New Toyota Land Cruiser review
It is rare for one model range to dominate sales in a sector worldwide but the iconic Toyota Land Cruiser does just that with 332,000 global sales in 2008 and sales are still rising.
Users range from the military to the UN peacekeepers, Sheiks to Princes, outbackers to explorers, farmers to towing contractors and hunting, shooting and fishing types to school run mums.
From December the all new five door Land Cruiser 3.0-litre diesel models make their debut in the UK with prices ranging from £29,795 for the five seater LC3 up to £44,795 for the seven-seat LC5.
Up to 1,200 of these will be sold in the UK in a full year in a diminishing heavyweight sector of the 4x4 market. In addition Toyota GB will sell another 500 units of the already established and slightly larger V8 petrol engine Land Cruiser where prices start at close to £55k.
The new models cost upwards of 15% more than the models they replace, partially due to the poor value of the Pound but mainly because the new Land Cruisers are much more technically advanced and with much higher levels of specification than the models they replace.
Whilst the new Land Cruisers remains hugely capable and durable for serious off-road work and travel, the new models show some improvement in their on-road driving manners.
There is still considerable bodyroll during cornering, the vehicle floats along never fully engaging with the driver and the steering feels vague but the ride is comfortable.
They run the latest sales leading new Discovery very close for off-road ability but cannot match the Land Rover, or Range Rover, models for on-road manners and sophistication but the Japanese product does score well for high levels of standard equipment and build quality. Prices are similar.
The new Land Cruisers, for durability, strength and the 3,000kg towing performance, continues with the traditional body on a ladder-frame chassis design. All the new models use a 3.0-litre turbodiesel power unit but unusually for this capacity it is only a four-cylinder unit with 171bhp power and 410Nm of torque output via a five-speed automatic transmission.
The new auto transmission Disco 3.0-litre, V6 diesel unit pushes out 245bhp and 600Nm of torque - enough said.
The design brief for the new Land Cruiser was to improve on its undoubted off-road capabilities and more importantly to improve its road manners. There are two core elements, drivetrain and suspension.
All three versions of the Land Cruiser have a full-time AWD system with torsion limited slip differential which automatically adjusts front to rear power distribution from 50:50 to 30:70 depending on grip.
For LC3/4 versions there is a driver selectable centre differential lock, LC5 models also gain a rear differential lock. There are four driver selected modes to tailor vehicle settings for different off-road surfaces - mud and sand, loose rock, mogul (deep mud) and rock.
There are also hill-start and downhill assist settings, crawl control, active traction control, mud-terrain ABS braking and vehicle stability control. All these functions are operated by pushbuttons, a turn control switch and a menu type scroll down bar.
Believe me it's very impressive but it does take some operational getting used to and off road driving knowledge. I do not think the system is as easy to use as say the Land/Range Rover or BMW Xdrive central control unit and pictograms.
As for the suspension system; double wishbone at the front, four-link live axle at the rear, the LC4 and LC5 versions have what Toyota call a Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) which through antiroll bars reduces bodyroll and is supposed to give positive steering response on-road. It does in part.
Off road the new system by virtually disconnecting the antiroll bars increases wheel articulation (suspension travel) for maximum grip.
The top LC5 version has as standard adaptive variable suspension and active height control, cleverly this adjust the firmness of the suspension according to the speed being travelled on road and the height of the vehicle for optimum ground clearance off road.
The LC5 also has a Multi-Terrain Monitor, Toyota claims a world-first, but the latest Disco/Range Rovers have something similar. A system of external cameras give combined or separate real time views of areas in front and to each side of the vehicle that cannot be seen from the driver's seat.
These only operate in multi-terrain mode at speeds below 6mph. It is very clever and useful knowing what direction your vehicle's front wheels are pointing driving in thick mud and to make sure you are not going to scrape a tree or rock with the side of the vehicle.
Technically the new Land Cruiser excels off-road in seriously bad driving conditions and deep water but it still needs some refinement for the highway to match some of the competition, but it is a major step forward.
As for specification, the main selling LC4 really wants for nothing and items such as heated front seats, leather upholstery and a navigation system are included. The LC5 gains a sunroof, adaptive suspension, crawl control, the external camera display and a rear seat entertainment system.
Although not a common sight in the UK the Toyota Land Cruiser will no doubt continue to dominate the landscape in the tougher terrains of the world.
Toyota Land Cruiser MILESTONES
Toyota Land Cruiser LC4 3.0 D-4D Auto
Engine/transmission: 3.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel, 171bhp, 410Nm from 1,600rpm, 5-speed auto, all wheel drive, multi-mode settings for a wide variety of off-road terrain.
Performance: 109mph, 0-62mph 11.7 seconds, 34.9mpg (26.5mpg actual on-road), CO2 214g/km, VED Band K £215. (Proposed first year VED rate from next April £550 then £245 annually), BIK tax 35%
Insurance group: 32E (new scale)
Dimensions/capacities: L 4,760mm, W 1,885mm, H 1,890mm, 7-seats, load capacity 621-1,151-litres, maximum braked towing weight 3,000kg
For: World's best selling 4x4, tough, reliable, workhorse towing ability, impressive and safe off-road ability, comprehensively equipped, well made
Against: Refined but underpowered four-cylinder diesel engine has to compete with six-cylinder units in this sector, road manners better but not the best, expensive to run.