The name 'LandCruiser' carries significant cred in off-roading circles. Few can claim such a robust pedigree.
Interestingly, and as a sign of the times, Toyota’s large 4WD has become not only a favourite for the horse and caravanning set, but also for urban families.
In sharp contrast to the commercial-market 70-Series ‘Cruiser that sells alongside it, the 200-Series LandCruiser is laden with high-tech off-road aids, safety equipment and a heaping of pampering mod-cons.
We put the petrol-powered mid-range VX model to the test both on and off the road. And, despite its proliferation around school gates, found it to be an adept bush-basher that’s probably best kept away from the urban grind.
Toyota updated the LandCruiser 200 range late last year by making a 45-litre auxillary fuel tank standard on all models and adding crawl control for diesel models (it remains standard on the petrol).
Other changes included a reversing camera, auxillary audio input jacks, iPod connectivity and a rear 12-volt power outlet.
In the case of the VX model tested here, 18-inch alloys, a moonroof and dark grey privacy glass were also added to the standard equipment list for 2010.
What’s the appeal?
Not quite as utilitarian as the 70-Series range of off-road workhorses, the 200-Series LandCruiser is pitched as a more civilised, yet still immensely capable, off-roader.
The V8 petrol VX model we tested offers huge power and torque, and its suite of electronic off-road aids gives it impressive traction on virtually any loose surface.
A high towing capacity is also one of the LandCruiser 200’s core appeals, and its eight-seat capacity makes it a popular choice for families with a love of the outdoors
What features does it have?
Cruise control, a trip computer, a reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, a power moonroof, foglamps and power windows are standard equipment on the LandCruiser VX.
Both front seats are electrically adjustable for slide and recline, and like all other LandCruiser 200s the VX is fitted with keyless entry and ignition.
The sound system in the VX is a basic AM/FM CD tuner, with both a 3.5mm audio input and a USB port for portable music players. Sound is piped to six speakers, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls are standard.
What’s under the bonnet?
The petrol-engined LandCruiser 200 models get Toyota’s 2UZ-FE 4.7 litre V8 - a quad-cam naturally-aspirated motor with variable-intake valve timing.
On regular 91-octane fuel, it produces 202kW of power at 5400rpm and 410Nm of torque at 3400rpm.
The only gearbox available with the petrol V8 is a five-speed tiptronic automatic – which has one gear less than the automatic offered with the diesel.
A Torsen centre differential directs power to both axles and is set with a default front-rear torque split of 41/59.
As much as 53 percent of drive can be sent to the front wheels, while up to 70 percent is taken to the rear wheels under certain conditions - such as when accelerating out of corners.
The centre differential can be locked via a rotary dial on the dashboard, with the same switch also giving the driver control over the dual-range transfer case.
Coil springs and double wishbones make up the front suspension, while the rear features a rugged coil-sprung live axle.
Toyota’s recently-developed Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) is standard on the VX, and enhances wheel articulation by decoupling the sway bars during off-road maneuvers.
Brakes are ventilated discs all around and measure in at 340mm on the front and 345mm at the rear, with four-piston fixed calipers clamping the front discs.
How does it drive?
The LandCruiser 200 is truly a giant, and it feels like one on the road.
Its sizable bulk can be a handful in tight quarters, and caution needs to be exercised in carparks and narrow streets.
The reversing camera helps, but front and rear parking sensors would’ve been handy to have.
Dynamically though, it’s no lumbering elephant. Yes, you certainly feel the LandCruiser’s 2.6 tonne kerb weight when accelerating, braking and cornering, but the steering is light, the brakes strong and the engine more than brawny enough to motivate the ‘Cruiser at a reasonable clip.
With peak torque coming online at 3400rpm, the petrol V8 doesn’t quite have the same sense of urgency as the gruntier V8 twin-turbo diesel with masses of low-down torque.
With wider spacing between its five gears the petrol also can’t be kept ‘on the boil’ in the same way that the six-speed equipped diesel can, and acceleration from a standing start isn’t especially quick.
However, the big Cruiser offers a surprisingly refined on-road ride. The VX’s big wheels and big rubber provide plenty of initial compliance, and the suspension damping is soft without being too floaty – unlike the LandCruiser’s smaller cousin, the Prado.
That said, the LandCruiser is certainly more at home on rock-strewn paths and muddy trails than smoothly paved highways and streets.
While it may not have the rugged mechanicals and highly effective limited-slip diff found in the (admittedly more agricultural) Nissan Patrol, the LandCruiser’s comprehensive suite of electronic traction aids endow it with impressive grip on broken surfaces and muddy trails.
We took our tester to the hills around Healesville in Victoria following three days of solid rain, and its performance off-road was nothing short of stellar.
When traction disappears from one wheel, you can feel the car’s electronic brain brake individual wheels to send drive to those that still have some purchase. The result is almost limitless grip.
The way the LandCruiser will haul its 2.6 tonne bulk up greasy trails (barely traversable on foot), is unnerving.
Most inclines can be driven up without switching into low range with the Crawl Control system enabling the driver to concentrate purely on steering inputs by having the car automatically maintain a constant speed.
