If you want a definition of the term `workhorse’ look no further than Toyota’s 70-Series Land Cruiser.
Whether it’s carrying miners or carting hay bales in every dairy farm in Australia, the 70-Series is no SUV — but a hard-working 4×4 that earns its keep day-in day-out, year-in, year-out.
All variants are powered, and we mean powered, by a 4.5-litre V8 turbodiesel engine.
The latest, LC79 version comes in four body styles: Wagon, Troop Carrier, plus two- and five-seat Cab-Chassis.
Each comes in WorkMate or GXL grade with the Single Cab also offered in a lower-spec GX.
Our test vehicle was the GXL Single Cab cab chassis priced from $76,650 plus on-road costs, with a genuine Toyota galvanised steel tray fitted.
What’s it cost?
The lads from Monty Python might have had the Land Cruiser 70 Series in mind when they said ‘And Now For Something Completely Different’.
Not in terms of what came before the current LC79, because there is very little different to be found here, but in comparison with everything else out there.
The closest anything comes to it is the Land Rover Defender, prior to it being gentrified.
The squared-off truck-like styling of the 70-Series is instantly recognisable, having changed little over the years.
There’s a large bonnet scoop, plenty of chrome in the grille and protruding bumper bar, plus halogen lights and 16-inch wheels.
Like much in the LC79, the infotainment system is very basic.
Display is through a small 6.1-inch touchscreen that does have physical knobs on the top corners to control the basic audio functions.
There is embedded satellite navigation with voice activation, Bluetooth pairing, a single CD player and two-speaker sound – but neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto connectivity.
There are two USB-A charging ports at the bottom of the dashboard alongside a 12 volt socket.
There’s also a USB-C port at the bottom of the touchscreen.
The latest upgrade, in late-2022, added autonomous emergency braking and Pre-Collision Safety system including pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, enabling it to meet the latest ANCAP safety criteria and get the maximum five stars.
Other standard features include four airbags, ABS brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, stability and traction control and Hill-Start Assist.
However, more recent safety features are missing, including things like blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning or correction, rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors and a rear-view camera – most of which are available on vehicles that are less than half the price.
What’s it go like?
The cabin of the LC79 is as basic as it gets. Lots of plastic all around with very few storage spaces, which means with two occupants the passenger will need to nurse any bags, etc.
All LC79 variants are powered by a 4.5-litre V8 turbodiesel that produces 151kW of power at 3400 rpm and 430Nm of torque from 1200 to 3200 rpm.
The engine is paired with a five-speed manual transmission, with taller second and fifth gears, the latter allowing it to cruise more easily on motorways.
Drive is to the rear wheels through a dual-range transfer case with high and low range gearing, auto-locking front hubs plus front and rear diff locks.
The 2022 upgrade increased the LC79’s gross vehicle mass to 3510kg, not only increasing the payload but also taking the range from the light to medium goods category.
Braked trailer towing capacity remains at 3500kg.
It’s a bit of a climb to get into the LC79, helped by grab handles on either side. Once there the cloth seats are firm but comfortable.
There’s no push button start, the key needs to be inserted in the ignition slot – don’t mind that, at least you always know where it is.
The wing mirrors are large but not powered and need a bit of pushing and prodding to set them properly — a real nuisance if you don’t have a passenger to help.
Once set, they contribute to excellent visibility all round with a large, almost vertical, windscreen, large side windows and no rear seat headrests to block the view behind.
The first thing to do if you pick up a Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series in the city – as we did – is to get out ASAP.
It’s certainly not designed for urban conditions. It’s large, heavy and cumbersome with a large turning circle.
Steering is heavy, the brakes are spongy and there’s a fair bit of body roll.
With its 14.4 metre turning circle even moderate manoeuvres are likely to necessitate a three-point turn.
Fortunately, Sydney’s ring of motorways let us escape and we were able to settle into an uninterrupted trip to the Central Coast.
While it was still not in its natural habitat and it could hardly be called a cruiser, we got a much better feel for the LC79.
There was a significant amount of engine and road noise and it really needs a sixth gear.
On the positive side, the amount of torque, accessible across the rev range, meant the big Cruiser moved effortlessly regardless of terrain.
The gear shift has a long throw action which makes it possible to miss third if you rush it.
On moving off It can take three gear changes just to get across an intersection, unless you start off in second, which is the preferred method.
Off road, with 230mm of ground clearance, 700mm wading ability, a snorkel for breathing, low range crawler gearing, plus front and rear diff locks, the 70 Series takes some stopping.
Whenever you travel around the great Aussie bush every second vehicle seems to be a 70-Series Land Cruiser.
Some in much loved condition, others that have led a rough life – but all still going strong and hard, even with too little maintenance.
One reason for its popularity is that it has been developed specifically for the Australian environment, with a tough ladder-frame chassis, live-axles, impressive ground clearance, part-time 4×4, powerful yet efficient engine, excellent load-carrying capacity and long touring range.
Land Cruiser 70 series gets a five-year, unlimited distance warranty that can be extended to seven years on the powertrain when the vehicle is serviced at a Toyota dealership.
Servicing intervals are six months or 10,000km.
Now for the bad news. About a year ago Toyota Australia instructed its dealers to stop taking orders for the vehicle — and that is still the case.
Even those who ordered their LC79 prior to that date are facing long delays.