BUYERS GUIDE - WAGONS LARGE
Toyota unveiled the next-generation LandCruiser 300 Series wagon in a global debut held in the 70th anniversary year of the legendary nameplate. The biggest problem is strangled supply that means long delivery delays.
The new GR off-road model
There were sufficient leaks from Toyota dealerships about the new 300 Series over previous months to dampen any great excitement about the June 10, 2021 global launch. A newly-developed, 3.3-litre, twin-turbo V6 diesel engine achieved V8-beating performance and flexibility, lifting power output to 227kW (+13.5 percent) and torque to 700Nm (+7.7 percent).
At the same time, this engine was said to achieve noticeably lower fuel consumption and emissions, thanks in part to a new 10-speed automatic transmission.
We’ll rabbit on a bit about this engine, because it has a very strange configuration: a 90-degree V6, in a world where most V6 engines have a 60-degree cylinder angle, plus, it comes with ‘inverted’ exhaust and intake plumbing, where the exhaust manifolds are in the centre of the vee and the inlets are on the outside.
This so-called ‘hot-vee’ layout has been around the racing and performance car arena in the USA and Europe for many years and has particular advantages when coupling two-stage turbos to a vee engine. The ‘hot’ central plumbing can feed straight into the turbo cluster. Also, there’s a benefit in having the diesel particulate filter mounted just behind this ‘hot’ zone.
However, this layout wouldn’t work without a cylinder angle of at least 90 degrees.
That, in turn, necessitates a balance shaft that most 60-degree V6 engines don’t need. Interestingly, the ‘new’ Toyota V6 diesel has the same cylinder angle and internal cylinder dimensions as the previous V8.
OTA isn’t the only authoritative website to point out the obvious complexity of the V6 decision. Why didn’t Toyota simply opt for an in-line six, like it used to make for the 70-, 80- and 100-Series? The LandCruiser has ample bonnet length to accommodate a highly turbocharged, intercooled, in-line 3.3-litre six.
For some other 300 Series markets there was a 3.5-litre, twin-turbo petrol engine as well, with impressive figures of 305kW and 650Nm, but that’s not destined for Australian 300s.
Most surprisingly, given the current electrification trends happening in every vehicle maker’s lineup and the market success of Toyota’s own petrol hybrids, there was no petrol or diesel hybrid offering in the 300 Series.
The 300 bodywork sat on a new, lighter frame and the engine and transmission were moved aft by around 70mm and down by around 25mm, in the interests of improved weight distribution. Body stiffness was also improved.
Kerb weight across the range was between 2470kg and 2580kg, and GVM was only 3280kg, so there was no payload improvement over the 200 Series. More significantly for those towing heavy vans, the rear axle capacity wasn’t increased. Read on for info on after-market GVM upgrades.
Now, before you get too excited about the 300, bear in mind that Australia has accounted for around 10-percent of LandCruiser global volume over its 70-year history, so our input into the 300’s final specifications was quite limited. The lucrative Middle East market had far more influence.
Sure, our driving distances and appalling road quality have been great aids in developing driver-aiding electronic advances and suspension adaptations for the new 300 Series, but specific requirements for this market, including a better towing vehicle specification haven’t been addressed. Most Middle East LandCruiser owners don’t tow heavy vans.
Interestingly, in the world’s heavy caravan capital – the USA – there’s no plan to release the 300 Series, to replace the poorly-selling 200 Series that showed it couldn’t compete as a tow vehicle with popular crew-cab pick-ups. However, they do get the hideous Lexus 600 derivative of the 300 in the USA.
Australia’s ridiculously heavy tow ball weights that average at least 300kg on most caravans and even on some forward-fold camper trailers, dictate a heavier-rated rear axle and higher GVM than the 200 Series and we simply didn’t get that in the 300.
The after-market suspension companies heaved a sigh of relief, because they’re just as busy putting GVM-upgrade kits into 300s as they were with 200s. Of course, a GVM upgrade cancels much of your Toyota warranty!
Toyota upgraded the optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (e-KDSS), giving it a larger suspension stroke that was achieved by effectively disabling the front and rear stabiliser bars. However, it was available only in the $140-grand GR model.
Double differential locks were also the preserve of the GR model and were not available on the entry level GX or the popular GXL.
