Review & Road Test: Toyota Land Cruiser LC79 GXL Dual Cab Ute Truck Jungle

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Review — Road Test: Toyota Land Cruiser LC79 GXL Double Cab Ute

Published on October 27, 2012 | By Mark Oastler |

Engine . 4.5 litre DOHC 32-valve V8 common rail-direct injection turbo-diesel

Power: 151kW @ 3400 rpm    Torque: 430Nm @ 1200-3200 rpm

Transmission: Five-speed manual

Construction: Body-on-frame

Suspension: (F) live axle, coil springs (R) live axle, leaf springs

Payload: 1095 kgs

Towing: 3.5 tonne (braked)

Economy: 11.9 litres/100 kms

Price: Workmate $63,990 GXL $67,990

Overview

The latest variant of Toyota’s popular 70 Series workhorse range is rough riding, noisy and basic like its three siblings, but nothing can match the work ethic and unbreakable feel of this truck when the going gets tough.

Toyota says it was pent-up demand from the mining sector and primary industries that prompted development of this Double Cab tray-back ute model, so there’ll be plenty of miners, prospectors and farmers happy to see that their requests have finally been answered.

Truck Jungle is one of the first media outlets in Australia to have test-driven it and given that Australia is the first market this vehicle is being sold in, we’re also one of the first in the world to do so.


It’s basically a cut-down version of the short wheelbase 76 Series wagon body adapted to fit the long wheelbase 79 Series cab-chassis frame, which with a wheelbase of 3180mm is 450mm longer than the wagon’s 2730mm wheelbase (the 78 Series Troop Carrier sits in the middle of these two with a 2980mm wheelbase).

When viewed from the side, the longer Double Cab appears to have pushed the shortened tray too far rearwards so that it has excessive overhang.

However, run a measuring tape over it and you realise it’s just an illusion. It shares the same overall length of the 79 Series Single Cab (with full-length tray) at 5.22 metres and the same 29 degree departure angle, so looks can be deceiving.

That deception also applies to its overall dimensions relative to another one-tonne 4-4 competitor like the Ford Ranger Dual Cab pickup. You’d swear the LC79 was bigger than the Ford, but in fact the Ranger is slightly longer (131mm) and wider overall (60mm) with a slightly longer wheelbase as well (40mm). Surprising isn’t it?

There would not have been huge costs involved for Toyota in developing this new model, as it’s just a mix-and-match of existing 70 Series hardware with a new stumpier drop-side tray that’s available in a choice of heavy-duty colour-coded steel or light-duty aluminium.

We’re not sure what the future holds for the much-loved 70 Series, which was introduced in the early 1980s and has remained fundamentally unchanged for the past three decades.

Toyota Australia has told Truck Jungle it was important to debunk a current rumour (driven by recent press reports) that the model is to be discontinued in the near future. At this point in time, no such plan exists.

As mining giants like BHP and Rio Tinto now demand a minimum five-star ANCAP safety rating for their fleet vehicles, the good old 70 Series with its three-star rating would require a prohibitively costly re-engineering job to meet such standards immediately.

However, most of the mining companies also have a ‘grandfather clause’ in place which allows the current fleet of LC70 models to continue operating on their sites for the next two or three years, during which time Toyota will address the major safety upgrades required to meet the mining companies’ future requirements.

It’s always been a case of ‘evolution’ rather than ‘revolution’ with this model, so it will be interesting to see what Toyota comes up with this time.

One thing for sure is that they don’t want to lose it. The 70 Series has a large and loyal fan base, from ground staff working in the mines to farmers working the land to tradies towing trailers to recreational fishermen towing boats and many more.

Models Features

The new LC79 model comes in two grades – Workmate and GXL. Both come with a big 130-litre fuel tank capacity, Euro IV-compliant 4.5-litre turbo-diesel engine, five-speed manual transmission (no automatic option) and part-time 4WD with two-speed transfer case. Seven exterior colours are offered.

The Double Cab Workmate base model (the one you can hose out) comes with 16 x 5.5-inch steel split rims, aluminium side-steps, vinyl seat facings and floor coverings, black bumpers and the extra-cost option of front and rear diff locks.

