Toyota 200 LandCruiser GXL Petrol and Diesel

words - Steve Kealy
The 200 Series LandCruiser, the first revamp of the iconic vehicle for nearly a decade, has been eagerly awaited by off-roading aficionados and the café-latte set alike

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Road Test

Model:  Toyota 200 LandCruiser
RRP: $69,990 (petrol); $79,990 (diesel)
Price as tested:  $69,990; $79,990

Crash rating: not tested
Fuel: Petrol, 91 RON ULP; Diesel
Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 14.5 petrol; 10.3 diesel
CO2 emissions (g/km): 
Also consider:  Land Rover Defender (more here); VW Touareg (more here); Nissan Patrol (more here); Mitsubishi Pajero (more here)

Petrol
Overall Rating: 4.0/5.0
Engine/Drivetrain/Chassis: 4.5/5.0
Price, Packaging and Practicality: 3.5/5.0
Safety: 4.0/5.0
Behind the wheel: 4.5/5.0
X-factor: 4.5/5.0

Diesel
Overall Rating: 4.0/5.0
Engine/Drivetrain/Chassis: 4.5/5.0
Price, Packaging and Practicality: 4.0/5.0
Safety: 4.0/5.0
Behind the wheel: 4.5/5.0
X-factor: 4.5/5.0

About our ratings

With a 50-year history of serving up rugged, tough, almost indestructible go-anywhere vehicles, Toyota has a serious reputation to maintain.

LandCruisers can be found on the streets and dusty tracks of every Australian outback town, in the paddocks of farms and stations from Tassie's southern shore to the topmost tip and right across the middle of our wide brown land, from sea to shining sea. Its buyers want a vehicle that starts first time, every time; will reach 300,000km with ease; will withstand corrugated gravel roads and keep out the bull-dust.

The fact that many more of these vehicles might only leave the asphalt at the soccer club, and might never climb anything higher than a shopping-centre kerb is academic -- yet these buyers have demands too. The buyers want a LandCruiser that's smooth, quiet, comfortable and safe and with an insatiable appetite for cargo, not to mention the all-important lifestyle image.

The new 200 Series is currently available in three guises -- GXL, VX and Sahara -- and with two V8 engine options -- petrol and turbodiesel.

This evaluation compares the basic GXL models. The two are distinguishable mostly by the $10,000 disparity in their purchase price -- equipment levels are otherwise almost exactly line-ball.

The carried-over 4.7-litre petrol V8 is matched to a five-speed automatic transmission while Toyota's new 4.5-litre twin-turbo direct-injection diesel V8 comes matched to a new six-speed automatic transmission. There are no manual options.

The two vehicles look almost identical -- there's no external badging to differentiate the models by the fuel they burn. Both petrol and diesel are merely badged GLX and V8.

Despite the upmarket impression that the GLX might convey, it's actually a not-so-basic baseline model. Although the 200 Series Cruiser gets 21st century features like a Bluetooth-enabled sound system, proximity-key convenience with one-touch starting, tri-zone climate control and the full gamut of electronic driver aids and safety features, details like steering-wheel audio controls and parking sensors (in a vehicle that's 4.95m long) aren't included.

To many viewers, the svelte new sheetmetal is bland and featureless, looking altogether too much like a 'RAV4 plus GST', but for occupants, this translates to a very agreeably quiet ride -- extraneous sound is so well deadened that few people could tell which engine was in use.

Indeed, performance from the two motors is strikingly similar -- if anything, the diesel is quicker point-to-point. For the record, there's 202kW at 5400rpm and 410Nm of torque at 3400rpm available from the petrol and 195kW of power at 3400rpm and a deep-chested 650Nm of torque between 1600 and 2600rpm from the oiler.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the diesel is marginally more languid when cruising and makes the 100km/h highway drone easier to maintain. It's not that the petrol V8 is a rev-happy speed-monster, but it can gradually creep up the dial. Engaging the cruise control where it's safe to do so, is a simple fix.

All this brawn and beefcake come at a cost. Even thinking about using just some of the available muscle will rapidly diminish the 138-litre tank's theoretical range of nearly 1000km and regular driving without any towing, is more likely to see about 800km between visits to the petrol pump. Diesel Cruiser drivers can expect to get closer to the magical 1000km per tank, but depending upon where and when you fill up, an almost dry tank will certainly top the $200 mark.

Everything about the LandCruiser is supersized. It weighs over 2500kg in petrol guise (diesel 2600kg), carries eight people and can haul a 3500kg braked trailer, which explains the popularity of the LandCruiser amongst the horsey set.

With or without Dobbin in his float, the Cruiser is an awesome machine -- its 285/65 R17 tyres, permanent all-wheel drive and a raft of computer-controlled driver-error-ameliorating devices all combine to create a vehicle which positively lunges forward when provoked, irrespective of the gradient or grip available.

That said, the big vehicle's mass counts against it when inching up slimy inclines. It prefers a good solid run-up, as trickling along steep muddy tracks will often see the LandCruiser squirming off line. Give it a bit of pace though, and the electronics can lend a hand.

Selecting low range is as simple as selecting Neutral and twisting a knob, and a torque-sensing limited-slip differential in the centre diff can be locked with a single button too.

Selecting the Diesel's automatic downhill brake control is similarly as easy as pushing a button, while in the petrol-burner, there are three stages of Crawl -- which Toyota describes as being like an offroad cruise control, automatically maintaining a low uniform vehicle speed to enable stable driving.
 