We reckon that most hard-worked 300s in this market will be GXs and GXLs – when buyers can get them – fitted with GVM-upgraded after-market suspension and those buyers will continue to shy away from KDSS. If 300 buyers want diff locks they’ll visit the after-market.
Rear axle shock absorber mounts were moved outboard on the new frame, making the shock alignment more vertical than before, so that should help with damping efficiency.
In keeping with the LandCruiser’s off-road heritage, vehicle dimensions including length, width, wheelbase and departure and approach angles were very close to the outgoing model, depending on the variant.
Features such as the bumper shape and placement of lighting components were designed to help avoid damage during off-road driving.
Low range performance was preserved by mechanical overall deep reduction gearing of 42.6:1, multiplied by the torque converter stall ratio, which we estimate is around 2:1, giving an effective 80:1 reduction. However, that’s an educated guess, because Toyota told us:
‘Unfortunately Toyota does not have any data on the torque converter stall ratio, so is not able to confirm the figure.’
The latest Toyota Safety Sense electronics included a new Multi-Terrain Monitor that displayed obstacles and the adoption of a Multi Terrain Select function that automatically judged the road surface and selected the best driving mode.
There was also a pre-collision emergency braking system; cross-traffic alert; emergency steering and crash-avoidance function and lane-keeping.
The Sahara was joined on the top shelf by a new GR Sport that had enhanced off-road features, while the Sahara ZX had on-road luxury strengths. All three top-shelf models left any buyers able to get them with only beer-money change out of 140 grand.
Equipment shared by the five-seat GR Sport and Sahara ZX included five driving modes, adaptive variable suspension, adaptive high beam and optional carbon trim.
In between were the familiar GXL, VX and Sahara grades.
Developed as a Dakar Rally look-alike wagon, GR Sport was finished off with black exterior accents and choice of carbon-look or red and black interior trim. Standard were front and rear differential locks and e-KDSS (electronic Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System) that locked and freed the front and rear stabiliser bars.
Sahara ZX had 20-inch alloy wheels, unique front bumper, body-coloured wheel-arch mouldings, illuminated side steps, front-door scuff plates, rear mudguards and chrome ornamentation on the thick rear bumper.
The leather-accented interior trim was offered in black, beige or red-and-black, as well as carbon-like highlights on the steering wheel, centre console and door trims.
Equipment included four heated and ventilated seats, hands-free tailgate with a kick sensor, and a torque-sensing, limited-slip differential on the rear axle.
All 300 Series models had AWD Integrated Management that harmonised steering assist, brake and throttle control, shift pattern and drive torque distribution.
The latest Toyota Safety Sense package was also standard across the range, including autonomous emergency braking as part of a pre-collision system that could detect pedestrians, day and night, and cyclists during the day.
It also featured all-speed active cruise control, auto high beam and lane-keeping technology that stepped up to lane-trace assist, with steering-wheel vibration in VX variants and above.
Every LandCruiser was equipped with a trailer wiring harness and maximum 3.5-tonne braked towing capacity, plus the security and safety of Toyota Connected Services, with automatic collision notification, an SOS button and stolen-vehicle tracking.
Other new features included a 50-percent larger 225mm (nine-inch) display screen on GX and GXL, expanding to 300mm (12.3-inch) on VX and above, smartphone integration, road-sign assist, dusk-sensing headlamps, electric park brake and downhill assist control.
The new range kicked off with the $90-grand GX that was fitted with a single-piece tailgate. It gained LED headlamps, keyless smart entry and ignition, two-zone automatic air-conditioning, steering-wheel controls, reversing camera and one-touch power windows for all doors.
The popular-spec, seven-seat GXL had 18-inch aluminium-alloy wheels, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitor, Qi wireless phone charger and auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
Priced from $101,790, GXL was equipped for the first time with multi-terrain select.
In the VX LandCruiser, premium features included 10 speakers, a larger multi-info display, four-zone automatic climate control, eight cupholders, remote power windows and previous Sahara features: power-adjustable steering wheel and heated and ventilated front seats.
Further VX additions included a panoramic view monitor and Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management that linked traction control, electronic stability control, electric steering and other systems to improve performance and responsiveness to driver input. Its RRP was from $113,990.
The new Sahara scored a 14-speaker premium JBL audio, head-up display, heated steering wheel, ventilation for the heated second-row seats and power-folding third-row seats. Pricing started at $131,190.
