Car reviews - Toyota - LandCruiser 70 - Troop Carrier GXL
Fantastic diesel V8, incredible stock off-road ability, driving position, presence, old-school character, butch styling, typical toughness
Room for improvement
Arguably the least dynamic passenger vehicle on the road, vague steering, huge turning circle, sheer size, spartan standard equipment levels
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9 Mar 2017
Price and equipment
The LandCruiser Troopcarrier GXL we tested retails for $67,990 before on-roads following a $3000 price hike in an October update, making it the second most expensive GXL model after the dual-cab ute.
Our test car was fitted with air conditioning which, oddly, is optional on the 70 Series and costs a hefty $2761, bringing the total cost up to $70,751.
The only other Troopcarrier variant, the base-level Workmate, is $3100 cheaper at $64,890.
The 70 Series has never been known for its generous standard equipment, and the current one is no different with only the most necessary, functional features included on the more ‘lavish’ GXL.
Standard specification includes remote central locking, electric front windows, Bluetooth, Aux input, USB, FM/AM radio and CD-compatible media player, voice recognition, chrome bumpers and side steps, two 90-litre fuel tanks, two-piece golf tee-head snorkel, full-size spare tyre, front fog-lights and halogen headlights, underbody protection for the transfer case, ABS brakes, two airbags, auto-locking front hubs with manual lock option and differential locks for both the front and rear axles.
Cruise control also comes as standard for the first time on all variants.
It is offered in only three colours – French Vanilla, Sandy Taupe and Midnight Blue – down from seven options in other body styles.
The 70 Series range also comes with an extensive list of factory accessories including alloy or steel bull bars, side rails, tow bar, load distribution hitch, roof racks or tray, winch, headlamp and bonnet protector, driving lights, front weather shields and exterior sun visor.
There also exists an endless number of aftermarket accessories that can be fitted to the Troopcarrier or any other 70 Series bodystyle to improve performance, off-road ability, camping or aesthetics.
Customers expecting to get the interior quality, fit, finish and features of most $70,000 vehicles are advised to consider something other than the LandCruiser 70.
The phrase ‘function over form’ pops into mind when entering the cabin of the Troopcarrier, with the abundant use of plastic, cloth and bulky buttons feeling more like an interior from 1997 than 2017.
However there is also a certain charm in the simplicity of the LandCruiser’s interior – every button makes sense, there is no scrolling through touchscreen menus to figure out what you need and there are no strange beeps telling you you’ve pressed something wrong. It is a Nokia 3315 the way a modern car’s cabin is an iPhone – blocky, outdated and outmatched in terms of tech, but uncomplicated, easy to use and tough as nails.
Embedded in the grey dashboard is a media player that is surprisingly compatible with today’s technology – Bluetooth connectivity, USB and auxiliary ports, FM/AM radio and a slightly-more-archaic CD player give users an abundance of listening options.
Music is piped through two speakers in the front and two larger ones on the rear barn doors however, with the considerable road noise and windy thrum of the diesel V8, recorded sound gets drowned out in the cavernous Troopcarrier interior.
Nestled below the media player is the air-conditioning unit – a black rectangular cluster with a combination of sliding and turning knobs that turn the nostalgia factor up to 11. The air-con is arguably the most dated-looking part of the interior, and keep in mind this unit that looks like it’s been ripped out of your nan’s ’93 Corolla is a $2761 option.
The air-con has four front-facing vents as well as the usual windshield and foot vents, however much like the speakers, it struggles to effectively cool the Troopcarrier’s enormous interior.
Situated underneath the air-con is an ashtray, a 12V port and buttons to turn off traction control, extend or retract the antenna, and to switch between either of the Troopcarrier’s 90-litre fuel tanks.
Next to the gear lever is a cupholder that looks like it’s been bolted to the floor as a last-minute addition, which also houses a thin smartphone-sized cavity and a second 12V port, which is important for overlanding enthusiasts who may spend multiple days at a time away from a power source. Both front door windows are electric, but the rear-view mirrors are not, meaning adjusting the passenger side mirror requires getting out of the vehicle.