The up-spec GXL version that we tested gains wider 16 x 7.0-inch alloy wheels and 265/70R16 tyres, wheel flares, remote central locking, diff locks, fog lamps, power windows, cloth seat facings and carpet. It was also optioned up with air-conditioning (hard to believe such things are still extra-cost options).

The LC79 also benefits from recent across-the-range production upgrades including ABS, air-inlet snorkel mounted on the driver’s side A pillar, improved seating, in-dash multi-function clock and audio/CD system with Bluetooth hands-free, audio streaming and voice-recognition phone/audio.

New panels now neatly fill the gap behind the 76 Series wagon’s rear door shut-line where its wheel housing would normally be. The LC79′s 450mm increase in wheelbase is best demonstrated here.

The door mirrors on a 70 Series Land Cruiser say plenty about this truck’s back-to-basics design and no-nonsense simplicity, honed from decades of work in the toughest places imaginable where a minimum amount of moving parts is the secret to long service.

You won’t find nice aerodynamic shapes or dashboard-mounted remote controls here. The mirror supporting frames are just bent strips of steel, bolted rigidly through the door skin with really big truck mirrors bolted on top.

You adjust the driver’s mirror the old-fashioned way by winding down your window and moving it with your hands. If you need to adjust the passenger side, just get a mate to do it or nudge it against a fence post or tree trunk.

Compared to modern features increasingly found in the latest generation of one-tonne pickups from rival manufacturers in the $60-70,000 price range, the 70 Series looks threadbare.

There’s no warning chime if you’re silly enough to leave the headlights on. There’s no rear screen demister either. And the radio aerial is the old metal telescopic type, so if you forget to retract it in the rough stuff it can snap off like a carrot if you snag it on a tree branch.

It also has the old style ‘manual’ free-wheeling hubs that require stopping, getting out and locking by hand before selecting 4WD. And there’s no small dashboard knob for that either; it’s still a stumpy lever that sticks out of the floor. And the tiny centre console looks like a Corolla item.

There’s no Rear Park Assist or any of that new age nonsense. You just back it up until you hear a loud crunch or your mate yells out ‘Whoa!’ before you stick it in first again.

There’s also no cruise control, only a lap-belt provided for the central rear seat passenger, the air-conditioning control  gives you two choices – cold or bloody cold – and the tiny dashboard-mounted speakers produce a one-directional sound quality similar to a 1960s transistor radio.

So if you’re a typical one tonne pickup buyer looking for the ultimate dual-purpose ‘work and play’ fun machine, loaded with all the electronically controlled luxury gadgets and five-star safety rating to keep the wife and kids happy on weekends, then the LC79 (or any 70 Series model) probably won’t suit you. But then, it’s not meant to.

At 1.8 metres in length and about the same in width there’s a heap of floor space available in the shortened tray that’s far superior to double cab one-tonners with style-side pickup bodies. And there’s no wheel housings to eat into the load space.

What will it carry?

The LC79 is a real truck that’s designed primarily for hard work and it’s as tough as they come. With a one tonne-plus payload, you can load it up with five big blokes (that’s about half a tonne already) plus a mountain of gear in the tray before you’re hitting that payload threshold.

And as we know, that figure is regularly exceeded by 70 Series owners that either don’t know or just don’t care about such things.

The shortened tray is a good bit of gear. The one fitted to our test vehicle was the heavy duty version with full steel frame and drop sides, super tough checker-plate floor and rear window protection using a stout mesh steel frame. Internally measuring 1.8 metres long and 1.78 metres wide, it can swallow a really big load.

The LC 79 is also rated to tow up to 3.5 tonnes of braked trailer and up to 750 kgs for trailers without brakes.

What’s it like to drive?

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On the road and open highway without a big load on board, the LC79 is a reminder of 4WD ownership in the 1980s, particularly the recirculating ball-type steering that lacks the sharper and more direct steering feel of today’s rack and pinion systems.

With those big live axles and heavy-duty springs riding the bumps front and rear, their considerable  unsprung weight tends to rock the cabin occupants backwards and forwards between them. It’s a ride quality that has long been surpassed by rival one-tonne pickup trucks that now use rigidly-mounted diffs and independent suspensions up front.

However, when you get close to a tonne or more on-board, the inherent strength of the 70 Series design really shines. It’s custom-made for this sort of workload, as the sprung-to-unsprung weight ratio changes the ride from jittery to sure-footed and the torquey 4.5 litre turbo-diesel V8 can do what it’s designed to do.

