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New models - Toyota - LandCruiser 100

First drive: LandCruiser in counter-attack

Value: The upgraded LandCruiser represents good value for money in the large 4WD class.

Toyota's LandCruiser fights back with a facelifted 100 Series range

Toyota logo9 Oct 2002

WITH the September VFACTS sales figures showing Toyota's legendary LandCruiser displaced from top spot in the large four-wheel drive class by arch-rival Nissan Patrol, for the first time since February 2001, the launch of a facelifted 100 Series LandCruiser range could not come at a better time.

Although the 2003 model year upgrade is essentially a specification facelift, as there are only minor changes to exterior styling, it represents the first major adjustment Toyota has made to the LandCruiser line-up since the introduction of the 4.2-litre six-cylinder turbo diesel engine about two years ago.

It also marks the beginning of a substantial new model assault by Toyota on the four-wheel drive market - over the next six months the company will launch new models into all but one of the 4WD segments.

The revised LandCruiser range starts the initiative - which Toyota hopes will help expand its share of the 4x4 sector - and will be followed by the launch of a V6-powered HiLux utility later this month, with a new generation Prado arriving in early 2003.

The two key mechanical elements to the LandCruiser upgrade are changes in engine and transmission specification - the re-introduction of V8 engine power and a new five-speed automatic transmission.

The last time Toyota used a V8 engine in LandCruiser was with the range-topping GXV, which was exclusive V8-powered between the release of the 100 Series in early 1998 and the arrival of the turbo diesel (which superseded it) in late 2000.

But back then the GXV was out of reach of the average buyer, courtesy of its $92,368 sticker price, while the V8's fitment now to the GXL as the entry level petrol engine enables buyers to access the powerplant for a sizeable $31,000 less.

The 4.7-litre quad cam (DOHC per bank) has returned to replace the 4.5-litre six-cylinder engine as the LandCruiser's sole petrol powerplant.

Its 170kW of power and 410Nm of torque represent increases of 5kW and 23Nm on the six-cylinder unit it takes over from, as well as improving the vehicle's 0-100km/h acceleration time by 0.6 of a second.

So there are still three engine choices across the L/C 100 range, but the line-up now reads: 4.7-litre V8 petrol, 4.2-litre turbocharged and intercooled direct-injection diesel and 4.2-litre naturally aspirated diesel, both of which are six-cylinder units.

While power and torque outputs remain unchanged with the two diesel engines, some modifications have been made so that they comply with Euro Step II emission requirements.

The naturally aspirated diesel has been upgraded with an exhaust gas recirculation system and a timing control valve for its fuel injection pump to reduce nitrogen emissions - these improvements will also flow on to the workhorse 78 Series range.

The turbo-diesel engine now has environment-ally friendly lead-free intake valve seats, while the engine mounts have been improved to suit the new five-speed auto transmission and a drain line has been added in the intercooler, to draw oil out in the event of an emergency.

Transmission choices are five-speed manual or the new electronically controlled five-speed automatic, which features a gated shift, as well as a lockout of the fifth gear overdrive.

The model line-up has been both rationalised and changed. Eight variants are offered with a choice of two body styles and three grade levels - standard van (with vertically split "barn" rear doors) with part-time 4WD, the volume-selling GXL and new top-of-the-range Sahara, which replaces the GXV, both of which have standard full-time 4WD.

The Sahara nameplate is making its return along with the V8 engine, as it has not been seen since the 80 Series LandCruiser range was discontinued in February 1998.

The RV grade has been discontinued while a GXL diesel automatic variant is no longer available.

Pricing has risen by between 1.4 and 3.8 per cent, depending on the model, engine and transmission, although equipment levels have been improved to accompany the increase.

Petrol and turbo-diesel models now use the independent front suspension, while the rigid front axle has been retained on the diesel models (Std and GXL grade).

DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:

AS the cornerstone of Toyota's four-wheel drive range, the 100 Series LandCruiser has a big reputation to uphold each and every time the company trots out a new model.

But it is safe to say that reputation remains intact after sampling the new V8-powered petrol model on the roads around Parkes in NSW, as well as through the Goobang National Park.

The Newell Highway was the perfect place to test the performance capabilities of the new engine, especially how it deals with the LandCruiser's considerable (2400kg+) bulk for in-gear acceleration during overtaking.

And there were plenty of opportunities for practising passing manoeuvres, given the number of trucks and grey nomads (retirees with caravans) that traverse this part of the country.

You generally don't expect big vehicles like a LandCruiser to be particularly happy about or comfortable with passing a line of cars at one time and accelerating beyond 100km/h, but the V8 manual handled it with ease.

Fuel consumption will rarely be as efficient as Toyota claims it can be when the vehicle is driven that way, but petrol prices in this country are not so bad that it will be a great concern to a $60,000-plus 4WD buyer.

As a relatively high-tech engine that has double overhead camshafts (DOHC) per bank instead of low-tech pushrods, it's really no surprise to find the engine to be smooth, quiet and free-revving.

The five-speed auto is silky smooth as well, showing some clear lineage from Lexus models, although it is in fact a new unit.

And it's just as good a match to the turbo-diesel powerplant, which is sure to make the purchase decision in choosing between the V8 and the oil-burner anything but an easy one.

But the second generation electronic drive-by-wire throttle is not such a positive step as far as the off-road experience is concerned.

Light and easy-to-use control pedals are fine for on-road driving, but the LC100's throttle was just too sensitive for low range work, particularly when the conditions were rough.

Up a steep incline littered with rocks and large pieces of shale it was almost impossible to keep throttle application steady - something that would not be as hard with a cable-operated throttle offering a more solid pedal feel.

Inside, the improvements are all productive - more standard features, revised instruments and controls that continue to improve the ergonomics and an overall environment that is comfortable and pleasant to spend time in.

Anyone who purchased a six-cylinder petrol LandCruiser in recent months is not likely to be too pleased about all the additional equipment they are now missing out on - or had to pay extra for.

The upgraded vehicle represents good value for money in the large 4WD class and is sure to keep loyal 'Cruiser buyers returning to Toyota dealerships for some time to come.

LANDCRUISER PRICING

LandCruiser 100:
STD Diesel (man): $51,990
GXL Diesel (man): $60,900 GXL V8 (man): $58,310
GXL V8 (auto): $61,390
GXL Turbo-Diesel (man): $70,700
GXL Turbo-Diesel (auto): $73,390
Sahara V8 (auto): $79,900
Sahara Turbo-Diesel (auto): $89,900 Old pricing:
RV 6cyl (man): $52,760
RV Diesel (man): $55,210
GXL Diesel (man): $58,724
GXL Diesel (auto): $61,784
GXL 6-cyl (man): $56,646
GXL 6-cyl (auto): $59,244
GXL Turbo-Diesel (man): $68,104
GXL Turbo-Diesel (auto): $72,334
GXV Turbo-Diesel (auto): $87,094


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