Toyota LandCruiser 300-Series road test review

The Landcruiser 300 series.

Toby Hagon

Posted October 14, 2021


The 14-year wait for the LandCruiser 300-Series is finally over. Toby Hagon gets behind the wheel and under the hood to see if it was worth the wait. 

When the last new Toyota LandCruiser went on sale in 2007, the iPhone wasn’t available in Australia, John Howard was still our Prime Minister and Melbourne’s median house price was about $420,000.

Yep, it was a long time ago. New LandCruisers certainly don’t come along every day – or every decade.

That 200-Series LandCruiser of 14 years ago was big news, in part because it was bigger than ever and came with a big new V8 diesel engine.

Its replacement is only just arriving in Australia in the form of the 300-Series, an SUV that doesn’t mess with the template set by the 200-Series. The LC300 is still a big heavy wagon that rides on a truck-like ladder frame chassis with independent front suspension and a live rear axle. Low range gearing allows for slow-speed crawling over just about anything.

The LandCruiser is still designed to traverse almost every part of Australia. But there are significant changes.

Toyota has used aluminum panels for the doors, roof, and bonnet - part of putting the LandCruiser on a diet that’s shaved about 200kg from its still portly body, along with replacing the V8 engine with a V6.

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The LandCruiser 300-Series.
The LandCruiser 300-Series.
The LandCruiser 300-Series.
The LandCruiser 300-Series.
The LandCruiser 300-Series.

How much does it cost?

The price of entry into a new LandCruiser is almost $100,000, once on-road costs are added to the $89,990 list price.

For that, you’re getting the GX, which is basic motoring, albeit with auto braking, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto displayed on a 9.0-inch touchscreen. The wheels are skinny 17-inch steel units, there are no roof rails, no mirrors on the sunvisors, and it’s missing a few simple things such as blind spot warning (that is standard on all other LC300 variants).

But it does get a snorkel for driving through deep water, reinforcing the workhorse nature of the GX.

The first of the seven-seat variants is the GXL ($101,790 plus on-roads), which retains the same grey-on-grey of the GX, albeit without the snorkel. Plus, there are additional trinkets, including wireless phone charging, roof rails, alloy wheels and side steps. Vinyl floors have been replaced by carpet.

It’s not until the VX ($113,990) that there’s a sense of luxury in the LandCruiser. The touchscreen steps up to 12.3 inches, front seats are heated and ventilated and there’s even a CD player, although it takes up space otherwise used for storage at the base of the dash. There are also some finishes that look like wood and a higher grade of roof lining and carpet, all of which lifts the ambiance.

The Sahara ($131,190) chimes in with real leather, powered tailgate, electric-folding third-row seats, head-up display, along with heating and ventilation for the middle row seats. There are also rear TV screens and a 14-speaker JBL sound system.

The Sahara ZX ($138,790) shares the same basic list of gear but drops the seating capacity down to five in the quest for maximum occupant comfort. It also has a bolder front bumper and 20-inch wheels, each of which takes some gloss of off-road capability; it’s more Brighton than Birdsville.

If that’s your thing then the GR Sport ($137,790) is the ticket. Its focus is very much on off-road capability, albeit with styling tweaks and an improvement in on-road manners.

It does away with things such as the rear TV screens and replaces chrome with black highlights. Plus, the GR Sport adds more off-road hardware in the form of front and rear differential locks (adding to the centre diff lock on others) and e-KDSS, which denotes Electronic Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System.

How safe is it?

There are 10 airbags for side protection in all three rows (or two rows for five-seat variants) and frontal protection for those up front.

Toyota Safety Sense incorporates auto emergency braking (AEB), active cruise control, speed sign recognition and pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection.

All but the basic GX also get rear cross traffic alert and blind spot warning.

The latest LandCruiser hasn’t been ANCAP rated yet.

 

The LandCruiser 300-Series.
The LandCruiser 300-Series.
The LandCruiser 300-Series.

What’s it like inside?

In a word: big. Big once you’re inside, and big to get into.

Fortunately, there are well-placed grab handles forward of each door to help with launching yourself into it. Once there, the seats are snug and comfortable. The LC300 is made for big distances in a big country.

It can also carry plenty. Five-seat models – GX, Sahara ZX and GR Sport – get 1131 litres of luggage space. The seven-seaters – GXL, VX and Sahara – get slightly less (1004 litres) if you’ve got the third row folded into the floor. With all seven seats in play, there’s only 175L of cargo capacity.

The central touchscreen (9.0-inch in GX and GXL and 12.3-inch in all others) is positioned nice and high on the dash and there are big buttons and toggle switches below.

Most of the 4x4 buttons are clustered together between the gear selector and driver’s left leg, although the additional two diff locks in the GR Sport have been hidden under the dash closer to the steering wheel.

A broad-centre console swallows all manner of maps, bags and gadgets, and in the Sahara and GR Sport it doubles as a fridge.

It’s not all good news, though. The dual sunvisors that once allowed you to have one facing forward and one to the side – perfect for driving into the sun – have gone, with traditional shades in their place. The heads-up display doesn’t work properly with polarised sunglasses. And the volume buttons are inferior to a dial, a rare functionality miss-step.

