Utilitarian and seriously capable
If you’re really passionate about rugged 4x4ing you’ll appreciate the Toyota Land Cruiser 70, but if you’re looking for something with which to pound the pavements of Centurion or Sandton, then read no further
The Land Cruiser 70 station wagon is an old school 4×4, conceived long before airbags and electronic driving aids became common place on SUVs. Just about the only concession to visual modernity are the polycarbonate covers for the rectangular headlights.
It also pre-dates cup-holders and – so it seems – ergonomics. It was designed to climb very steep things, cross very deep ditches and clamber over obstacles that will make lesser 4x4s cringe. It fulfils that brief admirably.
The Cruiser looks the part, too – all slab-sided sheet metal mounted on a high riding ladder-frame chassis. Aerodynamics clearly took a back seat and the grille and windscreen are both upright, and so is the vertically split tailgate, the wider portion of which carries the spare wheel.
What else can we say about the styling, save that it doesn’t in all honesty have any. Oh, it does have over-fenders, which increase the width by 100mm and add some muscularity to the looks.
Features and equipment
★ ★ ★
There isn’t an electronic driving aid in sight, but there are driver-engaged differential locks both front and rear. Solid axles (with off-set differentials to avoid middel-mannetjies) are attached to a beefy chassis similar to that of the Cruiser Pick-up, but in wagon form it is 335mm shorter overall and 450mm down between wheel centres.
A generous low-range reduction ratio confirms that it is designed for the most challenging off-road conditions. Front hubs, which lock automatically, enable the transition to 4×4 high-range on the fly. Sixteen-inch alloys are shod with 265/70 rubber.
It’s normally aspirated diesel power only if you want a Cruiser 70 wagon, and the 4,2-litre 1HZ engine develops a lazy 96 kW at 3800 r/min and 285 Nm of torque at 2200 r/min. Confirming its serious intent is a cyclonic air filter with additional pre-filtering. Brakes are ventilated discs at the front and drums at the rear with a load-sensing proportioning valve.
★ ★ ★
At first acquaintance the Land Cruiser’s cabin is so dated it’s almost startling. Exposed screwheads testify to its age and the look and feel is a throwback to the 1980s, when SUVs had a long flat facia panel stretching across the cabin from door to door, from which was hung – almost willy-nilly it seems in this case – equipment such as the air-conditioning controls, tuner/CD, wipe/wash for the rear glass, foglight switch, LED-type digital clock and the cigarette lighter.
Each component seems to have been added separately, giving the dashboard a slightly disjointed look and requiring some time at the wheel to familiarise yourself with the driving environment.
The seats are reasonably comfortable, if a little flat, but there’s a commanding view of the surroundings, both inside and out. There’s a large glass area and the narrow, upright roof pillars add to the panoramic effect.
The cloth on the seats and door panels looks slightly old-fashioned, suggesting the material might have been intended for a Cressida, circa 1988. The steering wheel is a little more modern, as are the instruments, which comprise a bold 180km/h speedo and fuel and engine temperature gauges.
Stalks for lights and wipers operate with typical Toyota weighting and precision, so no surprises there. Individual dashboard lights indicate the engagement condition of the differentials: the rear diff is engaged first and after that the front one can be brought into play – it is impossible to lock the front one without the rear being locked first.
A wide, unadorned transmission tunnel (apart from the two gear levers and the handbrake) separates the front seats. A lidded storage area acts as a rest for the driver’s and front passenger’s inner elbow.
The compartment has a distinctly utilitarian look and feel to it, as does the modestly sized but lockable glovebox, though both are reasonably sturdy in design.
The cabin has an airy ambience, which is a refreshing change from the sobriety that is a characteristic of many of the German brands. Small headrests (just two in the back) contribute to the sensation of openness, as does the light material on the doors and seats and the abundance of paintwork inside the door frames.
Rear accommodation is decent in terms of space but the seat itself is fairly thinly padded. It is also a one-piece affair, which limits loading flexibility, but the luggage compartment is generous in terms of sheer volume, with little intrusion from the wheel arches.
With 96 kW, the Land Cruiser isn’t going to be setting the world alight from the traffic lights, but when driven in the appropriate fashion it performs adequately for what it is.
It doesn’t like to be rushed through its five-speed manual ‘box but with deliberate, measured upshifts before the noise from the engine room becomes too strained (there’s no tachometer to tell you what revs it is doing) it’ll jog to 100 km/h in just over 20 seconds.
A fairly optimistic speedo flatters its performance and at the highway limit true speed is more like 110 km/h. It’ll manage a true 151 km/h when pushed, but is happier cruising between 110 and 115 km/h – a speed it maintains with relative ease. It seemed to suffer little ill-effect when laden.
Overtaking needs to be planned carefully, and 60 to 100 km/h in fourth gear takes the best part of 14 seconds, 80 to 120 km/h in the same gear requiring an additional three seconds.
But talking performance is fairly pointless, and drivers will have to accept that just about everything else on the roads, some bicycles included, will leave it behind.
Stopping suddenly is all down to the careful modulation of the driver’s right foot, but you can lean heavily on the pedal without the risk of lock up, as long as the initial pressure is judiciously applied. Still, it requires significantly longer distances to return to standstill than more modern offerings.
Economy was not a strong point, either, and cruising at a true 120 the Cruiser consumed more than 13 litres per 100km – quite heavy but not totally unexpected considered the dated engine design, brick-like shape and 2200kg kerb mass. A 90-litre fuel tank is some compensation.
Ride and handling
★ ★ ★
You’d think that a vehicle with live axles both front and rear would be unbearably uncomfortable but that’s not the case. The front is coil sprung and the rear rides on leaf springs, and Toyota has sacrificed ultimate load-carrying ability for comfort.
As long as the heavy wheels don’t drop suddenly into potholes, the ride quality is reasonably plush, aided by the tall sidewalls of the tyres. Steering is of the recirculating ball type and at the speeds of which the Cruiser 70 is capable, sufficiently accurate and responsive. A big turning circle can make parking a bit of a chore.
But in the off-road environment, it really comes into its own, and shines in a variety of conditions. It seldom needed either of its diff locks engaged on our standard Gerotek course, thanks to decent wheel travel all round. With the 2,295 low-range reduction ratio and a 22,4:1 compression ratio, the Cruiser proved able to crawl up or down almost anything, even if our measured ground clearance didn’t quite match Toyota’s 230mm claim.
★ ★ ★
It’s obvious that the Land Cruiser 70 wagon is targeting a particular kind of buyer – a niche within a niche if you like. That person is the truly hard-core off-roader who wants a simple and proven design and for whom a vinyl floor will be considered a plus point.
For them the price of R362 000 will be more than reasonable. Customers may include the likes of Eskom or Telkom, or indeed, United Nations peacekeepers.