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BUYERS GUIDE - WAGONS MEDIUM

TOYOTA LANDCRUISER 76 SERIES
A pocket-sized wagon with a big heart and superb off-road capability.

 

Since the first Land Cruisers came to Australia in the 1970s evolution, not revolution, has been the name of the game, but in 2022 the 70 Series became much more complex and added the HiLux diesel option for 2024.

 

 

Toyota took the wraps off a significantly upgraded LandCruiser 70 Series that was offered with an optional HiLux/Prado four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, when it arrived in Australia in late 2023.

In addition to the borrowed powertrain, the upgraded 70 Series brought ‘refreshed styling’, a significant increase in safety technology and comfort and convenience features, and an upgraded multimedia system.

The optional powertrain joined the V8 turbodiesel/five-speed manual variant.

 

 

The HiLux/Prado’s 2.8-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine generated maximum power of 150kW at 3400rpm and peak torque of 500Nm between 1600rpm and 2800rpm; some 70Nm greater than the existing V8 diesel engine.

 

 

The 4.5-litre V8 turbodiesel generated a maximum power of 151kW at 3400rpm and peak torque of 430Nm from 1200rpm to 3200rpm.

However, claimed performance for the four-cylinder was under cloud in early 2024, following yet another Toyota test scandal.

 

 

The 2.8-litre engine was mated only to the six-speed Aisin automatic transmission and offered in Workmate and GXL grades for Wagon variants.

The V8 was paired with a five-speed manual gearbox and offered only in GXL specification.

From a visual perspective, the 2024 LandCruiser 70 Series had a redesigned front end that Toyota reckoned ‘references the design of the iconic LandCruiser 40 Series’, but it was really a squarish box.

The interior of the vehicle had a styling upgrade and the instrument cluster and centre console were redesigned for improved ergonomics, visual ease and practicality, with the addition of a multi-information display.

 

 

The multimedia system was also upgraded and featured a 6.7-inch touchscreen on all grades that was compatible with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. However, sound quality was rubbish.

Toyota improved the safety technology in the LandCruiser 70 Series with the addition of lane departure alert, road speed sign display and automatic high beam, as part of the Toyota Safety Sense suite of advanced driver assistance features.

We’ve saved the best bit for last: the narrow-track rear axle – the same width as the one on the OTA 30-year-old 75 Series – carried over on the ‘new’ machine. Can you believe that the 2024 vehicle had the same mismatched front and rear axle tracks as the previous models?

Pricing for the 2024 Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series is below. Note that the first column is for the four cylinder/auto powertrain and the second is for the V8/manual.

76 Series WorkMate Wagon $75,600
76 Series GXL Wagon $79,800 $83,900
78 Series Troop Carrier WorkMate $79,200 $83,300
78 Series Troop Carrier GXL $82,500 $86,600
79 Series Single Cab Chassis WorkMate $76,800 $80,900
79 Series Single Cab Chassis GX* $78,800 $82,900
79 Series Single Cab Chassis GXL $80,900 $85,000
79 Series Double Cab Chassis WorkMate* $79,300 $83,400
79 Series Double Cab Chassis GXL $83,500 $87,600

The front and rear diff lock kit is an additional $1500 for the WorkMate model, but standard on the GXL.

 

 

Begrudged upgrades

 

Bonnet profiles 1993-2024

Everyone knows that Toyota’s 70 Series has survived way beyond its original planned demise and that’s why Toyota 76, 78 and 79 Series LandCruisers received ‘band aid’ upgrades from a maker that would rather not continue with this line.

The classic example is rear axle track width that dates back to the 1990s, while the front track was widened to accommodate a V8 diesel in place of the old six.

 

 

Toyota Japan tried to phase out the 70 Series, but customer demand just wouldn’t let them!

Back in 2012, Toyota Australia made the following statement: 

“So far in 2012 the LandCruiser ute has outsold popular 4×4 utes, including the Isuzu D-Max, Holden Colorado, Volkswagen Amarok, Great Wall V240, Land Rover Defender and Nissan Patrol, while a large proportion of the 5713 LandCruiser wagons sold this year were also 70 Series models.

