Allow me to set a scene for you; a prestigious banquet or high-profile wedding at any of the five-stars in Colombo. The full buffet of luxury cars and SUVs filter in and out, with immaculately-dressed, manicured and pedicured guests alighting from them. And then you turn up in the vehicle you see on these pages, wheel arches ringed with mud splatter and engine clattering away, announcing your arrival. You park under the porch, get down from the driver’s seat presenting your perfectly-shone shoes upon the side step, button up the jacket on your tailored suit and toss the keys to the incredulous valet who wonders why whatever deity he worships decided to play a cruel joke on him…
If I were invited to a high-profile wedding or glamorous banquet, I’d be tempted to borrow this vehicle from the kindly sailor gent who owns it and enact the above scenario, just for the sheer mind-boggling value. There will no doubt be a small percentage in attendance that will recognize a Land Cruiser for what it is. However, the majority of guests will have the cogs in their mind grinding together, trying to figure out why a well-dressed gent alights from such a dirty and old-looking vehicle.
I am not going to go into the history of the Land Cruiser, much less the 70 series as it would require the entire Motor Magazine to do so, and we would have to re-name the magazine. Suffice to say, the 70 series entered production in 1984 and is still parallel produced in some forms along with the newer models to this date. Why? Because it’s a darn good off-roader, that’s why. While its arch nemesis the Land Rover Defender waved goodbye to the world in 2017 (with a new one slated for a 2020 release), the 70-series remains a dinosaur from the twentieth century, a veritable oddball among today’s myriad of electronically-pampered, sculpted and digitalized young’uns. So can it square up?
Why five stars? Because I like it, that’s why. Seriously, can you look at this vehicle and say anything majorly negative about it? Square sides, a butch stance and high ground clearance all come standard, along with some updates like electric mirrors, halogen headlamps and foglamps. The wheels are 265/70R16s with a very classic steelie-looking rim.
The rear is its least flattering angle where you could mistake it for a Toyota Dyna Crew Cab straight on. Otherwise, it’s the business. Snorkel for wading into rivers? Check. Long bonnet hinting at a large engine? Check. Straight sides and “wheels out” stance; you can see the rear wheels in the mirrors? Check.
Mech & Tech
If we were to look at this purely from an off-roading stance, it would be five stars. It’s sheer uncomplicated, mechanical nature means that should anything go awry, the average bush mechanic can even turn a toothpick into a fix!
However we have to look at the bigger picture and it’s here where the 4.2L 12-valve in-line six with indirect injection and natural aspiration is a dinosaur. It puts out just 129bhp at 3,800rpm and 285Nm of twist at 2,200rpm. Neither are earth-shattering. Other markets get more high-tech engine options, including a 4.5L V8 turbo diesel and a 4.0L VVT-i petrol V6 on offer.
This engine was developed for just two applications, the Land Cruiser and the Coaster bus. It drives through a five-speed manual gearbox and part-time four wheel drive. Everything is more or less manual here, with the 2H/4H/4L selected through a second gear stick, and manually locking hubs. Only the diff locks are button actuated. Steering is via a power-assisted rack and braking is via disk at the front and drum at the rear.
A commanding driving position is the order of the day here. Everything falls to hand easily and you twist a key to fire up the dinosaur. Dip the light clutch, select first on the long-travel gear lever and away you go! The engine has enough torque at idle to get moving on a flat surface easily without any throttle input. Quickly I learn that the engine’s sweet spot for acceleration is around 1,500-2,500rpm, beyond which it sounds loud, strained and no point trying to hit that 4,000rpm redline. I also learned that first gear is very short, and need to drive it “one gear higher” than the manual petrol car I daily drive. Pulling away from a stop in second and shifting into fifth by 60km/h are the best way to drive it. The gear lever, while long throw is quite light, so I was snicking the third-to-fourth shift with my pinkie just for the heck of it!
The Landcruiser remains impressively planted up to around 80km/h, beyond which you can feel it wandering a bit with the road, requiring constant light steering inputs. I didn’t venture on the highway, but the owner has taken it to 100km/h there and says it behaves fine on the smooth and level tarmac. Mind you, it takes 18 seconds from rest to reach the km/h ton.
Braking is there when you need it, albeit needs a heftier than average push on the pedal. Don’t treat it like the latest 2018 cars with all-round disks and electronic braking tech; leave some space in front for planning your braking, old-school!
The handling is obviously a comfort set-up, feels all plush and floaty but the Landcruiser can handle some cornering at speed, exhibiting body roll but not feeling like it’s going to tip over. However, with 4 turns lock-to-lock and relatively slow steering, you will be doing quite a bit of arm twirling. The off-road hardware also means that the turning circle is quite large, meaning that what could be a U-turn in a car or road-biased SUV becomes a three-pointer in the Landcruiser. Of course if there is only a kerb in front, simply climb it and complete the U-turn as I did several times.
