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Car reviews - Toyota - LandCruiser - 80 Series GXL 5-dr wagon

Our Opinion

We like
Size means huge cabin with lots of space, go-anywhere off-road ability, relatively good on-road performance, Toyota durability, reliability and dependability
Room for improvement
Too big and heavy for urban applications, expensive to buy and run

11 Jul 2003

ALTHOUGH Toyota's four-wheel drive LandCruiser was first imported for the Snowy Mountains Scheme over 40 years ago, the breakthrough model was 1967's Jeep-like FJ40.

The stubby Cruiser's rugged good looks and durability helped create Toyota's off-road market dominance, aided by the ungainly FJ55 four-door station wagon of 1972.

The early wagons were strong, roomy and austere - powered by a durable but thirsty six-cylinder petrol engine.

The 1980 60-series LandCruiser made inroads with urban buyers looking for a family station wagon with weekend away versatility. An economical 4.0-litre, six-cylinder diesel engine option broadened its appeal.

Turbocharging addressed the diesel's lack of oomph in 1986 but it was with the new, much refined 80-series of 1990 that the LandCruiser station wagon really came of age.

The larger 4.2-litre turbo-diesel engine offered impressive on-road driveability, enormous torque for off- roading and good fuel economy. It was only available in well equipped GXL and luxury VX Sahara models.

In early 1995 a revamped turbo-diesel engine and a minor facelift signalled the MK2 80 Series.

Toyota added a multi-valve head, a larger turbocharger and more stiffness to quell noise and vibration. There was also less weight and the combustion process was improved.

The result is a turbo-diesel engine with more power and torque across a broader rev range, as well as cleaner emissions, improved refinement and better fuel economy.

Phenomenal grunt and truck-like torque make light work of the LandCruiser's massive bulk.

The coil sprung suspension ensured the Toyota's impressive on-road handling and roadholding remain while the steering is light but well weighted.

The turbo-diesel mates better to the smooth four-speed automatic transmission than the five-speed manual, which suffers from poor shift quality and sticky movements.

The two-mode automatic features a first-gear lockout for greater traction in slippery situations.

Only the VX Sahara gains from the front, centre and rear differential locks. The GXL makes do with a limited slip rear differential and a locking centre diff.

The constant four-wheel drive system keeps the transition from highway to bush track simple. It will scale the slopes with the confident ease older- generation LandCruiser owners expect, but in comfort.

Visually, little distinguishes the MK2 80 Series. A different grille and front bumper, restyled dashboard, softer padding, revised door trim, new headlining and redesigned seats are about it.

The vast cabin is roomy, well built and hard-wearing with the new seats offering more comfort and support.

The high driving position makes for an easy drive, simple parking and a sense of manageability that belies the titanic Toyota's sheer bulk.

The pitching and swaying from earlier LandCruisers is largely gone, although the ride may now seem too firm for some.

The luggage area is cavernous when the third row of seats - which are only suitable for children - are folded.

The heavyweight 80 Series LandCruiser chews through brake pads alarmingly. Some can last a paltry 15,000km. Rapid tyre wear is also a problem and this depends on the type of tyre fitted. A mechanical report is vital since some owners report the hard-working turbocharger can be costly to repair or replace.

The LandCruiser GXL turbo-diesel offers eight-seater space, pace, fuel economy and off-road capability.

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