Why we ran it: To see if a utility vehicle can also be an endearing everyday vehicle
Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 12
You really get under a car’s skin after a 38,000-mile year. So what’s the verdict? - 25th September 2019
I know there’s a new Land Rover Defender, and very nice it is too (or isn’t, depending on your outlook), but spare a thought for the forgotten 4x4, won’t you?
The Toyota Land Cruiser 3dr does what a new Defender 90 will do – perhaps more, perhaps less – and, while it’s at it, costs a lot less money and looks a lot more like Wile E Coyote’s head. Yet nobody seems to care about it like they do the Defender. I do. I’ve been running a Land Cruiser since this time last year.
This grey one, in very base Utility specification, at £33,995 plus only metallic paint, arrived from Toyota with just over 150 miles on the clock and has just returned to its maker (sob, sniff, etc) 38,000 miles later. All but 2000 of those have been added by me. I’ve driven more miles in this Land Cruiser than I have in probably any other car, ever; maybe excepting my own Land Rover Defender, which I’ve owned for seven years.
One of the reasons is simple: I’ve had a lot of places to go. But the other reason is that the Land Cruiser has slipped into my life so completely painlessly that, even for a car with big intentions and capabilities when it comes to off-roading, it’s actually a very straightforward family/ commuter car.
Let’s cover the everyday stuff first, then. The Toyota has five seats, good head and leg room in all, and the rear seat backs can be reclined. You can fit a good amount of luggage behind them in position – 380 litres – but they split and tumble forward to leave a decent cargo area, albeit with a high load height because of the offroad credentials and with a rear door that opens sideways, not upwards, because the rear door can be a spare wheel carrier. The rear window hinges up separately.
Road refinement and comfort – not something you’d always associate with a rufty-tufty separate-chassis 4x4 – is good. A colleague described the way the Land Cruiser rides on a motorway as lolling like the bottom jaw of a chewing cow. Slight exaggeration, but I know what he means: the Land Cruiser is a car of slow, steady movements, a soft ride and big cornering lean.
It is not a car you drive quickly on back roads, then, although with leggy gearing in the six-speed manual gearbox and good high-speed stability, plus low road noise levels and comfortable seats, I’ve found it a great long-distance cruiser.
At a cruise, you can return an mpg figure in the high 30s if you drive very slowly but a typical overall return is about 33mpg, giving the Land Cruiser a range of easily 550 miles (more if you’re brave).
It comes without a raft of entertainment, telecoms, comfort equipment or driver aids – just cruise control, manual air conditioning and Bluetooth, really, but that’s enough for me. It doesn’t bong incessantly and I don’t have to turn anything off when I climb into it.
It’s also brilliant off road. Obviously. We’ve done 4x4 videos with it where it has performed superbly and recently our sibling magazine What Car? conducted an off-road ‘megatest’ that the Land Cruiser won. It gets that separate chassis, great departure and breakover angles, low-range transfer box and locking centre differential and the 2.8-litre diesel has bags of torque – 310lb ft from 1400rpm. M’colleagues found a Mercedes G-Class and Jeep Wrangler, which have a greater number of locking differentials, crossed some terrain more easily, but they’re both rather more expensive than the Toyota.
The car, as you’d hope and expect, has been faultless, although its straightforward nature extends even to servicing, which it wants every 10,000 miles rather than having a variable schedule.
Toyota offers fixed-price servicing – £250 every 10,000 miles, £395 every 20,000, in the Land Cruiser’s case. The only issue with this is that, for diesels, the price includes £12 for AdBlue exhaust treatment, regardless of whether or not your car needs topping up. Given the Land Cruiser seems to want 10 litres every 5000 miles and the containers hold 10 litres, you can plan so it needs it. The advantage is that it doesn’t matter which dealer you visit because you know how much the service will cost. At least, that’s the idea.
I visited Inchcape Toyota Oxford, but although the work they carried out was fine, I can’t recommend you do the same. Partly because it shouldn’t have been beholden on me to inform the service manager AdBlue was included in the price when he said he’d “always” charged extra for it. But mostly because, once told, he was disinclined to find out how many customers he’d overcharged to reimburse them. I doubt there’ll be many, but that’s hardly the point. Inchcape say that if affected customers contact them, they’ll refund them.