“However, all that will change in 2013, when Australian mining giant BHP Billiton, which is a major Toyota fleet customer, requires all vehicles purchased for its fleet – not just in Australia but globally – to come with a five-star (maximum) NCAP safety rating.

“While the 70 Series will finally be available with ABS brakes from October, it will never be fitted with electronic stability control or side curtain airbags, without which it cannot achieve a five-star NCAP rating.”

That turned out to be untrue, because we know that Toyota was forced to upgrade the 70 Series, despite its intentions to discontinue the model.

Five-star mandated safety items were added to the LC79 -not to the 76 – but items that were not deemed necessary to rectify – rear axle track and handbrake inefficiency – were simply ignored.

The Australian after-market reacted with axle-track kits and, in late 2023, Bendix developed an Electric Park Brake (EPB) for 76, 78 and 79 Series LandCruisers. 

 

 

Essentially, the 2024 70 Series was a progressively upgraded 2017 model that was redesigned minimally to achieve ANCAP five-star rating for the LC79 and then given a GVM upgrade to 3510kg in 2022, putting it into the light truck category.

Only one of the four models – the single-cab ute – had a five-star ANCAP safety rating from 2016. The other three variants (the four-door dual-cab ute, the wagon, and the Troop Carrier) had only two airbags and no safety ratings.

It’s very easy to be doubly cynical about Toyota’s strategy with the 70 Series: firstly, achieving ANCAP five-star safety only on the single-cab model that’s most popular with mining companies and then upgrading its GVM to light truck status and thereby avoiding the need to comply with March 2025 ADR 72 side-intrusion requirements for vehicles in the below-3500kg GVM category.

A further complication is that the 2016-granted five-star rating expired in January 2024, so Toyota can’t claim a current ANCAP safety rating for any of its 70 Series variants. 

However, Toyota pointed out to OTA that it substantially improved safety equipment and technologies with the introduction of the 2024 70 Series range.

Added were: lane departure alert; speed-sign assist; and automatic high beam. Four-cylinder variants also scored downhill assist control and wagons gained a reversing camera.

These technologies expanded on existing Toyota Safety Sense features, including the pre-collision safety system, with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection and intersection assistance. 

It will be interesting to see how that plays out with fleets who demand five-star safety ratings in any new vehicle purchases.

Yet another issue is the January 2024 announcement that production of four-cylinder engines for the 70 Series will be halted, following yet another engine testing scandal at the Toyota Group.

 

 

 

2024 on and off road test

 

 

 

Toyota made it difficult for me to get hold of a press test vehicle, but persistence (and the fact that I’ve been reporting on Toyota vehicles for the past 50 years and therefore have some palace contacts) paid off, finally.

The test vehicle was one of the press release vehicles from the December 2023 function held near Broken Hill, but we didn’t get hold of the press vehicle until February 2024. 

The test machine was a 76 Series, GXL powered by the four-cylinder/auto powertrain and fitted with a galvanised steel, drop-side body. Full of fuel (130 litres) it tipped the scales at 2400kg, giving it more than a full tonne of theoretical payload.

 

 

This wagon rode on aluminium wheels, shod with 265/70R16 LT Dunlop Grand Trek tyres that were introduced back in the 1980s. They were puncture-prone back then and nothing has changed in the interim. We scored a flat tyre in the first 100 metres of mild fire-trail testing. 

Grand Treks have a dreadful reputation, to the point where several Australian LandCruiser clubs bar them from off-load events. Despite that, Toyota persists with using them as standard equipment on most of its LandCruiser wagons.

Lifting the very heavy bonnet was hard work in this age of cheap gas struts, but reflected Toyota’s commitment to do only what’s necessary, not necessarily what’s nice.

Speaking of the bonnet, the test vehicle’s skin-stiffening under-panel was attached at its trailing edge by adhesive that had already lost its grip – that wouldn’t have happened in the “good ol’ days”.

The HiLux’s four-cylinder engine fitted easily into the large V8-sized 70 Series engine bay, but all its modern ancillary gear meant that the volume was necessary.

Unlike the V8 that has a large pancake air-to-air intercooler mounted atop the engine, the HiLux has a smaller air-to-coolant intercooler. However, to keep it cool it has been fitted with its own coolant loop, including a small radiator and expansion bottle. The upside of this complexity is intercooler-core cooling, independent of the engine cooling system, so a leak in one system won’t affect the other.