Let’s go to the Landcruiser’s natural habitat; off road. This was my first foray at off-road driving and, needless to say, I got stuck in the mud. With instruction from the others I was able unstick it easily after I had selected 4L, locked the diffs and alighted into shin-deep mud to manually lock the hubs. Learnt a fair bit about off-roading that day, and also attire, namely that shorts and slippers rather than jeans and hiking boots would have been a better bet. Thanks, Nimal and Jaikishen for the lessons! While I look like the mud-plugging noob that I am, the Landcruiser is still getting out of bed. In experienced hands, this vehicle would be nearly unstoppable cross-country.
Living with it
The cabin has been mildly spruced up since the eighties, with round AC vents, a redesigned gauge cluster, a modern Toyota double-DIN radio/CD/USB/AUX stereo system that drives through two speakers and sounds suitably 80s-ish too, power windows, central locking and power mirrors. The seats are fairly supportive at the front and simply covered in grey cloth while the floormats are rubberized and it all lives up to the “hose it out once done” ethos.
If you step into the rear seat of this after getting out of a Defender, the Landcruiser will feel positively limo-like in space. Adults can fit behind their own driving position comfortably, feet nestled under the front seat if desired. The rear seat is a single bench with minimal bolstering and no arm-rest though. There’s a rear heater control, but no AC vents for rear passengers. Nevertheless, the AC chills the cabin with a purpose; making it impressively cold. You get a single 12V port (cigarette lighter port with the lighter too!) and an ashtray, plus some cupholders up front that clearly weren’t part of the original design but feel sturdy like the rest of the vehicle.
This is a utility vehicle, not a plush family transport and it shows. You won’t find head-rest TVs here (unless you fit them aftermarket), nor will you find USB charging ports and ISOFIX mountings. It’s not for taking screaming babies, rather for taking anyone from 10 to 80+ years of age who enjoys the “out and about” life. Luggage, well, it’s a pick-up truck and hence exposed to the elements and opportunistic thieves unless you fit an aftermarket lockable bed cover. The spare wheel also lives in the bed. If you travel solo or as a couple, you can use the rear seats for luggage and they fold flat to help with this.
First off, this thing is built like a tank. Fellow tester Avinda D. Perera has a 70-series in his family and has regaled me with stories of its encounters with wayward trishaws and light poles and suffices to say, those objects have always come out worse off with nary a dent on the Landcruiser. Even when closing the doors you can’t be light; a decent slam is required.
Toyota have now fitted driver and passenger airbags, ABS and remote central locking. They also have fitted an anti-theft deterrent system that is very effective in the United States and will soon be as effective in Sri Lanka; The Manual Transmission.
However if you happen to be in a bad crash there is plenty of glass and metal in the cabin apart from the plastics, so your best bet is to drive it smoothly and at a moderate pace rather than try to emulate Sebastien Ogier’s World Rally Championship title winning heroics…
Fuel Economy & Price
In a vehicle packing an engine that is also found in a medium-sized bus, it’s no point talking about fuel economy. The owner doesn’t track it either, and you don’t have trick infotainment systems to tell you the real-time and average stats or coach you how to drive economically. For academic sake, 5-6km/l would be reasonable in a mixed cycle. The official specs are 13 litres per 100km which works out to 7.7km/l. Of course with a 130L tank, you can go quite far…
The price of this vehicle at the time of purchase was Rs. 10.8 million from Toyota Lanka without a permit, of course a huge chunk of that was duty for the 4200cc engine. This is a tricky price bracket as there’s a fair bit – new and used – that you can get for this money with more power, more tech and 75% of the off-road capability. So who will buy it? Read on…
When doing this test, I Whatsapped some pictures to Avinda who I knew would have enjoyed it immensely had he not been overseas at the time. His response (verbatim) was “Oooohhh! So jelly (jealous)…If I had the money, the only vehicle I’d want for the next 30 years”.
That alone speaks volumes for why those who know what it is, hold it in such reverence. This is not a mass-market vehicle to appeal to a wide audience, nor is it something to be bought “because it’s a Toyota and it’s in our budget”. This is a niche market vehicle that, unless you are buying it for the purpose, you will totally miss the point of it. My first taste of off-road driving planted a seed that I know will germinate at some stage in the future and I shall most likely look for some variant of Landcruiser when it does. Not for daily driving, but weekend fun.
Where can you get it from? Toyota Lanka is your port of call. You won’t find it at grey importers (maybe because most of them are more interested in selling “Vessel Gold Badge” and “Scoop Light Allion” with “Allow” Wheels, Leather “Sheets” and W*nker Mirrors). This vehicle was purchased from Toyota Lanka, who will bring it to order so you have some scope for customization too. I heard that TL no longer brings down the 4.2L engine, so you can get the 4.5L V8 turbodiesel instead!
4,164cc, in-line six
Diesel, indirect injection
129bhp @ 3,800rpm
285Nm @ 2,200rpm
Manual hub locks
Electric diff locks
Front Live axle
Rear Live axle
Wheels & Tyres
265/70R16 all round
0-100km/h in 18s
Top speed 140km/h
Kerb Weight 2,280kg
Fuel Tank 130L