The 70 Series Toyota LandCruiser ute is an icon, but has it kept up with the times?
The 2015 Toyota LandCruiser 70 is an icon – and it’d want to be after more than 30 years of production.
If you travel to the Australian outback you’ll see these boxy Toyota trucks on almost every farm you come across, not to mention numerous mining sites where they ply their trade. But there’s every chance you’ll be looking models from aeons ago, such is the limited amount of styling changes that have been applied to the car over its lifespan.
That said, the 2015 Toyota LandCruiser 70 model – in GX specification, as tested here – has a few exterior differentiators that set it apart from those of years gone by, including the contrasting wheel-arch surrounds. Still, it looks – and feels – like something that was benchmark-setting just before I was born.
It is one of the nation’s most expensive utes, priced from $58,990 plus on-road costs (you can choose the cheaper Workmate model for $56,990, or the top-spec GXL for $60,990). And that’s before you add a tray, which in the case of our test vehicle with its genuine colour-coded Toyota unit with headboard and integrated spare tyre holder adds about $3600.
And it’s not like the Landy ute comes stuffed with goodies for the money. Indeed, it is easier to tell you what the LandCruiser 70 doesn’t have than what it does in terms of its standard specification list.
There are no electric windows, no electric mirrors, no central locking (remote or otherwise!), no steering wheel audio controls, and no cruise control. You don’t even get air-conditioning as standard, for goodness sake! You have to pay $2700 extra for that, and we think it could be the last vehicle on sale in Australia that requires an option box for that, er, technology.
As well as that you can forget potentially life-saving items such as side or curtain airbag protection, as the Landy only comes with dual front head airbags. And, perhaps worst of all, there is no availability of electronic stability control, which is set to become mandatory for all vehicles – including this workhorse truck – by 2017. That said, the stereo headunit has Bluetooth phone and audio controls, which means you can keep your hand off your phone.
It arguably makes up for its shortcomings in the safety and equipment departments by coming standard with some hardcore off-road kit.
The list includes locking front and rear differentials, a proper low-range transfer case (including that age-old second gear shifter), and a 90-litre auxiliary fuel tank to complement the standard 90L hold. Theoretically – based on the claimed consumption of 11.5L/100km – the 70 should manage more than 1500km of range.
Powering the 70 is a 4.5-litre turbo diesel V8 engine producing 151kW at 3400rpm and 430Nm at 1200rpm. Those numbers aren’t that impressive given that there are some four-cylinder units with half the engine capacity pushing out more torque in family SUVs, but the fact the pulling power comes in from so low in the rev range means this is a very usable engine.
Around town you’ll find that you paddle through first and second gears quite swiftly, and third is the default gear for most urban duties. The shift itself is easy, as is the clutch action, and there’s a strong amount of churning, rumbling torque available to exploit. A number of CarAdvice staff commented on the sound of the engine, too, which is gruff and deeply macho.
Driving on the highway feels quite strenuous for the big V8 engine, which is geared more for travelling below 100km/h than above it. Fifth gear still offers plenty of torque availability, though, despite the engine puffing along at freeway speeds at about 2400rpm.
Along with the missing spec items, you can’t get an auto gearbox in the LandCruiser. Instead, there’s a five-speed manual transmission and the aforementioned second shifter for 2H, 4H and 4L selection.
Because this isn’t a run-of-the-mill shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive system – it’s old school, as you’d expect. As such, you still need to get out and lock the front hubs before engaging power delivery to the front wheels. And when you choose a four-wheel drive mode, you need to be almost standing still. Its optional ($1500) front and rear differential locks mean you can churn up plenty of turf in an even manner, allowing for better traction when the surface is slippery.
We didn’t put this truck through anywhere near what it would theoretically be capable of, but on our short beach run it handled itself predictably, with tenacious grip and oodles of torque. The manual shift action proved a bit of hard work to ensure progress was maintained in a smooth manner, but fourth gear in low-range was a sweet spot for coastal cruising.
The ride is not cushy if the back starts bouncing around over undulations or ruts, but for a quick spin on the sand the Landy proved its reputation isn’t in vain.
On the actual road the ride comfort is surprisingly good, as the big truck copes with bumps in a more confident manner than you might expect it to. That said, there’s plenty of body roll through corners, which can be disconcerting.
The steering is also lacking, with a lot of slack when you turn in to corners, and it never really feels like you know what’s happening under the bonnet when you turn the wheel. That improves in four-wheel drive mode, but you can’t use that around town.
At the business end there’s a 1235kg payload (but you need to factor in the front-seat occupants), and the chequer-plate tray on our test vehicle measured a handy size – you can fit a tray up to 2.4m on the back.
It also boasts a strong towing capacity at 3.5 tonnes, which is equal to the best in the dual-cab ute class.
Though we criticised the fact there are none of the mod-cons we’ve come to expect in the 70, there’s a certain charm about winding down the windows by actually putting in some physical effort, and those beautiful little quarter windows are a nod to years gone by.
The rest of the interior is, as you’d expect, basic.
The vinyl floors and door panels are designed to be hard wearing, and there are no armrests to speak of. On the topic of the doors, you’ll notice they take two attempts to close almost every single time.
The seats, surprisingly, are quite good – there’s decent comfort on offer, despite the fact you need to haul yourself up in to them. Rake and reach adjustment for the steering wheel is impressive, given the lack of other stuff.
Its stereo is surprisingly easy to use. It is simple (yeah, just two speakers!), but has features such as Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and an intuitive voice command system, along with USB and auxiliary inputs.
The LandCruiser has a near-bulletproof reputation in terms of long-term ownership, and in the shorter term Toyota offers a three-year, 100,000km warranty. Toyota also has a capped-price service program spanning three years or 60,000km, with maintenance due every six months or 10,000km at a cost of $310 per visit - high, by Toyota's standards.
The Toyota LandCruiser 70 is amazingly capable off-road – it deserves serious praise in that regard, though there’s no score to reflect that in our ratings below – and it’s also surprisingly comfortable on-road. And given this model’s reputation, there’s every chance it’ll take as much punishment as you can give to it over a million kilometres.
But despite almost every person in the CarAdvice Sydney office demanding a drive in this iconic rig, it remains one of the most aged, under-equipped and overpriced vehicles we’ve tested in recent memory – and its final score reflects that.
Click the Photos tab above for more images by Glen Sullivan.