Surrounding the steering wheel on the dash are more buttons for cleaning the diesel particulate filter, an idle-up switch for starting the engine in extremely cold conditions, and the diff lock switch that lets you lock either the rear differential or both the front and rear at the same time for very sticky situations.
There are also a number of blank switches intended for the extensive modification that many 70 Series LandCruiser owners favour, and can be used as switches for accessories such as aftermarket driving lights and diff lockers for Workmate variants.
Storage cavities include the glovebox, thin door bins, a lidless centre console bin, cupholder-like nooks next to the handbrake and mesh pockets in the back of the front seats.
The cloth seats are basic but pleasantly comfortable, and when combined with the low windowsills provide excellent driving position and road vision.
The Troopcarrier GXL comes in five-seat configuration, with the rear row accessible only by folding the front seats forward. The idea of a five-seat Troopy is somewhat daft – Toyota offers the 70 Series in five-door wagon form, which makes for easier rear seat ingress and egress, while the Troopcarrier is known for its folding bench seats that can fit eight people in the rear.
Nevertheless, once in the back seat legroom is ample (as is expected for a car of its size) and the seating position is even higher in the rear, which makes for a unique experience when sitting head and shoulders above the largest European SUVs on the road. Open air is accessed manually by horizontally-sliding windows along the length of the vehicle.
The rear seats can also be folded forward to increase cargo space in the rear.
With the added roof height in the Troopcarrier variants, one would be hard pressed to find any other four-wheel-drive that can match its hangar-like interior space.
Overall the Troopcarrier’s interior is basic, utilitarian and devoid of creature comforts, however the more time we spent in it the more we enjoyed its… let’s say, ‘rustic’ charm.
Engine and transmission
Powering the entire 70 Series LandCruiser range is the same 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8 shared with the more passenger-oriented 200 Series LandCruiser – with a few noticeable differences.
The 70’s engine employs a single turbocharger in place of the 200’s twin-turbo set-up, and the engine has been tuned to prioritise durability and reliability over performance and output. The unit in the 70 also features a top-mounted intercooler which is responsible for the fat bonnet scoop on the hood – arguably one of the best aesthetic features of the 70 Series.
As part of the range-wide update in October, the engine got an update to bring it into line with Euro emissions standards, with changes including piezo-electric injectors, a particulate filter and taller gearing in the second and fifth gears.
Power output stands at 151kW at 3400rpm, while the maximum torque figure of 430Nm is reached low in the rev band from 1200 to 3200rpm.
It is teamed to a five-speed manual transmission with part-time four-wheel-drive and a low-range gearbox. It boasts a 3500kg braked towing capacity, and 750kg unbraked.
Fuel consumption is rated at 10.7 litres per 100km, up to 12.9L/100km in urban environments.
On paper, the outputs of the Troopcarrier’s engine seem slightly underwhelming – its power and torque figures are no more impressive than most four-cylinder turbo-diesel engines found in today’s pick-ups.
However, once driving you understand that the LandCruiser’s V8 is a different beast altogether – from the moment you turn the key the engine’s presence is apparent.
From the noise of the engine revving through the gears – more like that of a bus than a passenger car – to the hefty dose of torque even from less than 1000rpm, the diesel V8 is clearly an engine made for hard yakka.
Putting the foot down doesn’t make for great performance – the Troopcarrier lumbers and surges along without any sort of dynamic acceleration – but we found the engine makes for a satisfying and enjoyable driving experience.
Shifting through the gears is easy with the five-speed manual once you found the sweet spots, and when unladen, first gear becomes optional thanks to the engine’s plentiful low rpm torque. This meant that the majority of city driving could be done between the second and fourth gears.
Once on the highway, the Troopy made for comfortable cruising, with the tachometer hovering at around 2000rpm in fifth gear at highway speeds.
Employing the low-range gearbox off-road helps the LandCruiser conquer any hills and obstacles thrown at it, and also makes steep descents fun. There is something about putting it in first gear low, taking your feet off the pedals and watching almost two-and-a-half tonnes of truck edge down a steep hill using only overrun to brake that brings a smile to your face.