 

 

The 2024 LC76 Series retained the traditional part-time-4WD system and had the automatic front hubs, with a spanner-lock position, that were introduced back in 2017.

They’re a pain, because they never lock reliably in ‘auto’ mode and you have to ferret around for your wheel-brace to lock them. They’re more trouble than the simple, manual locking hubs Toyota has had for years.

Interestingly, they’re exactly the same hubs that were fitted to Nissan Patrols 30 years ago, so maybe Toyota picked up some old stock once the ‘real’ Patrol was no more!

 

 

I drove the test vehicle on a variety of road surfaces, from narrow gravel tracks to freeways and on steep off-road fire trails. Test loads varied from empty to weights of 600kg-800kg, including a one-tonne trailer test.

The 2024 LandCruiser showed its no-frills heritage in terms of vintage ride and handling, but that was not a surprise. Unlike many of the popular dual-purpose, lighter-duty utes on the market, the LC76 doesn’t pretend to be refined. 

‘Square-rigged’ live-axle 4WDs don’t have the more refined road manners of more popular utes, but the LC76 showed the plusses for this layout when the going got tough. It didn’t lift wheels as easily as they do when off-roading and it rode over potholes that might have sent independent front suspension (IFS) wagons off to the wheel aligners.

It was also happier than the LC79 ute in town environments, understeering far less in tight corners and having a reverse camera for easier parking manoeuvres. It had some useful driver aids that I liked very much.

 

 

The latest steering wheel telescoped and tilted and had button controls for audio and vehicle info displays. Audio and nav data showed up on a small central display screen whose pale readouts were hard to see in poor light. Vehicle and trip info, including fuel consumption and diesel particulate filter (DPF) regeneration status, was provided beside the instrument cluster, in front of the driver.

Incidentally, the DPF performed automatic regenerations while I was driving, doing two ‘regens’ during this 600-kilometre test. Vehicle performance was unaffected while the DPF burned out soot buildup.

Many drivers hate the lane-keeping function that’s a feature of every new vehicle. The LC76’s lane-keeping function was limited to a subtle ‘beep’ when the front-facing camera detected inadvertent lane crossing, but it wasn’t overly intrusive, nor was there ‘haptic’ or steering action imparted through the wheel rim.

I also liked the current speed limit display that changed colour to orange when the vehicle exceeded the posted limit, but there was no ‘nagging’ from the computer.

The auto transmission shifter fell readily to hand and the 4WD transfer case lever was also ergonomically positioned on the driver’s side of the transmission tunnel. The auto shifted sweetly and could be overridden quickly with a sideways flick into ‘manual’ mode, where it retained any selected ratio. The lack of engine braking from the slush box was made up for with electronic hill descent control (HDC).

 

 

Gearing changes with the four cylinder/auto combination saw the rev counter sitting around 1600-1200rpm nearly all the time, when running in ‘D’ mode. That’s a huge improvement over the original V8-powered LC70s that sat around 2600rpm at highway cruising speeds. The average fuel consumption for this mixed-surface, mixed-freight test worked out at 12.4L/100km, which is about the same as the V8 delivered on a similar test route. 

Vision over the now-bulbous bonnet wasn’t as bad as I feared, thanks to the LC76’s traditionally-high seating position. The two bucket seats had more shape than previous iterations.

On several past tests I’ve tried to get the factory diff locks to engage and became more bogged than necessary by the time the protocols were all met and the locks engaged. However, the 2024 LC76 diff locks engaged relatively quickly, in response to any wheel spin.

 

 

So, who’s going to buy the 2024 LandCruiser 76 Series? Back in its early days the LC76 offered significant performance, payload and ruggedness advantages over softer wagons. It also had big-bore six-cylinder and, later, V8 power, standard snorkel, plus four-wheel disc brakes.

Now that mid-sized wagons have proved that highly-turbocharged, small-capacity engines, with automatic transmissions, can outperform bigger LandCruisers on-road, the LC76 attraction is less obvious – particularly now that the ‘Cruiser has gone to a four-cylinder 2.8-litre/ six-speed auto powertrain option.

