Soldiering on: Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series road test review
TOYOTA LandCruiser 70 Series? Oh, I love those.
Who doesn't? An icon of rural Australia since 1985, the 70 Series does off-road workhorse, utilitarian and indestructible like no other vehicle.
Head deep into the outback and you'll find 70 Series 'Cruisers as ubiquitous as red earth, sweat-seeking flies and massive skies.
So is this a new one then?
A re-engineered one let's say. You don't really make a "new" LC70 Series. Much like Land Rover Defenders, owners want them as they've always been: you don't mess with the basic recipe when it works this well.
A torque-rich 4.5-litre V8 turbo-diesel, payload of over 1200kg with the ute tray, wading depth of 700mm, 130-litre fuel tank and they can tow a braked trailer up to 3500kg.
Solid stuff. Talk me through the changes then.
Okay. As before the range consists of a 70 Series Wagon (SUV), Troop Carrier with two or five seats, Double-cab ute and Single-cab ute. Making up over 50% of all 70 Series sales is the Single cab version, so Toyota has concentrated its efforts on this model.
There are wider 16-inch single-piece rims replacing previous split-rims, a stiffer frame, auto-locking front hubs in place of manual hubs, more airbags, more economical engine, taller gearing for the manual gearbox, cruise control and thicker, stronger body panels.
Still looks the same though...
Toyota says LC70 buyers don't list styling as a buying factor, hence why it looks so familiar. Check out the pronounced power bulge in the bonnet though, that's the big exterior change. Helps with pedestrian safety too if one's unfortunate enough to end up on the bonnet, which plays its part in the chunky workhorse scoring a 5 Star Ancap safety rating for the first time.
Do rural farmers really care a hoot about Ancap safety ratings?
I don't know, hopefully some will. More importantly though, government departments and industries like mining are increasingly demanding their fleet of vehicles need 5 Star safety or they won't buy them.
Toyota had a choice. Add the likes of a full electronic safety package, curtain and driver knee airbags and that raised bonnet and score the 5 Stars, or kill the model off in the face of decreasing fleet sales.
Kill off the 70 Series? Surely a crime.
Apparently it was a close call, Toyota's not a charity after all. But, and you have to respect this, Toyota swallowed the required development and build costs to ensure the LC70 survived. "We've got some third world roads in Australia but first world regulations," said Toyota Australia's Ray Munday.
The model gives unquestionable off-road kudos to the brand, and you get the impression Toyota felt it had an obligation to keep producing the LC70 for the individuals and communities relying on just such a vehicle - a duty of care if you like - even if they make little or no money on them.
They don't sell many then?
On the contrary. Australians have bought over 260,000 of them since their 1985 introduction, or about 8000 each year. Twice as many annually as BMW's best-selling X5 SUV for example which clog OUR metro areas. Your LC70s are fit for purpose, making their home on the land.
Speaking of BMW X5s, all SUVs, pick-ups and utes have gone seriously upmarket of late, so I suppose the LC70 has leather, 8-inch touchscreen with embedded sat nav, reversing camera and the like?
Wash your mouth out. This isn't some urban SUV style statement.
The last thing farmers and rural workers need are complicated electronic or luxury items to fail in the middle of nowhere.
You can't even get an LC70 with an auto gearbox: manuals are easier to fix and you can bump start them if your battery or starter motor dies.
Slim pickings in the cabin then?
It's like a time warp inside. The Single-cab comes in three grades: WorkMate, GX and GXL. Only the top spec scores electric windows, the others make do with old-school wind-ups. Cabins are a sea of dull grey, with easy-clean vinyl trim for WorkMate and GX, and grey fabric in the GXL.
There's hard plastic everywhere; door handles and switch gear have been lifted from the 1980s and you don't even get air conditioning as standard.
With a near 100% take up rate for cold air in LC70s, and a $2761 charge for fitting it, it's a bit hard to swallow. Need diff locks? You can't get them on the WorkMate, they're $1500 on the GX and included in GXL.
