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

Our Opinion

We like
Engine power and flexibility, go-anywhere ability, interior space
Room for improvement
Cumbersome round-town handling, fuel economy, political incorrectness

26 Apr 2002

THE LandCruiser GXV is not a politically correct car. It weighs a heap, chews through too much fuel and intimidates any road user this side of a Mack truck driver with its sheer size.

But I like it. Somewhere in my soul - the politically incorrect bit - the devil develops a big grin when I clamber aboard. There's something about sitting way up there behind that huge bonnet - something about the bulk, the height and the machismo of the LandCruiser - that is empowering.

The GXV is a massive tribute to capitalist excess - all 2.744 tonnes of it.

It's also two metres wide and almost as high, chewing through more than 16 litres of fuel per 100km, and that's without taking it off-road, where consumption will inevitably rise.

But the LandCruiser wagon sells, in its various iterations, in numbers of about 1000 examples per month for Toyota, to farmers, mining companies and many, many suburban families looking for a family transporter with grunt and the ability to go almost anywhere off-road.

The GXV is the ultimate LandCruiser. It was, when the 100-Series was launched in 1998, powered by a V8 petrol engine. But in late 2000 Toyota made an adjustment, replacing the V8 with a new 4.2-litre, turbo-diesel six-cylinder mated exclusively to a four-speed automatic transmission.

The move was designed to give the Lexus LX470 - a LandCruiser GXV in luxury drag - a bit more sales room in the market, and it also reintroduced a turbo-diesel to the Cruiser range since the engine type was discontinued from the 80-Series not long before it was replaced.

When it reappeared it did with a bang, because this is no average bit of kit. Four-valve combustion chambers, direct electronic fuel injection and an intercooler add up to 151kW at 3400rpm and 430Nm of torque from 1400 to 3200rpm - the latter figure the best in the Cruiser range and understandably well ahead of Nissan's equally sophisticated 3.0-litre turbo-diesel Patrol.

The on and off-road reality is this is a gem of an engine that copes incredibly well with the GXV's massive weight - only on steep hills does it feel like someone's thrown the sea anchor out.

Power delivery comes with a hint of turbo lag but it comes smoothly and by diesel engine standards, very, very quietly. For Cruiser applications like conquering severe off-road conditions and towing horse trailers, this is undoubtedly the pick of the range.

And at around 16L/100km - an unofficial figure, by the way - with a 141-litre tank (actually 96-litre main and 45-litre reserve) that means an 800km-plus range. With diesel and petrol prices getting closer all the time there's a dollar saving to be made here in the long-term.

Helping the engine along significantly is the electronically controlled automatic gearbox, which does a great job of keeping the engine operating in the powerband where torque is at its peak. It's a much better choice than the standard five-speed manual in the cheaper GX, where you are forever shuffling back and forth to keep the turbo spinning and the revs in the right part of the range.

Not that the auto is perfect. More than once we confused it with sudden acceleration changes which would prompt it to hunt through gears before settling on the right cog. This was most noticeable at low revs.

The GXV's driveline is permanent four-wheel drive, with the addition of low range, centre differential lock and rear differential lock. Combine that with long travel suspension, excellent ground clearance and underbody protection, and you have a vehicle that can go almost anywhere.

That's despite the fact the GXV is fitted with double wishbone independent front suspension - first introduced on 100-series turbo-diesel models in October 2000 - rather than a rigid live axle traditionally used off-road. Like all heavy-duty off-roaders, however, the Cruiser has a ladder-frame chassis that is separate to its bodyshell and not constructed together as in monocoque vehicles like Mitsubishi's Pajero.

The positive rub-off for most of us most of the time is on-road manners that are surprisingly good for a vehicle of this type. It steers with a lightness that belies its size and quite accurately too, although that's also attributable to the rack and pinion power steering it gets rather than the cruder ball and nut system most Cruisers put up with. It also rides the big lumps and bumps extremely well and avoids much of the excessive roll that blights most big 4WDs.

But it does struggle on rutted dirt roads, setting up a level of vibration back through the steering column, seats, dash and console that is quite disconcerting. And why such a din from stones rattling under the guards? Toyotas of all shapes and sizes are consistently poor in this regard.

The ventilated disc brakes show up better on dirt, with the anti-lock brake system well calibrated to pull up quickly on loose surfaces - but you do have to work the pedal hard though to get reponse.

Around town, the combination of relatively accurate steering, punchy engine and "lord of the manor" seating position and visibility make this easier to get around in than you might imagine. Thank goodness for those huge rearview mirrors though, as most cars are down there somewhere.

Inside, considering this is the top-spec LandCruiser, things are noticeably downbeat. The only leather is on the steering wheel and gearlever. There's no wood (not even the fake stuff), instead just flat uninspiring cloth seats and a great deal of grey plastic trim. It is broken up by black plastic in the vertical centre console where the new-for-this-model triple-header audio and climate control air-conditioning system are housed.

Standard equipment levels include dual airbags, cruise control, a coolbox in the centre console, rear seat air-conditioning controls, six-CD changer, moonroof and driver's seat electric lumbar adjustment.

Outside, you can pick it from the GXL by its 16 x 8.0-inch alloy wheels, front foglights and black-painted aluminium side steps.

Not such a luxurious list for such an expensive vehicle, is it? But what the LandCruiser offers for the dollars is space and masses of it. You can fit eight adults inside - we know - in a two-three-three layout. The short straw is definitely the middle-rear seat that misses out on a headrest and has to make do with a lap-only belt.

If you can do without the third row, it splits in two and folds up against the cabin sides to release a useable amount of luggage space. The second row also split-folds and tumbles forward for when serious storage space is required.

Yep, we can't help but like the GXV. Logic, even your conscious, dictates against it. But, gee, it's a good view from up there.

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