Toyota’s pricing for the 300 Series continued the escalating RRPs that began with the 200 Series launch in 2007. That situation is part of a high-profit plan that saw Toyota Global clock up a cool US$16 billion profit – not turnover – for the first half of 2021.
We tired of waiting for a press test vehicle from the giant Toyota organisation, but we managed to score a test drive of a Sahara model through the local Toyota dealer at Moss Vale, NSW, for which we’re very thankful.
Bearing in mind that this was the dealership’s sole demo vehicle, we took it very carefully and bypassed our normal rock-climbing track. However, given that the 300’s width, wheelbase and overhangs were almost the same as the outgoing 200 Series, and that it had better gearing and torque, we were confident the 300 would handle the rough stuff quite comfortably.
Our test loop took in secondary bitumen rural roads and corrugated dirt, which the 300 handled with aplomb. The standard dampers were adequate for most conditions, but serious off-roaders will opt for a suspension lift and some better shock absorbers.
The standard tyres were Bridgestones – not LTs, but certainly better than the previous Dunlop GrandTreks.
Performance was better than the outgoing V8’s and it was achieved with very little noise and vibration. The steering was light and sensitive, with good road ‘feel’, except for a slight vibration on gravel roads.
Ergonomics were excellent, with all controls readily to hand, but the giant centre console doid have a somewhat intimidating presence. (It’s volume is probably necessary to shroud the centre-vee exhaust system that runs down in front of the firewall.)
The 10-speed box shifted seamlessly and intuitively, so manual ratio selection will mainly be for off-road conditions and when seeking engine retardation on downhill grades, with a trailer behind.
The front seats in the Sahara were very comfortable and we liked the seat ventilation feature. Second row seating was also comfy, but the third row was still a kids’ zone, we reckoned.
The 300 Sahara had a one-piece lifting tailgate, with the advantage of more rain shelter than the 200’s two-piece arrangement, but not such convenient tailgate seating for roadside lunch stops. Swings and roundabouts.
The engine bay was crammed, making space for a second under-bonnet battery tight. Some after-market fitters are swinging the starting battery through 90 degrees and slotting a second volt box beside it.
We were concerned to see that Toyota stuck with a plastic air-cleaner housing on the 300, because the 200’s housing is infamous for distorting when under-bonnet temperatures are high. That distortion lets unfiltered air bypass the element and ‘dust’ the engine.
As we said earlier, Australian input into modern LandCruiser design is much more limited than it used to be. In the ‘olden days’ an eager, market-climbing Toyota would have already remedied that dangerous air filter situation, but these days they seemingly don’t care.
Toyota’s 300 has been well served with GVM upgrades to the woefully inadequate standard GVM. We were invited to witness some of the testing carried out by Tough Dog in the process of certifying its 4139kg GVM upgrade – 860kg over standard. The upgraded axle weights are 1900kg front and 2239kg rear.
We were invited to attend several Tough Dog Suspension GVM upgrade testing sessions, both in their western Sydney laboratory and on test facilities at Sydney’s Eastern Creek Motorsport Park.
In developing these kits the business begins with a finite element analysis of the axle components, to ensure the assembly is up to handling the proposed weight increase. The Toyota 300 Series is a case in point, where most of the standard kit – apart from a modified rear coil spring seat – handles a GVM upgrade to 4139kg.
However, in developing the upgrade Tough Dog engineers came up with replacement upper control arms and an adjustable panhard rod that are available for buyers who want additional strength and suspension adjustability.
LandCruiser 200 Series
When the much-anticipated 200 Series was launched in November 2007 there was good news and bad news for LandCruiser fans. Since then there were several upgrades, but the basic package didn’t change.
The good news in 2007 was the significantly upgraded mechanical package in the 200 Series, but the bad news items were a price range that started at 70 grand and the demise of manual transmissions and the Standard-grade model.
At launch the Australian 200 Series consisted of three specification grades: GXL, VX and Sahara. All three grades were available with a choice of V8 power, either petrol or diesel.
The petrol 4.7-litre was a development of the existing 2UZ-FE V8, with variable inlet valve timing providing a claimed 18 percent more power and reduced fuel consumption.
The new engine put out 202kW at 5400rpm, with a torque peak of 410Nm at 3400rpm.
The 1VD-FTV diesel was an intercooled, twin-turbo version of the 70 Series’ 4.5-litre single-turbo V8. Maximum power was 195kW at 3400rpm and a whopping 650Nm of torque was on tap from 1600rpm up to 2600rpm.