The car, at least, was harder to fault. Over nearly 40,000 miles, it showed no visible sign of wear and no consumables expired. It was on the same brakes and everything else it arrived with, with a good 5mm of tread left on the tyres. I’d have probably replaced the fronts, and the windscreen wiper blades, before the winter had it stuck around. But it hasn’t, which is a shame.
There are more glamorous alternatives to the Land Cruiser, but if you want a truly rugged, versatile 4x4 that is as straightforward and dependable as turning on a tap, you know where to turn.
When I saw Matt was running a three-door Utility-spec ’Cruiser, I thought he’d gone mad. However, its comfortable motorway ride and satisfying manual ’box won me over. I still think white bodywork and ‘UN’ stickers on the doors would have complemented the steelies to a tee, though.
Alan Taylor Jones
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Flapped Jack A flap over the USB/jack sockets for the audio stops them filling with crud in very dusty environments.
Touch and go Buttons for the big centre console cubbies have one lump or two, so you can feel for the one you want.
Manoeuvrability The 4.56m-long Land Cruiser 3dr’s turning circle is brilliantly tight, at just 10.4m.
Folding seats back up You have to clamber right into the car to reach the release mechanism to fold the seats back up.
Where to put it? Nowhere obvious for the ‘keyless key’. There’s a small cubby by the gearlever but it rattles a bit in there.
Final mileage: 38,082
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Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 9
Back in Land Cruiser’s home environment - 17th July 2019
The Land Cruiser has just done sterling work as a support car for an upcoming Ariel Nomad versus Triumph Scrambler video. On a recce around some Welsh forest tracks, it wasn’t unlike those other two in that it felt more composed the faster you drove it, which was a pleasant surprise. I’ve left it suitably filthy for now, too.
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Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 7
Not hard to squeeze miles out of a tank - 19th June 2019
With the Land Cruiser averaging around 31mpg overall, I did a test to see how frugal it is in motorway driving. It surprised me. Doing a steady 70mph (about 2300rpm), it returned pretty much the same as the average. Lowering cruising speed to below 2000rpm and shifting up early with glacial acceleration is the key to high 30s mpg.
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Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 6
Here’s a handy way to solve a problem we don’t need solving - 29th May 2019
Usually we try to use every feature in a long-termer, but there’s an instruction sticker on the door of the Toyota Land Cruiser that I think will go unneeded.
The Land Cruiser, like all modern diesels, gets a diesel particulate filter for its 2.8-litre, four-cylinder engine. These trap exhaust soot, until such time as it gets burnt off when the exhaust is hot, a cycle the car usually enters of its own accord on the open road so you don’t know it’s happening.
In some kinds of driving, though – if, say, you spend a lot of time at slow speeds, idling or doing short hops, as a utility car might – the DPF never gets the chance to enter, or complete, what they call a ‘regeneration’ cycle. In which case, ultimately, the filter gets clogged and a warning light will come on. Don’t ignore it.
Some cars want you to visit a dealer for a manual regeneration if it happens, but – as the sticker suggests – if you have a Land Cruiser, Toyota apparently trusts you enough to do one yourself and thinks you won’t mind the trouble.
So you park the car and push a button on the dash while the engine’s idling. These parked regeneration cycles work by injecting diesel into the cylinder after combustion, so they go into the exhaust and burn in there, making the exhaust hot enough to turn the soot in the filter into ash.
I wouldn’t recommend standing too near the back while it does it, mind. Not that I’ve seen it in action; Toyota recommends you do 40mph for 10 minutes or more if you want the regen to happen quietly on the road, and I can barely find a day when I don’t have to do one or the other. That means the Land Cruiser is now up to 26,700 miles, just 3300 away from another service.
