Car reviews - Toyota - LandCruiser 70 - I4
Outstanding unsealed and off-road capabilities; four-cylinder’s improved performance, especially when towing; incremental fuel economy improvement; auto’s ease of use
Room for improvement
Atrocious wind noise; Spartan and uncomfortable cabin; ponderous steering; higher bonnet obscures forward visibility; lacks equipment and technology of similar-priced rivals
Four-cylinder power improves appeal and performance of iconic off-road workhorse
7 Dec 2023
By MATT BROGAN
TOYOTA Australia has launched its upgraded and keenly anticipated LandCruiser 70 Series range this month, the line-up now offered with the tried-and-tested 1GD-series four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine familiar to the HiAce, HiLux and Fortuner ranges.
The 2024 LandCruiser 70 Series line-up begins at $75,600 plus on-road costs and is offered as standard with a six-speed automatic transmission. Price rises for V8 models range from $8300 to $8800, while the $71,000 plus on-road costs 76 Series WorkMate five-door wagon is now deleted from the list.
The LandCruiser 70 Series also sports exterior styling enhancements, new comfort and convenience features and upgraded safety equipment.
Characterised by Dame Edna-inspired LED headlights with automatic high beam, the updated design of the ‘70’ also sees the addition of a new black mesh grille with “heritage inspired” bonnet and turn signals and dark grey alloy wheels and over-fenders on 76 and 79 Series GX and GXL variants.
Further, the 76 Series wagon range is now available with a new Eclipse Black paint hue joining the carry-over six colours already available throughout the range. Metallic paint is a $675 option.
Inside, the updates extend to a larger 6.7-inch touchscreen infotainment system (still with two- or four-speaker sound) with voice recognition and wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 4.3-inch digital instrument cluster display and new-look instrumentation that recalls the FJ40 series LandCruiser.
New multimedia and safety assist control buttons have been added to the steering wheel, while the console has been “redesigned with greater amenity” in mind. GXL grades gain two USB-C ports which replace the existing 12-volt socket, while the 76 Series line-up adds a reversing camera.
Across the range, an expanded suite of Toyota Safety Sense technologies joins the range, now offering downhill assist control, road sign assist and lane departure alert – the features join the existing pre-collision system with autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
Toyota says the adoption of the four-cylinder engine for LandCruiser 70 Series comes with several mechanical upgrades which improve cooling and reliability in “heavy-usage scenarios”. The changes include the addition of a larger diameter cooling fan and an isolation crank pulley to reduce the load on the engine’s serpentine belt.
A newly designed sump pan, strainer and oil level sensor has also been introduced, aimed at improving oil delivery in “off-camber and hilly situations”, while the orientation of the oil filter has been adjusted to suit its new location.
Toyota says noise, vibration and harshness levels have also been reduced thanks to the inclusion of a balance shaft. The unit delivers 150kW from 3000-3400rpm and 500Nm from 1600-2800rpm.
The Aisin-sourced six-speed automatic transmission fitted as standard across the LandCruiser 70 Series range is likewise adapted to the application with a deeper oil pan, optimised oil strainer intake position, and new added oil catch tank.
The automatic transmission now features a power/haul mode to “best make use of the 70 Series’ full 3500kg braked towing capacity”, while a second gear start switch can “help pull the vehicle out of sticky situations”.
For the 70 Series, Toyota has also fitted an underbody guard for the transmission, while the breather hose has been raised to a height of 900mm to assist water wading.
Toyota will continue to sell the LandCruiser 70 Series with the venerable 1VD-series 4.5-litre V8 turbo-diesel on all variants bar the 76 Series WorkMate. The existing unit makes comparable power to the newly introduced four-cylinder (151kW at 3400rpm), but significantly less torque (430Nm from 1200-3200rpm).
It is available only with a five-speed manual transmission.
The ‘70’ range continues to feature solid front and rear axles, a sturdy ladder frame chassis, a payload of up to 1380kg, and a low-range transfer case with available locking front and rear differentials on GX and GXL grades (+$1500).
As someone who grew up in and around LandCruisers (FJ40, HJ47 and a 1HD-powered single-cab) it is often hard to separate sentimentality from common-sense.
The current 70 Series is the longest-running series production vehicle in Toyota’s range. It was developed as a successor to the 40 Series (which was designed in the late 1950s) and has been with us, in one form or another, since November 2, 1984.
In the automotive world, that’s an eon.
And there is no getting around the fact the ‘70’ is as old as dirt – whether you love it, understand it, appreciate it or don’t, this vehicle is outdated.
Weigh it up against the incoming LandCruiser Prado, for example, and you’ll note differences in clearance and suspension modernity that place the 70 Series at a significant disadvantage. As Toyota puts it, only those changes necessary were implemented. No more. No less.
Compared with the strong-selling HiLux, and you’ll also note that the 70 is less civilised inside the cab, with fewer electronics, a dated structural design, and antiquated ergonomics.
