2016 Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series Single Cab Chassis Workmate

2017 Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series Review

Legend. Icon. 70 Series Toyota LandCruiser. The updates for 2017 are here, but is the king off the road still worthy of the title?
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The Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series range scarcely needs an introduction, and a quick launch review from a city-based journalist won’t do it total justice. But here goes.

Despite the almost identical appearance to the now 30-year old original — save that more prominent bonnet bulge that does no favours over sharp drop-offs — there are actually some new things here worth talking about, mostly under the skin.

In short, rather than killing off the Land Cruiser 70 Series like Nissan did with the Y61 Patrol, Toyota has instead made necessary concessions to modernity, though upped the price by between $3000 and $5500 to cover them.

Read our detailed 2017 Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series pricing and specs story.

First, safety. Easily the top-seller is the two-door cab chassis, so the bulk of the money has gone here. It now has the fleet-required five-star ANCAP crash rating thanks to a total of five airbags (up from two), stability control, traction control and a stiffer frame.

Alas, the five-door cab chassis, five-door wagon and Troop Carrier only get the new electronics and not the rest, and remain untested by the safety watchdog.

The cost of engineering the changes into all was deemed too high to be viable, since the world’s other major markets beyond Australia —Africa and the Middle East — aren’t exactly crying out for any such features.

So, we make do. Toyota made it clear that the business case was slim enough for it to have considered killing the 70 Series altogether. The fact it instead did 100,000km of recent Aussie torture testing with regular visits from the global chief engineer seems a good outcome.

LandCruiser is the longest running nameplate in Toyota’s history, being used since 1954. The company has sold 260,000 examples of the 70 Series in Australia since 1985, almost 20 per cent of the world supply.

Beyond the safety angle, the familiar 4.5-litre V8 diesel (while unchanged in its outputs of 151kW and 430Nm, the latter from only 1200rpm) gets new Piezo injectors to drop fuel use to 10.7L/100km, and taller second and fifth ratios in its five-cog manual gearbox. Vitally, it's now Euro 5, keeping its emissions legal.

A diesel with eight cylinders may seem anachronistic and those outputs may seem modest by modern standards, but the engine is de-stressed enough to do a million kilometres. Go look at the classifieds if you doubt the bona fides.

The engine braking is just out of this world, as is taking off from standstill in third gear… Meanwhile, you can have the payload at 1200kg and a 3500kg braked trailer connected and cruise along without fuss. Yours truly has done so.

We started the day doing a relatively brief on-road component, mostly focused on b-roads, highways and gravel. Anyone considering making a 70 an inner-city style statement has more money than sense, given the 14 metre turning circle on the ute.

The big Toyota eats up corrugations of various amplitudes and rounds off sharp edges thanks to high sidewall 265/70 tyres on 16-inch alloys or steelies, depending on spec, while the body control considering the live axles and stiff rear leaf springs is tolerable enough, despite the narrow track.

You can cruise for thousands of kilometres over gravel or crappy neglected asphalt and barely notice the difference at speed. The fact all models now get cruise control is well overdue, even if a few fusty and technology averse farmers have a point of contention.

The guttural, grumbly and admittedly thirsty V8 offers a sheer mountain of torque almost immediately. There’s nothing so tractable this side of a… tractor, while the manual gearbox has a long but relatively precise throw and doesn’t really need a sixth ratio on account of the tall fifth — 110km/h at below 2000rpm attests to that.

Obviously the hydraulically-assisted steering is heavy and the turning circle ponderous, though you won’t mind the former point off road. Meanwhile the NVH suppression is hurt only by the square design, with wind noise rushing over the A-pillar. We’d imagine a brick would have a superior coefficient of drag.

Now, off-road. Toyota had lined up a trip to Broken Hill for the launch (a car journalist's life is so hard), but the rains meant we’d tear up the roads and annoy Toyota’s core buyers. Thus it was moved.

The Werribee off-road park on Melbourne’s outer western edge is actually a good simulacrum of the desert, as you can read in depth here. There are ruts, drop-offs and drop-ins, muddy trails, moguls, rock hopping, steep goat tracks and deep rivers with quite a current. Perfect for the 70.