Now, a couple of readers think I was too soft on the dealer, Inchcape Oxford, after the last service, when 10 litres of AdBlue appeared on the invoice despite me having told them I’d filled the tank the night before. I queried it and they handed over 10 litres to take away with me instead. But it seems 10 litres of AdBlue is included in the price of a service (so it was ‘not taken off’, rather than ‘added to’, the bill), which is how Toyota offers its fixed-price servicing: you can’t do that without accounting for all fluids.
Anyway, I noted it in print, but somebody writes to say I should’ve been crosser. I’m not quite so exercised about it. Toyota says it used to charge a specific amount for AdBlue, but that meant the service price varied, which annoyed customers, most of whom need more than 10 litres anyway. So it just charges for 10 litres, at £12, with most customers winning, some losing, and it keeps the paperwork simple. If you’ve just filled it yourself, which hardly anybody does but I need to, you can always query it, and they’ll give you a container to take away so you don’t lose out.
Crud-proof There’s a little flap covering the USB/3.5mm jack sockets for the audio, so they don’t fill with crud if driving in dusty environments.
Not clamber proof Seats fold forwards easily, and stay there – but you have to clamber right in to reach the release mechanism to fold them back.
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That’s one way to describe the ride - 1st May 2019
After a colleague spends a few days in the Land Cruiser, he tells me: “You know that slow, circular motion the bottom jaw of a cow makes while it’s chewing. The Land Cruiser’s motorway ride reminds me of that.” Unusual, I think. Bit harsh, maybe. But better than the bottom jaw of a squirrel chewing on granola, which is how most cars ride.
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Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 5
Another service, another opportunity to sample free coffee - 17th April 2019
Six months after arriving, then, the Land Cruiser was due its second service, a 20,000-miler.
That’s a main service, rather than the 10,000-mile interval, so as well as engine oil being changed, as at 10k, the gearbox oil and differential oils are changed, as is brake fluid, the fuel filter and cabin air filter, and the key fob battery is replaced. The list of other checks is longer, too.
Toyota runs a fixed-price servicing programme, so it doesn’t matter which main dealer you visit. The Land Cruiser is the biggest car Toyota makes so, along with a Dyna (a forward-cab compact truck) and the Hilux pick-up, it’s the most expensive to service, at £395 – although a GT86 is close, at £365.
They offer a couple of extras: a fuel additive said to clean the injectors, and an antibacterial thing for the cabin filters said to reduce interior smells. They add £30 between them, and I thought I’d test them, to see if either make any difference. I keep a keen fuel log so I’ll know if the former has any effect, while the whiff of my son’s ice hockey gear, especially if I forget to remove it from the boot for a day or three, is the sternest test any antibacterial filter is likely to get.
The nearest dealer to home is Inchcape Oxford, and they’ve always been reliable (I got the GT86 I used to run serviced there, too). There’s a comfortable waiting area and the coffee machine is good.
Inchcape had availability about a week after I called and were happiest to take the car when they opened at 7am. The service itself should take around two and a half hours, but dealers of many brands are still ploughing through Takata airbag recalls, too, well after one was issued to replace potentially explosive canisters, because supplies of replacements have been so limited.
They couldn’t guarantee when the car would be ready and suggested I might be better going off and returning after lunch, but I was happy to wait. I have decent laptop battery life, always plenty to write and a mate to meet for a late-morning tea and bun, so I took a chance and hung around locally.
The car was ready by 12 and the invoicing clear. Probably a bit too clear. Included in the service cost are all of the fluids, whether you have them or not. I’d topped the AdBlue up the previous night, because I need to keep track of exactly how much I put into the car, and told them that when I dropped off the car off, but ‘AdBlue: 10 litres’ still appeared on the invoice (£12). So I queried it and, given you couldn’t have squeezed any more than about 200ml into it, they handed me 10 litres to take away.
The courtesy wash and vacuum was on the half-arsed side, too, although I’ll admit I’m not so fussed about that. The weather wasn’t brilliant so it was dirty again by the time I got home anyway.
Other than that, nothing major to report. The interior still smells the same to me, although perhaps there are fewer airborne bugs. Fuel consumption seems the same at around 31mpg. And I guess it’s about 10 weeks until I head back for another service.