A carry-over, five-speed automatic bolted behind the petrol V8, while the diesel picked up a new Aisin six-speed auto. Both powertrains were fitted with a two-speed transfer case and a Torsen lockable centre differential that provided full-time 4WD operation.
All 200 Series wagons sat on four-coil suspension, with a double-wishbone, independent layout up front and a live-axle, five-link design at the back. The front end was all-new, replacing the previous torsion-bar IFS, but the rear end was similar to the 100 Series’ arrangement.
Traction aids were upgraded from the 100 Series level and all 200 models came with multi-terrain ABS braking with electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake pressure assistance. Also standard were a brake-pressure delay that provided hill-start assistance, traction control and vehicle stability control.
The brake hardware was upgraded, with larger, four-piston ventilated brake discs up front and ventilated rears. This meant that 16-inch wheels wouldn’t fit, so the standard wheel size was 17-inch.
Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS)
Standard on all variants except the GXL turbo-diesel was Australian-designed Kinetic Suspension. KDSS was a $2500 option on the very model that was the biggest-selling variant. Cynics suggested that was a money-grabbing move.
In the 200 Series’ Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System the left-side ends of the front and rear anti-sway bars were fitted with hydraulic cylinders that were hydraulically linked by a pair of lines running along the inside of the left chassis rail.
When the vehicle was cornering to the left or the right on-road the cylinders were in phase, so the hydraulic lines ‘locked’ and the anti-sway bars acted to resist body roll.
Off-road the front and rear cylinders were out of phase as the front and rear wheels rose and fell, so the anti-sway bars were deactivated, allowing unrestricted suspension movement and maximum wheel travel. The additional wheel travel allowed by KDSS was clearly felt off-road, as was the absence of anti-sway
bar bump reaction on slow, rutted tracks. On-road the 200 Series test vehicles sat very flat through high-speed sweepers.
Crawl Control is a Toyota exclusive that was fitted to the petrol models only in 2007, but was made standard on all 200s from September 2009. Post-2009 200s came with a rear-view camera, audio controls on the steering wheel, a 12-Volt rear accessory socket, 3.5mm audio input jack and a USB port and auxiliary input.
Crawl Control was designed to reduce the likelihood of driver error in steep up and down hill situations. With Crawl Control engaged the vehicle climbed and descended at one of three selectable speeds, without the need for the driver to touch the accelerator or the brake pedals.
The vehicle maintained its target speed uphill, by automatic accelerator and traction control operation. On steep descents Crawl Control combined engine braking with traction control operation of the wheel brakes.
The post-2009 LandCruiser 200 Series GXL had a new driver’s seat with mechanical height and power lumbar adjustments.
A moonroof was standard on all post-2009 VX and Sahara variants and dark grey, instead of green, privacy glass. A DVD rear-seat entertainment system with three wireless headphones and the ability to play through the audio system was also added.
However, these models lost some bush-ability with a change to 18-inch wheels from 17-inch.
The 2007-launch 200 Series bodywork sat on a chassis that combined the US-market Tundra’s front section with a specific-build chassis rear section. A shorter engine bay that no longer had to accommodate big in-line six-cylinder engines meant there was a claimed 130mm interior length increase in the 200 Series body, despite the fact that the 200 was built on the 100 Series’ 2850mm wheelbase and was only 60mm longer overall. Body width was up by 30mm.
Weight was also up, which is why some 2007-2009 models weren’t available with sub-tanks. In calculations that allowed for eight people on board, at an average weight of 75kg, plus filled sub tanks, some models would have exceeded the 3300kg gross mass rating of the 200 Series.
That situation changed in September 2009 when all grades came standard with a 45-litre sub-tank, in addition to the main 93-litre fuel tank.
The VX and Sahara turbo-diesel models became seven-seaters to allow for the extra fuel weight. All 200 Series wagons were fitted with ‘Smart Entry and Start’.
Underbonnet, there was space for a second battery in petrol machines but the diesel already had dual starting batteries.
Standard 200 LandCruiser
When we attended the launch of the 200 Series in late 2007 we were appalled at the price of the new vehicle and the fact that there was no equivalent to the 100 Series Standard model.
(Maybe we should have shut up, because we haven’t been invited to a Toyota press function since then!)
