THE $70,000* STATUS SYMBOL

What’s gold, has two doors, and makes everyone in small towns stare at you?

The first defining experience of the LandCruiser was rolling down the main street of Gloucester – a small beef and dairy town nestled in the Great Diving Range not far from Forster. I was looking for the Drifta factory. I got lost and ended up doing a few laps of the ‘mainy’. People stared. That metallic gold glimmering under a late summer sun, the illustrious GXL badges on the side, paired up with a colour-coded tray and black bullbar. Forget about your flash sports cars and luxo-barges, this is the kind of aspirational vehicle that many folk yearn for.

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The second defining experience was meeting up with an old mate on a family property up in the hills behind Gloucester, and watching his eyes glow when he saw it. There is something special about a LandCruiser ute, make no mistake about that. The rest of the day saw us doing a day’s work on the farm, checking on livestock and moving cattle between paddocks.

 

HARD AT WORK

Off the showroom floor, this LandCruiser slotted into its role perfectly, temporarily replacing James’ own LandCruiser for the day. This unit had dogs and a swag in the back, going cross-country across paddocks and up shaley, rutted climbs. Any other new ute would have had me worried about scratching or damaging exposed plastics, or fretting over ground clearance. And in this day and age, there’s really something to be said about that.

 

Plentiful low-rev torque (450Nm @ 1,200rpm), low gearing and a healthy payload, towing capacity and gross combination mass gives you serious confidence in the LandCruiser as well. The toughest challenge on the property was easily assailed, before the locking diffs were called in.

 

WHAT HAS CHANGED

There are a lot of inclusions in the 2017 single-cab, which does come with a $5,500 price increase. There are five airbags, traction control, stability control, hill-start assist (like you need it!) and brake force distribution. This gives the single-cab a five-star ANCAP rating, and the engine is now Euro-V compliant thanks to a DPF and piezo injectors.

 

One massive gain over previous models is the increased 5th gear ratio. Highway cruising is much more relaxed and sedate, and the extra little bump to 2nd gear also helps.

 

It’s built for hard work and is 100 times more bush-able than your other mainstream utes; and you have to note here that it comes with some fairly significant ramifications for on-road usage, when compared to those same other utes.

 

A low-revving, low-geared 4.5-litre V8 ain’t going to win any economy awards, especially when you drive it how a V8 likes to be driven. The suspension is firm and fairly noisy, and the list of inclusions is impressively short. The LandCruiser is a vehicle that needs to be driven more than other vehicles, if that makes sense. If you like that, you’ll love it. But if you don’t, you won’t. Different strokes for different folks; that’s why the LandCruiser is still so relevant: You simply cannot get another vehicle like it today.

 

*THE SPECS

We’re riding in the cream-of-the-crop GXL, in ‘Vintage Gold’. You’re asking price is $66,490 for a GXL. Bang on $550 for the premium paint, and $2,710 for the air-con, and let’s call it $70,000 between friends. And don’t forget, that’s without a tray or bullbar – so you’ll be needing that air-con to cool the burn.

 

The fact of the matter is that most people who buy these utes don’t really need one. It’s really expensive, quite thirsty, and the ride comfort levels are far from that plush, modern level one expects these days. Yet there is still a waiting list to buy them. I was talking to another bloke who uses a HiLux for cockie work on the land, and he’s pretty fed-up with ripping CV boots when doing the kind of work he needs to do.

 

WHO SHOULD BUY THIS CAR?

So, who should buy this car? Only people who really need a hardcore workhorse, who are going to be spending lots of time off-road, towing and lugging. If you’re building up a dedicated 4X4 tourer, this would be a good base; but you need to be across the facts that it has shortcomings.

 

WHO SHOULDN’T BUY THIS CAR?

Who shouldn’t buy this car? Budget-conscious people, obviously. A lot of folk out there like the idea of owning a LandCruiser. “Oh yeah! V8 grunt!” they say. “Live axles and it’s a tough Crooza!” they say. They are right.

 

What they aren’t telling you is, “I’m crippled by credit card debt, and this thing costs a shitload of money to run and maintain!” Or, “I could have invested 10 grand in blue-chip shares, but instead I blew it on optional air-con and a genuine Toyota tray and bullbar. Hooray!”

 

But seriously, instead of blindly throwing down 70-odd thousand bucks on a LandCruiser ute just because all of the cool kids on Instagram are doing it, ask yourself if you really need it compared to a high-spec Amarok, Ranger, HiLux or anything else. And here’s the clue: Unless you manage a 1,000-acre property, run an open-cut coal mine or spend months of the year 4X4 touring, then you probably don’t need one.

 

What we liked:

Peak torque comes in just off idle – and it’s just delicious

Supreme bush-ability of the LandCruiser is awesome

 

What we didn’t like:

It’s pretty heavy on fuel, after costing plenty to purchase (and spec up).

That rear wheel track difference makes me pull my hair out

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