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Car reviews - Toyota - LandCruiser 70 - Workmate Cab Chassis


We like
Superior towing, acceleration, and fuel efficiency; smooth-acting automatic transmission; good visibility; robust build quality; easy to use controls; decent headlight performance; fit-for-purpose cabin and large tray; serious go-anywhere off-road ability
Room for improvement
Can be thirsty when towing; no reversing camera; some ergonomic shortfalls; unladen ride no match for smaller utes; vinyl seats unsuited to Aussie summers; ponderous steering; no electric windows or central locking; fiddly infotainment and feeble audio quality; diff locks remain optional

Four-cylinder LandCruiser 70 Series offers an extensive list of benefits over dated V8 rival

20 Mar 2024



WE ALL knew it was on the cards, but when the Toyota 2.8-litre four-cylinder LandCruiser 70 Series arrived the love was almost palpable from all but rusted-on V8 70 Series fans.


Here is a much more civilised beast with automatic transmission, no less, and more kick than the V8… though that model’s locomotive sound is absent.


The 2.8-litre 1GD engine as we know is lifted from other Toyota light commercials… Hilux, HiAce and the Fortuner and Prado fourbies.


It’s been tweaked for 70 Series application with a deeper steel oil pan, redesigned oil strainer, oil filter relocated to a safer position and a bigger cooling fan with an additional idler pulley for improved reliability.


The transmission is similarly upgraded and features a wade-safe high-mount breather outlet, bigger oil pan and a useful Power Haul mode optimised for towing.


Other than that, it’s the same powertrain – a four pot single turbo diesel cranking out a useful 150kW and 500Nm, the latter from as low as 1600rpm.


On test was the two seat, base model, single cab chassis Workmate aka the “farm” or “mine” spec’ model that sells from $76,800 plus on-road costs and has no direct competitors.


It looks like a throwback with funky headlights and is a throwback in some areas, but we like the no beg your pardons look.


Tipping the scale at 2145kg, the Workmate ute rides on a time-tested ladder chassis with coils up front and leaf springs down the back with live axles front and rear.


Size-wise we are looking at a big vehicle, long and tall at 5235mm long x 1790 wide x 1970 high on a 3180mm wheelbase.


However, we noticed the narrow rear axle (nearly 100mm narrower than the front at 1420mm) has found its way through on the new model giving the 70 Series Workmate something of a constipated look from behind.


Perhaps owners could address the track variance simply by using different wheel offsets front and rear. That’s what we’d do.


The long (steel) tray measuring well over 2.0 metres long can take up to 1365kg payload while the vehicle itself can tow the 3500kg standard.


It has a big 130-litre fuel tank and a full-size spare tucked under the tray at the rear. With 330mm ground clearance the 70 Series Workmate has little trouble in even the most arduous off-road driving apart from restrictions caused on this model by rear overhang.


The gloss grey steel wheels (that look great) carry 225/95 series tyres braked by double piston front callipers and single piston rear stoppers.


Some pesky ADAS kit has found its way onto the new 79 Series Workmate including lane departure warning that must be turned off at every restart if you don’t like it, traffic sign recognition, auto high beam, and some Toyota SafetySense features. The downhill deceleration function is worthy.


But there’s no reverse camera which seems a big oversight.


A small screen is fitted into the dash for infotainment control, but you’ll need a wired connection for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Not enough storage options are provided possibly due to the age of the vehicle’s design.


The seats are vinyl covered and OK except for the sweat factor and the driving position is high and mighty, makes you feel like you’re king of the road.


The beast has old school recirculating ball steering and a massive 14.4m turning circle.


Combined fuel economy is a claimed 9.6 litres per 100km.


Driving Impressions


Having recently driven the previous cab-chassis model with the 4.5-litre V8 and five-speed manual we had high expectations for the newbie which were realised as soon as we got on the road.


It is a livelier drive than the V8, has stronger acceleration and is smoother thanks to the six speed auto. Ignore the wheezy diesel four engine sound and it’s all good.


Off the line acceleration is relaxed but it gets better on the move and better again at highway speeds where the slick auto slips down a cog as needed giving easy acceleration at all times and no lag. Which plays a big part in how well this model tows.


It isn’t as smooth and quiet as say the HiLux or the Fortuner with which it shares the powertrain but a bit of a grumbly vibe is totally in keeping with this tough truck.


What comes as something of a shock is the boat-like steering that makes three or four point turns a regular occurrence coupled with the vehicle’s height which dictates care going into underground carparks.


As expected, the ride without a load is jiggly with rear leaf springs but it settles once there’s cargo or a trailer on the back.


Braking power is strong and the lug tyres though too skinny have a surprising amount of grip in the wet and dry exhibiting pretty much zero tyre hum, even at freeway speed where wind noise masks everything. It has an aerodynamic rating of 0.47 Cd … so, not slippery at all.


Sitting in the beast is relatively comfortable and attaining a comfy driving position is easy thanks to decent adjustability but nothing is electrically assisted here including the windows, central locking or seats.


The aircon’ is OK but the quarter windows are a bonus as are the multiple steering wheel controls.


We found operating the infotainment a challenge on a number of fronts because the screen resolution was poor and the menus difficult to find exacerbated by little selector buttons/pads.


We towed a van with the Workmate on- and off-road and it was barely perceptible though fuel consumption increased to 11.7L /100km with a 750kg camper trailer on the back.


On a long highway run, the Workmate was good on smooth surfaces, jiggly on rough roads but other than that, it went like a train.


On reflection, we like the retro look and feel of the Workmate, its relative lack of pesky ADAS and manually operated features. It’s like a time warp and yes, we’d buy one given the right circumstances. It’s a whole step up on a one tonne pick-up in useability terms.


But a reverse camera is a necessity on such a vehicle and please can you take a look at the steering next time, Toyota.

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