But we weren’t the only unhappy ones: the dealer body was less than impressed and so were the customers.
Guess what? In November 2011 Toyota announced that it had finally “listened to the demands of miners, farmers and other customers by launching an even tougher LandCruiser 200 Series wagon”.
The post-2012 turbo-diesel GX came with vinyl floors, twin, vertically hinged barn doors at the rear, 17-inch steel wheels, a snorkel, 93-litre main and 45-litre auxiliary fuel tanks, five seats, under-body protection plates and a standard car key.
Creature comforts were confined to a single CD player, manual air-conditioning, power windows with driver’s auto up/down and power-operated exterior mirrors.
The GX also retained GXL safety equipment: driver and front-passenger airbags, curtain-shield airbags, vehicle stability control, active traction control, hill-start assist, multi-terrain anti-skid brakes and Toyota CRAWL.
There was a drawback of course: a 78 grand price tag! The sweetener was fixed price, $210 servicing for the first 60,000km
Because the GX was an afterthought it had some odd exclusions. When the GXL ‘fruit’ was dropped our of the GX specifications there was no way of displaying a fuel consumption reading and no possibility of an optional factory-fitted navigation screen or rear view camera.
The only factory option on the GX was premium paint, for $550.
200 series safety upgrades
In early 2013 NCAP awarded new 200 Series wagons a five-star safety rating, thanks to the inclusion of dual knee-level front airbags across the range. Previously only the VX and Sahara variants offered knee airbags, enabling five-star ratings for these variants from 2007, with other variants having a four-star ANCAP safety rating.
At the same time the 2013 LandCruiser 200 Series became the first vehicle in the Toyota range to feature the added safety of trailer sway control (TSC).
TSC is an additional function in the vehicle’s stability control system, using the yaw-rate sensor, acceleration sensor and steering sensor to determine if an attached trailer is swaying, due to cross-wind action, irregular road surfaces or large steering wheel movements.
When trailer sway is detected TSC applies selective wheel braking and engine depowering to reduce the swaying action. The driver is warned of TSC action by a slip indicator in the instrument cluster and following drivers are alerted by the vehicle and trailer stop lamps.
The system operates seamlessly and does not require the addition of hardware or any change to the trailer coupling or wiring connections.
In October 2015 Toyota lanched the 2016 200 Series. All models featured a new grille, headlamps, bumper, bonnet and front fenders, and a restyled rear that included LED tail lamps.
Standard safety features across the range included seven airbags, vehicle stability and active traction control, multi-terrain anti-skid brakes, hill-start assist control, trailer sway control, emergency brake signal and tilt/telescopic adjustments on the steering column.
Two new colours, Copper Brown and Onyx Blue, were available on all grades except GX.
The LandCruiser 200 Series line-up remained diesel-only GX and petrol or diesel GXL, VX and Sahara, all with an electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission.
Updates for LandCruiser’s Euro 5 emission V8 engines – the 4.5-litre twin-turbo diesel and 4.6-litre petrol – promised improved fuel economy.
Diesel power, even with a particulate filter, was increased by 5kW to 200kW, thanks to new injectors and revised fuel mapping and torque remained at 650Nm. Combined cycle fuel consumption was said to be 9.5 litres/100km – an improvement of 7.7 per cent.
Economy from the 227kW, 439Nm petrol engine was said to be 13.4 litres/100km.
The 2016 GX was trimmed with grey fabric and GXL with grey or beige fabric while VX and Sahara offered the choice of black or beige leather-accented interiors. GX was a five-seater, diesel VX and Sahara had seven seats and GXL had eight seats.
GX had a 12-volt accessory socket in addition to 17-inch steel wheels and a snorkel. Its use as a workhorse was reflected in vertically-hinged rear doors and vinyl floor covering.
New GXL features include roof rails, LED low-beam headlamps with static auto-levelling, LED clearance lamps, leather-accented steering wheel and gear-shift knob, a revised analogue instrument cluster and variable intermittent wipers front and rear.
Other GXL features included 17-inch aluminium wheels, dual-zone front climate-control air-conditioning, a rear cooler, rear spoiler, aluminium side steps, a second 12-volt socket and a 220-volt rear socket, horizontal-split tailgate, smart entry and start, reversing camera, satellite navigation, privacy glass and body-coloured mirrors.