It also can’t tow any more than the smaller ‘Lux…
But of course, no one looks at a Prado as an alternative to a 76 Series, and no one cross shops a HiLux with a 79. The ‘Cruiser has a unique and dominant position in the Aussie psyche – and in the Aussie market.
There is nothing else that offers what the Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series offers, no matter what else is offered as an alternative.
So, why the four? Well, with the tried and tested 1VD-series V8 approaching the end of its emissions life (whether Toyota wants to admit it or not), there was something that needed to ‘slot in’ to ensure the 70’s longevity.
To be clear, that day hasn’t come yet – Toyota will continue to sell the 4.5-litre V8 alongside the HiLux-sourced 1GD-series 2.8-litre ‘four’ for the foreseeable future (assuming you can order one). But the day is coming, mark my words.
Toyota also recognised the fact that Aussie buyers overall prefer an automatic transmission. The V8 ‘Cruiser is available only with a five-speed manual, meaning the large percentage of buyers that are unable or unwilling to ‘row their own’ are likely to look elsewhere.
Offering a more economical four-cylinder alternative with a six-speed auto will be music to the ears of such buyers, we’re certain. And with more Aussies than ever before opting for an automatic transmission, it’ll also bolster Toyota’s bottom line.
Toyota says that it expects 30 per cent of buyers to opt for the four-cylinder auto straight away, many switching from the 12-month wait list for the V8. In time, it’s expected that mix will grow to 50:50.
So just what can buyers expect?
On the plus side, there is no loss to the impressive capability for which the LandCruiser 70 Series is renowned. Tackling the very same terrain utilised in developing the vehicle, we experienced the clearance and articulation few on the market can rival. Over broken, loose terrain the ’70 simply follows the direction set by the driver and gets on with it.
The vehicle has an uncanny ability to find traction where none exists. The skinny Dunlops bite into the earth below, making easy progress often when only two wheels have any real purchase.
There’s no adaptive suspension and no fancy traction aids to sort the tough going for you, either. The LC70 does as it always has, relying on a capable driver and its own abilities to sort its way through this demanding landscape.
Muddy creek beds that were a torrent just the day before. Steep and craggy outcrops of rock. Soft and sandy paddocks punctuated with tussock and saltbush. It is all taken in the LandCruiser’s stride.
But perhaps what impresses even more is the capability of the four-cylinder driveline. Arguably, it isn’t as torquey from idle, but in every other respect it has the V8 beat.
Performance is effortless, with sensible gearing allowing the ‘four’ to haul the weighty 70 Series through torturous obstacles without so much as flinching.
The engine seldom rises above 3000rpm in tackling anything that was thrown at it, and on open stretches of unsealed road – with a 3100kg caravan in tow – is commendable in pulling away from a standing start, while also managing more eager progress in the 60-100km/h range.
Sampling the two drivelines back-to-back in otherwise identical vehicles is telling. The V8 might have the heart vote, but it’s the four-cylinder that is a more energetic and efficient performer.
Off road, on road, in four-wheel drive and when towing, the ‘four’ was a litre or more less thirsty than the big V8, which should translate to an incremental increase in range – and hip pocket saving – for those who make the swap.
Of course, there are legacy hang-ups the updated LandCruiser 70 Series simply hasn’t worked past.
Wind noise from that upright windscreen, prominent snorkel, and those agricultural mirrors is atrocious at highway speeds, while the Spartan cabin remains an anachronism of bygone days, designed for shorter, slimmer folk who seem not to carry drinks, rest their arms, or require air when seated in the second row.
Even with the updates listed above, the 2024 LandCruiser 70 Series equipment list reads much as it would have over 30 years ago. Against rivals from within and outside of Toyota’s range it is a rugged and basic vehicle that concedes little to modern requirements.
Seating is narrow and unsupportive and does little to insulate the occupant from what is going on beneath. There are no air vents to the second row, and just one cup-holder in the V8 range (two in the four-cylinder). There are no armrests and no climate control. The head unit remains incredibly basic (even by Toyota standards), and the quality of the speakers is dismal.
The steering is ponderous and requires continual input to maintain one’s intended direction, while the higher bonnet – designed to facilitate a higher-set radiator – inhibits forward vision when climbing off-road, and when parking. The key and door locking remotes are separate items, and the sun visors aren’t large enough to cover the side windows when turned 90 degrees.
We could go on, but even Toyota knows 70 Series buyers don’t care.
The truth is, the LC70 isn’t built for comfort, and it sure isn’t built for speed. It’s a vehicle that is built to work, and to work hard. And for that reason alone, will continue to sell its socks off. There is nothing left on the market today that will do half of what the 70 does – at least more than once – and Toyota owners know it.
Whether they are willing to accept that it can do everything it always has with half the number of cylinders and 60 per cent of the displacement it used to is a point we’ll watch with interest… after all, the four-cylinder might soon be the only option 70 Series buyers soon have.
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