There are many things the 2018 Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series does well. Audio, satellite navigation, Bluetooth clarity, phone connectivity and smartphone integration - those features we bundle under the term 'infotainment' in other words - are not among them. Not even on the consideration set as a matter of fact. The 79's infotainment is somewhere between awful and non existent. You get a very basic double DIN source unit and two awful dash speakers, and that's it.
The more I drive the 79, the more I'm confounded by its broad appeal. You can't take it anywhere without someone wanting to chat about the Norweld canopy, how we're finding the BFGoodrich KM3s, what sort of suspension we've fitted, and whether we're planning on doing anymore work to it.
I've always loved the simplicity of the platform, as far back as a previous life when I was editing a 4WD magazine, but it seems crazy to me that you need to fork out as much money as you do for such a poorly-equipped vehicle. Yes, it's capable, yes it has two lockers standard, and yes, it's tough. The equipment it is missing though - for your $71,740 starting price before on road costs - is evidenced by the booming aftermarket support the platform has.
There's the rear track issue, the standard snorkel that isn't waterproof and is otherwise restrictive, the Dunlop all-terrain tyres that no one seems to like, the lack of window tints, mirrors that look like an afterthought and don't really work when you're towing a wide trailer, the front seats that offer little to no support, and the infotainment system. That's before you even take into account the lack of storage, nothing more than a cursory single bottle holder, and a near complete lack of charging beyond a 12V socket.
Since we added the 79 to the CarAdvice stable, we've continually thrown money at it - and yes we still love it. Regardless, it's tough to advocate a truck - and it is a truck - that's going to cost you somewhere north of $140k to set up the way it probably should have been from the factory. The 70 Series is a 4WD only for those with deep pockets if you really want to turn it into the ultimate touring vehicle.
We've started a fairly healthy list of upgrades and modifications from day one, as you're aware, and now we're at the point where the only main issue we haven't resolved is the rear track issue. As most fans know, in its wisdom, Toyota chose not to increase the rear wheel track to match the growth in the front when it made the switch to a V8 engine. As such, the rear track is significantly narrower, 95mm in fact. Not great off-road, especially in mud, ruts and thick sand, and it can be downright dangerous in really tricky situations. An entire aftermarket has emerged around it, with various solutions, so choosing the right one is key.
Need and want are slightly different desires of course, and we'll cross the rear track bridge somewhere down the line.
This time, we take a close look at the infotainment upgrades we lined up after some research that led us to the guys at www.automotivesuperstore.com.au and their extensive list of brand name products. CA's off-road editor Sam Purcell and I were doing some online research looking for Optima batteries for our old dungers and we found Automotive Superstore almost by accident.
I'm usually wary of buying items like batteries on eBay and would prefer to pay a little bit more if I can buy from a local dealer with warranty coverage and someone I can speak to over the phone if I have an issue. We hadn't heard of Automotive Superstore at the time, but the prices were sharp and the delivery times impressive. As such, we bought a couple of batteries and then disappeared down a rabbit hole for a week looking at all the other things we could be spending our money on.
As the saying goes, it's easy to spend money when it isn't yours, and once we started digging deeper into the online catalogue, we discovered they also offered a comprehensive range of audio gear - including Alpine and Pioneer - both offering direct fit replacements for the rubbish Toyota factory unit.
In the end, after speaking to the guys at Automotive Superstore, we opted for Alpine components for a couple of reasons. Yes it was more expensive, but Alpine has a beautifully designed factory style fascia that surrounds the touchscreen, and the whopping 9.0-inch system also comes standard with HEMA off-road mapping.
Anyone who does any off-road exploring knows HEMA is the system you want - with many tourers opting for a stand alone HEMA-equipped unit in modern 4WDs. With the Alpine system, we get the best of both worlds - a neat factory fit, and the comprehensive HEMA mapping system.
The factory fit was a big issue for us. We simply didn't want the new system to look like it had been hastily shoved into the otherwise new dash of our company vehicle. The larger screen meant we would lose our digital clock and temperature gauge, and Alpine also supplies a neat relocation mount for the hazard switch, which arguably looks better where it is now (down near the AC controls) than it did higher up on the dash.
