It’s not often Toyota updates its Land Cruiser. So when it does it tends to be pretty big news. This is the latest Cruiser tweaked: the 200 series.
WHAT’S THE DEAL?
A 200 Series Land Cruiser ain’t cheap, but for its fans there aren’t many alternatives (would-be competitors such as the petrol-only Y62 Patrol are largely overlooked by those looking to go off-road, while other vehicles are either too small or less convincing). This latest update to the 200 Series, which arrived in 2008, adds a new look, especially around the front, where the grille, headlights and bonnet have been revised.
The price tag has also come down slightly but starts at a hefty $76,509 (plus on-road costs) for the GX, typically reserved for mining fleets and tour operators. That car gets barn rear doors, vinyl flooring, steel wheels and five seats. But it’s the only one fitted standard with a snorkel (on others it’s another $500).
From there it’s a step up to the GXL tested here. It’s $82,000 as a petrol V8 or $87,000 as a diesel V8, but the difference is more pronounced if you add the $3250 Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS, which effectively decouples the stabiliser bars for off-road work). That is an option on the diesel, but it is standard on the petrol model. The GXL also picks up a reversing camera, eight seats, alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, satellite-navigation and smart key entry.
The VX ($92,500 as a petrol and $97,500 as a diesel; both with KDSS) adds partial leather seats, auto headlights and wipers, sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, infotainment control buttons on the steering wheel, powered front seats and four-zone air-conditioning.
At the top of the Land Cruiser tree is the Sahara ($113,500 for petrol, $118,500 for diesel), which adds heated front- and middle-row seats, a cooled centre console, powered tailgate, wireless phone charging, twin rear seat TV screens, auto high beams and various active safety systems, including blind spot warning, auto emergency braking and lane departure warning.
Heavier models (the VX diesel and petrol/diesel Sahara) make do with seven seats, due to issues of exceeding the grow vehicle mass (GVM) with eight people on board.
The 200 Series is a big machine and delivers on interior space. The width across the middle-row seats, in particular, is impressive, allowing for three people to travel side by side in comfort; it means you can easily fold the third-row seats up against the side of the car (they don’t fold into the floor as with the latest 150 Series Prado), or you can remove them completely for extra luggage space and still comfortably carry five.
Basic controls are well laid out and logical, with one exception – the colour touchscreen in the GXL. It’s fiddly and frustrating, especially when you’re trying to line up the virtual buttons while on the move; they’re too small and often require two or three prods to get the desired result. The screen can also be difficult to see in direct sunlight, even when in the daytime mode.
ON THE ROAD
Few cars munch the miles as effortlessly as a Land Cruiser. The 200 Series is seriously quiet and refined, making for easy long-distance touring.
The suspension is also soft and supple, arguably too much so when fully laden, with the vehicle often leaning noticeably through bends and sitting down slightly in its tail, thereby reducing ground clearance a tad.
But it is relatively easy to manoeuvre, given its 2.7-tonne heft. Steering is light and relatively accurate, although the Dunlop tyres will be the first to protest if you push too much through a corner.
The 4.5-litre twin turbo V8 diesel has been tweaked for this latest update, with new fuel injectors and the addition of a particulate filter to clean those exhaust emissions. But it’s essentially the same old girl, with a hearty 650Nm of torque that makes light work of hill climbing and building pace. Power has crept up to 200kW (a benefit of 5kW), but good luck picking it.
Fuel use has also come down slightly in the diesel, to a claimed 9.5 litres per 100km. We found it used more like 13L/100km, which is still enough for upwards of 1000km, from the super-handy 138-litre fuel tank.
For such an accomplished and well-rounded 4x4, the 200 Series is surprisingly capable in the rough stuff. Ground clearance of 230mm is good, without being exceptional, but it does a great job of keeping its extremities out of harm’s way. Similarly, the 32-degree approach angle and 24-degree departure angle (the location of the spare tyre underneath does not help the latter on sand dunes) work impressively.
Also, the Land Cruiser’s full-time four-wheel-drive system is largely ‘set and forget’. It’s immensely capable, even in high-range, but adds extra control and smarts in low-range.
There is a penalty, though; there’s plenty of whining when in low-range, and the Crawl Control function is even noisier, with clicking and graunching that’s seriously off-putting. But, hey, it’s effective, especially for slow-speed ascents, where it perfectly controls torque delivery for slow-speed consistency.
Crawl Control also gets a Turn Assist function (like other Crawl functions, it’s available only in low-range). It heavily brakes the inside rear wheel on tight turns to lock the wheel temporarily but significantly reduce the turning circle. It’s clever stuff that improves off-road manoeuvrability.
The 200 Series continues to offer a better off-road package to those who spend more; from a marketing perspective, it’s a popular ploy, but anecdotal evidence suggests it’s the GXLs that are more likely to do the serious off-road work. Yet the VX and top-whack Sahara are the only ones to get Multi-Terrain Select, which tailors traction systems and throttle control to various conditions.
The Sahara adds to that with three additional cameras that give a better view of what’s around the car and what you’re about to drive over. One of the camera functions is a delayed view that shows exactly what the front wheels are about to drive over.
The Land Cruiser 200 can tow up to 3500kg and carry 200kg on its roof – the latter double the rating achieved by many competitors.
Less impressive is its GVM of 3350kg. It can only carry 610kg of people, luggage, accessories and fuel; that’s not much when you’re going bush.
The latest Land Cruiser update doesn’t mess with a proven and popular formula. It’s almost identical to drive and as capable as ever in the bush.
Indeed the 200 Series remains a mighty machine and one that continues to deliver supreme on-road refinement and comfort as well as excellent off-road capability. But you pay for the privilege, and by the time you get to the VX and Sahara, you’re looking at seriously expensive machines.
PRICE AND SPECIFICATIONS
Toyota Land Cruiser 200-Series GXL
Engine: 4.5-litre twin-turbo V8 diesel, 200kW at 3600rpm, 650Nm at 1600-2600rpm
Transmission and 4WD system: Full-time dual-range 4WD
Braked tow capacity: 3500kg
Spare tyre: Full-size
Fuel tank: 138 litres
Fuel use (claimed): 9.5L/100km
Fuel use on test: 13.6L/100km
Approach/departure angles: 32 degrees/24 degrees
Ground clearance: 230mm
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