While Toyota holds a dominant stranglehold over many segments of Australia’s new-car landscape, 4x4 sales show a particularly tight grip on the short’n’curlies.
The LandCruiser Prado is a far-and-away winner when it comes to large 4WDs, and will look to continue that dominance with a recent update. But go up another segment, where the big, expensive and dated V8 diesel 200 Series LandCruiser lives, and boy, it’s as popular as ever.
Putting things like performance, refinement and efficiency aside for a minute, there is something special about driving a V8. The effortless power, coming on smoothly and matched by a satisfying burble from the exhaust, is something one can easily fool themselves into thinking they need. It’s luxurious, engaging and satisfying.
And regardless of how good engine manufacturers are at straining more and more from smaller capacities through smart technology, precise injection and advanced forced induction, they can’t seem to replicate the true butteriness of a V8 and the capacity these engines are often endowed with.
This is, in my opinion, the number-one reason why the 200 Series LandCruiser is still enduringly popular today. It’s a package completely devoid of value, modern design and advanced technology, but that engine is a dead-set winner. Australians love their donks, and many are willing to forgo a lot of things (including their hard-earned) to have something so salubrious as a big V8 under the bonnet.
It’s important to note for keen buyers: the opportunity to have the 200 Series LandCruiser with this V8 diesel under the bonnet might be closing, according to previous CarAdvice reports. And regardless of how good the replacement might be, I foresee a stampede on the V8 in the coming years.
Let’s talk brass tacks. If seven-seat four-wheel drives like the Pajero Sport, Everest, MU-X or even Patrol don’t tickle that special fancy, then an eight-seat GXL specification like ours might be the smartest choice of the range. Asking price: $92,696 before on-road costs.
Sure, you could go full-blown poverty pack and line up with the open-cut mining sites for a GX specification, but its $80,996 asking price is hilariously lacking in meaningful features.
On the other end of the spectrum are the Sahara and Horizon specifications at $124,396 and $129,090. While the specification is otherwise much better, whether it’s worth the extra $43,000 asking price is up for debate.
|2020 Toyota LandCruiser 200 GXL|
|Engine (capacity, cylinders, type)||4.5-litre twin-turbo V8 diesel|
|Power and torque (with RPM)||200kW @ 3600rpm, 650Nm @ 1600–2600rpm|
|Transmission||6-speed torque-converter automatic|
|Drive type (FWD, etc)||Full-time 4x4, locking centre differential and low-range|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||9.5L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||13.2L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats down)||1276L|
|ANCAP safety rating (year tested)||Five stars (2011)|
|Warranty (years / km)||5 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Nissan Patrol Ti-L, Ram 1500 Express, Land Rover Discovery|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$97,381|
GXL specification, second from the bottom, did benefit from the trickle-down of some additional features like front and rear parking sensors, and a 4.2-inch multifunction display. Otherwise, features are scant: leather-accented steering wheel, LED low- and halogen high-beam headlights (both running through projector lenses), cloth seats with manual adjustment and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The interior of the LandCruiser GXL is kind of like an old taxi, after a long regime of steroids. Refusing to bend to modern tastes and designs, the LandCruiser's cabin is so old it’s almost quaint. The infotainment system is small and lacks things like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and digital radio. There’s single-zone climate control, and only a couple of power outlets.
The interior is big and comfortable, however, with a solid feeling to the construction and good practicality on offer.
Our tester has been augmented with a few options, which raise the asking price to $97,381.11. There’s a raised air intake ($500), optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System ($3250), premium paint ($500), towing kit ($227.79) and trailer harness ($207.32).
From that 4.5 litres of diesel V8, two turbochargers extract 200kW at 3600rpm – a similar figure to many 3.0-litre diesels these days. There’s a healthy and fat 650Nm of torque, however, which is available between 1600–2600rpm. And that’s the important number here. While the V8 does carry a muted rumble, its main strength is the whooshing pull of torque, like a slow-moving tsunami, which seems unfazed by hills or loads alike. It’s not fast when you really plant it, but effortless on the tick-along.
That big-ticket option, Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), is effectively active swaybars that run through an engine-powered hydraulic system. This reins in body roll on-road, but also adds supple articulation off-road. And if you’re going to spend the money on a LandCruiser and not radically modify the suspension, it’s a box I would tick.
|2020 Toyota LandCruiser 200 GXL|
|Length / width / height (mm)||4990/1980/1970|
|Tow rating braked / unbraked / payload (kg)||3500/750/610|
|Approach / departure / ramp over angle (degrees)||32/24/21|
|Wheels and tyres||17-inch, 285/65 R17|
The LandCruiser naturally feels big on-road, but not a handful. The wheelbase (2850mm) and turning circle (11.8m) aren’t as big as you might think, and while it never claims or pretends to be dynamic, the big Toyota feels comfortable and well controlled. The ride, helped by common-sense 17-inch wheels, is good without falling into excellence.
The six-speed automatic gearbox is smooth and intuitive, shifting infrequently as it leans on the engine’s flexible torque range. Low-range offers a nice 2.618:1 reduction, and when combined with the A-TRC system and a locking centre differential, the LandCruiser is an impressive rig off-road. Although 2740kg is heavy in anyone’s book, the LandCruiser is able to stay stable and sure-footed through decent articulation and smart traction control.
You have a handful of off-road driving modes (Multi Terrain Select) that make a big difference to the car’s response to throttle inputs and wheel lifts, but the Crawl Control isn’t so good in execution. I found it jerky and noisy, sounding like the thing was going to blow up.
The first thing you’ll run out of is ground clearance, with the modest ramp-over and departure angles the first areas of concern. And with solid capability in the base vehicle, huge aftermarket support for the LandCruiser means you can add as much clearance, traction and protection as you desire.
In particular, the 285/65 R17 tyres (31.6 inches) could quickly be swapped out for something slightly bigger and grippier off-road.
Along with a five-year and unlimited-kilometre warranty, cost of servicing does go up thanks to six-monthly servicing intervals. For those who regularly drive on dusty, rough and corrugated roads, then it’s probably not a bad thing for the added peace of mind it brings, but for those stuck to urban areas it’s probably overkill.
For the first 36 months or 60,000km it’s $300 per visit. From there, it gets more expensive, and comes to $4408.21 once you reach 100,000km or five years. Also worth noting, the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System will require additional maintenance on top of this.
Those looking at a LandCruiser 200 will need to also consider the Ram 1500 these days, in either Express or Laramie specification. And although it’s only petrol, the Nissan Patrol has a great driveline that’s less thirsty than you think, and it offers plenty more bang-for-buck in terms of specifications. Fully loaded in Ti-L guise the Patrol sits neck-and-neck with the GXL on price.
However, the LandCruiser does have a stranglehold for a good reason. It’s a big 4x4 wagon with genuine off-road and towing capabilities, and no shortage of hardware under the bonnet. It’s undoubtedly expensive and old in many ways, but the base vehicle is still solid.