A series of muddy trails were no issue, navigated in third at 20-30km/h, with low-range selected via the secondary gear stick. A steep drop-in meant a few shifts down to first, and nothing but engine braking. There's no need for downhill assist control with a drivetrain of this variety.

We then forded a sweeping current about 600mm deep, meaning the standard snorkel wasn't necessary before crawling out and approaching a sharp and slippy trail. Forget the diff lock (shamefully a $1500 option on lower grades), just grab second and keep 60 per cent throttle steady. No worries.

The return down posed a challenge: visibility. That bulged bonnet is an absolute pain to see over, meaning crests must be approached with due care. Some 30 degree camber, deep rutted sections, moguls and sharp rocks followed, all dispatched. A slippery creek bed was a chance to flick the diff lock switch, and we were done.

The point isn't that the 70 Series is untouchable off-road (though its extreme approach and departure angles and narrow track mean it almost is). The point is how easy it is to putter about while doing so, that turning circle aside. Moreover, it's the fact you can beat the hell out of it for years or even decades, as my friends in Karratha can attest to.

There's also the fact that they have 130-litre fuel tanks (180L on the Troopie) for long journeys, can be fixed easily either by you or by Toyota's big regional dealer network, and can be factory fitted with all manner of auxiliaries. There's a reason they dominate the outback.

But there's no escaping that the Toyota is fit-for-purpose in the purest sense of the word. For a narrow target market of about 7500 Australian buyers annually (about 80-90 per cent being business, government and rental fleets) they're the only option. These are the organisations that kill Hiluxes.

The interior is basic, but the plastics are tough and timeless. You can have a GXL with electric windows and cloth seats, but a base WorkMate with winding windows (plus old-school pop-out small triangular secondary ones), cruise control, vinyl seats and floors and a Bluetooth/USB audio system makes more sense, surely.

One benefit of the tall design is space. Shoulder room is mediocre, but headroom is great, and outward visibility ditto. The passenger versions are genuine five-seaters (the old 11-seat Troopie has been dead for years) and the cargo space rivals a van. The ute's tray, meanwhile, looks about king-size mattress dimensions.

But in the 21st century, you also can't escape the lack of safety on the passenger-oriented versions, or the price rises of $3000 on the dual-cab, Troopie and five-door wagon, and $5500 on the more heavily updated single-cab ute. Ok, they live forever, but still...

You can read all the detail here, but in short the pricing is $60,990 plus on-roads for the five-door wagon WorkMate ($64,990 for the GXL), $64,890 for the Troop Carrier WorkMate ($67,990 for the GXL), $64,990 for the double-cab WorkMate ($68,990 for the GXL) and $62,490 for the single cab WorkMate ($66,490 for the GXL).

The fact Toyota still charges $2761 for dealer-fitted air conditioning is also hilarious and vaguely insulting.

Exterior colours for the troop carrier are French Vanilla (ha!), Sandy Taupe and Midnight Blue. The other body styles are also available in Silver Pearl, Graphite, Merlot Red and Vintage Gold. All bar white are $550.

You can obviously still buy an array of accessories for specific uses, such as light bars, cargo box, fire extinguishers, yellow stickers, LED work lamps, auxiliary batteries, wheel chocks and battery isolator switches etc.

Service intervals are a modest 10,000km, capped at $340 per visit at current rates. We'd imagine most farmers would do the basic oil and filter work themselves, while mines have on-site mechanics. Still, the intervals are poxy by modern standards.

Rating and reviewing the Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series is tough. People who think a HiLux or Ranger can do every job haven't grown up in the sticks, and lack imagination. Fact is, Toyota owns this hardcore market for good reason.

We commend it for keeping the old rig alive, though we wish its safety updates were more wholesale and that it might have been able to better absorb the R&D expense and kept the price increases more modest.

Still, if 'fit-for-purpose' were our sole ratings metric it would be a perfect 10. For a narrow market free from posers, that's just what it is. For the rest of us it's a novelty, but one we'd be worse-off without.