The system works both uphill and downhill, and the driver can select from three preset crawl speeds.
On tighter tracks the LandCruiser’s sheer size does work against it, but otherwise it’s easily one of the most capable off-roaders around.
What did our passengers think?
Passenger comfort is quite good in the 200-Series. The front passenger enjoys a power-adjustable seat, while the 40-20-40 split second row bench is wide enough for three adults.
The centre seat backrest is quite hard, but the outer seats are very accommodating.
The second row can also slide fore and aft, and tumble forward to improve access to the third row. There’s provision for up to three people to sit in the third row, but realistically only two will be willing to sit there for any kind of lengthy trip.
Both the second and third rows have their own roof-level air vents, while the second row also gets a pair of vents at the back of the centre console. In addition, the second row passengers are provided with their own fan controls for the rear cabin.
Interior quality and feel?
All Toyotas come with a reputation for solid build and bulletproof hardware, and the LandCruiser’s interior quality is everything you’d expect from the brand.
Build quality is exceptional, and every part of the interior feels rugged enough to withstand not only the rigors of off-road excursions, but those of family duty as well.
The interior design could be described as bland, but the quality of materials used is very high, with top-quality plastics used throughout the cabin. The woodgrain trim is fake, but it looks reasonably authentic and its matte finish is resistant to scratches.
The seat-folding mechanisms are also extremely robust and solid, unlike the flimsier hinges and latches that seem to be favoured by other Japanese brands.
With the third row seats folded up there’s 700 litres of luggage room up to the top of the second row seatback, but even with the third row down there’s still a decent amount of room for shopping bags and the like.
The spring-assisted folding mechanism for the third-row seats make it easy to stow them in the upright position (it’s a simple matter of pulling two levers), but their pedestals take up a fair amount of room either side of the boot floor.
Tipping the second row seats is similarly easy, but their hinges limit the length of the cargo area. Long items are more easily accommodated by folding just the backrests of the second and third rows, and laying the object down on top of the seats.
Other storage options include the four door-bins, the deep (and chilled) centre console box and the glovebox. There are also a couple of storage cubbies in the boot area to keep small items hidden from prying eyes.
How safe is it?
The LandCruiser VX is equipped with ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, traction control and stability control, all of which work together to improve traction both on and off the road.
Crawl control can automatically govern the speed of the car to one of three pre-set speeds and works both on ascents and descents. Hill-Start Assist prevents the big wagon from rolling backward when moving off on a steep incline, and can be invaluable for maintaining control on muddy hills.
Ten airbags are standard for the VX and Sahara and include dual front, dual front knee airbags, side airbags for the first two rows and full-length curtain airbags that cover all three rows.
The LandCruiser 200-Series has not been tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP.
Fuel Consumption and Green Rating
On the combined cycle, Toyota says the LandCruiser 200 petrol consumes 14.5 l/100km and emits 341g/km of carbon dioxide.
Over the course of our week-long test drive we recorded an average figure of 16.3 l/100km, however this did include a hard day spent off-road and in low range.
Unsurprisingly, the Government’s Green Vehicle Guide gives the petrol LandCruiser a 2.5 out of 10 greenhouse rating, and a 5.5 out of 10 air-pollution rating.
How does it compare?
Nissan has already unveiled its own LandCruiser-fighter in the form of the all-new 2011 P61G Nissan Patrol, but that won’t be arriving here until at least next year.
Of the three, the Land Rover and the Volkswagen are the more polished products, with each featuring more luxurious interiors and greater aesthetic appeal.
The Land Rover is perhaps the closest competitor to the Toyota on price, and its astonishing off-road abilities are certainly on par with those of the LandCruiser.
The LandCruiser however can’t be beat for its sheer size and suitability as a tow vehicle. It can tow a braked load of 3.5 tonnes, and the amount of interior space available for both passengers and cargo is huge.
Is it expensive to maintain?
Service intervals are set at 15,000km or every nine months, with the price of the first six services capped at $210 under the Toyota Service Advantage program.
Toyota offers a three-year warranty on the LandCruiser 200 range
The LandCruiser VX is available in the following colours:
Graphite (grey), Blue Storm, Ebony (black), Silver Pearl, Glacier White, Merlot Red, Vintage Gold and Goldrush (metallic brown).
The 2010 Toyota LandCruiser 200 VX petrol retails for $88,500 before on-road costs, with driveaway pricing typically resting just under $100,000. The diesel costs $10,250 more at $98,750.
There’s a lot to like about the 200-Series LandCruiser.
Off-roaders will appreciate its sure-footedness when off the beaten track, farmers will like its rugged build and reputation for reliability and those with sizable families will no doubt enjoy the acres of interior room and eight-seat capacity.
The cabin is spacious, well-equipped and constructed extraordinarily well. The powertrain – while not as tractable as the diesel – feels unbreakable and Toyota-dependable.
It’s a huge car though, and, it has to be said, it’s not really suited to being a family bus for city-dwellers.
As an off-road chariot though, it’s pretty hard to beat.