BRAILLE-LIKE BUTTONS Buttons for the big centre console cubbies have one lump or two, so you can feel easily for the right one to open a top shelf or the deep bin.
KEYLESS CLATTER The gearlever is fouled if you put tall things in the cubby behind it, so I put the key in it, where it rattles. I thought ignition keys were fine.
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Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 4
Turns out that gang of 4x4 numberplate thieves may not actually exist, after all - 20th March 2019
Ever wondered why you see serious off-roaders with their front numberplates relocated to the roof rack? Well, now I know. And for this enlightenment, my gratitude to Mitch McCabe, Autocar videographer and a man who, very kindly, agreed to wade the Toyota Land Cruiser Utility very gently along the edge of a shallow pool while I took a couple of panning photographs.
On the return leg, he thought the pictures would look a bit more splendid if he took a run-up. He was right. So as well as getting a more dramatic picture, I’ve had a front numberplate to reaffix, which means something else to write about – an always-welcome bonus for a long-term test car keeper.
Two things to sort, then. The water pressure proved too much for the numberplate fixings – diddy plastic screws (white, black and yellow, available from all good motor factors) that sacrifice themselves sharpish in times of crisis.
But also it pulled a lug, into which the plate holder screws self-tap, out of the bumper. The plate holder and its screw were intact, ditto the lug. So I unscrewed it, placed a large washer behind the new small hole in the bumper, and screwed it all back together with the washer plugging the small gap. And you’d never know.
It has reminded me, though, of the need to unscrew the numberplate before we start any off-road exercises. It shouldn’t have taken that long for the penny to drop, to be honest – I’ve sunk my hands into enough freezing, muddy puddles over the years trying to retrieve numberplates. But lesson finally learned.
Otherwise, life with the Land Cruiser is as stress-free as always. The miles rack up and it gives me no niggles in daily life, except I have to be incredibly diligent when pressing the clutch pedal to the floor to get the engine to start. If the pedal’s a millimetre away from the carpet, the push-button starter just won’t have it.
The 20,000-mile service will have taken place by the time you read this. It’s a full one rather than the 10,000 interim, and I’m told it’ll take two-and-a-half hours once they get into it. I haven’t had to do much mechanical work other than clean it since the last service, although while the Land Cruiser didn’t drink any oil before its first service, it has wanted a litre of 5W30 over the past 10,000 miles.
Recently, I was starting to become nervy about when the AdBlue warning light would come on again. I checked the fuel log we keep, which suggested it was about time the car would request a top-up. And ping, right on cue, a day later, there the orange light was. You get about 1500 miles’ notice, just in case you’re in the middle of touring Namibia and the local garage doesn’t stock AdBlue. Anyway, I’ll fill it myself before the service, so that it won’t need any when it gets there.
At 4.5 metres long, the 3dr Land Cruiser is a short vehicle for a big 4x4 with a longitudinal engine and a long front overhang, but I’ve eased some 2.4-metre long battens into it recently, by passing them into the front passenger space. Some wider, 1.5-metre yew planks squeezed between the front seats, so I haven’t needed to leave the rear hatch open, though that’s always an option. Or you could fit a roof rack.
Ideally, I suppose, one with space for a numberplate.
Quick getaways In cold mornings, the heater/ demister are extremely quick to get the windows clear.
Awkward fill-ups AdBlue cap is usually very stiff, and its location under the bonnet means it’s a faff to hold a big container in the right place.
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Seats stick with you - sometimes literally - 27th February 2019
The upholstery is, unusually, almost velour-like. But I like it. The seats are particularly comfortable and I don’t mind that they’re not heated, so maybe the cloth regulates temperature well. It’s also, mind, more effective than a lint roller at pulling pet hair from your clothes. If I ever took the cat for a drive, he’d end up Velcroed to the interior.
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Comfort levels are as high as the mileage being logged - 6th February 2019
This is getting daft. Since mid-September, I’ve driven more than 16,000 miles in the 3dr Utility Toyota Land Cruiser, which will amount to around 40,000 miles over a year unless I start insisting other people spend time with it.
