Toyota Land Cruiser 70: Go off-road like it's 1984
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Off the beaten track in the latest Toyota Land Cruiser 70
In 1951, before everyone drove a ute, Toyota made the Land Cruiser.
The US Army, looking for a way to kiss and make up with the Japanese, asked Toyota to make it a light, reliable off-road vehicle -- and the Land Cruiser legend was born.
Fast-forward 66 years and we have the latest version of the Land Cruiser, the LC 70. It was originally created in 1984 and, by the look of it, not much has changed. The exterior is chunky with bits poking out everywhere and, with the steel tray on the back, the whole thing is just plain ugly.
Get inside and the timewarp continues. It has fabric seats with the same pattern that was in every Toyota of the 1980s and even has a cigarette lighter and ash tray. But then again, "if it ain't broken, why fix it?"
That is a philosophy that shows how much confidence Toyota has in the value of a brand. Where everyone else is going high tech and trying to appeal to the weekend off-road warrior, the Land Cruiser just quietly keeps doing what it has always done.
NZTA regulations did require Toyota to make a few changes, such as adding electronic stability control (ESC). New Land Cruiser owners, brace yourselves for the modern era, you now get a reversing camera and a touchscreen radio that even has those fancy FM stations. Whoa, slow down!
In regards to slowing down, when you drive on the road with this vehicle, that's probably the best way to go about it. It wobbles, it's hard to stop, the gear ratio is so low that you are in fifth by the time you are at 40km/h and the road noise is more than significant.
The turning circle is restrictive and you look like a right plonker driving it in the city.
But get it out of the city and off the road - where it was made to be - and you will struggle to find a vehicle, off the dealer's lot, that is better suited to being there.
Priced from $75,000, the LC70 series is definitely at the top end of working utes. You could buy a lesser ute, add big wheels and other upgrades, but you would still have just what you bought; a lesser ute - you would not have the pedigree of a Land Cruiser.
You won't see value for money in design or fashion sense, the value is in the name and the reliability that comes with it.
A large portion of that value is in the 4.5 litre turbo diesel V8 engine, the reason for that clunky bonnet.
But this is not a vehicle you buy for looks, you buy it for off-road performance. The engine produces maximum torque of 430Nm with 151kW of power, creating more than enough off-road grunt for wherever you find yourself driving.
That Land Cruiser badge comes with a preconceived notion that it can handle anything, so I didn't hold back. Light dew on the ground, which would have created some anxiety for other "sporty" utes, was not an issue for this transmission. In fact, there was a concern that "four wheel low" mode would not even be required.
Further along the track, steep slopes and boggy ground alongside streams started to feature. On the slopes there was limited wheel slip in four wheel high and none at all in four wheel low.
Should things get really tricky, the LC70 comes with manual front and rear locking differentials. If you find yourself well and truly stuck, it has a dashboard switch, which gives you the option to engage front or front/rear differential lock. You can use this to distribute power to get grip and get to safe ground. I found it a bit clunky to get the difs to lock, but with trial and error I got there.
The gear ratios, out of place on the road, are well crafted for getting the most out of the vehicle in all kinds of tricky terrain. Even the shifts seem honed to off-road driving as the gearstick is perfectly aligned to the driver, making gear changes simple and efficient.
The Land Cruiser is the ute that time forgot - and thankfully the people who made it decided not to get too hung up about driving it on the road. Luckily, given where you can drive this one, you won't need roads.
Land Cruiser 70 Series
The true benchmark of an off-road ute
Huge torque and a gear box that loves being in four wheel low
Quite possibly the ugliest ute made
Not the most enjoyable vehicle to drive on the road