the front hubs and grip 322mm ventilated discs, while single-piston sliding calipers are paired with 312mm ventilated discs at the rear.
The LandCruiser 70 Series is, first and foremost, a work vehicle, and that manifests itself in its on-road driving behaviour.
Around town and on the highway, the big Toyota is a little hard to live with. The recirculating ball steering is imprecise and not particularly direct, the turning circle â€“ officially listed as being 12.6 metres kerb-to-kerb â€“ feels excessively wide, the door-mounted spare tyre cuts rearward vision and the suspension is jiggly over choppy tarmac.
On the upshot, thereâ€™s loads of torque available from that V8 and taking off from traffic lights in second gear is a cinch on level ground. In fact, we'd recommend it â€“ first gear is super-short and using it results in revs rising much too quickly.
Short gearing also makes highway driving a noisy affair. At 100km/h the engine is turning over at around 2400rpm in fifth gear - much too high for a diesel engine with such exceptional low-rpm performance. The LandCruiser would definitely benefit from a sixth ratio for high-speed driving.
The LandCruiser 76 Wagon weighs 2190kg when empty, but whether from standstill or when overtaking the engine is more than capable of shifting it at a reasonable rate. The gearshift is a little baulky, but our test car had around 200km when we picked it up and the shifter may loosen up with use.
The brakes are strong, but thereâ€™s never any doubt that the car theyâ€™re attached to is very heavy indeed. On the plus side, a sustained downhill run at 80-100km/h didnâ€™t challenge them, and we never experienced any significant fade.
Once taken off the beaten track, the LandCruiser 76 comes into its own. The overly firm ride exhibited on sealed roads disappears and is replaced by a well-damped chassis that works best on gravel and dried mud.
With low-range 4WD selected and the nose pointed towards more challenging terrain, the â€˜Cruiser is incredibly impressive.
Off road in the 'Cruiser is like being in a Leopard tank... nothing stands in its way, it will simply grind its way up and over the toughest terrain. Little wonder so many are pressed into duty day-in and day-out along near-impassable trails with the SES and CFA - and deep into open-cut mines.
Steep hills can be descended using engine braking alone and sharp ascents tackled with the V8 virtually at idle. On these trails, the 'loose' steering suddenly makes sense â€“ it enables the driver to place the front wheels with greater precision, and minimizes kickback from ruts, rocks and errant tree stumps.
Thanks to the archaic live-axle suspension, wheel articulation is excellent. All four wheels follow the contours of heavily-weathered tracks with ease, and traction is outstanding.
Our off-road testing occurred during one of Victoriaâ€™s drier weekends, but with our tester fitted with the optional locking differentials, we get the feeling muddier surfaces would pose no challenge for the LandCruiser 76.
Ground clearance measures up at 215mm on the GXL (230mm on the Workmate), but at no stage did its belly scrape the ground. If it did though, steel bash plates on the transfer case offer some protection for the drivetrain.
The LandCruiser 76 barely broke a sweat on our off-road sojourn, and itâ€™s clearly capable of so much more.
With space for five workers and all their gear itâ€™s an obvious choice for industries like mining, logging, forestry, construction and the emergency services. But with its exceptional off-road performance, itâ€™s a good pick for 4WD enthusiasts too.
Its capabilities in the bush compromise its livability in the city though, and thereâ€™s no denying that its interior is incredibly Spartan compared to other modern cars.
At a starting price of $58,540 for the LandCruiser 76 Wagon itâ€™s also rather expensive. Potential customers could be forgiven for going to other less-focussed vehicles with more luxury, more comfort or better looks on offer.
But if you need to get somewhere out in Australiaâ€™s wild expansive wilderness and you want the best tool for the job, do what countless Australians have been doing since 1958 â€“ choose a LandCruiser.