LANDCRUISER 200 SERIES VX REVIEW
By STUART MARTIN
Price: $97,500 plus options and on-road costs
Engine/Trans: 200kW/650Nm 4.5-litre DOHC 32-valve twin-turbo intercooled direct-injection diesel V8 / 6-speed auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.9 l/100km combined
Construction: body on ladder frame chassis
Suspension: independent double wishbones, gas dampers, coil springs and hydro-mechanical semi-active anti-roll bar (KDSS); rear – live axle, trailing arms, four-link rigid coil suspension with Panhard rod, hydro-mechanical semi-active anti-roll bar (KDSS)
Towing: 750kg unbraked / 3500kg braked
Vehicle class: off-road passenger vehicle (MC)
The monarch of the dominant Toyota off-road range has had a nose job and a trip to the gym. The 200 Series LandCruiser is in a program to cut back its drinking too, packing a little more punch for reduced thirst.
The power plant beneath the resculpted snout – with new bonnet, bumpers, grille, new-look (bi-LED on the VX) headlights and revamped LED tail lights – now cranks out 200kW (up by 5kW) at 3600rpm and an unchanged 650Nm from 1600rpm.
New fuel injectors and revised engine mapping for the aurally-pleasant 4.5-litre DOHC 32-valve twin-turbo intercooled direct-injection diesel V8, which has also reduced emissions with the installation of a particle filter.
Real-world fuel use with city and low-range off-road work pushed the trip computer into the realm of 16 litres per 100km from the 138-litre fuel tank; Toyota claims the drinking has abated by 7.7 per cent to a combined-cycle fuel economy figure of 9.9 litres per 100km.
That’s on the thirsty side for a diesel, but about the best you’d get out of the gluttonous V8 petrol power plant even before you ventured off road or hitched up a big boat.
The VX turbodiesel’s six-speed auto offered the odd clunk and shunt but was largely smooth in operation, but cruising in sixth at the open road speed limit is an effortless lope.
Standard safety fare includes nine airbags, automatic bi-LED self-levelling headlights, LED daytime running lights, rain sensing wipers, stability, trailer sway and traction control, anti-lock brakes, hill-start assistance, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.
But you are paying for the high-riding privilege – a petrol VX asks $92,500 but the diesel here wears a $97,500 price tag, more than a top-spec Land Rover Discovery; given the Sahara is now a $118,500 proposition, the VX is almost the “value” buy.
Among the VX features list is powered reach and rake adjustment for the leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-trimmed seats for seven (petrol models seat 8), quad-zone climate control, 18-inch alloys, a bigger 9-inch touchscreen to control the nine-speaker infotainment system with satnav, digital radio reception, power-folding exterior mirrors, a sun roof, side steps, a cheap-looking fake woodgrain interior trim, a trip computer screen within the updated and clearer instrumentation and power-adjustable driver and front passenger seats.
The bigger touchscreen is easy and straightforward in operation but can quickly become difficult to read if smudged by dust and fingerprints and then hit with direct sunlight, something a deeper cowling would remedy.
The sliding middle row of the Prado is nowhere to be seen in the ‘Cruiser and makes the smaller sibling’s interior a little more versatile and flexible, but the spacious cabin is otherwise comfortable for five adults and tweens at the most in the third row.
When the third row is folded away there’s 700 litres of cargo space on offer (but sadly the third row can’t be easily removed), rising to 1276 if two up; with seven on board space is limited but still somewhat useful.
A snifter under five metres in length, almost two metres tall and very nearly the same in width, the 200 is far from svelte and tips the scales at a mammoth 2740kg.
The wheelbase of 2850mm hasn’t changed since the 100 Series so the extra length behind the rear wheels, but with a 32-degree approach and 24-degree departure angle and 230mm of clearance, it’s numbers back up several decades of off-road cred and assured ability.
From behind the wheel it can be imposing initially, and that’s from a 100-Series owner, but once in the 200 groove it can be easily hustled through traffic without apparent effort.
The conventionally-sprung kinetic design uses its semi-active anti-roll bars to allow the suspension to cosset occupants, dealing with bigger bumps better than smaller imperfections, but generally around town there’s no complaints about the ride.
The four-wheel 340mm front and 345mm rear ventilated disc brakes (four pot calipers up front and singles at the rear) have to work hard but appear up to the task and given the 3.5 tonne braked towing capacity you’d hope so.
But it’s on rough tracks where the 200 feels at ease, provided there’s enough width – deep sand (even at road pressures), rocks and ruts in the scrub looking out over the McLaren Vale winemaking district are all traversed without concern for underbody clearance and momentum is easily maintained.
Fast dirt roads can be traversed in a manner belying its size, although the steering is never going to be akin to an X5 for accuracy.
Changing over to low range is easier and less temperamental than the recently-driven Prado, but the “off-road cruise control” crawl control system is still unsubtle and lurches a little, where a driver with good throttle control can do better.
For serious low-speed crawling and steep descents it does need the electronic hill descent control system as the transmission’s tall first gear runs away a little.
The cameras fitted as standard to the Sahara might make wheel placement in tight terrain a little easier given the 200’s big dimensions.
A standard rear diff lock wouldn’t go astray, but good ground clearance and excellent suspension travel keep solid wheel contact in serious and slippery undulations.
As a package straight off the showroom the LandCruiser does it all with indifferent ease; add a couple of diff locks and decent off-road tyres and it’s difficult to imagine where this car could not reasonably go, but you are paying top-dollar for the chance to find out.