Car reviews - Toyota - LandCruiser 200 - Sahara Diesel
Lavish luxury, mind-boggling features, premium cabin quality, unstoppable drivetrain, liberal occupant space
Room for improvement
Engine noise intrusive under acceleration, disconnected steering feel, thirsty, poor driver visibility, rear seats intrude into cargo area
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9 Jun 2016
By NEIL DOWLING
Price and equipment
IN CASE you hadn’t noticed, the LandCruiser is big. It dominates the shopping car centre parks, the freeways and narrow city streets and reduces even its rivals into dimensional submission.
Which is precisely why it’s popular. Yes, many owners will talk about durability and space requirements, the ability to tow the caravan to Uluru and the boat to Proserpine and the horse float to the Southern Highlands and the bike trailer to Eildon.
What they’re really thinking about is the sense of utmost security and roominess, go-anywhere ability and Toyota-badged reliability when peering down on lesser suburban-bound traffic. And perhaps a bit of superiority.
Buyers in the $120,000 range rarely pick a sedan anymore. Unless you’re an astute car spotter, sedans rarely reflect success and don’t have the high-numerical answer to the equation of sheet metal versus dollars.
The LandCruiser 200 Series Sahara ticks all the boxes. Yes, there are rivals from Range Rover and Nissan. Even soft-roaders like Porsche and Volvo can be targets.
But the LandCruiser looks tough, is tough and is one of the few vehicles that is the automobile equivalent to Inspector Gadget – a machine with a heart that can become whatever you desire.
The LandCruiser range received an upgrade late last year, unusual given the long gestation period of Toyota products yet justified given the technology assault leveled at it by the Nissan Patrol V8.
So the range gets a more aggressive F-Truck rivaling grille, a tad more diesel power and in the Sahara’s case, a bucket-load more features that includes a comprehensive safety inventory and saloon-standard luxury items.
Most impressive is the Sahara’s four cameras that initially appear as aids to parking and preventing contact with pedestrians and misplaced fire hydrants.
In fact the cameras that create a panoramic view of the outside include a front unit that shoots from chassis-rail level and relays where the front wheels are pointed and what objects are in the way.
This is good news for off-road enthusiasts who will be especially grateful given the extraordinary distance from the driver’s seat to the front wheels and the inescapable fact that the helicopter landing pad bonnet effectively removes any chance of checking out what’s really happening up front.
Other niceties include the perforated leather upholstery that is cotton-flannel soft to the touch large sunroof, electric tailgate, electric-fold rear seats, satellite navigation, two DVD screens for the centre-seat occupants and a new 2016 inclusion, a wireless smartphone charger.
Other gear includes a cool box between the front seats, heated and ventilated front seats and an electrically-adjustable steering wheel.
For 2016 the 4.5-litre bi-turbo diesel V8 gets a 5kW increase in power to 200kW thanks to tweaking of the engine management map and new fuel injectors, for better economy.
The Sahara diesel now costs $118,500 plus on-road costs, a rise of $4900 on the previous model which, given the extra equipment, appears good value for the money.
Options are limited on the full-house Sahara, though if you really were considering going bush you may have to spend an extra $500 on a snorkel.
The Sahara is a three-row, seven-seat model, differing from the five seats in the GX and the eight for the GXL and VX.
Pay more, get less? Not really. The “loss” of the extra seat is in the third row, where the Sahara gets two chairs of adult size – and close to adult space – rather than the bench arrangement of the eight-seaters.
The boot area is rated at up to 1276 litres which isn’t huge – even the Porsche Cayenne is bigger – but that’s more to do with the raised floor and the side-mounted, fold-down third-row seats.
This is the same third-row seat arrangement as the Fortuner and really knocks down luggage space. The difference can be seen in a comparison with the Kluger that, though carrying 1171 litres, is easier to load and can take bulkier items, while still having a full-size spare wheel beneath the floor.
The rest of the Sahara is made for big people – two in the front and three in the centre seat – with tall-person legroom and hat-height headliner.
It’s also supremely comfortable, closing the gap with sister company Lexus’ LX570 that costs another $21,000. Soft, smooth-grain leather is used for the upholstery and door trims, extending to the dash and including the difficult wrapping joints of the lower centre console.
In terms of appearance and tactility, it is as good as a premium European car and backs that up with simple, logically-arranged switchgear and clear instrumentation and monitors.
There’s also liberal personal storage space despite the manual handbrake lever – a solid choice for an off-road machine – and the numerous centre-console switches.