It's easy to go completely overboard with audio gear, of course, but the other thing anyone who knows what the aftermarket offers will question, is how manufacturers get away with charging enormous amounts of money for optional audio systems. Our 79 doesn't yet benefit from a full coverage of sound deadening or any other insulation to speak of and the new system sounds sensational for the $7630 asking price - less than half some exotic optional manufacturer systems.
We went all Alpine, with front two-way component speakers, rear 6.5-inch two-ways, a neat 10.0-inch thin subwoofer arrangement and the aforementioned source unit. I'll get back to that in a minute, but continuing with the factory look theme, we also opted for custom made ASV speaker enclosures and the box for the subwoofer.
It might seem like small details, but the door panels go in with only a small amount of modification required, and the end result looks like it was meant to be there. The added bonus is that ASV is an Australian company offering what is a quality solution. We'd seen ASV products online before, with comprehensive YouTube videos detailing the installation, and plenty of 70 Series owners are opting for them.
Likewise the sub box, which mounts nicely into the rear firewall, also provides a mounting position for the amplifier and doesn't interfere with the factory location of the jack and toolkit. For those of you wanting the least possible impact on the stock cabin, the installation, as we've done it here, is the way to go.
We had the guys at Automotive Superstore tune the system for a middle of the range style of music, rather than pounding bass into the cabin for someone who listens to trance for example. A range of different people at CA drive the 79 and we wanted the tune to cater to a range of music tastes.
The other provision the Alpine unit caters for is cameras - up to three of them if you want. We don't have any great need for a forward facing camera (or cameras), but we definitely needed a rear-view camera. Something else that should probably be standard come to think of it. Now, with the Norweld canopy in place, rear visibility is compromised and despite regular forays out into the bush, the 79 spends plenty of time at CA HQ in the inner city. It's made a massive difference having a rear-view camera when it comes to reverse parking in the city.
Aside from the camera, which gets a daily workout, the other aspect of the new system we've tested most comprehensively is proper smartphone integration. We'll come back to you with some reports on Android Auto soon, but the Alpine works flawlessly with Apple CarPlay. Calls are crystal clear, Apple maps and Waze work accurately, Spotify has been rock solid, and voice to text also works perfectly too.
We have had the connections run into the glovebox, so you can simply plug your phone in and never look at it again once you start driving. DAB+ radio is also a welcome addition and it works as well as any standard system in a luxury car around town. It can get a bit sketchy once you leave the city, but that's par for the DAB+ course.
This weekend just gone, I did some off-roading out the back of Lithgow and tested out the HEMA maps briefly, which is always a smart way to learn the system when you already know where you're going. As with everything else we've sampled so far, the HEMA maps are as accurate as promised and know their way around the track ands trails we drove. We'll come back to you with some more testing of that system though.
What we've effectively done - at considerable cost of course - is bring the 79 kicking and screaming into 2019, which is where it probably should have been from the outset. Yes, you could drive a LandCruiser around Australia with the stock system in place. However, if you're spending long days behind the wheel, you might want to listen to music you can actually hear.
Further, if you use your LandCruiser as a work tool as so many buyers do, you will no doubt need a proper smartphone connection that works reliably. And if you tow regularly, you might want to be able to see behind you when you're hitching up or reversing into a tight space. It all comes down to the outlay and whether you can justify the cost.
Below you'll find the full list of components, with links to the products and the RRP for each individual item as well. You'll also see the price for the installation as we've done here, with Automotive Superstore offering a full drive in/drive out service. And, if you're anything like me and hate wiring with a passion, it's a service well worth paying for. I'll tackle just about anything on a car build, but wiring isn't something I enjoy.
As you can see in the accompanying video though, according to expert Nosh, it's easy. Steve, who you don't see on the video said the same thing, funnily enough. Yeah sure boys, of course it is. For you maybe...
Labour to install 79 Series LandCruiser System Pack - $960
Total - $7630