With a new V8 oilburner under the bonnet, Toyota’s old-school 70-Series Cruiser doesn’t seem quite so old-school anymore. But how exactly has the new powerplant altered the nature of Toyota’s legendary beast?
R568 300. Let us take a moment to consider that figure. As you’ve undoubtedly guessed, that is the price of the V8 double cab Cruiser, and for a no-frills old-school bakkie, that is a rather staggering sticker price.
Truth be told, though, the Cruiser – especially when it has the V8 lurking beneath its bonnet – isn’t quite as old-school as it once was. So, does that mean that the price is justifiable?
Features and equipment ***
Let us begin with the vehicle’s biggest claim to fame: that new V8 engine. It is undoubtedly a wonderful thing. It doesn’t bequeath the Cruiser with blistering speed, but considering its blocky design and off-road underpinnings, that’s a good thing. This is not a vehicle designed to hurtle down highways. Instead, the V8 provides it with just the right amount of oomph to prevent it from feeling lethargic, but still limit it to speeds that the rest of the vehicle can keep up with. The engine has been tuned to generate a rather mild 151 kW of power and 430 Nm of torque, and this relatively low state of tune bodes well for the reliability of the mill.
For those used to the sluggish 4,2-litre naturally-aspirated diesel mill, driving the new V8 will be a fantastic experience. Getting it up to highway speeds doesn’t take long, and overtaking is also an effortless process. In fact, you’ll rarely need to shift down from fifth gear when accelerating on the open road. Even at 120 km/h, the Cruiser picks up speed remarkably quickly when you push down on the accelerator.
As this willingness to accelerate in fifth gear suggests, though, the gearbox could have done with another cog. At 120 km/h, the engine runs at around 2600 r/min, so an extra gear would have been a nice addition, if only to help lessen fuel consumption.
For the most part, the V8 boasts the same rugged equipment as the other models in the 70-Series range. It also makes use of leaf springs at the back, a selectable 4WD system with low-range transfer case and diff locks on both axles.
What are missing, however, are the fatter tyres and alloy rims that come with the single cab models, as well as the duel fuel tanks that can accommodate 180 litres of fuel. The V8 diesel – like all double cab models – run on 7.50R16-8(E)5.50F tyres with steel rims, and has a single tank that can take 130 litres of fuel.
Curiously, the front hubs of the V8 diesel have to be locked manually, so it is especially important when driving this vehicle to remember to lock the front hubs before you get stuck in the mud, rather than after, otherwise you’ll have to wade into the muck to lock those hubs.
The cabin of the Cruiser remains as Spartan as ever. For a vehicle with a price of R568 000, the Cruiser’s interior is actually depressingly austere. At first glance, it looks at least two decades old. The seats are covered in drab grey material and everything else is covered in hard plastics.
Take a closer look, though, and you realise that some mod-cons have made it into the cabin.
There is an air conditioner, a couple of airbags and an entertainment system with a touch-screen.
But there is no denying that the Cruiser’s cabin is lacking in the comfort department. With double cab bakkies such as the VW Amarok and Ford Ranger becoming increasingly SUV-like in nature, the basic and out-dated nature of the Cruiser’s cabin is now more evident than ever.
Of course, the Cruiser 79 isn’t sold on its cabin comfort, and anyone interested in the vehicle will realise that its inherent appeal has nothing to do with the features and finishes of its cabin, but still, one can be forgiven for demanding more from a vehicle that costs well above R500 000.
And what about the second row of seating? It isn’t bad. Once inside, an adult can sit in the back fairly comfortably, but thanks to the ride height and narrow doors, getting in and out can be tricky.
Performance and handling ***
As mentioned above, the V8 oilburner performs very well on tar, and makes the diesel Cruiser 79 easier to live with than ever. Where the old 4,2-litre diesel mill would suffer when faced with an incline, forcing you to shift down a couple of gears, the V8 barely notices a hill.
There is a lot of mid-range torque, meaning that you seldom need to shift down when in fifth gear, even when dealing with a hill or overtaking.
According to the spec sheet, peak torque is generated from 1200 – 3200 r/min, though we felt that it was happiest from around 1500 r/min. We found ourselves swopping cogs at around 1500 r/min, arriving in fifth gear very quickly.
As we’ve also mentioned, we couldn’t help but feel that there was a need for a sixth gear for highway cruising. But what is a Cruiser bakkie for if not for transporting heavy loads? The gearing should suit the engine well when the Cruiser is heavily loaded.