There’s a small vertically-lidded compartment ahead of the gearshifter and the two cupholders – also hidden by a lid – behind. The box between the front seats is cooled by the air-conditioner for refreshments though can become a conventional storage box by turning of the controls.
There’s big door pockets, a large glovebox and net pockets behind the front seats.
The centre console also houses the electrically-engaged transfer case, offering just two choices – 4WD High or 4WD Low – because of the wagon’s standard constant all-wheel drivetrain.
In addition, the console has the 'Crawl' control which is effectively a low-speed cruise control that allows the driver to dial up the chosen speed to walk the car up rocky inclines or gently cross boggy sand.
Three other switches allow the electronic stability control to be disabled – ideal when in off-road conditions – and to lock the differential.
The Sahara gets an imposing centre monitor with bright, clear graphics for the satellite navigation and touch controls for audio, communication and ventilation.
Big dials ahead of the driver also flank a smaller information screen. Welcome features are the large vents for air, the stylish timber and leather steering wheel, and the heated and ventilated front seats.
Airvents are provided for the centre and rear rows, with controls at the back of the centre console to personalise air flow. Centre-seat occupants also get air from both the vents on the headliner and from the centre console.
Sit in the centre row and you’ll also get large DVD screens with wireless headphones (only two, though). Which will possibly take children’s attention away from the long distances for which the wagon is designed.
Engine and transmission
A big wagon needs a big engine and the 4.5-litre bi-turbo diesel certainly kicks up some steam. That’s because, at 2740kg dry, this is one hefty machine.
The latest engine upgrade is more of a tweak, lifting power by 5kW to round it up to 200kW at 3600rpm. Torque stays the same at a meaty 650Nm delivered from 1600rpm – where 75 per cent of the max is available – through to 2600rpm.
In context, the Sahara is mathematically about 60 per cent more powerful than the Toyota RAV4 diesel, weighs about 60 per cent more and the RAV4 has 60 per cent of the Sahara’s fuel consumption. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Numerical collusion aside, the Sahara is claimed to average 9.5 litres per 100 kilometres which Toyota said is 7.7 per cent better than the previous model.
This is attributed to the new fuel injectors and the remapping of the engine’s management software, bringing it up to Euro 5 emission standards.
A new particulate filter has reduced CO2 emissions to 250 grams per kilometre.
All owners and potential buyers of vehicles with particulate filters should be aware that these need to be regularly used on a long run to allow efficient and effective burn off of the nasties. Don’t give it a hot run and city-based diesels with such filters will incur problems.
That 9.5 L/100km fuel average is a difficult figure to conjure. On test, including dirt and sand, highway and suburban roads, it averaged 11.2 L/100km.
I think that’s more realistic.
Good news for travelers is that the fuel tank remains at 138 litres – or about $160 as a refill – which is possible to run the a range of 1624km. That puts the LandCruiser on a better foot than its rivals, including the 75 litres of the Range Rover Sport.
No change for the LandCruiser’s six-speed automatic and the attached two-speed transfer case. The Sahara has a constant 4WD arrangement and has electric engagement for the low range.
The data sheet looks almost inviting but in essence, this is a big (we may have mentioned that previously) machine that is perilously close to three tonnes and the engine’s character is more akin to a truck than an SUV.
It grudgingly starts and when kicking over, is Kenworth-level aggressive in its exhaust note. It’s also quite lethargic on acceleration unless it is given a bootful – probably a mistake because it becomes even noisier.
In summary, this is best driven conservatively. Let the gearbox flick up the cogs using the broad torque and just enjoy the ride. There’s plenty of poke available, it’s just that it takes its time arriving.
Buyers who want more pep from their big 4WD could look at the more responsive petrol version, with the caveat being the need for a healthy wallet for the fuel bills.
Ride and handling
Just in case you didn’t get the message, this is big. It sits on a ladder frame chassis (so like a Lego toy, you can separate the body from the chassis) which increases weight but perfectly suits its toughness and duty list that may include long distances towing significant weight.
The suspension is relatively simple but adds the hydraulic active system commercialised by Western Australian engineers Kinetic. A variation of Kinetic’s work is seen on previous generation Citroen WRC cars and even the LandCruiser’s rival, the Nissan Patrol V8.
It works by hydraulically separating the anti-roll bars to allow more wheel travel when working off-road, and then re-engaging the bars when back on the bitumen.
