Tackle off-road tracks in a Land Cruiser 70

Toyota Land Cruiser 70: Rugged reputation.

Earning an Australasian New Car Assessment Program five-star safety rating for the Land Cruiser 70 has been a breakthrough for the Toyota Motor Co.

It means the company now has the full support of the enterprises which, in the majority, are the major purchasers of the robust off-roader. Globally, the Land Cruiser 70 has been an important part of the mining, manufacturing and agricultural industries, along with recreational users who want its go-anywhere ability.

The ANCAP safety qualification criteria is comprehensive, and for the Cruiser 70 to reach five stars is a worthy achievement, albeit at this stage only the single-cab variant meets the criteria, but it’s only a matter of time before the double-cab variant is engineered to reach that level.

And I’m pleased to report that the Cruiser 70 hasn’t lost any of the fundamentals which have earned it a rugged and tough reputation over the years. At the media launch for the new series, motoring journalists were treated to an off-road experience which highlighted how well the Cruiser 70 adapts itself to conditions where access to wheeled transport is marginal.

Part of the reason why the Cruiser 70 reaches its new status is through the electronic traction devices which have been engineered into the vehicle, when you combine those with the drive variations through the four-wheel-drive transfer system, the result is a vehicle which has grip and drive almost unsurpassed.

The driveline can be adapted to glean traction on all surfaces, most through the dual range transfer case and differential locking systems, the rest by manipulating the traction control network to best suit the impending surface.

The new model for 2017 hasn’t changed a lot in appearance, there are a few cosmetic changes here and there, but by and large, it still resembles the classic, unmistakable 70-series look.

It also has much the same engine and transmission, the 4.5-litre diesel-fed V8 drives through a five-speed manual gearbox. Toyota rates the quad-camshaft, turbocharged unit at 151kW with 430Nm of torque, both outputs realised low in the rev band at 3400rpm and 1200-3200rpm respectively.

Because of its low revving nature, the engine hauls in acceleration and impetus from as low as 500rpm. And that is the beauty of the engine/transmission combination, it is designed for hauling and chugging away at terrain where slow speed is most beneficial.

The gearshift is free in its movement and clutch action disguises well the comprehensive mechanicals which lie beneath, and the power with which it needs to harness, the pedal is light and progressive.

On the highway it delivers a ride well distant to what its load-bearing suspension would suggest. The ride is compliant, disguising well the use of front and rear live axles.

Chunky all-terrain Dunlop tyres (225/95 x 16in) are designed to provide grip in the loose, but they also do an adequate job on the highway; motion is quiet, and while the steering is slow and unresponsive in a corner, if you drive the Cruiser 70 with respect it won’t deliver any surprises.

As part of the new upgrade, Toyota’s engineers have widened the front track considerably, so much so that it looks a little ungainly against a narrow rear track, but the result is greater stability in a corner and traction benefits off-road.

However, the Cruiser 70 is all about a working role and it makes no excuses for its utilitarian appearance and sparse level of fitment, there are just the fundamental in-cabin features such as air conditioning and audio. A reversing camera is standard, part of the ANCAP requirement, but other than that the owner or every day driver had better get used to adjusting the rear view mirrors and winding the windows manually, and there isn’t even central locking. However, these features are available on a higher grade model although that adds an extra $6200 to the price tag.

That aside, the LT Cruiser 70 represents good value at $75,780 in single-cab form. The double-cab lists at $79,380, while a station wagon variant with massive rear load space sits at $84,980.

The test car was a single-cab model and its deck area was huge, long and wide. Although its depth wasn’t great, it served useful purpose when my wife left me a note to read – please trim the trees at the front of the property. That I did, and the Cruiser 70 easily accepted long branches and a wealth of foliage.

Whereas Hilux from the Toyota stable will serve most recreational, farming and business operators well, the Cruiser 70 is there for the buyer who needs that extra ground clearance, greater towing ability, and the means to go just that little bit deeper into unknown off-road tracks.

Price – Toyota Land Cruiser 70 LT, $75,780

Dimensions – Length, 5220mm; width, 1790mm; height, 1970mm

Configuration –  V8, four-wheel-drive, 4461cc, 151kW, 430Nm, five-speed manual.

Fuel usage – 10.6l/100km