For the great in­doors

Big as a block of flats, the ’Cruiser will take on the Out­back and more

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE - RICHARD BLACK­BURN CARS­GUIDE ED­I­TOR richard.black­burn@news.com.au

IT PAYS to take the ar­rival of a “new LandCruiser” with a grain of salt.

Not a lot changes over the years with Toy­ota’s off-road stal­wart. The last gen­uinely new model launched in 2007, yet there’s still no sign of a true next-gen­er­a­tion ’Cruiser.

In­stead, Toy­ota has tweaked the range, fo­cus­ing mostly on its flag­ship Sa­hara, which catches up on in­dus­try ad­vances in safety, driver as­sis­tance and emis­sions tech­nol­ogy.

The tweaks in­clude four cam­eras that can pro­vide a

bird’s-eye view of the car, as well as an un­der­floor view that al­lows driv­ers to pick their way over tricky ter­rain. The front cam­era will also ro­tate so the hori­zon on the screen stays level — giv­ing an idea of how much the ve­hi­cle may be tilt­ing.

New safety gear in­cludes blind spot mon­i­tor­ing, au­to­matic high beam, lane de­par­ture warn­ing, rear crosstraf­fic alerts and radar cruise con­trol that au­to­mat­i­cally ad­justs the ve­hi­cle’s speed to match the car in front.

The en­gines now meet Euro5 emis­sions reg­u­la­tions and are more fuel ef­fi­cient. The turbo diesel V8 has an ex­tra 5kW of power, bring­ing out­puts to 200kW/650Nm. It now has a par­tic­u­late fil­ter, while of­fi­cial fuel consumption has dropped by 8 per cent to 9.5L/100km

There have been sub­tle changes to the ex­te­rior of the car — in­clud­ing two new colours — and the cabin has more soft-touch ma­te­ri­als and bet­ter qual­ity in­stru­ment graph­ics. And a $5000 price hike for the diesel.

The changes across the rest of the LandCruiser range are smaller, so we bor­rowed a diesel Sa­hara to see if the big Toy­ota can still cut it among a host of new pres­tige SUV ar­rivals.

The first thing that hits you about the LandCruiser is its sheer size. It’s a real climb into the cabin, es­pe­cially for smaller chil­dren. But once in­side, it’s like an ex­ec­u­tive lounge on wheels. From the driver’s seat you im­me­di­ately no­tice the new in­stru­ment panel, which now has a dig­i­tal read­out be­tween the speedo and tacho. The nee­dles and di­als have a Lexus look about them.

There’s also more leather on the sur­faces you come into con­tact with, in­clud­ing a padded sec­tion next to driver’s left knee. The per­fo­rated leather on the seats feels and looks high qual­ity, while the wood­grain high­lights are taste­fully done.

All the driver as­sis­tance tech­nol­ogy op­er­ates un­ob­tru­sively in the back­ground but it’s not as ad­vanced as in some ri­vals. There’s no au­to­mated emer­gency brak­ing for city driv­ing and no steer­ing as­sis­tance in the lane keep­ing fea­ture.

It might not be the most tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced ve­hi­cle on the road but the LandCruiser spoils its oc­cu­pants with space and qual­ity ap­point­ments. There’s a big nine-inch cen­tre screen and big­ger DVD screens for the sec­ond-row pas­sen­gers, who are spoiled for leg and head­room.

The third row seats are big enough for adults on short trips. They’re also easy to get into and leave de­cent lug­gage space when in place.

ON THE ROAD

There’s no get­ting around the size of the LandCruiser, par­tic­u­larly in town where it re­quires vig­i­lance in carparks and on nar­row streets. Thank­fully, the park­ing aids — in­clud­ing front and rear sen­sors on the Sa­hara and VX — ease the stress a lit­tle.

The en­gine hasn’t had any sig­nif­i­cant change since it ar­rived in 2007 but still shifts the two-and-a-half tonne ’Cruiser with­out fuss.

It is also im­pres­sively quiet — apart from a dis­tant tick­ing when idling at lights, it rarely makes it­self no­ticed.

We got re­spectable fuel consumption, de­spite the lack of a stop-start func­tion. In bumper-to-bumper traf­fic, not spar­ing the horses when tak­ing off at lights, we logged low teens.

On the free­way the LandCruiser lopes along ef­fort­lessly, with lux­ury car lev­els of noise sup­pres­sion. The sus­pen­sion does a great job of iso­lat­ing oc­cu­pants from the road sur­face, al­though it can float over big­ger bumps at speed. It also won’t stop or change di­rec­tion in a hurry — it’s more draft horse than quar­ter horse.

VER­DICT

It’s easy to see the LandCruiser’s ap­peal among those who love the great out­doors and like to use four-wheel drives for what they are built for. It’s com­fort­able, spa­cious, bul­let­proof and im­pres­sively re­fined. Re­sale value and re­li­a­bil­ity are top notch. But you can’t help feel­ing it’s been a lit­tle spoiled by suc­cess. Toy­ota hasn’t had to try too hard to keep sales tick­ing over and it shows.

It doesn’t have the tech­nol­ogy it should for the price. For $5000 more than the pre­vi­ous model, own­ers are en­ti­tled to ex­pect more.

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