Which, selfishly, I’m not that keen to do, because – Toyota inevitability alert – it’s as painless to run as a Casio wristwatch. More painless than the miles (perhaps the same amount again) that I spend in most other cars.
Having quickly covered more than an average driver’s annual mileage, though, here’s what to expect if you run a Land Cruiser for a year: a 10,000-mile service (£270) and a litre of AdBlue every 550 miles or so. (The Land Rover Discovery I ran previously – bigger, more powerful and heavier as it was – wanted an oil change at 9000 miles and a litre of AdBlue every 300-350 miles.)
Fuel consumption started at near 31mpg and is staying there, though you can get 40mpg on the motorway if you’re very careful. And I’ve repaired a nail in a tyre (£18), but you probably won’t have to. And, despite an absence of city braking, blind spot assist and parking sensors, I haven’t driven it into anyone or anything. I know. Remarkable.
I suppose there’s a point on the scale of infotainment/driver assist options where each of us is happiest. The Toyota’s pretty close to where I’d choose things. I like that it has cruise control, would prefer automatic climate to manual air-conditioning and wouldn’t mind DAB radio. I’d also take an option to cancel the auto headlights, to prevent them zinging on and off every few seconds in winter shadows. I suppose I could just switch them on and leave it.
Beyond that, popping my phone in a cradle and setting up the navigation and a podcast before I set off are seeing me through contentedly, to the extent that I don’t want a car’s entertainment system to try to replicate it, because very few do. Phone mirroring on a bigger screen would be the ideal solution, I guess.
Sixth gear that has the engine spinning at 2000rpm at motorway speeds and an inherently stable demeanour make the Land Cruiser, despite a short wheelbase, as easy as most executive cars to roll along with. Which, with an office 70 miles from home in one direction and a son at school 70 miles from home in precisely the other, is handy.
I had hoped to take two colleagues to France in it in a few weeks. There is quite a lot of rear leg room and the rear seatback angle adjusts, so you get surprisingly few complaints from back there. But on account of the Land Cruiser’s three-door bodystyle, I’ve been asked to take the Cropley S-Class instead, so I’ll let you know how much more comfortable that is.
What an S-Class certainly won’t do, mind, and what I absolutely need to do more of, though, is getting the Land Cruiser filthy. So far I’ve only put it through two off-road excursions. Must try harder.
Pushes the buttons Took me ages to spot the lock/ unlock buttons on the bootlid, which are occasionally handy when the key’s in my pocket.
Put a cap on it The AdBlue cap becomes incredibly stiff to undo. And, as often, is situated under the bonnet in an awkward place to pour into.
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Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 3
Deflation, not elation - 30th January 2019
There’s something wrong with the Land Cruiser! Relax, relax, turn off the alarms in Toyota City. It’s just a screw in the tyre. The Land Cruiser told me. It has (battery-powered) pressure sensors inside its tyres so knows each one’s exact pressure. I’d still like a spare wheel really, but this time it was fixable, for £18, so of minimal inconvenience.
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First service interval rolls around quickly (for this tester) - 9th January 2018
The Land Cruiser hit its 10,000-mile service interval barely three months after its arrival, so I booked it into Inchcape Toyota in Oxford. Toyota has fixed-price services, so it doesn’t matter where you go. Inspections showed nothing needed doing (obvs), it got new oil and a filter and nine litres of AdBlue while I did some work and drank coffee. Two hours later I paid £270.
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Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 2
We’re learning to take the rough with the smooth - 28 November 2018
I have been off-road. Properly, I mean, not just pootling down a wee green lane in Surrey for a few pictures, or crawling around a rough horse yard, which was the previous limit of where I’d asked the Toyota Land Cruiser to boldly go.
Now, though, I’ve spent a day in a disused quarry, working the Land Cruiser’s axle articulation and trying, and by and large failing, to get it stuck. This is the problem with the Land Cruiser: you ask it to do something that would seem extreme to most SUVs, and it just mooches along like it’s on a trip to the shops – because, in some countries, that’s what a trip to the shops looks like.