Hook 3.5 tonnes to the tow ball and the effect is the same. This is a workhorse first and foremost and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

Its turning circle feels really big. Around town this makes most parking and turning a lock-to-lock three-pointer and when things get tight off road it requires more of the same.

With its slab-sided cabin and flat windscreen, the 70 Series also has the kind of house-brick aerodynamics that produce a fair amount of wind roar at highway speeds. The wind buffeting around the intake snorkel on the driver’s A pillar obviously adds to this wind noise.

However, the advantage of such a tall glasshouse and high seat heights relative to the window sills is a commanding view out of all front and side windows.

The 32-valve 4.5 litre V8 common rail turbo-diesel with intercooler is a real truck motor, with 151kW at 3400 rpm and more importantly 430 Nm of torque on tap from just 1200 rpm all the way up to 3200 rpm.

Toyota says this engine has the fattest torque curve of all Toyota engines and we can’t argue with that. You can drop down below 1000 rpm and the thing will still pull from there without complaint, which is impressive given its hefty 2205 kg kerb weight (Ford Ranger is 46 kgs lighter at 2159 kgs).

What surprises us, though, is that it lags behind the 470 Nm peak torque figures quoted for rival turbo-diesel one tonners like the much smaller 3.2 litre inline five cylinder Ford Ranger and 2.8 litre four cylinder Holden Colorado.

But then they can’t match this V8’s incredibly wide 2000 rpm peak torque band, which says plenty about the LC79’s appeal as a heavy load lugger.

The 70 Series also sticks with a five-speed manual gearbox when some one tonne rivals are now boasting six-speed manuals. With a firm, well defined shift action, it’s nice to use but feels like it’s wanting you to feed it another cog when you get up to highway speeds. The gearing is pretty much spot-on for heavy towing and off road work, though.

Around town the big V8 felt like its sweet spot for changing gears was bang in the middle of that fat serving of torque at about 2500 rpm. Revving it any further is a waste of fuel and revs.

When the bitumen runs out and the going gets rough, the LC79’s abilities become obvious. For all but the most difficult off road terrain we only needed to lock the front hubs and pull the transfer case lever back one notch to hi-range 4-4.

With its super low first gear, the LC79 can slowly step its way across some pretty challenging terrain with consummate ease yet still have enough teeth left in it to blast your way out of a steep, heavily rutted creek crossing or boggy mud section when needed.

Despite its long wheelbase, there’s enough static ride height to ensure it can tackle most sharp drop-offs without getting high-centered. Same goes for its approach and departure angles which of course match those of its single cab 79 Series tray-back sibling.

Toyota rates its wading depth at 700mm, which is 100mm less than that claimed for the Ford Ranger. Even so, like its payload rating, these figures will be taken as a rough guide rather than gospel by many owners.

Did you notice that the engine air intake is at roof height? They don’t call them ‘snorkels’ for nothing. We’ve seen one 70 Series cross a flooded river in Far North Queensland that was at least 100 metres across, almost fully submerged with only the glasshouse above water the whole way!

Not recommended mind you, but it just goes to show how capable these vehicles are and how conservative their creators must be to try and stop people getting into serious trouble. We powered through several deep crossings with water half-way up the doors without having to think about it.

Fact is we only used low range 4-4 once during our test and we probably could have got out of that in high range if we really had to. And to think this robust unit is also armed with front and rear electronic diff locks! As we say, it’s more than just capable.

Conclusion

The LC 79, like its three 70 Series siblings, is designed and built primarily as a practical and pretty much indestructible one tonne workhorse to carry up to five passengers and a mountain of gear across all kinds of terrain. The tougher things get, the better the LC79 performs.

So if you’ve got some serious off road work to do which requires carrying a lot of people or you have some really heavy things to tow, plus you’re prepared to rough it a little and forego the luxuries found in rival one tonne pickups, you’ll quickly learn to like the strength and enduringly honest work ethic of the LC79.

Fact is, we really didn’t want to give it back to Toyota at the end of our test, which in many cases is the true measure of a truck’s worth. There’s just something about it. TJ

* Special thanks to the Melbourne 4-4 Training and Proving Ground for its assistance with this story. www.melbourne4x4.com.au

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