The LandCruiser has always been the company's flagship off-roader. The 200 Series is a monster though, and too big for the city, so we headed for its natural environment – the Aussie bush.
As far as updates go, the few that have been added to the 2017 Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series GXL are very much low key. The GXL now comes with DAB+, an updated audio interface and steering wheel audio controls? You want more? Well, there isn’t any…
If you’re buying a 200 Series to tool around town, you’re certifiably mad, of that there is no doubt. There are two things the 200 Series is most capable of tackling with ridiculous ease though – towing a large caravan around the circumference of this continent, and making short work of heavy off-road terrain.
With that in mind, we decided to get a little dusty and dirty and focus solely on the 200's off-road chops.
I’m not 60 yet, so the ‘Big Lap’ with a caravan in tow was a bit of a stretch. A trip out to our favourite off-road test track was more to my liking though, so that’s exactly what we did. Our GXL is supplied with the excellent KDSS suspension system, which makes it the perfect candidate for off-road work.
If you want mountain killing, sand blasting, river crossing, rock crawling, off-road capability straight off the showroom floor, you have to live with something truly compromised on-road. Think – yep you guessed it, another Toyota – 70 Series or Jeep Wrangler. With Land Rover Defender gone as we know it, and on a sabbatical in naming terms, there’s little else to sate the taste of the true off-road warrior.
However, if you want to traverse almost the same terrain as the outright leaders, but do so in a measure of comfort, only Nissan's Patrol really compares to the 200 Series. There are plenty of capable off-road wagons – Land Rover Discovery and Mitsubishi Pajero to name two – but the ’Cruiser and Patrol remain the standard setters in outright terms.
That said, the 200 Series is surprisingly easy to muscle around town. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should though, and the general heft of the flagship LandCruiser is quite possibly the reason the Prado is now the default LandCruiser in the big cities.
Put emotion and financial means aside, and the 200 Series is simply too big for urban confines. The minute you leave the city behind though, this behemoth starts to make a lot more sense.
You can get into an entry-level diesel 200 Series in GX form starting from $77,750 before on-road costs, while the GXL tested here starts from $88,830 before on-roads. So no, LandCruiser ownership doesn’t come cheap. Imagine trying to justify the price before you got steering wheel mounted controls and DAB+!
In addition to those new inclusions, standard equipment highlights include: seating for eight, seven airbags, ESC, active traction control, multi-terrain ABS, hill-start assist, trailer sway control, an emergency brake signal, tilt/telescopic steering wheel adjustment, roof rails, LED low-beam headlights with static auto leveling, LED clearance lights, leather-accented steering wheel and shift knob, analogue instrument cluster, variable intermittent wipers for the front and rear screens, 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone front climate control, aluminium side steps, two 12-volt power sockets, a 220-volt rear power point, horizontal split tailgate, smart entry and keyless start, rear-view camera, satellite navigation, privacy glass and body-coloured external mirrors.
Off-road, as it is on, the twin turbo diesel is an absolute powerhouse. It’s the most obvious 200 Series strong point aside from the proper 4WD system, and it hammers down an easy 200kW and 650Nm. The ADR fuel claim on the combined cycle is 9.5L/100km. You’ll use high elevens around town as we discovered previously, but it will drop well down into the nines on the freeway after prolonged periods. A smooth-shifting six-speed automatic works well on-road and promises to make life easy off-road too.
The first issue to address off-road is ground clearance. With decades of off-road expertise it’s no surprise the 200 Series is excellent in this regard and unless you go looking for the silliest way to get from A to B in the dirt, you’ll rarely find the undercarriage bottoming out.
The KDSS trickery plays its part here obviously too, offering serious wheel travel and articulation, ensuring you almost always have a tyre on the ground, and making it a rare occurrence to find a tyre hanging up in the air. More tyres on the ground more often is obviously safer, but it’s also more conducive to forward progress through the really tough stuff.
In simple terms, a Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System is excellent for proper off-road vehicles because it makes them more capable on-road and more effective off-road as well. It’s basically a hydraulic suspension system where the two sides of the vehicle are linked to each other via a stabiliser bar across the centre.
When you need proper articulation off-road, that bar disengages so that the wheels can move independently of each other and either droop right down or move right up into the wheel arch. It’s a great compromise for proper off-roaders and makes the most of the theoretical available travel
Next up, there’s the effortless way the diesel’s grunt is directed to all four wheels. We traversed a challenging off-road uphill climb in high-range without the centre diff locked, and only engaged low range and said diff lock to ascertain whether progress was different or easier. Even in high-range, there’s a beautiful sense of neutrality to the ’Cruiser’s throttle pedal. It’s easy to modulate inputs no matter how bumpy the terrain.
What that means in practice is almost no spinning of tyres or loss of traction. Your progress through tough terrain isn’t interrupted, slowed or even worse, halted altogether. Our test hill is extremely tough to walk up, that’s how steep and washed out it is, and yet the 200 clambered up without spinning a tyre even in high-range, meaning progress is basically effortless.
You don’t need to engage low range or use any of the drive modes to flatten out that power delivery either – it’s near perfect.
Same goes for the steering, which seems ponderous around town at parking speeds, but comes into its own off-road where it doesn’t react sharply to small inputs and corrections. It makes picking your desired line a lot easier than it would otherwise be.
When you do engage low-range, the six-speed automatic works seamlessly with the low-range transfer case to deliver a set of ratios perfectly suited to the very toughest terrain.
Automatics are obviously better now than they’ve ever been, and even hardcore off-roaders are starting to come around to the idea that they are smarter off-road than a manual. The 200 Series is one of the better examples of this theory too. In low-range, there’s no jerkiness or hesitation, once again ensuring smooth drive under any circumstance.
In short, it’s a little foolhardy to say that there’s nothing the 200 Series can’t do off-road. It is safe to say however, that you have to try pretty hard to find that situation. That the 200 Series does what it can so easily, and in such comfort, is a bonus.
The 200 remains the flagship LandCruiser in the Toyota stable and the quintessential off-road performer. It’s not the most attractive or affordable large 4WD wagon available but for so many it remains the standard setter. Hit the dirt for any length of time and its not hard to see why.
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