Anyway, the resulting story, which featured the new Suzuki Jimny alongside the Toyota, was on these pages and on YouTube a couple of weeks ago, so the result is known: the Land Cruiser will go further offroad than a Jimny (which probably shouldn’t be a huge surprise), although there are areas where, down to sheer manoeuvrability, life is easier in the tiny, scampering Suzuki. But with a tight turning circle and short wheelbase, in this three-door form I wonder if the Ford Focus-length Land Cruiser isn’t the next most agile ‘proper’ off-roader currently on sale.
Of course, when you’re a real 4x4 of small exterior proportions, much of which appears to be frontal overhang, there are payoffs. One is a side profile shared with a roller skate, the other is dealing with a relatively small, 380-litre boot when the rear seats are in place.
Flipping them forwards and raising that to 720 litres doesn’t take long, but the load cover – which doesn’t have much space to cross between seats and tailgate – appears to be fitted across the widest part of the interior, so getting it in and out of the car takes real dexterity and is something, if you regularly take big bags, you have to do a lot. There’s also no easy other place to store it in the cabin, so were it not for my occasional need to hide what’s in the boot for security’s sake, I’d just take it out and leave it in the garage.
The rear seat backs, though, can be set to various positions: upright to maximise boot space, or more reclined than is usual in a car – handy for nippers who want to doze off on long journeys.
They are still the kind of trips I’m giving the Land Cruiser most of the time: regular everyday motorway drives, on which it’s very comfortable, with leggy gearing and a relaxed gait and low noise levels, which makes settling into a 70mph cruise extremely easy but does leave people like me open to accusations of needlessly driving a big 4x4. Thing is, like a lot of people, sometimes I need its more extreme abilities, and presumably it’s better, as well as considerably cheaper, to only own a single all-purpose car than two specific-purpose ones.
The Land Cruiser is proving so all-purpose that between sporadic bouts of articulating its axles, within three months of having it, I’ve covered more than 9000 miles and already need to book it in for a minor service. More on which next time.
Four wheels… Still love the steel wheels, although the Bridgestone Duelers don’t look as tough as they seem to be.
But no fifth… I like the split tailgate but am not using it much – and it prevents a spare wheel going on the back.
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Headlight headaches - 7th November 2018
You can’t switch the Land Cruiser’s automatic headlights out of auto mode, save for leaving them on, and they’re hypersensitive. On autumn roads with long shadows, the lights repeatedly flick between on and off, a few seconds apart, and I wonder if it irritates whoever I’m following. The amazing thing about eyes is they know when it’s getting dark.
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Life with a Toyota Land Cruiser: Month 1
A 4x4 full of happy surprises over distance. Just watch out for pranksters in the back - 31st October 2018
When the Toyota Land Cruiser arrived at Autocar Towers it had barely 60 miles on its odometer, but now, eight weeks later, it has 6152. I’ve been away for at least three weeks and when I’m around it’s not the only car I drive. Maybe that’s why I’m tired.
The Land Cruiser is a short, rugged, body-on-frame bruiser with a live rear axle and low-range transfer gearbox. So naturally the vast majority of those miles have been on the motorway.
Where, to my surprise, the Land Cruiser is actually really pleasant. Yes, it’s high, at 1838mm tall, and at 4565mm quite short (about halfway between a Ford Focus hatch and estate length). But it’s still very stable, immune to crosswinds and its tyres cut through puddles securely. It rides quietly and relatively smoothly – albeit there’s some head-toss owing to the height and unsophisticated, heavy rear end.
It also has other characteristics you wouldn’t associate with making for relaxed long-distance cruising: manual air-conditioning, a manual gearbox, and an absence of DAB digital radio. But I seem to find the right temperature easily and the manual is smooth, if long of throw.
And there’s a USB socket nestled behind a small panel – presumably sensibly placed to keep dust and grime out if you drive in that kind of environment rather than spending half of your week on the M40. Which means I’ve also discovered podcasts. I’m so down with the kids.
