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Car reviews - Toyota - LandCruiser - 100 Series 5-dr wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
Roomy interior, turbo-diesel power delivery, ruggedness, silky V8, axle articulation and ground clearance courtesy of adjustable semi-active suspension, reassuring gravel road behaviour
Room for improvement
Toyota could have done more with the bland styling, seats need more shape and support, fuel consumption, too big for the city

Toyota logo9 Aug 2005

By NEIL MCDONALD

IT is the cornerstone of Toyota’s off-road arsenal.

A blitzkrieg machine which has cemented its position in the sales charts regardless of the arrival of some talented aspirational newcomers.

But how do you maintain your lead and buyer retention rate in the face of stiff competition?

In the case of Toyota’s revised LandCruiser range you tweak the bread-and-butter Standard and GXL models and throw more technology at the range-topping leather-clad Sahara V8, while ensuring you don’t mess with a proven formula that mates tried-and-tested off-road capability with Toyota’s famed reputation for quality.

Significantly, the new luxury Sahara now benefits from some technologies previously only found in the Lexus LX470.

Although the base models gain a new height-adjustable driver’s seat and automatic lumbar support and twin-pocket design halogen headlights, it’s the Sahara that gains the lion’s share of the improvements.

There’s the Toyota Electronically Modulated Suspension (TEMS) system - semi-active pneumatic suspension to you and me - plus active height control for off-road work and variable ratio steering to improve on-road feel and balance.

Toyota claims TEMS is designed to enhance driving dynamics on and off-road and when the vehicle stability control system is operating and after a 200km workout, including some serious rutted off-road tracks, it proved its worth.

Basically the super-suspension system uses micro-processors to control the damping force of the shock absorbers using sensors to measure shock absorber movement, wheel speed, engine speed, steering angle and brake pedal application.

The system offers four settings from Comfort to Sport, for optimum ride comfort and handling and unlike some systems there is a palpable difference between the softest and firmest settings.

In Sport mode the 'Cruiser’s suspension firms up, enabling the juggernaut to be punted along in a brisk manner that belies its bulk.

A flick across to Comfort mode provided an almost limousine ride over a seriously rutted gravel roads north west of Brisbane. Significantly, too, the system ironed out any axle hop tendencies from the rear axle.

A bonus is the pneumatic auto-levelling active ride height control, which boasts an adjustment range of up to 90mm.

A height switch on the centre console offers three settings: Normal, Lo and Hi.

A speed-sensing control overrides the ride height under certain conditions, reverting to Normal from Lo at speeds above 5km/h and to Normal from Hi above 30km/h.

The wide range of adjustability of the system means deep rutted tracks can be traversed without the car bottoming on rocks.

Last but not least in this technological feast is the variable ratio rack-and-pinion steering.

Like similar systems available in high-end European cars, the Toyota steering system reduces steering wheel angle during rapid lane change manoeuvres as well as providing more direct steering for parking, an important consideration with a vehicle the size of the LandCruiser.

One of the more pronounced benefits was the reduction in the 'Cruiser’s tendency to understeer when pushed. It managed a level of reassurance and steering feedback you would not normally equate with a large off-roader.

There is still some vagueness in the steering, but no more so than in other large off-roaders.

The silky smooth 4.7-litre V8 and 4.2-litre turbo-diesel engines carry over and make an ideal adjunct to the Sahara range. For off-road clout we’d opt for the torquey diesel, which offers 430Nm from 1400rpm, enabling the LandCruiser to crawl over the most punishing terrain without any trouble.

For sublime highway cruising the V8 is the pick. There’s enough power to launch the 2.5-tonne vehicle around and away from slower traffic without any trouble.

In the Sahara, both engines are mated to a five-speed automatic, which shifts with the fluidness of a hot knife through butter.

Toyota claims combined fuel economy of 11.0lL/100km in the turbo-diesel and 16.0Ll/100km in the V8. It’s not the best but it’s important to remember these are purpose built off-roaders, not pretenders.

Visually, there’s little to pick the prevous 100-Series from the update, except for LED tail-lights and a smoother front-end.

Inside, the cabin remains one of the roomiest around and the Sahara benefits from the luxury trimmings expected of a range-topper.

However, the seats could do with some more support. There are lashings of leather, faux wood - which we could do without - and a comprehensive standard equipment list.

This includes dual front airbags, stability control, vehicle dynamic control, long-range fuel tank, 17-inch alloys, leather steering wheel and shift lever, leather upholstery, electric reach and height-adjustable steering, centre differential lock, cruise control, trip computer, sunroof, refrigerated cool box in centre console and electric seats/windows/mirrors.

Toyota expects the Sahara to make up about 160 sales a month, with the GXL being the volume model.

All up, the revised LandCruiser range is tipped to continue its dominance of the large four-wheel drive market with a sales forecast of between 1000 and 1200 a month.

With the Ford Explorer now out of the picture, the only serious rival is Nissan’s Patrol and the latest revisions to the LC100 mean it is more than capable of keeping its Japanese rival at bay.

Perhaps the only question remaining is why anyone would you buy a Lexus LX470 when the Sahara provides just as much on and off-road capability for $40,000 less?

Granted, it may not have the LX470’s flashy in-your-face jewellery, but the pair really are more than just kissin’ cousins.

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