Overall we loved the engine and transmission in the LandCruiser, and despite its noise levels and gruffness it was surprisingly gentle but also capable when needed. It sounded mean when pushed and the super low torque capabilities made it a dream to drive in the rough stuff.
Ride and handling
To put it simply, on-road, the Troopcarrier is no magic carpet ride. Its classification as a light-commercial vehicle is fitting, as it drives more like a truck than a car and some toll road charges can really sting too.
It has an enormous turning circle with incredibly vague steering, and any turn is performed with a large amount of body-roll thanks to its high centre of gravity and rigid live axles front and rear.
At times and especially at high speeds the ride can be unsettled thanks to the leaf-sprung rear suspension, a problem which is only amplified when the vehicle is unladen.
Cruising in a straight line is comfortable, and the Troopcarrier soaks up bumps fairly well, thanks in part to the 225/95R16 Bridgestone Dueler all-terrain tyres, which are wrapped around 16-inch steel rims.
Parking around town in the Troopcarrier is a nightmare, thanks to its combination of sheer size, turning circle, ride height (which can make it hard to see smaller vehicles behind you) and lack of parking aids such as sensors and cameras.
But critiquing the Troopcarrier’s handling on-road is like complaining about the lack of storage space in a Lamborghini Aventador – if you do so you’re missing the point.
Taking the Troopy off-road on steep firebreaks and rocky, rutted hills shows how immensely capable Toyota’s king of the bush is, handling some genuinely tough terrain with ease.
Whether in high or low range, it would never miss a beat powering up steep, rocky tracks with minimal wheel spin, and the large profile tyres helped give it sizeable ground clearance. The Troopcarrier has an approach angle of 35 degrees and departure angle of 25 degrees.
One particular path we encountered was especially treacherous, a steep decline with deep ruts and large rocks scattered along the descent. With the exception of a scrape on the rear passenger side bumper, the Troopy handled the track with aplomb, crawling down the slope in first gear low and negotiating each obstacle confidently.
Even for those who are inexperienced with four-wheel-driving, a 70 Series LandCruiser will make off-roading seem easy.
Safety and servicing
The 70 Series LandCruiser range comes with a three year/100,000km warranty, for whichever comes first, and has capped price servicing for the first three years or 60,000km set at $340 per service.
However fleet, government, not-for-profit and rental buyers are not be eligible for capped-price servicing, so instead Toyota quotes a maximum logbook service price for those buyers, which ranges between $342.56 and $1049,31.
When the range was updated last year, the single cab variant was tested by ANCAP and scored a five-star rating for the first time, up from three stars.
However, the single cab was the only body style to receive a raft of safety updates that included five airbags (up from two in other variants), under-dash padding for the passenger and moving the steering linkage behind the front axle for extra safety. The other bodystyles remain untested, and it is unlikely the non-single cabs would achieve a five-star rating as they lack much of the recent single cab safety upgrades.
The Troopcarrier comes with front driver and passenger bags, ABS, brake assist, vehicle stability control, hill assist control, electronic brake-force distribution and driver seatbelt warning lights.
The LandCruiser Troopcarrier GXL has crafted out a reputation for itself as an un-killable, rough, rugged workhorse that can be relied on wherever you are.
From our time in the Troopy we can say that its reputation is wholly justified, and that it is a vehicle of contrasts – it tends to do things either incredibly well or comically poorly.
Its handling, manoeuvrability, interior fit and finish, NVH levels and standard equipment are sub-par by just about any standard.
However, its off-road ability from stock, powerful diesel engine, on-road presence, toughness, durability and practicality are unmatched by any vehicle on the road today.
It is an acquired taste and a niche vehicle, but what it does well it does very, very well.
Those looking for a high-riding, spacious SUV to drive around town should look elsewhere. For those who need an agricultural vehicle or a serious off-roading four-wheel-drive with room enough for everything you need to go on an extended camping trip, there are few options to rival the LandCruiser Troopcarrier.
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Mercedes-Benz G300 CDI Professional from $119,900 plus on-road costs
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