There are few who would disagree that the LandCruiser 70-Series is one of the last remaining real four-wheel drive vehicles on the market.
It’s been in production since 1984, meaning that it’s been around longer than the 40-Series it replaced, and nearly as long its stablemate from Mercedes-Benz, the G-Wagen, which has been around since 1979.
The 70-Series is a versatile vehicle that’s seen many different iterations and engines, which is a testament to the strength of its original design. It’s one of a select few four-wheel drives that can be used as the measuring stick by which all others are compared, or at least that’s what I’m supposed to say as a passionate four-wheel driver.
The 2015 Toyota LandCruiser 76-Series Wagon I’ve been driving can’t really be compared to other four-wheel drives on the market, and unfortunately I don’t mean this in a good way. It’s not that comfortable, it’s a bit outdated, and it’s quite expensive; coming in at just under $70,000 driveaway for the GXL model I am testing. It’s twice the price of a similarly equipped dual cab ute, and I’m not sure it’s twice the vehicle.
Amongst the 70-Series lineup, the 76-Series Wagon is hands down the most practical of the lineup. Its medium-length wheelbase means it’s usable in cities and tight parking areas, and its four doors mean that it’s suitable for the whole family. Unlike the ute versions (both single and double cab) there’s even room to store things inside when the seats are taken up. Yet the Wagon can still tow 3500kg like the others, and manage 11.9 L/100km combined.
The 1VD-FTV turbo-diesel V8 engine puts out 151kw and 430Nm of torque at an impressively low 1200rpm. To be frank, that’s why you buy a 70-Series these days — for sheer power and towing capability. The off-road capability for which the model is usually touted comes second. The leaf-sprung rear suspension paired with radius arm coil front suspension isn’t winning any awards for articulation in my book; and luckily, the vehicle compensates with the option of front and rear locking differentials.
The interior of the GXL model is sufficient at best. Somehow they’ve managed to make the ‘up-spec’ cloth seats less comfortable than the vinyl seats I’ve come to enjoy in the cheaper Workmate edition. It’s a clear indication that almost zero emphasis has been placed on ergonomics in this vehicle. They did fit a centre console, but it’s awkward and way too small – seriously, I think the Corolla’s must be bigger. I’ll have to give Toyota points for fitting a cupholder, though it’s on the opposite side to the driver and located on the floor.
By this point I’ve probably made myself out to be a complete jerk for continually knocking down the venerable 70-Series, and I’m sure you’re saying that I ‘just don’t get it’ but that couldn’t be further from the truth – I own one. But it’s my job to be honest to my readers, and I just feel that Toyota could do better with this one. If one of the world’s largest car companies can’t fit a properly-sized centre console, or put a cupholder in a usable position, then something is wrong.
Toyota has almost ZERO competition in the heavy-duty utility four-wheel drive segment. Why? Because they build an incredibly stout product with a strong track record for reliability and resale value. They don’t break when you abuse them, and they do almost everything you could imagine to ask of a four-wheel drive.
Everything I’ve just criticised doesn’t really matter when it comes to the 70-Series. The seats might suck, it might be pricey, and it might have the world’s most awkward cupholder, but even all of these flaws can’t cloud over the vehicle’s strong suits. It has an engine that pulls like no other, and a driveline capable of anything. This is a vehicle I enjoy driving, simply put. It nearly perfectly mixes the balance between that four-wheel drive-feeling novelty we all love, and a solid vehicle that can be driven to work, day-in-and-day-out, without drama.
Now that we’ve gotten the obligatory automotive journalist bits out of the way, you’ll have to join us next month for the full review where we get into the specifics of what it’s like to own and live with this off-road icon.