Worse, though, is that this 3dr Land Cruiser doesn’t get a spare wheel as standard. In fact, you can’t spec a 3dr with a full-size or even space saver at all, despite one being available in other countries, as an option, mounted to the tailgate.
I know the LC has big, knobbly, tyres, less prone to puncturing than a saloon’s, but there’s no excuse for not having a spare on a rufty-tufty 4x4. Even one that is great at cruising.
I can’t remember the last time I drove a car that offered such a variance in fuel consumption, at least not in normal driving. Usually, the Land Cruiser is returning around 31mpg, but it’s possible to take that to the mid-20s if you’re driving badly, while the other day I drove like my Dad and managed 45mpg on the way home, thanks to using hardly any throttle and a spot of light slipstreaming on the motorway.
Aside from that, the Land Cruiser has established itself as a very useful tool. I drove it to North Wales for our annual Britain’s Best Driver’s Car feature. It was nabbed by our video production team because it’s good for car-to-car filming and holding a considerable amount of kit.
The short 380-litre boot rises to 720 litres when you fold the 60/40 back seats down, a two-stage tumble process. The backs fold first, then you roll the whole thing forward, where they move towards the fronts and lock in place, leaving storage space in the rear footwell.
Rear seat space is surprisingly generous. Rear passengers can fold the front passenger seat out of the way by kicking a lever on it, which helps them reach the door. (Or if somebody’s sitting in said front passenger seat, kicking the lever drops the seat back at great speed, which my lad thinks is hilarious. Front seat passengers do not agree.)
At 5800 miles, the AdBlue warning light came on, saying I had to top up the additive tank within 1500 miles. I was about to stop anyway, so I bought 10 litres of AdBlue, of which it took about 9.5 litres, via a filler beneath the bonnet. Next time I’ll know to ignore the light for a bit in the hope that a whole 10 litres will fit, to save me having a container with half a litre of liquid sloshing in the boot. Either a more reluctant warning light or a marginally bigger tank would be dandy.
REAR VIEW FOR PARKING Door mirrors are huge, so placing the sides of the car in parking spaces is a doddle.
LEVER ERGONOMICS The fuel filler lever is right next to the bonnet release. I haven’t pulled the wrong one yet, but give it time.
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Tailgate is practical - just like the rest of it - 10th October 2018
The Land Cruiser has a side-hinged tailgate on account of some versions carrying a spare wheel on the door – those variants don’t get an opening back window like this one. The main tailgate, though, has a gas strut which can be twisted to lock it in the fully open position, to prevent the door slamming closed in the wind or on a slope.
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Welcoming the Land Cruiser to the fleet - 26th September 2018
Here is, I think it’s fair to say, a specification you don’t see every day. Unless you work for the United Nations, presumably. And even then, it’s probably a five-door.
I have small hunch, though, that this, the three-door Toyota Land Cruiser of the latest generation, will become a slightly more familiar sight on British roads than previously, owing to the demise of the Land Rover Defender.
I feel a bit bad comparing the two because, on even the quickest acquaintance, the Land Cruiser shows itself to be vastly superior to a Defender in terms of ride comfort, engine quietness, interior plushness, audio sound, fit and finish, control weight comfort, heating and ventilation, wind noise, turning circle, fuel consumption… well, look, just everything, basically. But I wonder if it’s a car of similar ethos.
Put it this way: when you drive a supercar, small boys and childish men like me stop and point at it. When you drive a Land Cruiser Utility, the people whose heads turn to follow it are usually driving a tractor or a pick-up.
Its basic integrity and functionality, then, is the reason that the UN buys more Land Cruisers than the UK. So when it came to running one, we decided we’d like to run one that was absolutely as basic as possible.
Of all the Land Cruiser variants, there are two types that do well in the UK. The all-singing, all-dancing Invincible seven-seat five-door range-topper is usually the most popular (£52,855). At the other end of the scale is the Utility. We wanted as basic a car as we could bear, and we got pretty close. The only option on our three-door Utility is one of the few options available: metallic paint.
There are six other available options. They’re all different types of tow bar and wiring.
