When last have you spent some time on an isolated farm, a mine in central Africa or a 4×4 off-road course just outside of the city? I ask this because all three of those have one thing in common, they all have a Toyota Land Cruiser 70 series doing service on the property. It’s been around for generations, and is THE vehicle of choice for large corporates in isolated areas the world around. So important in fact that upcoming health and safety legislation on a worldwide mining group might send the engineers back to the drawing board on the Cruiser if they wish to keep the contracts.
So if it’s been around for such a while, why the ruckus? Well, due to demand from certain regions, the team in Japan have made some much needed improvements to the specification of the range, as well as the addition of a Double Cab unit. South Africans pick the comb out of your socks and rejoice!
Arriving for the launch at George, we were greeted by the entire range, including the new fourth member of the LC Team, the Double Cab. A single cab, station wagon, wagon (or ambulance as I termed it) and now double cab make up the range. Taking the route out towards the Karoo, I was expecting the typical “sports bra” ride, but was actually pleasantly surprised. Look, it’s no magic carpet ride, but the suspension (live axles front and rear, with coil springs at the front and leaf springs at the rear) isn’t as HUMVEE as you’d expect. There’s central locking, electric windows all round, Sat Nav (in DC & SW), stereo, air-conditioning and electric mirrors. The rear seats are a bit tight for adults and the bench is upright but nowhere as kak as the Defender.
We got to spend quite some time in the double cab, it was the unit I got to charge through a freshly opened, from 3 years of being closed, 1km off-road trail. A combination of typical undulating surfaces, ruts, axle twisters and then some rather serious river-bed climbing ensued. It seemed like Thor had cast down every rock from the top of the mountain to lay as challenge in our path. Awaiting a sidewall to slice open. Speaking of sidewalls, the DC comes standard with those UN spec steel wheels with inner tube (gasp). Spec the alloys, unless you want kids hanging out at your window waiting for food parcels or peace.
Our unit was the 4litre petrol producing 170kW at 5600RPM and 360NM at 3800RPM. I’ve done most of my off-road experience in diesel vehicles so was a bit worried about modulating throttle for torque in the petrol, but it impressed. (The DC also comes out with the perennial 4.2litre Diesel, that struggles a bit on road in my opinion. There’s more than enough torque but uphill you need to work the gearbox to keep speed) Some power was needed to maneuver the vehicle over some of the terrain but we got through most of it with very little wheelspin or needing to go back and try again. All models come standard with differential lock, five speed manual gearbox and four-wheel drive system with low-range transfer box. The ability of the petrol engine to keep the car from stalling when crawling over rocks in 1st and 2nd gear was very comforting. There was quite a bit of help needed in the riverbed to make sure I wasn’t clipping the rear, which at some points dragged, but front approach angle was never an issue. To say exceptionally capable off-road would be an understatement. Fuel consumption in the petrol suffered a bit during the rock-smacking but sadly a trip function wasn’t available, but I would guess “guzzling/100km” would be close enough.
Turning circle is good, but there is a vagueness about the steering that took a little time to get used to. Again, nothing that isn’t expected for what the vehicle’s purpose is and isn’t.
The DC came out a little worse for wear with some damage to the rear fender bars but was only a reflection of my aggressive driving. High ground clearance of 235mm meant with the right approach we made it over most obstacles with only a few knocks to the under-carriage. The toughness of driving a Cruiser is that when you do smack something down there on a rock, you know it’s just going to keep going. There’s no worry of some electronic gadgetary you’ve now crunched. I love the simplicity and utilitarian nature of these vehicles. This said, simple doesn’t have to mean cut down, as the range has had some significant upgrades.
- 4-Wheel disc brakes with ABS (which disengages when diffs are engaged) is now standard across the range
- Central locking standard
- Fuel tank size grows to 130 and 180 litres in some cases – giving even more ability for range into Africa.
- Twin front fog lamps for the Wagon
Note that the DC receives a 130litre tank but does not come standard with alloy wheels (As pictured, they are optional)
The DC 4litre Petrol starts at R463 900 and the DC Diesel at R487 000 (Full pricing
The 76 Station Wagon is the most specced out version, includes carpets, sat-nav, stereo with USB/Aux colour coded bumpers and alloy wheels. This model was by far the quietest and most pleasurable to drive on road for obvious reasons. That said, when we took the long way around to Prince Albert through the pass, it was the single cab with the 4litre petrol engine that really brought some smiles with that engine note and heaps of power up into the mountains.
As a side note, at some point during the trail the Wagon was pushed a little too far (no doubt due to driver error) and toppled over. It took close to two hours to rescue it, but I saw a Prado scale a rock-face I couldn’t walk up, and Afrikaans men do things Noah would be proud of. To top it off, she got put back on her feet, and after draining out some oil went right on to continue doing everything the rest of the fleet did. Only in a Toyota.
We ventured off the usual beaten track in the Karoo and Outeniqua area more times than I can remember, and the highlight was once again falling in love with how beautiful South Africa is. Take the road less travelled, just off the usual highways and safe routes and you end up seeing some of the most beautiful parts our country has to offer.
The legendary Land Cruiser will continue to do justice in some of the most desolate places in the world, and if I ever had to take anything up into Africa it would be one of these. The update of the Double Cab has already been well received by the demanding public. Overall, the vehicle now just further cements its place as a workhorse, with a never say die attitude unlike any other.
A legend trucks on.
*Not confirmed, but the V8Diesel for the Land Cruiser has been through rigorous testing here in SA and will make an appearance sometime in 2013.
The LC 70 series models come with Toyota’s 3year/100 000km warranty