My money isn't going on any fripperies that's for sure, so how much are these new LC70s?
Brace yourself. LC70 Single-cabs are up $5500 over before, meaning the WorkMate is $62,490, the GX $64,490 and GXL $66,490, all before on-roads.
Where's that money going? Peace of mind that these things will not let you down, have been exhaustively tested and are tough as old boots.
Price increases reflect the new development costs - including gathering feedback from current LC70 owners at mines, cattle properties, tour operators, park rangers etc. - and what Toyota calls "sweeping engineering and manufacturing advances."
Prove it then.
Alright. The local team tested the new LC70 over 100,000 Aussie kilometres, with 70% of that in extreme off-road conditions.
All LC70s now have stability control, active traction control (no more need for an LSD), hill-start assist, brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution.
The 151kW/430Nm V8 is now around 10% more efficient with a return of 10.7l/100km (combined) thanks to new injectors, while taller gearing on second and fifth gears (the latter 15% taller) makes for more relaxed less revvy highway cruising.
With Single-cabs being the best-seller and most in need of a 5 Star Ancap rating, these have thicker, stronger and more rigid frames with an additional cross member. These mean improvements to safety, handling stability and road noise. I had a peek under the outgoing LC70 and the new one and the frame does look impressively chunkier.
Did you give them a good bush bashing?
I got a few of them dirty at the 4WD proving ground in Victoria's Mount Cottrell, testing the be-snorkelled LC70s through river crossings up to the bonnet, at silly angles up mud banks, over moguls and rock-laden fields and up and down mighty inclines with ease using low range and impressive engine braking.
I only needed the diff lock on one occasion, and in low range over this varied terrain the LC70s proved unstoppable, as expected.
The new active traction control is key, preventing loss of traction on low friction surfaces and doing away with the traditional LSD by performing the same function but with greater control. It can be fully switched off for tackling deep sand however.
What about the more everyday driving?
That V8 is a smooth old thing that lazily hums along on the highway, and over unsealed roads it confidently absorbs the lumps and bumps. It's not luxury travel, you need to be gentle in the corners and the turning circle is barge-like, but typical buyers won't care a jot.
Viva the LC70 then?
A joy it's still with us, and with the Single-cab at least, safety gear for the 21st Century to ensure plenty of new orders from fleet buyers.
And if the nuclear apocalypse comes, there'll be LC70s still out there in the bush keeping the cockroaches company.
Model: Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series Single cab-chassis.
Details: Two-door, two-seat work truck with tray, 4x4 and low range.
Engine: 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8 generating maximum power of 151kW @ 3400rpm and peak torque of 430Nm @ 1200-3200rpm.
Transmission: Five speed manual.
4WD system: Part-time 4WD with two-speed transfer case and auto locking front hubs.
Consumption: 10.7l/100km (combined).
Wading depth: 700mm.
Towing capacity: 3500kg (braked).
Payload: 1220kg - 1235kg depending on variant.
Bottom line plus on-roads: $62,490 (WorkMate); $64,490 (GX); $66,490 (GXL).
What matters most
What we liked: Practically indestructible, unquestionable off-road ability, lazy V8 with bags of low down torque, stays true to its utilitarian roots, cruise control, 5 Star Ancap, the fact the model still survives!
What we'd like to see: Air conditioning as standard, a smidge more effort to modernise the interior without over-complicating it, they're pricey but they do hold their value like little else.
Warranty and servicing: Three year/100,000km warranty. Service intervals are every 10,000km or six months with capped price servicing of $340 for the first three years.
Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series 2016 full range pricing
LC70 Wagon WorkMate - $60,990
LC70 Wagon GXL - $64,990
LC70 Troop Carrier WorkMate - $64,890
LC70 Troop Carrier GXL - $67,990
LC70 Double-Cab WorkMate - $64,990
LC70 Double-Cab GXL - $68,990
LC70 Single-Cab WorkMate - $62,490
LC70 Single-Cab GX - $64,490
LC70 Single-Cab GXL - $66,490