Toy­ota’s re­cently re­freshed LC 70 can take the rough with the smooth. And keep com­ing back for more. NZ4WD Editor Ross MacKay re­ports.

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Story by Ross Mackay. Pho­tos by Bruce Jenk­ins/Toy­ota NZ

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.

Heavy Duty

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

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!

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