2017 Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series ute long-term review, report four: towing

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You may be more likely to see a horse float or heavy machinery on a trailer behind a 2017 Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series ute, but we thought we’d buck the trend and tow a big, brand new boat.

The LandCruiser cab-chassis has a maximum braked towing capacity of 3500 kilograms which, on paper, doesn't out-rate a dual-cab Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara, Holden Colorado or Isuzu D-Max. And, to be honest, I expected it would.

There are host of other contenders in various guises with this quoted maximum braked tow weight, too. As I said that's merely on paper. But in real life towing situations the 'Cruiser outperforms all of these with a clever combination of gear ratios, strong heavy duty suspension and, let's not forget, that engine – a 4.5-litre V8 turbo diesel.

When you hook up more than 2000 kilograms of anything to a vehicle, you certainly expect to feel it as the car gets pushed and pulled by the weight, especially over bumpy and undulating roads. Not so with the LandCruiser.

It handles the weight as if it almost isn't there, and with solid leaf springs in the rear, it is more than capable of dealing with the mass. There's no soggy feeling in the back as you are driving with a trailer in tow, and the handling remains almost as good as when there's no weight. That handling isn't refined like a modern vehicle, or one of those dual-cab utes mentioned previously, but this is a workhorse and should – in my opinion – feel like one.

If I had to choose a manual tow vehicle, it would be this Toyota truck. The five-speed manual gearbox, the only option in this vehicle, goes a long way to its towing ability.

First gear has a ratio of 4.529 to 1 – for the average person this may not mean a whole lot, but essentially it means the engine rotates 4.529 times to the axle's one turn. And in that respect, it offers the low-end torque needed to get moving.

It comes at the cost of high engine revolutions and top overall speed so you have a gearbox full of other gear ratio options that reduce as you go up gears till the engine gets to a point in fifth gear where it spins 0.75 times to the axle's once. This was part of the 2017 update, resulting in a drop in fuel use and improving driveability, too.

On the road, first gear is only usable for generating momentum, essential for towing. If you are looking to move any added trailer in slight increments, the low first gear does so with ease. It's simply a case of slowly lifting the foot off the clutch and the car will inch forward with very little accelerator needed.

Taking off on an incline is simple as the gear engages quickly and is low enough that there is no need to ride the clutch as you get going. Once go forward is achieved, you are quickly into second gear to build up speed and the LandCruiser does that well, too.

As you move through the gears there always seems to be enough power, and the added benefit is the V8 engine starts to relax to the point where engine rpm is low but you are still moving at speed. It could do with an extra gear beyond fifth on the freeway, though.

Visibility out the back is great and lining up a trailer on your own is quite simple despite the fact there is no rear-view camera offered, and the hitch is located well below the tray out of view. It's a simple case of lining up the middle of the tray with the trailer hitch (or where you think it is).

If you aim for the middle of the tray (easy to spot with a glance over your shoulder, out the rear window), any driver with a little vehicle awareness will be able to get close to the trailer hitch without the aid of a spotter if they had to.

The large side mirrors also make light work of ensuring visibility and they provide enough view so that you aren't completely off track reversing before you get sight of the trailer skewing off to one side. I prefer to look out the rear of the car, myself, as my hands respond better and more fluidly to the movement of the trailer so I am quickly making corrections before it is too late.

The only real let down here is the turning circle. This is a farm car and not something most would use to tow a boat in the middle of suburbia, so I have to accept some level of compromise. The gear ratio in reverse and first go a little way to alleviating the lack of manoeuvrability with small controlled movements possible, but they can only do so much.

On a farm with large open areas, this wouldn't be a problem for someone towing a horse float, but trying to get your boat into a tight driveway could require multiple efforts to get the trailer where you need it.

Oh and forget a quick turnaround if you forget the bait for the fishing trip. It won't be a case of chucking a 'U-ey' at the earliest opportunity. You will have to find at least four lanes wide and use every inch to turn the rig around.

  • Odometer reading: 4920km
  • Travel since previous update: 860km
  • Fuel consumption since previous update: 16.6L/100km
  • Fuel cost since previous update: $143.80
The boat in this test is a Cobia 201C, supplied by Gameboats in Sydney. Thanks to the team there for loaning us this beauty.

Click the Gallery tab above for more images by Sam Venn.

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