VX new features included dusk-sensing bi-LED headlamps that incorporated dynamic auto-levelling. It gained side airbags for the outboard second-row seats as well as LED front fog lamps and daytime running lamps, newly designed Optitron instruments with a 4.2-inch colour multi-information display and a nine-inch touchscreen display.
Other standard VX features included 18-inch aluminium wheels, rain-sensing wipers and Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System. KDSS was a $3250 option on GXLs.
Comfort and convenience items included front and rear parking sensors, power-retractable exterior mirrors, moon roof, black side steps and woodgrain-look interior highlights.
At the top of the range, Sahara gained a wireless smartphone charger and revised rear-seat entertainment with screens mounted on the back of the two front seats.
It was equipped with a power tailgate, heated electric side mirrors, multi-terrain monitor, a cool box, heated front and second-row seats, ventilated front seats and active headrests. Its electrically adjustable steering column had three memory positions that also incorporated seat and mirror positions.
Four cameras were fitted to the Sahara: at the front, rear and in the side mirrors. The front camera rotated so that the horizon always displayed level on the in-car display and an image approximately three metres ahead of the vehicle showed front wheel position.
Sahara also boasted a pre-collision system, dynamic radar cruise control, lane-departure alert and blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.
Toyota dressed up the range-topping LandCruiser 200 Series Sahara with the 2021 Horizon special edition. Only 400 examples of the exclusive Horizon special edition are planned for March 2021 release.
From the front, the Horizon is distinguished by a unique design grille with a dark finish, black headlight surrounds and smoked chrome foglight surrounds. At the rear is a ‘Horizon’ badge.
Inside are premium black leather-accented seats with unique stitching and ‘LandCruiser’ embossed into the backrest; a heated black leather-accented steering wheel, black interior trim and headliner with chrome accents and premium stitching in the leather-accented door trims.
The Toyota LandCruiser Sahara Horizon special edition is priced from $131,8961.
Upgraded LandCruiser 200 Series was priced from $76,500 for the GX turbo-diesel; GXL petrol, $82,000 and diesel, $87,000; VX petrol, $92,500 and diesel, $97,500 and Sahara petrol, $113,500 and diesel, $118,500. Premium paint was a $550 option and a snorkel, $500.
On and off road
We checked out two post-2016 200 Series models: a Sahara and a GX, both powered by the diesel V8. Fuel consumption for solo vehicle driving worked out at 11.5L/100km for the loaded wagons.
The on-road dynamics of both 200 Series grades were pretty good, if not in the Discovery/Rangie Sport class. The suspension handled smooth and rough bitumen surfaces with aplomb and the Sahara’s KDSS suspension provided flat, car-like handling and manoeuvrability that belied the heavyweight nature of this machine. Interestingly, the plain-suspension GX handled nearly as well on-road.
Only gravel roads with potholes and ruts upset smooth progress as the dampers struggled to control axle reaction. More bump damping is needed, Toyota.
Steering precision was excellent, with little kick-back from bumps.
The diesel V8s provided more than ample grunt for solo vehicle work and the auto boxes had slick, shock-free shift actions.
We towed a 1.5-tonne camper trailer behind the GX and it didn’t feel like there was a trailer there at all. Why poeple want to ‘chip’ their 200s for more performance is beyond us.
The gated, sequential shift layout, with Tiptronic-style up and down flick action was very easy to use.
We appreciated the downshift programming that sees the box go for a lower ratio when running downhill, even with cruise control engaged, but, if there’s a need to use the footbrake, the cruise control cancels and the dumb box upshifts!
Multi-terrain ABS brakes were very impressive, providing bitumen-like stopping distances on loose gravel.
We can’t say the same for headlights that fell way short of the 200 Series’ mile-eating ability.
Off-road it was a story of accomplished performance, but with some ground clearance issues at the front end. The Crawl function worked superbly, making safe rock climbers and descenders out of novices. DAC controlled downhill speed strongly. However, over-bonnet vision was poor.
The Smart Entry and Start system was a bloody nuisance. One of our passengers had the key in his pocket when he loaded camera gear into the vehicle and that allowed the push-start button to work. However, when he went wandering off later on we were left in the wagon, unable to turn the engine off for fear of not being able to restart it.
The GX came with a normal key and that’s a much more user-friendly option.
Oil consumption was a big problem with the early 200 Series diesels. Oil consumption was erratic and an engine that hadn’t used oil for a few thousand klicks would suddenly use plenty. That problem seems to have been overcome.
