Toy­ota L/C 200 VX-R

In the Toy­ota 4×4 sta­ble, the Land Cruiser 200 is the head­line act, the big brother. We drove the lat­est 200 VX-R, which comes stan­dard with 195kW and 650Nm of tur­bocharged V8 grunt.

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

Big daddy is in the house!

It weighs nearly three tons. And the Land Cruiser 200 VX-R feels it, too. Un­like some competitors that have gone all modern on their struc­tural de­signs, fea­tur­ing lighter ma­te­ri­als like alu­minium and em­ploy­ing dif­fer­ent de­signs such a mono­coque con­struc­tion, the body-on­frame 200 still seems as if it was cut from a solid block of metal.

Get­ting the VX-R briskly out of the start­ing blocks, even with 650Nm of torque in the bank, is not as brisk an af­fair as it is in some of the competitors. Nail the brakes hard at 120km/h, and there is no doubt that you are try­ing to con­tain three tons of metal that doesn’t par­tic­u­larly want to be con­tained.

It’s like a heavy­weight boxer, weigh­ing in at a strong-as-an-ox but lumpy and slower-mov­ing 130kg, squar­ing off against a lithe 85kg boxer, who also hap­pened to be a bal­let dancer in a pre­vi­ous life, light on his feet, and blis­ter­ing fast.

The cabin does not rep­re­sent the cut­ting edge of pre­mium SUV de­sign, no. But most of the good­ies you’d ex­pect to find in a pre­mium ve­hi­cle sell­ing for over a mil­lion rand are there. You don’t need a mas­ter’s de­gree in cabin tech­nol­ogy (as you do in some other fancy SUVs) to fig­ure out how to pair your phone, and so on.

Mostly any­way. It took us some time to fig­ure out how to man­u­ally ad­just the ven­ti­la­tion system’s fan speed but we got there, with­out hav­ing to re­vert to the owner’s man­ual.

SO HOW IS THE CABIN?

It is vast. The Cruiser 200 is just about two me­tres wide, so the driver and front pas­sen­ger sit quite apart from each other. There’s even a fridge be­tween the front seats. The rest of the sev­enseat cabin con­tin­ues the big-on­space theme. The sec­ond row of seats of­fers plenty of leg room while the last two seats which, in the tra­di­tional and some­times frowned-upon Toy­ota way, fold up and to the sides.

Like the rest of the Cruiser’s cabin, the seat­ing arrangement is more old-school than some of the modern pre­mium

SUVs in the mar­ket. Ac­cess to, and the com­fort of, those two rear seats is okay, not great.

Back to the driver. The in­stru­ment panel is old-school and fea­tures ana­logue di­als. The mid­dle con­sole stack is a bulky, im­pres­sive piece of kit, with the big TFT colour screen tak­ing cen­tre stage. As al­luded to ear­lier, find­ing the man­ual ad­just­ment for the ven­ti­la­tion system’s fan speed proved to a mi­nor chal­lenge – we traced it to the touch­screen TFT dis­play, where you can ad­just it.

The driver gets the best seat in the house, we reckon. A su­perbly com­fort­able seat, all the con­trols at hand, a com­mand­ing driv­ing po­si­tion, a pow­er­ful V8 un­der the right foot and, maybe most im­pres­sively, that feel­ing of in­de­struc­tibil­ity. It may not ac­tu­ally be able to do it, but it feels as if this Cruiser could safely get you through an earth­quake, a tsunami or a nu­clear ex­plo­sion.

Oh, the cream leather seat trim. The per­son who thought in days gone past that cream up­hol­stery would be just dandy in a sev­enseater, fam­ily-ori­ented ve­hi­cle... well, they were wrong. It’s just not prac­ti­cal. Black leather would be more suit­able.

AND THE DRIVE?

If you think the ‘R’ in VX-R may al­lude to some ‘Rac­ing’ pedi­gree, you’re sadly mis­taken. Even with the up­rated 195kW and 650Nm tur­bocharged V8 engine in the game, there’s still three tons of solid metal to move.

So it’s no ro­bot racer. It’s not that it is dead slow, it will give a few other SUVs a go to 100km/h, and Toy­ota reck­ons it will get there in un­der 10 sec­onds. It’s just not com­fort­able do­ing it. Like that 130kg boxer, be­ing forced to try his hand at bal­let.

It goes okay in the cor­ners but there is some body lean. If you want to take on a brat in his hot hatch in the cor­ners, best whip out Toy­ota’s more suit­able GT86.

Where is re­ally ex­cels – and we mean re­ally, re­ally ex­cels – is on the open road, cruis­ing at the le­gal lim­its. This is what the Cruiser was cre­ated to do. And it does it su­perbly. The sus­pen­sion cre­ates a floaty but com­posed ride. The pow­er­ful V8 hums hap­pily along at low revs, the six-speed auto gear­box man­ag­ing the engine with eerie ef­fi­ciency. The cabin is quiet and com­posed.

Much of the credit here must go to Toy­ota’s ki­netic dy­namic sus­pen­sion system (KDSS), a fully me­chan­i­cal system of in­ter­con­nected hy­draulic cylin­ders to op­ti­mally ad­just the front and rear sta­bilis­ers.

BUT CAN IT 4x4?

Oh yes it can! If you want to drive your R1.3 mil­lion VX-R through rivers and over rocks.

In case you do, it has a trans­fer gear­box, so pukka low-range gear­ing. It has a multi-ter­rain select (MTS) system, it has dif­fer­en­tial lock­ers for the cen­tre and rear dif­fer­en­tials, and it has up to 230mm of claimed clear­ance.

The Toy­ota’s KDSS system also comes into play on a 4×4 track, and it can au­to­mat­i­cally dis­en­gage and ‘man­age’ the sta­biliser bars to in­crease ar­tic­u­la­tion, and to keep wheels in contact with the ground. And, when wheels are in contact with terra firma, for­ward mo­men­tum can be main­tained.

As if that’s not enough sor­cery, the 200 comes stan­dard with Toy­ota’s Crawl Trac­tion Con­trol system. One of the best off-road sys­tems in the game, Crawl man­ages the trac­tion con­trol to en­sure mo­men­tum at the driver’s cho­sen speed.

So, if you are in a tight spot, am­bling up rocks on the side of a moun­tain, you sim­ply ac­ti­vate Crawl, select a very slow speed, and aim the Cruiser – the 200 will do the rest. It works re­ally well, too.

SUM­MARY

In years gone past, Toy­ota’s Land Cruiser has been la­belled the ‘King of Africa.’ Af­ter driv­ing the 200 again, we were re­minded why it earned that ti­tle.

It’s not the pret­ti­est belle at the ball. Nor is it the fastest. Or the most modern, with all the gad­gets in the book.

But if there is one 4×4 that will take you to the tough­est place on Earth, and not only get you there, but also bring you back in su­perb com­fort, the 200 is it.

That said, if you are in­deed plan­ning on head­ing to such tough places, the ‘en­try-level’ 200 GX, sell­ing for R345 000 less than the VX-R (but with the same 195kW/650Nm V8), will be the bet­ter op­tion..

TOY­OTA LAND CRUISER V8 D-4D VX-R Engine: V8 tur­bod­iesel Dis­place­ment: 4 461cc Power: 195kW @ 3 400r/min Torque: 650Nm @ 1 600r/min Trans­mis­sion: Six-speed au­to­matic 4WD system: Per­ma­nent, with trans­fer case, lock­able cen­tre and rear dif­fer­en­tials 4WD...

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