It’s hard to know where to start with the iconic LandCruiser 70 Series. Coming from a family of 70 Series buyers, I’ve never fully understood its appeal. It’s big, cumbersome and uncomfortable to manoeuvre in town. It’s also expensive and lacks the refinement that should accompany the price.
On a Christmas trip to Central Queensland, it’s immediately obvious the LandCruiser’s flaws are not really deal breakers. 70 Series models are everywhere in this part of Australia and its popularity remains evergreen. Toyota claim approximately 8,000 units are still sold annually in Australia. This figure is remarkable given changing consumer tastes in the local market.
From members of the mining community to the off-road weekend warriors, the 70 Series remains the first and often only choice. It’s a car people aspire to own, a car that signifies a certain status. It’s a strange phenomenon, and one I haven’t come across anywhere else.
So why does it remain a mainstay of the roads up north? Owners report that what built the legend in this part of the world is its legendary build quality and reliability. There are many examples running around Central Queensland with over 500,000 km on the odometer. After a brief Car Conversation with a local Toyota specialist, regular servicing is all that is required to keep the kilometres ticking over.
In researching this article, I was fortunate to come across a 1992 model which had just hit 430,000 km (there is a photo in the gallery above). It has only required regular maintenance and replacement of consumables such as fluids, filters, tyres, breaks, wheel bearings and some suspension components. Astonishingly, despite decades of hard work, the original engine and transmission are still going strong. Years in the harsh Queensland climate have taken its toll on the bodywork, but according to its owner, the overall ownership experience has been excellent.
This brings us to the updated model for 2017. The expectation from enthusiasts is that it will be more of the same from Toyota.
On test here is the GXL Single cab-chassis. It is the top specification for the two-door version of the 70 Series. It has a list price of $66,490, plus on-road costs. This represents a $5,500 increase over the previous model. It’s not cheap in anyones language.
70 Series enthusiasts may beg to differ, but the design has changed very little over the years. The new model persists with the familiar and distinctive looks. It is in no danger of being confused with anything else. It maintains a tough, build for purpose stance.
The GXL Single cab-chassis is equipped with a turbo-charged 4.5-litre diesel V8 that produces 151kW of power and 430Nm of torque. It is the delivery of torque that impresses. There is an abundance of it on tap and it’s always there when you need it. With a slight tap on the accelerator, the push is instant and reaching cruising speed is effortless. It’s easy to feel the power as you move through the gear changes.
On the road, it is comfortable enough when chewing up highway kilometres. Even on dreadfully bumpy sections of the Capricorn Highway, the LandCruiser was always composed at a variety of speeds. It does feel far more refined than some of the older models I was fortunate enough to sample in order to get an understanding of the level of improvement in this offering.
Throughout this test, there was an opportunity to drive the LandCruiser with an empty tray and also after installation of a metal canopy storage system. This added around 600kg to the tray. Having the tray loaded didn’t improve the ride quality as much as I was expecting. With an empty tray, the 70 Series wasn’t as vulnerable to the annoying bounce generally associated with driving with no load.
Toyota engineers have made alterations to the gearing ratios as one of its measures to improve economy. Also, lower revs from a taller fifth gear were implemented to improve the comfort of highway cruising. The manual transmission is easy to operate, there is a reassuring click when you find the required gear. The feel of the clutch pedal is excellent, very smooth and comfortable to use.
In a brief stint of towing a caravan (2,000kg), the effortless performance remained. The LandCruiser 70 Series is rated to tow 3,500kg with a payload at 1,200kg. One of the LandCruiser fans I spoke with was quick to inform me, “These utes have more pull than a 16-year-old school boy.” Crude metaphor aside, the point was correct.
In town, however, there is no way to hide the LandCruiser’s proportions. The turning circle is huge and turning the steering wheel from side to side is a cumbersome task. Drivers will also notice the hydraulically-assisted steering is far too heavy. Parking is also an issue, generally the park furthest away from the shopping centre door is a good choice.
On the dirt, the LandCruiser shines. It can tackle the worst terrain with ease. This is where the 70 Series makes perfect sense. While most of the latte drinking buyers of newer duel cab utes will never go anywhere near dirt, 70 Series owners are happy to get mud under the arches. It is an extremely capable vehicle to take off the bitumen. This is where the 70 Series stands alone. The 70 Series is in a market segment all on its own, there is nothing as capable off road straight out of the box.
