The wide brown Landcruiser
Let’s just call it the ultimate off-roader test
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