For the track less beaten

No other 4WD can take a hid­ing like the 70 Se­ries, says Bill McKinnon

Herald Sun - Motoring - - ROAD TEST -

NOW that Land Rover’s De­fender has bit­ten the dust and Nis­san’s Y61 Pa­trol is about to do the same, Toy­ota’s 70 Se­ries stands alone as the last of the 4WD di­nosaurs.

Un­like the De­fender and Pa­trol, how­ever, the 70 Se­ries has con­tin­ued to sell in suf­fi­cient num­bers to war­rant on­go­ing development, although a drive in Toy­ota’s work­horse is still a nos­tal­gia trip back to the mid-1980s.

Re­mote Aus­tralia is 70 Se­ries heart­land and min­ers, farm­ers, gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and NGOs are its main cus­tomers, along with out­back ad­ven­tur­ers and those who need to tow up to 3500kg.

DE­SIGN

Oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety poli­cies now dic­tate the pur­chase of five-star ANCAPrated ve­hi­cles by many gov­ern­ment and in­dus­try users, so Toy­ota has up­graded the sin­gle cab chas­sis sta­ble­mate, the 79 Se­ries, to five-star stan­dard.

To do so, it uses a stronger lad­der frame, thicker body pan­els, cur­tain and driver’s knee airbags, un­der-dash pad­ding, new seats, a re­lo­cated steer­ing link and taller bon­net to re­duce the po­ten­tial for pedes­trian head in­juries.

But for the bon­net, the other vari­ants — dou­ble cab chas­sis, three-door troop car­rier and five-door wagon — don’t get these up­dates.

They have not been tested by ANCAP and their airbag count re­mains at two.

All mod­els gain sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol, front seat belt pre-ten­sion­ers, elec­tronic brake force dis­tri­bu­tion and cruise con­trol.

The cabin is a time warp, loaded with quaint, retro stuff from a world long gone, such as slid­ing ven­ti­la­tion con­trols, cig­a­rette lighter, mul­ti­ple ash­trays, man­u­ally ad­justable side mir­rors, plunger door locks and a flat, up­right wind­screen with thin pil­lars on ei­ther side. Air­con­di­tion­ing is a $2761 op­tion.

Head­room is suf­fi­cient to ac­com­mo­date those huge hats they wear in out­back Queens­land but tall cow­boys suf­fer be­cause the seat, though gen­er­ously padded, has lim­ited travel and back­rest ad­just­ment, so you have to sit close to the steer­ing wheel, just like the bad old days.

Get­ting in and out of the Cruiser is also a chal­lenge be­cause se­ri­ous climb­ing is in­volved and the front door open­ings are tight.

There’s rea­son­able leg room in the wagon’s rear seat, a flat, firm bench — with, would you be­lieve, a lap-only belt in the cen­tre po­si­tion.

Ac­cess to the cargo area is via 60-40 split barn doors. It’s a gi­ant, al­most per­fectly square box, with one me­tre be­tween floor and roof, par­tic­u­larly use­ful if you’re car­ry­ing large ob­jects. The mid­dle bench tum­bles to yield al­most 1.5m of ex­tended floor.

AROUND TOWN

It’s dif­fi­cult to imagine a ve­hi­cle less suited to the ur­ban jun­gle, although the 4.5-litre V8 turbo’s trac­tor-like grunt is just the ticket in bumper to bumper traf­fic, where you need never push the revs beyond a slightly fast idle.

The long-throw five-speed man­ual likes a slow, gen­tle shift; the clutch is fairly heavy and pro­gres­sive in take-up. Hill start as­sist op­er­ates for two sec­onds.

Efficient piezo­elec­tric fuel in­jec­tors, a diesel par­tic­u­late fil­ter (with a man­ual re­gen­er­a­tion func­tion) and taller sec­ond and fifth gears help the V8 com­ply with Euro 5 emis­sions reg­u­la­tions.

Our five-door GXL wagon re­turned 13.0-14.0L/100km in town, which isn’t bad for eight cylin­ders.

ON THE ROAD

In Toy­ota’s HiLux and Prado, the 2.8-litre four-cylin­der turbo diesel now gen­er­ates more torque than the Cruiser’s V8 (450Nm v 430Nm) but the beau­ti­fully smooth, de­light­fully growly eight-banger de­liv­ers it all in a leisurely surge from just 1200rpm, which cor­re­sponds to 60km/h in fifth gear. On the open road, you can just leave it there.

At 100km/h, it’s pulling 2000rpm; that’s 200rpm fewer than pre­vi­ously, so sin­gle fig­ure fuel num­bers are achiev­able ( just) and you’ll go a long way on the 130L tank.

There is still the mat­ter of its mass — the 0-100km/h, er, sprint takes about five min­utes.

Pi­lot­ing this tall, skinny 2.26-tonne box — sit­ting on rigid axles at both ends, with leaf springs at the rear, re­cir­cu­lat­ing ball steer­ing and all-ter­rain 265/70 Dun­lop Grandtrek tyres — de­mands cau­tion.

You don’t so much steer as point it and hope, and even with sta­bil­ity con­trol now fit­ted you won’t be for­given if you carry ex­ces­sive speed into a tight cor­ner. The Toy­ota will just fall over. The body wob­bles around a bit on rough roads but road­hold­ing and ride com­fort are sur­pris­ingly good.

It’s noisy in the cabin at high­way speeds, mainly due to wind tur­bu­lence gen­er­ated by the snorkel on the driver’s side.

You can tow 3500kg and carry the max­i­mum pay­load of 795kg, while still com­ing within the max­i­mum gross com­bined mass (GCM) of 6560kg.

The 70's al­ready peer­less of­froad abil­ity is com­ple­mented by the 200 Se­ries’ ac­tive trac­tion con­trol, which op­er­ates in high and low-range and can be switched off.

If you get stuck, stan­dard diff locks at both ends should get you mo­bile; if they don’t, you re­ally are in strife and it’s time for the long-han­dle shovel.

VER­DICT

The 70 Se­ries isn’t in­tended for sub­ur­ban con­sump­tion. If it was, it would be a stu­pen­dous fail. As a spe­cialised, fit-for­pur­pose ma­chine, though, it still works.

No other 4WD, straight out of the box, is as well-adapted to the bush or as ca­pa­ble of tak­ing sus­tained, se­vere pun­ish­ment, of the sort that would de­stroy most one-ton­ner utes. Own­ers put hun­dreds of thou­sands of kilo­me­tres on these things and their re­li­a­bil­ity is leg­endary.

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