The tiptronic-style five and six-speed automatic gearboxes also offer standard or higher-rev shift programmes as well as a selectable second-gear start, to aid getaways in mud and snow.

For those drivers who might never need to negotiate rutted, slimy, pothole-strewn forest tracks or roof-deep snow-drifts, the GXL packs front, front-side and curtain airbags that protect all three rows of seats; ABS, Electronic Brake-force distribution and Brake Assist make slowing the big vehicle a breeze, even on variable surfaces, while traction control and Stability and Swerve control all contrive to keep the 'Cruiser going where it's pointed.

Deliberately provoking a slide on a dirt road will see the Toyota get satisfyingly out of shape before an insistent gong sounds and the car's computer subtly juggles mass, inertia, velocity, gravity and probably some black magic to drag its two-and-a half ton bulk back into line.

Remarkably, it does exactly the same on asphalt -- mostly because, as well as all the clever computer stuff, there's some brilliant Aussie inventiveness under the skin.

Designed in Western Australia, the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) fitted to the LandCruiser (and banned from Dakar and WRC racecars!) provides greater stability and control in on and offroad driving by adjusting front and rear stabiliser bars, based on movement of hydraulic cylinders -- with nary a silicon chip in sight! This sytem is fitted to all 200 Series Cruisers except the GXL diesel -- which was prone to more bodyroll, although it's still well-controlled.

KDSS can be added to the turbodiesel base model for an extra $2500.

To the occupants, this all contrives to provide a smooth, compliant, comfortable and quiet ride. For the driver, it translates as a vehicle which feels a great deal lighter than it really is, seemingly shedding more than half its mass as soon as the wheels are turning.

It's possible to hustle the V8 petrol 200 Series Cruiser along at an impressive pace thanks to minimum bodyroll, very accurate steering and a nimble precision which belies the eight-seater's vast bulk and mass. Indeed, this is probably the vehicle's greatest single virtue.

Only the increasingly loud wailing of the big Dunlop tyres, and eventually the intercession of the various stability safety systems, complete with that insistent gong, reminds the driver that the laws of physics do still apply.

Unfortunately, during our spell together, the diesel GLX picked up a nail in one front tyre and an embarrasing shortcoming of this otherwise impressive machine was revealed -- the provided bottle jack is too short to lift the vehicle high enough to change a wheel. To complete the exercise needs the added height of a couple of 50mm-thick planks of wood. And the wheels, including the full-sized alloy spare, each weigh a chunky 34kg.
 
BMW would probably insist that both the above points are powerful arguments in favour of run-flat tyres. We'd merely suggest, given some of the places a LandCruiser can reach, Toyota should be looking a lot harder at the ancillaries it supplies with its vehicles.  Not good enough, boys and girls...

There are Patrol-people, Pajero-people and Cruiser-people and it takes a powerful argument for them to shift camps. One rural neighbour, horseman extraordinaire and Patrol owner, grown tired of replacing turbos on his diesel Patrol, drove the new Cruiser ... And then bought another Patrol.

Some would argue that the Euro-SUVs, including Touareg, X5, Rangie and ML-Class, are equally as capable as the big bruisers from Japan, made so by dint of clever electronics and hordes of test-engineers pouring over their laptops in obscure extreme-cycle test venues. Certainly the Japanese have been prompted to upgrade their electronics packages as a result of the competition.

The Euros are all great vehicles, but somehow you don't see many working-class Europeans in the gas-fields outside Innamincka. You may well catch them pounding the Birdsville Track, but that's only on their days off from suburban footy-club duty. You'd only 'upgrade' from a 'Cruiser to a Euro badge for the bragging rights it gives you at the golf-club.

However, forced to pick between the white GXL V8 Toyota LandCruiser 200 and the white GXL V8 Toyota LandCruiser 200, and assuming the extra $12,500 was available, I'd go the diesel, but insist on the clever-clogs KDSS suspension package. The extra torque available and the more relaxed cruising pace, plus the added range capability, sways me towards the messy pumps at the servo.
 
We've a faint suspicion that the price-difference has been created so that at least some petrol V8s get sold. So closely does the diesel match the petrol, that without that price discrepancy, by far the majority of drivers would embrace the concept of compression-ignition.

Cruisers do pretty well on the second-hand market, thanks to their unbreakable nature, long model life, general reliability and hassle-free maintenance -- you get a lot of metal for your money. While $80-large is a significant wad to lay out for a vehicle, even an apprentice accountant should be able to get the tax-man to pay a significant amount of it -- thus the Cruiser's value-for-money is undeniable.

Whether work or play could be achieved by a smaller, less costly and less consumptive vehicle is a moot point. Certainly there are smaller machines which are increasingly capable, but with smaller bodies come smaller load-hauling capacities, especially towing capabilities. As always, you pays yer money and you takes yer choice.

Yours truly's occasional need to haul a trailer bearing a ton or more of firewood, drag the odd fallen tree off the drive, tow-start the tractor and negotiate swollen creeks on the daily school-run doesn't really need anything like as capable as a LandCruiser.

That said, like a full box of Snap-Ons, it's nice to know that you've got the very best tool for the job.

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Powered By Motoring.com.au Published : Tuesday, 18 March 2008
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