The 2016 Sahara’s navigation system was fine off-bitumen, with plenty of dirt road and fire-trail mapping, but the early models had very poor bush mapping.
In value for money terms the LandCruiser 200 Series was somewhat disappointing, particularly in the case of the VX and Sahara models, given their high retail prices. Alongside competitors in this price range that offered height-adjustable air suspension, electronically controlled centre and axle diff locks, HID lights, auto headlights and wipers, trailer-recognition VSC, fold-away third-row seats and classier switchgear the 200 equipment list looked decidedly underdone. The GXL was also under-equipped for the money.
However, from the fit and finish point of view the new Toyota was very good and dynamically, it was one of the best 4WD wagons in the world, on and off road, with prodigious towing ability.
A good, used 100 Series turbo-diesel is an affordable alternative to the 200. Fit diff locks front and rear and you’ll have a 100 that can more than match the 200’s traction control. The 100 turbo-diesel is the pick.
The 100 Series replaced the 80 Series early in 1998 and was produced until late-2007, giving it a 10-year life cycle. Although the bodywork was new the 1998 100 Series Standard, RV and GXL models relied on carry-over engines from the 80 Series: an upgraded 4.5-litre petrol six, with outputs of 165kW at 4600rpm and 387Nm at 3600rpm, and the IHZ 4.2-litre, naturally-aspirated diesel, with outputs of 96kW at 3800rpm and 285Nm at 2200rpm.
The previous Sahara version was replaced by a GXV model, powered by the Lexus LX470’s 4.7-litre V8, with outputs of 170kW at 4800rpm and 410Nm at 3400rpm.
The standard transmission across the Standard, RV and GXL range was a five-speed manual. A four-speed automatic was optional on the RV and GXL petrol and diesel models, and standard on the GXV. The Standard model retained part-time 4WD, with manual free-wheeling front hubs, but the other variants had full-time 4WD operation, with a manually lockable centre differential.
Standard, RV and GXL models retained the 80 Series’ coil-sprung live front and rear axles, but the GXV introduced a torsion-bar-sprung, double wishbone, independent front suspension, in conjunction with a coil-sprung live rear axle.
A limited-slip rear differential was standard on all variants, except the GXV, which had a manually-lockable rear diff. Few of this model were sold and the lockable diff was replaced by electronically controlled traction and ‘swerve’ control in 1999. Front and rear axle diff locks were optional on the Standard, RV and GXL models. Disc brakes were fitted and ABS was standard on the GXL and GXV and optional on the RV.
In late 2000 a direct-injection 1HDTE turbo-diesel engine was introduced, giving diesel buyers a much needed performance boost, especially for towing. The claimed outputs were 151kW at 3400rpm and 430Nm at 1400-3200rpm.
Two downsides were the fact that the turbo-diesel was available only in GXL and GXV specification levels and part of the package was independent front suspension. Many GXL turbo-diesel buyers wanted a live front axle, but no dice. Pricing was very steep, as well, with GXL turbo-diesels retailing from 65 grand. The good news for GXV buyers and bad news for then-owners was a cut in the retail price of 10 grand.
In October 2002 a new five-speed automatic replaced the old four-speed and the in-line, 4.5-litre petrol six was dropped in favour of the V8 petrol engine from the GXV model.
The GXV nomenclature was replaced by the reintroduced Sahara nameplate on auto models, with a choice of turbo-diesel or petrol V8 power. The petrol model had an electronic accelerator and continued to be available with swerve and traction control. The turbo-diesel had a mechanical accelerator linkage that wasn’t compatible with swerve and traction control, so the manual rear diff lock from the original GXV was fitted.
In what was seen by off-roaders as a series of backward steps the factory-fitted front and rear diff lock option was discontinued on all but the Standard model; the RV version was discontinued; and independent front suspension became the fitment on all but Standard and naturally-aspirated diesel GXL models.
In 2004, limited-edition Kakadu GXL automatic models were sold, with much-needed power adjustable front seats and front and rear air conditioning. This model also featured 17-inch wheels, a tilt-telescope steering column and a cool box between the front seats.
For 2005 GXLs, manual driver’s seat adjustment was made standard, along with front and rear aircon and LED tail and stop lamps. The Sahara received electronically modulated suspension height and damping control.
