Cruiser trails the pack

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - MOTOR AUCTIONS - Stu­art Martin

LAMENT­ING the pass­ing of ye olde 4WDs is a favourite past-time – soft­road­ers that are more at­tuned to school runs than ridge climbs have been given a charisma by­pass.

Not so the Land­Cruiser, more specif­i­cally the 70-Se­ries (pic­tured) that’s more likely spot­ted in a mine car park (or down a mine) than on any school trip.

We’ve been thrown the keys to the new dual-cab GXL – $68,000 worth of square-jawed unapologet­ic truck that makes its 200 Se­ries sib­ling look a lit­tle pudgy and pasty. VALUE: If you’re a min­ing com­pany buy­ing them by the shipload then Toy­ota prob­a­bly makes it a very good deal, but if you saunter into a show­room and ante up, it’s $67,990. That’s en­try-level Dis­cov­ery 4, Mit­subishi Pa­jero or Jeep Grand Chero­kee money. If you need a rear tray you’d be con­sid­er­ing a num­ber of more com­pre­hen­sively equipped and re­cently re­leased models that are thou­sands of dol­lars cheaper.

The features list and cabin com­forts are some­what retro, be­yond the Blue­tooth-equipped head unit for the two-speaker sound sys­tem.

There’s cloth trim, a five-speed man­ual, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing, side steps, fog lights, power win­dows but man­u­ally ad­justable mir­rors, the Blue­tooth and USB au­dio link, Blue­tooth phone link (which is not great due to cabin noise and mi­cro­phone dis­tance), air in­take snorkel, front and rear diff locks, but air­con­di­tion­ing is an op­tional ex­tra. TECH­NOL­OGY: It might sup­ply the sound­track of a gruff and beefy truck but the Land­Cruiser ute’s V8 is not com­pletely ar­chaic – quad cams, ex­haust gas re­cir­cu­la­tion and a vari­able noz­zle tur­bocharger with in­ter­cooler and com­mon-rail di­rect­in­jec­tion feed the 4.5 litre diesel unit.

The re­sult is 151kW and 430Nm of torque – the same out­put that the old straight-six tur­bod­iesel of­fered and not quite the 195kW and 650Nm from the twin-turbo ver­sion of the same en­gine shov­ing the 200 Se­ries around. DE­SIGN: Well, util­i­tar­ian is one way to de­scribe it, func­tional, tall and un­mis­tak­able. The cabin is also mind­ful of his­tory and pays homage ac­cord­ingly – the front seats are more com­fort­able than ap­pear­ances sug­gest and there’s no short­age of for­ward vi­sion, although look­ing aft when the spare wheel is mounted ver­ti­cally in the tray is a lit­tle less en­light­en­ing. SAFETY: Not an area at the fore­front of the mind in the seg­ment, but it does now have dual front airbags and an­tilock brakes for the discs be­neath all four wheels, but there’s not much else. DRIV­ING: Any­one driv­ing a mod­ern 4WD might well start look­ing for a truck brand badge on the grille. This is one book that can be judged on its cover, as the Land­Cruiser ute is most cer­tainly re­sist­ing the 21st cen­tury.

You sit up high, typ­i­fy­ing the com­mand driv­ing po­si­tion, which also puts the snorkel close to your ear for the dragon-like breath­ing noise from the air in­take.

The re­cir­cu­lat­ing ball and nut steer­ing is pon­der­ous and vague, with a turn­ing cir­cle that makes a Collins class sub look nim­ble. The gear change is gruff and can’t be rushed and a re­laxed pace is re­quired, but get­ting some work done is what this beast is all about and it is well-suited to man­ual labour. Lock­ing in the man­ual front hubs would also be a nov­elty for mod­ern off-road­ers, but get­ting into the tougher ter­rain (and mak­ing use of 235mm of ground clear­ance, low range and the front and rear diff locks) was ef­fort­less, apart from the grumpy gear change not prov­ing ideal in heavy sand. VER­DICT: An ef­fec­tive work­horse but there are bet­ter-value and more ver­sa­tile of­fer­ings on the mar­ket.

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