The 2017 Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series ute isn’t made for urban driving. It isn’t supposed to spend time in traffic. No. Just, no.
That was the conclusion I came to after spending some quality time in the driver’s seat of the big workhorse four-wheel-drive ute travelling from my place in the lower Blue Mountains to the CarAdvice Sydney office in McMahons Point. My trip is usually about an hour, but when I was driving the Toyota LandCruiser cab-chassis I seemed to be burdened with more bumper-to-bumper time than usual.
In an automatic pick-up, as the majority of buyers choose, this type of traffic wouldn’t be that much of a problem. But in a V8-powered, manual-only truck like the Toyota, it turns a regular frustration in to a real burner. The short first gear ratio, for example, is a killer when you’re doing the go-stop-go-stop remix as so many Sydney drivers groove to.
Then there’s the steering, a recirculating ball system that is better than some other versions of this type (I’m talking about you, Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen), but still the opposite of light, deft and enjoyable.
It’s fairly lazy on centre and can wander a little bit when the wind pushes it, and at lower speeds it’s cumbersome. The turning circle is more like a crop circle: where you’d usually need a three-point turn, you’ll regularly require five or seven. And while that’s fine on a farm, where the paddocks have no pedestrians, people-movers or otherwise, in town it is a pain.
When it comes to parking, there’s no rear-view camera, no parking sensors front or rear, and over-shoulder vision when checking before merging is not great for the driver.
There are other issues with daily driving that will make you think even longer and harder about the steep asking price of this truck.
There are hurricane-like levels of wind noise at highway speed (okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration), and that’s in part due to the snorkel, which you can hear huffing away under hard acceleration, and also the side mirrors that sit way out in the wind. Those mirrors also vibrate with the engine, and can shake at speed too.
The reason the vibrations are occurring at freeway speed is in part because in fifth gear, it’s revving at nearly 2500rpm. That’s less than it was previously, due to the new final gear ratio, but it’s still not quite settled.
What is settled is the rear end. The suspension is remarkably composed without a load, to the point it makes you wonder how Toyota can get it so wrong with a two-wheel-drive HiLux single-cab-chassis. It is arguably the best for comfort of any cab-chassis, despite the fact it offers 1200-kilos-plus of load capability.
There are some interior problems, too. Nothing to do with its build quality, fit or finish – more so with ergonomics and usability. It comes down to the fact the interior has only had add-ons included in about 33 years of production – the cabin remains pretty much the same as it did when my parents got married, which was about 10 months before I was born.
There’s just one cupholder, the new smartphone storage slot is too small for plus-size versions, and the door pockets are positioned low down and they’re very slim, making them useless for bottles and stuff. There is a box behind the seats for storing bigger items, and that’s pretty handy, plus there’s space arrears of the bucket seats.
The stereo system is archaic, just like the interior space management. A screen that isn’t touch-sensitive is just so, like, yesterday. But the advantage of buttons and knobs is there’s much better tactility when you’re going off-road – have you ever tried to use a touchscreen on a bumpy track? It doesn’t work.
At least there’s a USB port, even though its placement at the front of the media system isn’t perfect. There are no steering wheel audio controls, but that’s not too big of a deal because you’re very close to everything in the cabin.
And while the air conditioning is an optional extra, even in its lowest setting it is strong when set to the head direction setting. If you prefer fresh air, the power windows only feature auto-down on the driver’s side.
The thing that surprised me most was the Toyota did all this while consuming an average of just 10.5 litres per 100km. Pretty impressive!
All this means that if you buy a 70 Series, you’ll not want to be spending much time in traffic. But that’s cool – that’s not what this thing is about. We’ll see what it’s like in its comfort zone in the coming updates.
Click the Gallery tab above for more images by Sam Venn.
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