Some say that life begins at 40, or was it 30? Or was it neither? Anyway, one could argue that for the Toyota Land Cruiser, life could very well begin at 70. Yes it’s hard to believe Toyota’s go-anywhere warrior has been with us for over seven decades. During that time, both here and aboard, those who love the rough stuff and towing just about anything they can get their hands on would seldom drive anything else.
However, the new Landcruiser 300 has been somewhat divisive amongst the faithful. Toyota’s latest flagship off roader has undergone some pretty hefty changes. These changes have been met with reactions ranging from shock to “ho-hum.” So, what makes the 300 so different this time around? I spent a week with it to find out just that.
The Land Cruiser 300 stable is made up of three variants with things kicking off with the entry point VX at $124,990 TDP (Toyota Driveaway Price), the mid-range VX Limited at $138,990 TDP and what you see here, the top tier GR Sport for $144,990 TDP. While there is no shortage of interest across the board for the new “Cruiser” it has to be said that due to shipping delays, some customers may have to wait a year to get one
After years of service, the much loved 4.5L diesel V8 has been retired and in its place is a new 3.3L twin turbo-diesel V6. Toyota’s decision comes as part of their plans to greatly reduce their overall carbon footprint across the range.
As mentioned, it has left a few die-hard fans of that old torquey diesel V8 feeling a bit miffed but despite losing two cylinders, the new V6 in fact produces more power and torque than before, 227kW over 200kW and 700Nm over 650. Channelling that extra power to all four wheels is an all-new 10-speed automatic transmission and Toyota claim combined fuel consumption figures of 8.9L/100km and carbon emissions of 235g/km. The 300 is also a 3500kg tow capable vehicle.
The 300 still retains the Land Cruiser profile with some modern stylistic tweaks. Several times I had people come up to me and ask “Is this the new one?” However, the 300 seems to lean more towards a premium almost European look with a clean cut and slim LED headlights and a more pronounced front grill. The GR Sport’s larger conk gets some white Toyota lettering which you could argue pays homage the old FJ40 Land Cruiser. There is also plenty of black trim such as the wing mirrors, accents and roof rails.
The VX and the GR Sport gets 18-inch alloys whereas the VX Limited gets glossy 20-inchers. The GR Sport’s matte grey alloys complement the Graphite paint scheme. It also brings out the plethora of GR Sport badging and the rear three quarter emblem reminder that the Land Cruiser is fast approaching its platinum year. The bonnet’s twin bulges look pretty decent too.
Hoisting yourself inside the GR Sport 300 and wow, black and red trim. In keeping with the GR Sport theme, the Land Cruiser features GR emblems on the starter button, head rests and steering wheel. The black and red leather seats with are some of the most comfortable out there. They offer lounge chair levels of comfort and give an optimum driving position so you can survey the rough terrain, or peer down at the urban soft roaders in the next lane.
Around you all the switchgear feels chunky and durable. Everything is nicely laid out and easy to get your head around. Taking centre stage is a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto plus all the kit you could imagine for your $145k.
Things like heated and ventilated electric seats, and powered seats, sat nav with SUNA traffic info, wireless phone charging, head up display and a 14-speaker JBL premium audio system, a refrigerated cool box and four zone climate control. Toyota’s safety suite is also featured with all the safety bells and whistles we have come to expect from the brand. There are also 5x USB ports so the whole family can charge their devices leaving no-one waiting in the queue.
The family must only be a family of five however, as the GR Sport is a 5-seater only over the 7-seater VX and VX Limited. The space front and rear is pretty darn spectacular. When peering into the boot, a friend said to me “Wow, think of all the dogs I could fit in the back.” You could indeed fit plenty of K9 companions in the rear of the 300 with a whopping 1131L of space.
Press the Toyota Gazoo Racing embossed and that twin-turbo six ignites into the all too familiar chug of a forced induction diesel engine. It becomes clear the new power unit is aimed at being more refined, with little to no judders or vibrations on start up. It is also much quieter than the V8. You do have to really listen at idle and its only when you engage drive and move forward that you start to hear six cylinders working in harmony.
Through the rev range it is a half decent rumble too. Also, half decent is the way the Land Cruiser 300 puts down its 700Nm. With a redline of 4500, you seldom get north of 2800 in any given moment of marginally brisk acceleration. The 10-speed auto box shifts seamlessly ensuring you have optimum grunt at all times.
Now you don’t get a big Land Cruiser for its low fuel economy but given its size and weight, I was averaging around 12L/100km which has got to be said, isn’t too bad. When I first picked it up from Miles Toyota, it showed it had 760km remaining to a tank. This is mostly down to that hefty 80L fuel tank it has tucked away.
Basically, if you don’t mind coughing up the dough to fill the tank, you could happily tiki tour the length of the South Island and know it is very unlikely you will find yourself stranded. Then again, that is what those extra jerry cans of diesel are for, but I digress.
Ride comfort? I wouldn’t hesitate to say it is excellent. The only downside is the Dunlop Grand Trek AT30 265/65R18 tyres give a bit of tyre roar. The GR Sport comes with four new drive modes. These include Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Customise. While the idea of having Sport Plus mode in a Land Cruiser may seem a bit nonsensical, it actually does make the big fella not too shabby in the corners despite some degree of body roll.
Also, the Land Cruiser GR Sport’s new E-KDSS, or Electronic Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System if you want the full mouthful, independently and automatically adjust its electronic sway bars according to changing terrain at any given moment. Basically, if you round a bend on tarmac and there is the merest change in road conditions, or if you are roughing it and that left hillside is more rugged than the right, things remain under control.
Talking of roughing it, the 300 still has full use of the family silver. Heading out to the rough trails of McLeans Island behind Christchurch Airport made for the ideal location to have some fun, I mean constructive road testing, off the beaten track. Despite being a heavy hitter, the 300 is actually 200kg lighter than the 200 at 2630kg. Toyota claim it is also 20 per cent more rigid and features a lower centre of gravity.
Selecting Low Range Four Wheel Drive and with the new electronical locked differentials “locked” in place, it was time to get stuck in. When you engage low range, you get a comprehensive suite of images from cameras mounted around the car showing what is directly ahead of you and either side, giving you a very clear 360 view of the terrain and any unforeseen obstacles which may lie in your path.
The Land Cruiser sports a wade depth of 700mm, though there were no nearby rivers to test that. What I could test was the 235mm of ground clearance and the approach and departure angle of 32 and departure of 25. Heading up and down some grassy embankments and you got the impression the GR Sport 300 found it sort of easy.
Despite the parking sensors going nuts upon reaching the bottom of one hill, it manages to take it all in its stride amazingly well. Like I said, it’s not a featherweight, but after a while of climbing mini mountains, it bounds around like a mountain goat. Toyota’s MultiTerrain Select system channels the power and revs to suit all manner of rough terrain like mud, snow, sand, rock etc.
So, the Toyota Land Cruiser 300 GR Sport? Does it carry on the legacy? While some mourn the V8, this go anywhere package, despite being close to 150k which is putting it within the realm of the Land Rover Defender among others, does nearly everything you expect from a semi-luxo off roader and does it very well.
Most seem to retire at 70, though if the evidence display by the new Land Cruiser 300 is anything to go by, the plight of Toyota’s flagship off roader is only just beginning.