Its big advantage may come as a tow vehicle, but buyers would need to budget for a rear-axle track-widening kit and a rear suspension upgrade to take advantage of its 3500kg trailer capacity and 7010kg gross combination mass rating.

 

 

Pre-2023 models

 

The development of the LandCruiser 76 Series wagon seemed odd to us at first, because we thought it would surely overlap with the base-model 200 on its release, but Toyota in 2007 didn’t have a base-model 200.

Launched in March 2007 the LandCruiser 76 Series was essentially a smaller Troop Carrier.

Its shed was old: the front of the LandCruiser 76 wagon was new metal, but it faired into bodywork that dated back to the Bundera 70 Series two-door wagon. This shortie evolved into the four-door LandCruiser II, or ‘Prado’ as it was called in some markets, and was never officially sold here. There are a few ‘grey’ imports of these four-doors Down Under; mostly with four-cylinder turbo-diesel power.

Beneath the cobbled-together, box-shaped body the 70 Series DNA stream continued with live front and rear axles, box-section, ladder-frame chassis and the coil-front, leaf-rear suspension introduced with the first 78/79 Series in 1999.

When launched, that time warp extended inside the 76 wagon, where the dashboard and controls had changed little in the past 20 years The CD/radio was MP3 compatible, but sound quality was in the AWA Diamond Dot era. A positive was the metal dash into which it’s very easy to screw brackets for bush essentials such as GPS units, sat-phones and radios. There was cloth-covered seating for five and a choice of vinyl (Workmate) or carpet (GXL) floor covering.

In 2010 Toyota fitted driver and passenger SRS airbags to the entire 70 Series range. The airbag package included telescopic steering column adjustment and a new four-spoke urethane steering wheel.

The audio system was completely revised (thank heaven) and the LandCruiser 76 picked up a double-DIN head unit with AM/FM tuner, single CD with MP3 capability, USB input that also allowed iPod control and a 3.5mm audio input jack. It also offered Bluetooth hands-free phone capability and audio streaming with compatible products.

The dashboard was improved with a face-lifted appearance, revised instrument cluster and the addition of a bottle holder next to the gear-shift lever. However, air conditioning remained an option.

Under the Toyota’s intercooler bonnet bulge sat a 4.5-litre V8 diesel, matched to a strengthened version of the 78/79 transmission.

The big Toyota donk had lazy output of 151kW at 3200-3400rpm and 430Nm on tap from way down at 1200rpm, up to 3200rpm. The engine was capable of at least 50 percent more power and torque, but had been detuned for the 70 Series, in view of its working-vehicle vocation and in deference to the torque limits of the driveline and the definitely non-sporting nature of the running gear.

 

This electronically-controlled V8 turbo-intercooled diesel was necessary to meet Euro IV emissions levels. A plus for the V8 engine was oil drain periods of 10,000km, out from the six cylinder’s 5000km.

The 4.5-litre V8 was under-stressed in Troopy, putting out 151kW at 3400rpm, with 430Nm in the 1200-3200rpm band.

The principal negatives for this engine were the ridiculous location of the starter motor, in the engine ‘vee’ and the alternator, at the bottom of the engine bay.

Both electrical components proved vulnerable to corrosion: the starter because if the engine gets a bath water pools around the starter motor and the alternator gets wet at virtually every creek crossing. Dumb.

Incidentally, getting the corroded starter out is a massive job that requires dismantling the fuel injection plumbing and the alternator is also relatively inaccessible. On our old LandCruiser 75 Series we can swap out a starter motor in around half an hour (had to do it at 400,000km) and the alternator has
never got wet or clogged with mud.

The 2010 LandCruiser 76 had remote central locking, power windows and bucket front seats in GXL, or an awful bucket, plus 1.5-seat bench in the Workmate.

Aircon
was a $2640 option. The GXL 76 had aluminium wheels with tubeless tyres, but the Workmate had split rims with tubed 7.50R1

The LandCruiser had a part-time 4×4 system, with manually lockable front hubs and a rear limited-slip differential, but could be fitted ex-factory with
optional ($2735) front and rear differential locks.

