IT’S BEEN AROUND FOR A GOOD WHILE NOW, BUT THE CORE VALUES OF THE LAND CRUISER 200 REMAIN UNDIMINISHED.
IT’S ALMOST 10 years to the day since the 200 Series arrived in Australia to replace the 100 Series, ending the 100’s nine-year run as Toyota’s premier 4x4. In the ensuing 10 years the 200 has changed remarkably little, save for the introduction of the work-spec GX diesel in 2011, a new-generation V8 petrol engine in 2012, and, more recently, a front-end styling refresh and emissions compliance changes for the diesel engine in 2015.
These compliance changes (to meet Euro 5) amount to a new common rail fuel-injection system complete with fastswitching piezo injectors, which replace the electromagnetic injectors used previously, and the addition of a diesel particulate filter. As well as meeting Euro 5 and lowering the ADR fuel use, maximum power edged up 5kw to 200kw; although, maximum torque remained at 650Nm.
The fact the 200 has changed so little and is now into its 11th year is testament to the soundness of the original design. However, a new Cruiser is close – perhaps very close – but we aren’t exactly sure when it will arrive.
POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE
THE 200’s diesel V8 is a world apart from the two four-cylinder engines here in the way it sounds, the way it feels and the way it goes about its business.
Despite being quieter than it was before the 2015 compliance update, this is still a gruff, noisy and ‘truck-like’ engine compared to both fours, especially the Discovery’s. But that’s one of the few negative things – aside from its thirst – you can say about the big twin-turbo V8.
The engine never needs to rev and does the job without fuss or effort thanks in part to the fact it’s already producing a substantial 650Nm at just 1600rpm – that’s 200Nm more than the Prado and 150Nm more than the Discovery. Better still, that 650Nm remains undiminished for the next 1000rpm, which gives a low and middle rpm flexibility that the two fours simply can’t match.
The only thing that prevents the V8 having complete and utter performance dominance in this company is the extra 500kg or so that it has to deal with compared to the work asked of the two fours. Carrying all that extra weight is also the prime reason why the 200 trails the field here in fuel economy. Our test saw it use 25 per cent more fuel than the Prado and 33 per cent more than the thrifty Discovery.
The six-speed gearbox offers smooth and well-timed shifts, without being as polished or proactive as the Discovery’s ZF eight-speed.
ON-ROAD RIDE AND HANDLING
MORE than anything else, the 200’s extra bulk defines what it does in this company in terms of its on-road dynamics – it feels bigger, bulkier and ultimately more cumbersome in the tight
The 200 is the most comfortable and smoothest-riding of the three here on rough trails
stuff than the other two. Thankfully our test GXL was fitted with the optional KDSS, which tidies up the on-road handing considerably and is well worth the extra cost even if you never take your 200 off-road.
The flipside of the 200’s steady-as-she-goes dynamics is that it’s very comfortable and quiet at speed on poor roads, sealed or not. There is, like the Prado, some bump-steer from the rear live axle, but this is something probably made more obvious by driving it in the company of the Discovery with its fully independent suspension.
Of the three, the 200 offers the smoothest ride, which helps make it a very relaxed and accomplished long-distance tourer.
THE 200’s supple long-travel suspension is also the key behind its formidable off-road performance. With its optional KDSS, the wheel travel is even better than a standard GXL, so gnarly and rutted trails present no obstacle to the 200. Also impressive is the 200’s Crawl Control, which has an uncanny ability to ‘extract’ the 200 from situations where it otherwise seems stranded.
The 200 is the most comfortable and smoothest-riding of the three here on rough trails, especially relative to the Discovery which loses much of its compliance when its suspension is jacked up.
Surprisingly for a vehicle that’s so heavy the 200 works well on sand but, like the Prado, you can only deactivate the stability control after the traction control has been cancelled.
CABIN, ACCOMMODATION AND SAFETY
THE 200 has the most spacious cabin here and is the only one to seat eight. Up front it offers a very comfortable driving position complete with tilt-and-reach steering wheel adjustment. The cabin detailing is first class, and the most recent revision that sees all off-road controls grouped – rather than being in various places on the dash – is most welcome.
The 200’s second-row seat is best here for three adults; although, the third-row seat isn’t as spacious as the Discovery’s, even if it can legally seat three rather than two. However, the 200 has the biggest luggage space here. All 200s offer five-star ANCAP safety but, as with the Prado, only the top-spec model – in this case the Sahara – has advanced safety features.
THERE’S very little not to like about the 200 in terms of practicality, not least being the vast array of aftermarket enhancements on offer, the back-up of Australia’s biggest dealer network, the 285/65R17 wheel and tyre package, and its 3500kg towing capacity. The 200’s big and torquey V8 is also ideal for towing. Surprisingly, it has the smallest payload here (due to its considerable kerb weight eating into the GVM) and less fuel capacity than the Prado.