Early 100 Series petrol sixes didn’t compare well against the 4.8-litre petrol Patrol, which had more grunt and a five-speed auto box. The Patrol also had more ground clearance and a much more powerful limited-slip rear differential.
With the 4.7-litre Lexus V8, matched it to a new five-speed automatic transmission and independent front suspension, the on-road performance honours swung the way of the 2002 LandCruiser, along with better economy than the Nissan six.
The LandCruiser’s independent front suspension gave it a handling edge over the Patrol on all made surfaces and the Toyota’s rack and pinion steering was more precise than the Patrol’s recirculating ball unit.
However, the Patrol still had an off-road advantage, because the 2002 LandCruiser 100 Series had noticeably lower ride height than its predecessor and continued to use a weak rear LSD.
When it came to diesels the Nissan’s 4.2-litre, indirect-injection six and direct-injection 3.0-litre were competitive with the naturally aspirated Toyota diesel, but neither could match the Toyota turbo-diesel, in terms of performance or economy.
100 Series Mechanical Issues
The 100 Series has been a reliable workhorse, but the front differential was a weak link throughout its entire 10-year life span, in both live-axle and IFS models. A small diff centre was found wanting in off-road conditions and failures were common.
Front and rear diff locks helped prevent the ‘spin-out’ that smashed many 100 Series’ diffs. In early 2004 there was a spate of front suspension lower control arm failures in LandCruiser 100 Series IFS vehicles, so a check of any IFS model is necessary.
The failures seemed to be related to manufacturing processes, because the problem hadn’t been apparent in earlier 100s and wasn’t obvious in later models. ARB designed a retro-fit reinforcing plate to reduce the likelihood of lower control arm failure.
Toyota’s 4.5-litre in-line six and 4.7-litre V8 petrol engines have been pretty well bullet-proof. Unlike Nissan, Toyota discourages LPG conversions on its petrol engines, so any LPG LandCruiser needs to be assessed carefully. Valve seat recession is possible in gas-fuelled engines.
Diesel 100 Series need to have had regular, professional maintenance to ensure reliability. The naturally-aspirated 1HZ engine is a pre-chamber, indirect-injection type that needs oil changes at no more than 5000km intervals. A detailed service history is an essential requirement with a used 100 Series diesel.
Many 1HZ naturally aspirated diesels have been fitted with after-market turbos and these installations give little trouble if the boost and fuel delivery haven’t been too ambitious, and servicing has been regular.
Many 100 Series have been modified to suit towing or bush work, with tyres and suspension being the most common changes. The original Grandtreks were marginal performers on and off road and ground clearance was always an issue, but particularly so in the case of IFS models. Vehicles used off road or for towing are likely to have suspension upgrades that incorporate a lift. Avoid 100 Series with high lifts, over 50mm, or you may have registration issues.
The 100 Series is infamous for the problem of freight in the back moving and locking the rear door latch. The latch is there as an emergency exit from the cargo area, but if you’ve fitted a cargo barrier you can’t get into the back to open the latch. Make sure nothing can fall against the latch when the tailgate is shut. Another perpetual tailgate issue is dust entry causing the catches to seize.
We’ve heard of roof racks causing rain leaks inside the cabin, so check for rust.
The standard two-battery arrangement in turbo-diesel models is not what the market understands as a dual-battery installation, because both batteries are used for starting. You’ll need athird battery if you want to run a fridge.
Many owners were unhappy with the standard spare wheel location, under the auxiliary fuel tank, so a swing-away spare wheel carrier was a common fitment. This relocation allowed more fuel tank space and many owners fitted larger auxiliary tanks.
The 200 has ordinary ground clearance, so an after-market suspension kit is necessary, with a height increase around 50mm. After-market specialists have developed a GVM upgrade for the 200, increasing payload by a much-needed 280kg. If you intend to upgrade the standard suspension the best starting point is a GXL without KDSS.
Petrol and diesel 200s breathe through the inner mudguard, so a snorkel fitment is straightforward. A deep cycle (third) battery can be fitted under the bonnet of diesel 200s.
After-market diff locks front and rear will work in concert with the standard traction control system, taking the work load off the electronics and preventing power delivery loss in soft sand. There is a host of other after-market accessories for the LandCruiser 200 Series, including drawer kits, cargo barriers, winches, bars, spare wheel carriers and roof racks.