Unlike the longer-wheelbase Troop Carrier the 76 had only a single 90-litre capacity fuel tank. The 76 Series was rated to haul a 3500kg braked trailer.

At launch the Toyota LandCruiser 76 Workmate Wagon had a recommended retail price of $53,990 and the GXL Wagon was priced at $57,490. Add aircon and diff locks and the Workmate climbs to $59,365, with the GXL at a heady $62,865.

In late 2016 the 76 Series received major upgrades and the engine was brought up to Euro V emission levels. Market pressure – mainly from fleet buyers – for best-practice dynamic and passive safety dictated much more electronic equipment in the MY 2017 vehicles that were launched in October 2016.

The Troopy engine engine was ‘upgraded’ and a diesel particulate filter (DPF) was added. That was not good news, because DPFs fill up with soot unless exhaust
temperatures are kept high. Then it’s necessary to perform a ‘regeneration’ procedure, or the engine will shut down. This involves parking the vehicle and running the engine with an over-rich mixture to raise the temperature in the DPF. You don’t want to do that in Mitchell Grass country!

This was a big problem for owners who trickled along bush tracks or around properties at idle revs, with low exhaust temperatures.

Given the complexity and maintenance issues involved with common-rail diesel injection, EGRs and DPFs it may be time Toyota thought about re-introducing a simpler, petrol engine to the 70 Series. (The 75 Series used to come with a 4.5-litre in-line petrol six option.) The standard engines for the 79 Series around the world are the old 1HZ diesel six that dates back to the Australian 75 Series and the four-litre V6 petrol engine that powers some Prado and HiLux variants here.

Until MY2017 the V8 model retained the same overall gearing as the previous generation six-cylinder models, so at cruising speed on the highway the V8 was spinning at a totally unnecessary 2600rpm and fuel economy was horrendous. Unbelievably, it took Toyota until late 2016 to revise the overdrive gear ratio, to drop engine revs to 2200rpm at 110km/h.

When the V8 was introduced the old 75-78 Series front end with its small grille opening was widened to accept the V8 engine with its much larger radiator.

The front axle track had to go up 80mm in the case of the split-rim-wheel Workmate version and 120mm on the aluminium-wheel GX and GXL versions.

The V8 model’s front track was therefore 95mm wider than the track of the leaf-sprung rear axle and it showed: drive behind the vehicle and you could be forgiven for thinking that it was ‘crabbing’ down the road.

The rest of the machine was virtually unchanged, so the age of the original layout, dating back to the all leaf-sprung 75 Series showed.

Unbelievably, when the 70 Series was given safety upgrades in late 2016 the stupidly narrow-track rear axle was retained.


The October 2016 upgrades were the most comprehensive made to the 70 Series and it’s very easy to be cynical about the ‘improvements’.

Clearly, Toyota was forced to improve passive safety of the single-cab ute version to retain its mining and government customers, yet the company hadn’t put the same degree of safety into the 76 wagon and Troopy variants that didn’t get a five-star safety rating.

We welcomed the addition of vehicle stability control; active traction control; hill-start assist control; brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution. Also welcome was cruise control, because the 70 Series was now no longer the only vehicle on the market – including trucks – that didn’t have it.

Toyota claimed improved fuel economy from the Euro V engine, which we doubt very much: if there was any improvement it came from having an overdrive ratio that the V8 should have had since its introduction.

Some pundits reckoned Toyota would have to fit a six-speed to the 70 Series, but they don’t understand the Toyota ‘don’t do it unless you have to’ philosophy.

A weird inclusion was automatic front hubs, with a manual-lock position. They’re a pain, because they never lock reliably in ‘auto’ mode and you have to ferret around for your wheel-brace to lock them. They’re more trouble than the simple, manual locking hubs Toyota has had for years.

These are exactly the same hubs that were fitted to Nissan Patrols 20 years ago, so maybe Toyota picked up some old stock now that the ‘real’ Patrol was no more.

Sensibly, the split-rim wheel was gone: replaced by tubeless steel 6Jx16 wheels, shod with 225/95R16 tyres.

Pricing was horrific, as we’ve come to expect from Toyota. The Workmate was $60,990 and the GXL, $64,990, plus air conditioning at $2761, making the 70 Series the only vehicle – car, SUV, 4WD or truck – in the Australian marketplace that didn’t have aircon as standard.