Additionally, the split tailgate that was great as a temporary table or seat has been replaced by a single-piece raising boot.

What’s under the hood?

The new LC300 does away with the V8 engine that has been a LandCruiser staple for more than a decade. It’s a big call in V8-loving Australia, with Toyota instead adopting a new 3.3-litre twin-turbo V6 diesel.

With 227kW and 700Nm, it comfortably outpunches the old V8 (200kW/650Nm). Plus, with the turbos nestled within the vee of the engine - in turn reducing how far air has to travel - the time between pressing the throttle and getting meaningful thrust has been shortened.

It’s an impressively responsive engine, something that makes for easier driving around town and more relaxed country cruising. The enhanced predictability of the engine response also works well off-road for creeping over rocks or over holes.

The new 10-speed automatic is just as significant in the gains it provides to performance.

While it’s sometimes too eager to slot into taller gears – the electronic controls seem to be programmed for economy – when accelerating hard it keeps the engine high in its rev range.

We tested it up some decent hills with 2.9 tonnes of trailer out the back and it stormed up with little regard for the heft on board. The rated tow capacity is 3.5 tonnes, and it appears well suited to the task. Toyota has also improved the previously-paltry payload, allowing the LandCruiser to safely carry more people and gear.

While the performance benefits are less pronounced around town, the extra grunt makes a big difference on the open road.

 

The LandCruiser 300-Series.
The LandCruiser 300-Series.
The LandCruiser 300-Series.
The LandCruiser 300-Series.
The LandCruiser 300-Series.
The LandCruiser 300-Series.

Is it efficient?

When you’re moving 2.6 tonnes of diesel four-wheel drive, it’s always going to require a bit of energy.

Claimed fuel use is 8.9 litres per 100km, which is 6 per cent less than the old V8. That’s a modest gain given the technology at play and downsizing of the engine.

Still, it’s a respectable figure, although some around-town running and a freeway cruise had our car briefly showing closer to 10L/100km on the trip computer.

The official urban fuel figure – more representative of city driving – is 11.3L/100km.

It’s a lot easier to use more than that if you’re towing or driving off-road, both of which work the engine harder.

As for CO2 emissions, the average figure is claimed at 235 grams per kilometre.

How does it drive?

All that LandCruiser bigness makes itself known on the road. There’s a big bonnet bulging out front and plenty of weight to muscle around.

It’s a sizeable wagon to manoeuvre around town, although cameras and parking sensors help. The steering is also light and powerful brakes mask much of the momentum.

One of the big goals with the new LandCruiser was to improve ease of driving. Steering is now more consistent through its arc, so there’s less correcting on the run, although the lane centring system is occasionally too aggressive in tugging the car back onto its line if you wander in the lane. Fortunately, it can be turned off.

The steering has a deadness to it in a corner.

And there’s notable lean – more pronounced on quick direction changes in a bend. The e-KDSS suspension of the GR Sport does a great job of containing a lot of that, although it’s a shame it doesn’t spread to other variants.

The focus on comfort continues with noise levels. The LandCruiser is among the quietest cars on the road, the way it shields from unwanted wind and tyre noise creating a terrific cabin serenity.

Cruising at 100km/h is a reminder of the hardware beneath, though.

But LandCruisers are designed to get dirty, and it’s in rough terrain that its talents stand out. There’s ample ground clearance, only the side steps occasionally meet rock. Excellent wheel articulation also ensures the suspension moulds around holes or rocks.

The traction control is nicely calibrated and much quieter than previously, diverting power to the wheels with traction as it fends off wheelspin. On all but the GX, a multi-terrain select dial allows those electronics to be tailored to the terrain, subtly adjusting the level of slip; more in sand, for example, less over rocks.

The GR Sport’s triple locking differential makes for supreme and effortless hill climbing. We trialled it on a particularly challenging ascent and it didn’t look like slipping even slightly. All LandCruiser are remarkably capable four-wheel drives that make challenging terrain easier than it should be. The GR Sport steps ramps that up further.

 

The LandCruiser 300-Series.

The LandCruiser 300-Series.


 

Should I buy one?

The LandCruiser 300-Series is not for everyone. But for those it’s aimed at – families, adventurers, fleets, governments and grey nomads - it’s a form of flawed perfection.

LandCruiser owners will love the improvements, particularly with the engine. It may not be a V8 but the new V6’s performance trounces the old V8. And it delivers a near-unbeatable blend of off-road comfort and on-road comfort in a package that history suggests will go for many hundreds of thousands of kilometres without trouble.

But it’s ultimately a car that needs to be driven out of town to appreciate the capability that is core to its DNA.

While many LandCruisers will no doubt tackle the school run, they’ll do it way out of their comfort zone – unless your school is in the Flinders Ranges or The Kimberley.

The biggest challenge buyers could face will be getting a hold of one. Production delays due to a global semiconductor shortage mean anyone slapping down money on the all-new model look set to be waiting well into 2022 to take delivery.

 

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