Toyota Land Cruiser 300 GR Sport review: the biggest GR yet
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Toyota Land Cruiser 300 GR Sport
- Extremely spacious
- Heaps of torque
- Nice interior
- Infotainment system feels dated
- Red leather in GR model is a bit much
- A Land Rover Defender is cheaper
When it comes to off-road icons, you’ve got three main players from around the globe. In Germany there’s the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, England has the Land Rover Defender, and last but not least, there’s Japan’s Toyota Land Cruiser. Starting from humble beginnings, both European-built vehicles have slowly transformed into expensive luxury SUVs (especially in the case of the Merc) but have retained their iconic off-road ability. So has Toyota followed suit with this new Land Cruiser 300? Yes, and undoubtedly yes.
In New Zealand, the Land Cruiser is available in three guises, starting with the VX at $124,990. Moving up to $138,990 will get you into the VX Limited, and the range tops out with the GR Sport at $144,990. The latter is what DRIVEN spent our time with, and while it might look like a very expensive Toyota on paper; it’s a fantastic on and off-road machine.
A 3.3-litre twin-turbo diesel V6 engine is standard across the Land Cruiser 300 range, and while there might be complaints about the lack of a V8 option, this six-banger is better in almost every single way. Power is up to 227kW from the V8’s 200kW, and it gets 700Nm, which is 50Nm more than the V8. I’d argue that the only downside of this lighter power plant is the lack of V8 rumble, but most songs sound better than a diesel, anyway.
Power is sent to all four wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission, and it will hit 100km/h in around eight seconds. While this isn’t exactly game-changing in an off-road segment with V8-powered Defenders and G63s, the sheer shunt of that 700Nm makes the Land Cruiser feel a lot quicker than what the stopwatch reads.
At this point, you might be wondering why the model we tested was called a ‘GR Sport’ if it doesn’t feature any powertrain changes. The truth is that the changes lie beneath the Land Cruiser, where it gets front and rear locking differentials, and a fancy Electronic Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (E-KDSS).
This system works by automatically and independently adjusting the sway bars according to the terrain within each corner. It’s meant to keep the SUV more stable throughout corners, whilst on and off-road, and is something that we found to be quite useful.
On the inside, the Land Cruiser is more luxurious than ever, and the GR Sport model adds a bit of red leather spice for good measure. For what you pay, the infotainment system feels a little dated, and is very similar to what you’d find in a RAV4. Apple Carplay and Android auto are both standard, which makes things easier to use.
For our time with the Land Cruiser, DRIVEN racked up some decent mileage, through a trip down to Hamilton, a trip down to Taupo, and an off-road escapade in West Auckland. On the road, the Land Cruiser feels very planted, but seems to wander within the lane, and the Lane Keep Assist system doesn’t help this. At first, the constant steering adjustments are an annoyance, but will become something drivers will do without noticing.
So we know that the Land Cruiser is good on the road, but there aren’t any surprises there. How does it handle in the rough stuff? Fantastically is the answer.
To test its off-road chops, we headed out to the Auckland Off-road Adventure Park in Woodhill forest, where it was met with a lot of loose sand going up and down hills. Bumpy trails were handled with ease by the E-KDSS, and you wouldn’t believe that it was a 2.6-tonne off-roader by the way it bounced over the sand mounds.
Above all else, the fact that this GR Sport has both front and rear diff lockers is what give it its true off-road chops. We found these to be particularly useful when the Suzuki Jimny that we were exploring with got bogged whilst attempting a climb. Unfortunately for the little Jimny, this hill was our only route out, so I backed the Land Cruiser back down the hill, and hooked up a recovery strap to the tow hooks. Considering it was my first off-road recovery, I was skeptical of success, but thankfully the Land Cruiser was anything but. With low-range gearing selected and both diffs locked, I eased on the throttle, and the Jimny was hauled up the sandy hill to freedom with barely a peep from the Toyota.
If hauling another (admittedly smaller) off-roader up a loose sandy hill isn’t a perfect display of Land Cruiser ability, I don’t know what is. From being able to gather traction in the loose sand to having enough torque to haul another SUV up a hill – it’s very impressive stuff in my opinion.
As a whole, the Land Cruiser 300 is exactly what it should be – a dependable off-roader than can not only haul a 3.5-tonne boat, but also look right at home on the daily school run. It’s as capable as it is spacious, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better all-round off-roader for the money.
Obviously, if you’re in the market for a circa $130,000 off-road SUV, you’ll be aware of the similar-sized Land Rover Defender. Although the Toyota doesn’t hold a candle to the luxurious nature of the Land Rover, there’s a reason why these Land Cruisers have a reputation of being reliable, and buyers would most likely reap the rewards a few years down the track.
2022 Toyota Land Cruiser GR Sport
ENGINE: 3.3-litre twin-turbo diesel
GEARBOX: 10-speed automatic, AWD