Those who can’t live with the narrow-track rear axle have two wide-track, legal choices : 4WD Mods – Powertrain/Dana axle for 70 series V8 models – March 2016 and 4WD Mods – Powertrain/e Tru Tracker wide-track kit for LandCruiser 70s

 

2020 upgrades

In August 2020 all variants in the 4.5-litre V8 turbo-diesel workhorse range gained a multimedia system with a 15.5cm ( 6.1-inch) touch screen that incorporated satellite navigation with voice recognition and Bluetooth connectivity.

Also added were two front USB ports, a 12-Volt accessory power input, a larger smartphone holder and a cupholder in the passenger-door bin.

Of course, pricing went up as well: Workmate wagon $67,400
and GXL wagon $71,500.

 

70th Anniversary model

 

 

Toyota’s legendary LandCruiser brand had its 70th anniversary in August 2021 and celebrated with the release of limited-edition versions of the LandCruiser 70 Series off-roader.

The platinum anniversary marked the 1951 Japanese debut of the Toyota BJ, which three years later was renamed ‘Land Cruiser’ (the ‘LandCruiser’ name contraction into one word happened in the the 1990s). The brand has been displayed on more than 10 million vehicles, sold worldwide.

The LandCruiser 70th Anniversary special-edition was based on the flagship GXL grade, with double diff locks and was offered as a 76 Series wagon and 79 Series single and double cab chassis pick-up. The Anniversary models had the usual Toyota very high pricing: $80,050 (single cab), $82,600 (double cab) and $78,500 (wagon).

The special-edition model featured minor styling enhancements: black heritage grille, front bumper and wheel-arch flares. Dark 16-inch aluminium wheels and headlamp bezels were fitted and the front fog lamps and daytime running lights were LEDs.

Marking the anniversary was a ‘Heritage’ LandCruiser badge above the front wheel arch and a ’70th Anniversary’ emblem.

Inside, the special-edition LandCruiser featured seats clad in premium black upholstery, with black leather-accented trim on the steering wheel rim and gear shift knob.

 

 

There was also woodgrain-look trim and instrument panel, silver accents for the air vents and black treatment for the switch trims on the doors.

A black centre console was fitted, with two additional 2.1-amp Type A USB chargers and a pair of cupholders.

Only 600 examples of the 70th Anniversary LandCruiser were planned for Australian release: 320 double cabs, 200 single cabs and 80 wagons, in French Vanilla, Merlot Red and Sandy Taupe colours.

 

On and off-road in the post-2010 model

The LandCruiser 76 GXL’s driver’s seat was reasonably supportive and OK for long-distance cruising. Switches and controls were much the same as they were 20 years ago, along the lines of, ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it?’.

The 76 Series certainly needed a taller overdrive than the 0.881:1 it had, because the big V8 didn’t need 2600rpm to maintain legal cruising speed.

The LandCruiser has different-height front and rear roll centres, fixed-rate front coil springs and variable-rate leaf rears, plus a 95mm difference in front and rear axle track, so its handling can become quirky on bumpy surfaces.

However, the 265/70R16s on the GXL provided much better ride and handling than the skinny 7.50R16s on the Workmate.

The ‘Cruiser has ample engine torque at low revs and an ‘idle-up’ button that raises idle revs to 1200rpm. With that engaged it will ‘walk’ up a 25-degree, rutted slope without any accelerator input at all.

Economy depends very much on driving style, load, speed and location, but our testing of different 76s has shown that in mixed-cycle on and off road use the 76 will use 12-16L/100km.

 

Previous Models

No previous 76 Series, but check out used Troop Carriers.

Bush Modifications

There’s a host of after-market gear for the 78/79 Series and most of that kit will fit the 76 Series. Bush essentials are an after-market long-range fuel tank and after-market diff locks if the factory ones aren’t fitted (they cannot be retro-fitted).

The rear leaves don’t like heavy loads and need replacing if much bush equipment is going aboard, or heavy ball weights. Many bush-prepared 76s will score 50mm lift kits, which improve off-road clearance markedly.

 

 

 

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