It allows the Sahara to have the best of both worlds and that reflects in the relatively stable on-road handling and the ability to lift its wheels over some very gnarly off-road obstacles.
The basic suspension is independent front and live axle rear but the ride quality is so good you wouldn’t pick it as being this conventional.
However, because there’s almost three tonnes being thrown at corners and because gravity and centrifugal force are powerful foes, the LandCruiser isn’t a great handler.
It will pitch itself into a corner but the weight is obvious and there’s a distinct disconnect between what’s happening with the wheels and what you’re holding in your hands (the steering wheel).
The battle between physics and an over-assisted hydraulic power steering pump means the driver is feeling an over-light, over-geared and disarmingly vague connection with the bitumen.
Which is the first sign that this is no sports wagon and that you should slow down.
It’s a completely different matter in the dirt or at the shopping centre where the steering is perfectly light and there’s little need for driver feel.
Above all, the Sahara is so comfortable, so supple in its reaction to road surfaces that to slow down merely increases the sumptuous drive-time experience.
Safety and servicing
Toyota has loaded the Sahara with its top-shelf safety equipment, following in the path of its Lexus LX570 cousin, and it has been awarded a five-start ANCAP crash safety rating.
For 2016, the wagon comes standard with a 360-degree camera (actually four cameras running through a central computer) including a forward ground-level unit, a pre-collision system, active cruise control, blind-spot monitor, cross-traffic alert at the rear and a lane-departure warning.
This is on top of the 10 airbags, electronic stability and cruise control, trailer-sway mitigation and an emergency brake light warning system.
It also has automatic headlights and wipers, active self-leveling LED headlights, LED daytime running lights and fog lights, LED tail-lights and heated mirrors.
Though at the pointy end of the Toyota price ladder, the Sahara benefits from the company’s capped-price service program. It costs $1320 for three years but needs a service every six months or 10,000km. The warranty is for three years or 100,000km.
Glass’s Guide estimates that the Sahara will retain a high 61 per cent of its purchase price after three years, on par with many of its rivals.
The LandCruiser retails its Toyota-tough status but the wagon is getting bigger, heavier and more lavish and approaches the standards set by its Lexus LX570 clone.
The diesel Sahara is the pick but while it offers a comfortable ride, it doesn’t feel especially happy in the city. But it is brilliant at towing, takes to the beach and soft sand with surprising ability and just eats up country distances like they don't exist. Luxury and comfort factors are also superb.
But perhaps it’s overkill. The GXL version is about $30,000 less expensive and does the same job without baubles and, at the end of the day, the Sahara is seen as a LandCruiser.
Buy it for its workhorse ability and you won’t be disappointed. Buy it to impress the neighbours and it won’t work. You can get more street cred for the same price with a Porsche or Mercedes-Benz.
Nissan Patrol Ti-L from $86,990 plus on-road costs
The massive Patrol is quite a bit cheaper in range-topping Ti-L guise than the Sahara following a much-needed repositioning last year, but lack of a diesel in the Y62 model means a thirsty V8 petrol is the only option. It is plush, comfortable and excellent value for money. Well worth considering.
Porsche Cayenne 3.0 diesel from $106,100 plus on-road costs
The SUV that thinks it’s a sports sedan is good value in its 3.0-litre diesel version (there’s a 4.2-litre diesel option) that is quick, efficient and comfortable. Unlike the LandCruiser it seats only five but has a spacious 670-1780 litre boot. The engine is rated at 193kW/580Nm and claims 6.8 L/100km from a 100-litre tank for a possible 1613km range. It tows 3500kg and has an on-demand all-wheel drive system with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The features include electric tailgate, sat-nav, leather, 11-speaker audio and bi-xenon headlights.
Servicing is annual and the wagon has a three-year or unlimited kilometre warranty. Its resale value after three years is estimated at 63 per cent, the highest here.
Land Rover Range Rover Sport SDV6 SE from $114,230 plus on-road costs
The Sport is the clever blend of a competent off-road wagon with heaps of sports performance while having a luxurious five-seat cabin. The 3.0-litre V6 bi-turbo diesel engine is rated at 225kW/700Nm and has a claimed 7.0 L/100km from an 89-litre tank for a possible range of 1391km. It has constant 4WD and a low-range gearbox and its tow rating is 3500kg. Standard gear includes an eight-speaker audio, leather, bi-xenon headlights, electric tailgate and air-electronic adjustable suspension. The warranty is for three years of 100,000km and servicing is every year or 26,000km. The estimated resale value after three years is 61 per cent.
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