Large interior, strong engine, high quality, all-round abilities
Room for improvement
Fuel consumption, bulk in traffic
By GAUTAM SHARMA 05/07/1999
THE 100 Series LandCruiser is a conservative, predictable and successful comprehensive upgrade of the highly popular 80 Series.
With a nod to growing numbers of city-bound buyers around the world, there is a proliferation of cleverly engineered cupholders; smart, chrome-finished door handles; a smooth, non-aggressive front end and toned down wheel arch flares.
But outback users and fleets will be pleased to learn the hard-working Cruiser still has the grunt and guts to pull an 80-hour week without a sweat.
It is bigger in several directions but not noticeably so.
It has the highest levels of refinement yet seen in a full-size off-roader and has not lost anything in terms of outright ability, but gained plenty in driver appeal.
Refinement is immediately appreciated behind the wheel with engine noise, vibration and harshness muted to car-like levels.
Ride quality has been similarly smoothed but not smothered and steering and suspension improvements mean the big, bulky Cruiser does not overwhelm drivers destined to scour parking lots in search of a berth.
The elevated driving position helps quash concerns over the vehicle's external dimensions, not to mention imbuing the occupants with a hard to hide sensation of superiority.
Backed up with a dramatic step forward in safety which includes Toyota's now obligatory Global Outstanding Assessment safety engineering, the Cruiser can meet and beat Australian Design Rule 69 for passenger car safety.
It has standard anti-lock brakes on the family favourite GXL model while dual airbags and pretensioned, force limiter seatbelts up front are also standard. The centre seats have a lap/sash belt and headrest each.
Overall, styling has been tweaked and tidied with the most prominent changes at the nose and tail.
Up front, large, neatly fared-in headlamps integrate with a bold chrome-ringed grille while at the rear jewelled-effect tail-lights enhance a bold rump.
Cruising the city makes for thirsty work and the 165kW, 4.5-litre engine does not mind a sip or two but considering the 2364kg it is toting without a complement of up to eight crew, frequent bowser refills are understandable.
Smarter door trims, new dash and new seat facings brighten the interior. "Toyota grey" is in evidence but not all-pervading, the contrasting dark dash-top and tasteful fabric inserts in the doors offer some relief.
The seats are big and supportive and the driving position can be tailored through an angle-adjustable steering wheel. Gripping the leather-covered wheel, the Cruiser feels invincible.
Thoughtful touches are a switchable centre diff lock, power and second gear start modes for the four-speed automatic transmission, twin illuminated vanity mirrors (on auto only) and an extra 12-volt power outlet at the dash.
Ten cupholders are hidden away around the Cruiser. They pop out of the side panels in the rear, spring out of a cubby in the centre and live below a lid behind the gear shifter.
The cabin is airy with plenty of leg, head and shoulder room for the front two rows while the rear fold-down seats offer good headroom and acceptable knee, leg and shoulder room for skinny people or children. Access is reasonably good with two-stage tip-up centre seats and, handily, the fold down seats can be removed.
The 4.5-litre straight six is smooth, quiet and powerful. It revs willingly to about 4000rpm, giving the Cruiser admirable acceleration at little cost to conversation levels inside. Above 4000rpm the engine starts to get a little rumbly, prompting an up change.
In manual guise, the clutch and gear shift efforts are above average and the long wand, though never baulky, seems too much trouble for a daily hustle through stop-start traffic.
The four-speed automatic is the obvious choice for city dwellers. Not only are up-shifts slurry smooth but the ratios are well chosen and allow an enthusiastic driver to work the motor hard without slipping into high gear at the hint of a less than firm surface.
The ride is eerily smooth for such a huge vehicle. Pitch, squat and roll are controlled but not absent while road and tyre rumble is more than adequately repressed.
Steering effort is moderate, not as numb as some, and reasonably efficient despite almost four turns lock to lock.
Our brief off-road experience shows the Cruiser's greater on-road refinement continues when the tar stops. For drivers who enjoy a bit of dirt, the Cruiser is still willing and eager to attempt and achieve any task set it.