I attended the launch of the updated Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series range this week, and promptly filed my review to a chorus of derision from people who I presume have never had red dust in their boots.
Toyota’s Outback icon is now 31 years old, and this week marked the launch of the biggest update over its near-unprecedented life cycle. All now get stability and traction control, a stiffer frame, and have a Euro 5-compliant diesel V8 that will still unearth tree stumps like you pull a thumb drive from a Macbook.
Thankfully we live in a country where even workhorses must, by law, offer basic safety standards and meet (admittedly quite lax) carbon-dioxide emissions caps.
Furthermore, the volume-selling two-door ute also gets five airbags and the top ANCAP safety rating, because big fleet buyers such as BHP demand nothing less.
Yet despite these updates, the old girl looks like it always has, bar the new bonnet bulge that’s a pain in the proverbial over crests. Furthermore, the Troopie, dual-cab and wagon models still only have two airbags, because Toyota couldn’t justify the business case to add airbags to cars sold mostly in the Middle East and Africa.
Toyota deserves a kicking for this. And we dished one out like an Australian prime minster in The Simpsons universe. Ditto for the jacked-up pricing, which hovers between $60,000 and $70,000 depending on body and spec. Yeesh.
But without sounding like a Toyota shill, I’d urge you take a big-picture view and just be thankful that Toyota bothered to keep such a low-volume car as the 70 Series alive at all.
What it did justify is a world development program based in Australia, including 100,000km of torture testing all over the continent, and a number of meetings between regional buyers and senior Toyota global management.
It only makes 75,000 units a year, and sells a puny 8000 or so in Australia, after all. Furthermore, fellow aged icons of the old world such as the Land Rover Defender and Nissan Patrol Y61 were killed off because their makers didn’t want to spend the coin to ‘modernise’ them in the way Toyota has with the 70.
Regardless of what you think, the 70 Series dominates big mines, regional towns and farmland here for good reason. It’s basic, durable, easy to fix and covered by a massive dealer network. In the town I’m from, the local roadhouse has a car park full of the things, all with 500,000km and more on the odometer.
It’s slow, gruff, uncomfortable and has the turning circle of an oil tanker, but there’s nothing else you’d rather punt across the Simpson. Over and over and over again. Imagine if the 70 Series instead disappeared from the landscape like most other old school offerings (the Mercedes G-Wagen aside)?
People with dirt under their fingernails and Barnaby Joyce as their local member would be buggered without the 70 (as tough as HiLuxes and Isuzu D-Maxes are), so how about keeping that in mind?
Yes, we’d have preferred the 2017 Toyota 70 Series LandCruiser to be even greener, and to have made the odd concessions to passenger protection in all its body styles, but in the grand scheme I’m just happy the old rig is still here at all.