So what do you get? A 2.8-litre, four-cylinder diesel making a steady 175bhp and 310lb ft of torque from just 1400rpm. It drives all four wheels through a lazy but smooth six-speed manual gearbox, which would be good enough for 0-62mph in 12.8sec and go on to 108mph if I were inclined to try either. Which I haven’t been so far.
Of more importance is that it’s only 4.4m long, about the same as a Ford Focus, albeit a more substantial 1885mm wide, and has a fine 10.4m turning diameter. Less useful in daily driving but handy for the kind of thing we’ll ask the Land Cruiser to do are that it can tow three tonnes and has a low-range gearbox, a set of respectable approach, breakover and departure angles (31deg, 22deg and 26deg respectively) and a 700mm wade depth.
You can get a commercial van version of the Land Cruiser but ours has windows and rear seats and that will be essential for me because, as well as being a tool, it’ll be a daily family drive. Handy, too, then, will be an 87-litre fuel tank and the fact that, driven steadily, it seems easily capable of more than 30mpg. I’ll see what it can best do on a long, sedate cruise soon, during which the leggy gearing will let it spin over at barely beyond tickover. Just often recently, I’ve been in a hurry. Soz.
What’s it like? Lovely. The ride quality is really smooth, control weights easy and responsive, and it heats up or cools down quickly inside. It’s a very stable cruiser, too, despite the height and the shortness. I’ve been disinclined to try too much hard cornering, yet, but directly after writing this, I do have to take it off road. Goody.
Sure, it’s basic, by modern standards. There are no parking sensors, but it’s not that long and visibility is great. There’s no sat-nav, but I have a phone with a better system than any OEM one anyway. There’s no DAB radio, but there are aux and USB sockets and my phone has 4G. Problems all solved.
The only other quirk is that the rear tailgate swings open sideways, not from above. That means you can’t shelter under it while getting out of your wellies but also means you’ll see tailgates with a spare wheel tied to them.
It has a separate, top-hinging glass hatch, though, which has been the subject of the Land Cruiser’s only foible so far, and far from its own fault. My neighbour’s lawnmower pinged a stone up and straight through the Land Cruiser’s rear window on the car’s very first day outside my house. My local dealer, who looked after a Toyota GT86 well when I ran one of those, was able to source and would have replaced it within a week for £700 (although, in the end, the pictures you see here and in a twin test you’ll find on PistonHeads were needed in such a hurry that Toyota kindly did it at emergency notice).
It’s an unusual-looking car, the short Land Cruiser, in side profile particularly: big front overhang, cab well back in the short chassis. Like Wile E Coyote’s head in profile, one wag has suggested. And that’s just fine by me. It’s a function not form vehicle. One whose functions I’m particularly excited to discover over the coming months.
I love it, all scratchy plastic and softly, softly drive. It’s amusing at the national limit, too, because it’s so impervious to bumps and moves around so much that it feels ‘alive’ in a way that most modern SUVs don’t. It transfers the same attitude to off-road, where it feels like it could go anywhere, all day, for about 120 years.
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Toyota Land Cruiser Utility 3dr specification
Prices: List price new £33,955 List price now £34,745 Price as tested £34,655 Dealer value now £24,000 Private value now £22,500 Trade value now £21,500 (part exchange)
Options: metallic paint £700
Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy 31.7mpg Fuel tank 87 litres Test average 32.1mpg Test best 36.4mpg Test worst 28.1mpg Real-world range 614 miles
Tech highlights: 0-62mph 12.1sec Top speed 109mph Engine 4 cyls, 2755cc, turbocharged diesel Max power 175bhp at 3400rpm Max torque 310lb ft at 1400rpm Transmission 6-sped manual Boot capacity 380 litres Wheels 17in, steel Tyres Bridgestone Dueller H/T Kerb weight 1975kg
Service and running costs: Contract hire rate £450 PCM CO2 199g/km Service costs £895 (2x £250, 1x £395) Other costs AdBlue (40 litres) £40 Fuel costs £6885 Running costs inc fuel £7820 Cost per mile 20.9 pence Depreciation £12,155 Cost per mile inc dep’n 53 pence Faults none
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