TOYOTA LAND CRUISER LC 70
Toyota’s recently refreshed LC 70 can take the rough with the smooth. And keep coming back for more. NZ4WD Editor Ross MacKay reports.
It was when I was back ‘ home’ in Gore for the annual Hokonui Moonshine mountain bike race a couple of years ago now that Toyota’s evergreen LC 70 Land Cruiser stopped me in my tracks.
I had just parked my rental car outside the local Toyota dealer and couldn’t miss the reference to a ‘ Turbo- diesel V8’ in the signwriting on the window.
That led me to linger and cast an admiring eye over the anachronistic cab/chassis beast behind the glass and idly think, ‘man if I was a farmer that’s what I’d buy!’
Fast forward however many years and after a long launch drive on and offroad, and weekend towing exercise from Auckland to Taupo and return I’m even more convinced!
The 70 series is what Toyota classifies as its ‘Heavy Duty’ Land Cruiser line, distinguishing it from its ‘Station wagen ( 60, 80, 100 & 200) and ‘ Light Duty’ ( 70, 9, 120 & 150 Prado) lines.
There’s real heritage in both the name and lineage, the 70 Series still carrying ethos and design DNA from the original ‘Jeep BJ” model Toyota produced for the United Nations in 1951 and the first 20 series ‘civilian’ model ‘ Land Cruiser’ in 1954.
The ‘Heavy Duty’ tag is relevant here for several reasons, the key one being the use – motivated in large part by Toyota NZ's own marketing – of various Hilux ute models for tough, uncompromising tasks.
As demand for 4x4 double cab utes like Hilux has increased – and the buyer profile broadened – there has been an inevitable softening of the focus. Which has been great for urban tradies and lifestylers. Not so for farmers, run-holders, and ruralbased contractors.
Unless, their Toyota dealer has steered them in the direction on an LC 70.
Price is always going to be an issue here. Even the most basic ( LT-spec) single-cab/ chassis model has an RRP of $ 75,780 to which you have to add at least $ 4K for
a tray and around $ 1K for a tow bar and associated wiring.
But if you are serious, and it’s your work vehicle ( and therefore a tax- deductible expense), it is more about fitness-forpurpose than fashion. Who else, for instance makes a ladder chassis, dualrange 4x4 with a five-speed ( manual only) transmission, dual-range transfer case and big, lazy turbocharged diesel V8?
I drove both LT and LX models at the launch in the Manawatu in November last year, and an LT double cab in February this year.
First impressions are of size – it’s a long, tall, imposing albeit not really intimidating, beast – and, once you have climbed ( literally) up and into the cabin, and settled in, a quaintly old-fashioned, working vehicle charm.
You sit, tall, and upright in a large, firm but ‘ long-hours-in-the-saddle-comfortable’ driver’s ‘chair’ and watch the world unfold in front of you through a tall, upright, virtually flat windscreen.
With even cheap Japanese imports arriving here with carpet on the floor, remote central-locking , power windows and steering wheel mounted radio controls, the pared back, bare bones nature of the LC spec 70 comes as a bit of a surprise.
For a start, you have to use the key to lock and unlock the driver’s door. The central locking only works off that door as well), you have to wind the windows up and down yourself, and though Toyota has added a six-inch ‘ infotainment unit’ complete with Bluetooth connectivity and reversing camera, the air conditioning unit still has the slide-lever to control the temperature I think I last saw in a 1983 Nissan Sentra!
LC-spec also means vinyl rather than carpet on the floor and a plain, old urethane ( rather than leather or at least leather-look and feel) steering wheel.
From such an elevated ride and seat height and with slim A, B and C pillars, forward and peripheral visibility is exemplary, though I did find that the roll-hoop attached to the tray fitted to the test vehicle blocked out some of the view when using the standard mirrors.
I’ll huff and I’ll puff...
One thing some of my fellow ‘muttering rotters’ ( car journos) have huffed and puffed about is how the new, higher, bonnet ( to clear the top-mounted intercooler) on the new 70 makes it hard to see forward.
Me thinks they doth protest too much though, because you can see the square edges of each front corner fine.
We did a mix of country road ( both seal and gravel) and on-farm driving at the official launch, most of which was completed in 2WD and 4WD high.
