The wide brown Landcruiser

Let’s just call it the ul­ti­mate off-roader test

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive - BILL MCKIN­NON bill.mckin­non@cars­

GRANTED, three weeks, five states, six deserts and nearly 9000km is hardly your av­er­age road trip. But to reach the out­back’s tril­lion-star ho­tel you must put in long days and big kays just to get to the fun part, where the bi­tu­men ends, the mad­ness of the mod­ern world dis­ap­pears in your mir­rors and life be­comes a red dirt track, a daz­zling blue sky and an end­less hori­zon.

Toy­ota’s LandCruiser is as highly evolved to han­dle Aus­tralia’s desert en­vi­ron­ment as camels, cock­ies and king browns, so for this ex­pe­di­tion I hitched our cam­per trailer to the new GX 200 Se­ries ’ Cruiser — the be­lated base model re­place­ment for the old 100 Se­ries Stan­dard wagon— com­plete with sig­na­ture side­hinged barn doors at the rear.

At $77,490, the five-seater GX is the cheap­est 200 Se­ries with the 4.5-litre V8 twin-turbo diesel/six-speed au­to­matic driv­e­train.

Its bush-basher brief is served by a hose-out vinyl in­te­rior, 138-litre fuel ca­pac­ity, per­ma­nent four-wheel drive with a dual-range trans­fer case, 17-inch steel wheels, ef­fec­tive un­der­body pro­tec­tion and the world’s ugli­est snorkel.

In moun­tain goat coun­try, five set­tings are pro­vided for the low-range, foot-free ac­cel­er­a­tor con­trol. Sharp turns on tight tracks are more eas­ily ne­go­ti­ated now that the ABS can au­to­mat­i­cally brake an inside wheel.

Nei­ther sys­tem is par­tic­u­larly el­e­gant or seam­less, with much groan­ing and graunch­ing as the ABS grabs and re­leases. Given the Cruiser’s im­mense low-range ca­pa­bil­ity, both are gim­micks rather than nec­es­sary get-outof-jail cards.

The GX is what’s known in the trade as a strip­per, be­cause Toy­ota has brazenly taken as much gear off the $88,490 GXL as pos­si­ble.

So your $80K-plus on the road buys a tinny two-speaker au­dio sys­tem (al­beit with Blue­tooth and USB), one 12-volt out­let, man­ual air­con, plas­tic steer­ing wheel, no nav­i­ga­tion, no cam­era, no fab­ric door trims, no trip com­puter— in fact, not very much at all, apart from blanks all over the dash to re­mind you where the con­trols and equip­ment you miss out on in the GX would be if you weren’t too tight to spend, ahem, se­ri­ous money

Who says Ger­man SUVs are over­priced?

At least the GX’s safety kit is com­pre­hen­sive, with six airbags, sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol. Ser­vic­ing, at 10,000km in­ter­vals, is also cheap as chips for a turbo diesel be­he­moth, capped at $210 a time for three years/60,000 kilo­me­tres.

It may be no-frills but the GX in­te­rior is quiet, com­fort­able and cav­ernous. The wide, gen­er­ously padded driver’s seat, which has ad­justable cush­ion tilt and power lum­bar, pro­duced no aches or pains over 9000km, while the barn doors pro­vided easy ac­cess to a huge load area, eas­ily ex­tended by tum­bling the 60-40 split-fold rear seats. Dust seal­ing is ex­cel­lent.

The 4.5-litre V8 has the grunt to tow Uluru up the Stu­art High­way, so it didn’t notice our 1200kg cam­per trailer. At times I glanced at the rear-view mir­ror just to check the trailer was still at­tached.

I rarely saw the high side of 2500rpm, ex­cept when over­tak­ing, and re­quired lowrange only to ex­tract the plot from a cou­ple of brain-fade, stuck-in-the-sand predica­ments.

Oil con­sump­tion is an is­sue with some 200 Se­ries turbo diesels. This one used less than one litre, which is nor­mal in many en­gines over such a long dis­tance. The dip­stick level

Trailer’s still there: On the bi­tu­men and over the humps, the Cruiser had the grunt to pull the 1200kg cam­per

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