The LandCruiser's looks send a serious muscle message, starting with the hefty grille and its outright size.
Karla Pincott road tests and reviews the Toyota LandCruiser 200 Altitude.
The LandCruiser is as much a part of the rural uniform as an Akubra. In just about any town with proximity to paddocks, you'll see 'Cruisers crawling the streets in a lineage that sometimes stretches back to their 1960s origins.
They've gained a reputation for offering a combination of offroad ability and onroad comfort that has made them the wheels of choice out there. And they clamber over the competition in the sales charts, repeatedly beating the nearest rivals who aim to offer the same 'bush and blacktop' blend.
The LandCruiser tested here in V8 turbodiesel Altitude spec will set you back from $90,440 -- not cheap.
It's about $2800 more than the same drivetrain in the GXL on which it's based. For that extra ask, it adds in quite a bit of upmarket kit from the top-spec Sahara version, including 18-in wheels, leather touches on the shifter and seats, powered front pews, and a colour touchscreen satnav/audio system with four-disc CD stacker, MP3 and Bluetooth.
The Cruiser gives you eight seats, an astonishing 650Nm of torque and towing capacity of 3500kg. Its only real offroad rival in the large SUV class is the Nissan Patrol - although if you step into the luxury SUV section there's the Merc G-Class, but at more than twice the price.
The Patrol is more affordable at $72,690 for the Ti with a capable 3.0-litre turbodiesel and dual-range 4WD - along with leather and quite a few luxury features -- but with one less seat, only 354Nm of torque and a similarly lower tow of 2500kg.
Cherry-picking the tougher contenders out of the medium SUV class puts you in the turbodiesel Mitsubishi Pajero Exceed for $77,690, which gets you back up to 441Nm and a tow rating of 3000kg. It also seats seven, but it's going to feel a bit snugger than the Patrol if you fill every seat.
And still with a big fan club is the turbodiesel Jeep Grand Cherokee, which in Overland spec at $69,500 gives you a whopping 550Nm with the five-speed sports auto, and 3500kg of towing capacity, but only seats five. But it comes with a heritage and -- even if it doesn't quite live up to every bit of the legend these days - people still love it.
Under the bonnet is a 4.5-litre twin-turbo V8, developing 195kW of power at 3400rpm and the 650Nm of torque from a low 1600-2600rpm, with the drive going to all four corners via a six-speed automatic transmission with 'manumatic' shifting.
Those are the kinds of numbers that bring smiles to a lot of faces, but they'll broaden into big bright grins at the mention of the 10.3L/100km fuel economy. It might start as a smirk of disbelief at that official figure - which we didn't manage to achieve - but the 16.2L we finished with in a mix of highway running, city jousting and dirt crawling showed the engine is pretty efficient for its size.
While the LandCruiser has constant four-wheel drive, it also has high and low ranges that use a Torsen limited-slip diff -- selected electronically using a dash-mounted switch -- and crawl controls for up and down steep hills.
Unfortunately, the Altitude is one of the few LandCruisers that doesn't get as standard kit the Aussie-developed Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System -- which limits body roll with coupled hydraulic cylinders on the stabiliser bars, and uncouples the cylinders to allow full suspension travel in offroad crawling. You can have the KDSS added as an option, but it will set you back another $3250.
It gets a four-star crash rating, and is fitted with eight airbags, ant-skid brakes with brake assist for emergency stops and brakeforce distribution to counter uneven load weighting, plus stability and traction controls.
The LandCruiser's looks send a serious muscle message, starting with the hefty grille and its outright size. It's long, big and tall, with good ground clearance, and that means you have to climb up into it. But once you get there, you'll find acres of room for the first two rows, with the split-fold second row having slide adjustment for extra leg room.
Even the side-mounted third row pews are more or less workable - although adults wouldn't like to be there for a long trip. Some buyers will look at it as being perfect for the weekend school soccer circuit, and to some extent that's a shame because this is not an ideal vehicle for town life.
We felt awkward driving the LandCruiser in the city, and wanted to slap a pony club sticker on the rear bumper so people would think we'd just blown in from the bush.DRIVING
It bullies its way through lane changes and narrow streets, is a trial in low-roofed underground carparks - and threatens to block out the neighbours' sun if you do manage to find a spot for it outside.
Admittedly, it's smooth and quiet enough to not invoke any council noise regulations, and manages corners and roundabouts very well for something of its size, although there's a considerable amount of body roll with the standard suspension.
But on the highway and into the dirt it really comes into its own, giving you a comfortable ride no matter what you throw it at: scrub, fire trails and creek crossings all vanish into the rearvision mirror with never a falter.
We didn't get the chance to tow anything, but with 3500kg braked capacity it would have hauled anything in our sights. boat, horse trailer, caravan or camper. Hell, you could probably stick a wheel under each corner of your house and do a bit of relocation.
It's the perfect vehicle for carry a troop in comfort around the country, towing big loads and getting far off the beaten track. Just keep it outside the city limits unless you're picking up the month's supplies.
TOYOTA LANDCRUISER ALTITUDE
Warranty: three years/100,000km
Thirst: 10.3L/100km, diesel; CO2 273g/km
Crash rating: 4 stars
Equipment: 8 airbags, ESP, ABS, EBD, stability and traction controls
Engine: 4.5-litre twin-turbo V8 195kW/650Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto, 4WD constant
Body: 4-door wagon, 8 seats
Dimensions: Length 4950mm, width 1970mm, height 1905mm
Wheelbase: 2850mm, tracks front/rear 1640mm/1635mm
Weight: 2700kgTyres: 18x8.0
Tow: 3500kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Spare: Full-size alloy