Going bush after heavy rain would not generally be something I would consider, even in this ute. It was not an issue, the 70 Series can handle the mud along with difficult terrain and weather without drama. When off-roading around Fairbairn Dam, the 70 Series easily reinforces its reputation for prowess off the blacktop. It’s an honest, no-nonsense performer when on the dirt.
The updated LandCruiser 70 Series was tested in Australia. Toyota engineers undertook over 100,000km of local testing, Toyota state 70 percent of this testing was conducted off-road, in some of the harshest conditions. Time and resources well spent. More kudos should be given to car makers that make an effort to tune cars to the conditions they will be required to perform in.
The interior is nothing to get excited about. It does the job without any fanfare. The cabin is littered with old school plastics and vinyl. It would have been nice if Toyota could have put some effort into improving the interior. Closing the door requires some genuine force and produces a distinctive thud.
The infotainment system, if it can be called that, does get Bluetooth and USB audio. The GXL also gets the luxury of electric windows. Also, in what can only be called a win for modernity, it gets standard cruise control.
Of the incremental improvements made to the 70 Series interior over the years, seat comfort is the standout. The updated seats in the new model are an extremely welcomed addition and the highlight of the interior. Unfortunately, only owners of older models will truly appreciate their comfort, especially on long drives.
Safety is where the majority of upgrades have been made. Toyota claims the model lineup has been “significantly re-engineered” and now achieves the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating. In this day and age, anything less is unacceptable. Single cab models have had their frames stiffened and body panels have been modified to further improve occupant safety.
All single cab models now come equipped with five airbags. In addition to the front driver and passenger airbags, two side curtains have been added along with a driver’s knee airbag.
A suite of electronic safety technology is also deployed across the 70 Series range, vehicle stability control (VSC), active traction control (A-TRC), hill-start assist control (HAC), brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, and anti-skid brakes are all included. The 70 Series now has genuine safety credentials to brag about and these additions go some way to justifying the price hike.
In terms of consumption and economy, I was expecting high costs. This test covered 650km, mixing highway, town, and off-road driving with a dash of towing. Much to my amazement, the 70 Series averaged 11.25 litres of diesel for every 100km of driving. This was a brilliant result that isn’t far off the claimed combined figure of 10.7 litres/100km. This is a significant improvement over older models, which are thirsty. Toyota’s moderate engine upgrades, including the move to piezo-electric injectors, have delivered real-world improvements in consumption.
As an overall package, value is questionable. In 2017, in Australia, no standard air-conditioning in a ute at this price, is a joke. Toyota asks $2,761 for air-conditioning, this does include fitting. If you don’t particularly fancy white (French Vanilla), you will need to stump up another $550 for premium paint. Combine this with the price increases across the range and the value argument is a hard one to win, even for the purists.
When I ask the faithful how they justify the purchase, the majority measure it over future decades. Many buyers don’t expect to be upgrading for a very long time and are planning a long term relationship. The 70 Series is a keeper, and its customers are monogamists, unlikely to find satisfaction elsewhere.
Toyota persists with a 3 year/100,000km warranty. This is far too skinny, and for a brand that identifies itself with unparalleled quality, they can and should do better. Toyota does provide competitive service costs as part of the Toyota Service Advantage. Service intervals are set at 6 month/10,000km. The first six services covering 60,000 or three years will cost $340 a throw. In speaking to experienced technicians that service these vehicles, the consensus was moving to 12 month/15,000km intervals wouldn’t cause any issues.
It is a difficult task to rate the LandCruiser 70 Series ute. It has no real competitors to benchmark it against. It appeals to those who don’t have confidence in the off-road and load carrying ability of newer offerings, even those from Toyota. It’s a competent ute that can do a bit of everything but only excels with its off-road capabilities, payload figures and towing. The LandCruiser 70 Series GXL ute may not be the king of the road, but it remains the king for those inclined to find adventure off it.
2017 Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series GXL Single cab-chassis specifications:
4.5L Turbo-charged V8 direct-injection diesel with particulate filter
151kW @ 3400rpm
430Nm @ 1200-3200rpm
Common-rail diesel fuel injection
Part-time 4WD with two-speed transfer case and automatic locking front hubs
Let’s start a Car Conversation, is anybody a 70 Series owner or enthusiast? Can anyone share their ownership experience? Why do you think this ute commands such a loyal customer base? Is the price increase justified?
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