While the engine has improved the performance of the Cruiser 79 considerably, the ride quality and handling is as, well, “compromised” as ever. The Cruiser 79 is a workhorse, and as such, it hasn’t been designed with tight handling and impressive occupant comfort in mind. You can hear that diesel mill clattering away when inside the cabin and the ride gets very bumpy on uneven roads. With its high ride height, solid axles and narrow wheels, it also doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in corners.
Take the Cruiser off road, however, and everything changes. Suddenly the Cruiser is in its ideal environment. Sure, ride comfort is still pretty bad, but with 4WD engaged, it feels very solid and stable on a gravel road. In fact, few modern double cab bakkies feel as stable and surefooted on a bad gravel track. Moreover, the bakkie feels indestructible, as if it could take that sort of gravel punishment for decades.
Trail capability ****
By now the 4×4 ability of the Cruiser 79 has been well established. If possible, the new V8 ups the Cruiser’s off-road ability even further. With loads of low-down torque, it can idle up steep inclines without hassle. Head downhill, and the there’s enough engine compression in first gear to keep it travelling at a manageable pace.
Of course, the V8 also boasts all those other Cruiser off-road attributes, such as good ground clearance and diff locks on both axles.
The Cruiser’s Achilles heel, though, is its lack of manoeuvrability. Not only is it very long, but it also has a horrendous turning circle. This obviously makes it tough to manoeuvre on a tight trail.
While the bakkie is very capable off road, it isn’t a trail vehicle. It is a workhorse that can handle just about any terrain.
Overlanding suitability **
Does the V8 Cruiser make sense as an overland vehicle? It certainly seems so, but there is a problem: the V8 oilburner needs 50ppm diesel. The old 4,2-litre diesel engine is renowned for its ability to run on just about anything, but the V8 needs the clean stuff.
This is hardly surprising, since the new engine is far more technologically advanced. Better performance requires a more sophisticated engine, and a sophisticated engine needs cleaner fuel.
Namibia is finally getting 50ppm diesel, but the other countries north of our border still make due with dirtier diesel. This means that you are rather limited in terms of where you can actually venture with a V8 Cruiser, unless you want to carry all your diesel with you.
Take the Cruiser’s fuel requirement out of the equation, and it is a fantastic overlander. It does excellent work in the rough stuff, and that powerful engine makes cruising on the open road easy enough.
Unless you can get your hands on 50ppm diesel, the V8 Cruiser simply isn’t a practical buy. That means that some of the core buyers, such as overlanders and rural farmers, won’t be able to purchase the V8.
Luckily, though, there is an alternative. Actually, there are three. That lethargic yet bulletproof 1HZ engine is still available. If you plan on travelling all the way to Cairo, that’s the one to opt for.
If you want something with more oomph, well, then you can opt for the V6 petrol version. Yes, it will be thirstier, but it’s about R80 000 cheaper than the V8, so that goes some way towards covering fuel costs.
If you have your heart set on a turbodiesel, the Hilux remains a solid buy. It’s not as hardcore as the Cruiser, but it can handle just about any overland journey, and can be topped up with 500ppm diesel.
Of course, your options don’t end there, either. You could also for a Fortuner or FJ Cruiser, and have a substantial wad of cash left for aftermarket accessories, or you could opt for a (slightly) used Prado.
The new V8 engine is lovely. It is far more refined than the old 4,2-litre mill, and provides the Cruiser with loads of power and torque. That said, the V8 Cruiser is very expensive, especially if you consider how basic it is.
For hardcore Cruiser fans, the V8 will be a must-have. For everyone else, there are more sensible options available. And you don’t even need to leave the Toyota showroom to find them.
LAND CRUISER 79 D/C V8 DIESEL
Engine type Eight-cylinder, V-type, turbodiesel
Valvetrain 32-valve, DOHC
Bore x stroke 9 86 mm x 96 mm
Max Power 151 kW @ 3400 r/min
Max torque 430 Nm @ 1200 r/min
Fuel system Common-rail diesel with turbocharger
Chassis and Body
Layout Front engine with selectable four-wheel drive
Frame Ladder frame
Brakes: Front Discs
Brakes: Rear Discs
Wheels 16-inch steel
Tyres 7.50R16-8(E) 5.50F
Spare tyre Yes
Steering Power assisted
Turning circle 7,2m (radius)
Suspension: Front Rigid live axle, coil spring
Suspension: Rear Rigid axle, leaf spring
Transmission type Five-speed manual
Traction/stability control No
Limited slip diff No
Differential lock Yes (Front and rear)
Full-time 4WD No
Curb weight 2295kg
Top Speed Not quoted
Overall fuel consumption 13, 9 l/100 km
Fuel tank size 130 litres
Estimated tank range 935km
Approach angle 33
Departure angle 27
Ground clearance 235mm
Wading depth 700mm