My kids laugh when I bring home 4WDs fitted with manual gearboxes. But like my Dad did with non-synchro truck ‘ boxes when I was a nipper, I still take pride in making good clean shifts.
As such I’d rate the LC 70 ‘ box above average. Feel at the lever is a bit rubbery albeit not as the expense of accuracy.
A firm hand
The first-to-second shift does need a firm hand against the spring to avoid hooking fourth but if you own one first is so low you’re probably going to slip into the habit of starting off in second anyway…
You are because final drive gearing is suitably low with low range ( which requires a good hefty tug on the oldskool lever while you are at a standstill) really only needed if your path requires some walking-speed crawling over or around obstacles.
Speaking of which the front hubs now lock and unlock automatically, meaning less getting in and out to lock and unlock.
When the hubs are in the auto position you still have to stop if you want to go from H2 to H4. But once mobile the hubs lock automatically and you can then drop to 4 Low/ locked hub without having to stop again at walking ( below eight km/ h) pace.
Pedants are also free to thumb their noses at all this modern foolishness and lock and unlock the hubs manually should they feel the need!
The big improvement here ( in case you have missed the obvious) is in the electronics. Sure you can lock both diffs should you find the need. Way before you do, though, Toyota’s A-TRC ( Active Traction Control) system will have been using the ABS sensors to quietly and effectively analyse what grip there is on grass, mud, snow or sand, and divvy up the power and torque across all four wheels accordingly, doing the work, if you like, a mechanical one or two-way LSD might have in the past.
The company’s VSC ( Vehicle Stability Control) system does a similar and equally unobtrusive job on the road.
Speaking of which. Road or off-road ride is impressive, given the basic ( leaf sprung live axles front and rear. Ride off-road is best described as firm but well damped while the steering retains impressive feel and minimal kick-back.
On the road
On the road the ( unladen) ride remains a standout ( seriously!) with plenty of compliance through the stroke and none of the ‘ tip- of-the-spring’ stiffness that makes driving an unladen Hilux such a tippy-toey chore over judder bars, seal ridges and potholes.
The sheer size ( length and height mainly) – and with it the super tanker-like 14.4m turning circle – means you have to be careful driving an LC 70 in town. It took two bites to get into a downtown Auckland car park one wet Friday night, for instance, and once in I couldn’t find a bay long enough to fit until the staff ( who must have been watching via CCTV) took pity on me and found me one usually reserved for a stretch limo!
No recirculating ball steering box is as good as a modern rack and pinion set up either and on the road I found myself constantly feeding in slight corrections through the wheel.
Gearing is also biased towards slower general running and though second and fifth gears are now taller the big LC 70 seems most comfortable on the open road at between 90 to 100 km/ h. Any more and, well, it just feels like you are out of the thing’s comfort zone.
Which, again, is fine by me because if you want or need to go any quicker you have to work at it. Meaning if you are going to spend more time on the road rather than off it, you would be better off with a Hilux or equivalent.
Even towing my drift car was more of a mixed bag than I was expecting.
Hard to imagine
While it is hard to imagine an engine better suited to towing a heavy load than Toyota’s 1VD-FTV turbo diesel V8 ( I rarely needed to use more than 2000 rpm between Auckland and Taupo and wafted most of the way up the steep southern side of the Bombay Hills on the way home in fourth gear) the standard suspension spec ( so impressive off-road and oneup unladen on it) felt just a tad soft, particularly at the rear.
Ride was still impressive, but the steering was even vaguer than when the LC 80 was unladen and I could have also done with a manual headlight level adjustor, to compensate for the weight of the combined weight of the car and trailer. With my son riding shotgun to the drift meet we also found the single front cup holder a bit of an oversight. And, when I went to back the trailer in the car park at the Taupo track I missed the superimposed lines most other reversing camera have.
Sure you get as good a view of what is behind you as any other wide angle camera. But without the lines the one in the LC 70 is no use to you as a reversing aid.
Overall though, I remained as impressed with the LC 70 after spending time driving it as I did when the one in GWD’s showroom in Gore first captured both my attention and imagination.
It’s definitely not for everyone. But if things had turned out differently and I was running the family farm just outside Gore, no guesses what I’d be driving today!