Just Cruisin’ Around

According to Toyota the Land Cruiser 200 series is ‘King off the Road’ and this is something I certainly agree with. We spent a week with the mid-range LC200 VX Turbo diesel variant and drove it in a variety of environments.

The 4.5L twin turbo diesel V8 has loads of torque for the 3,500kg towing capacity of the LC200. It has 200kW at 3,600rpm and a thumping 650Nm of torque between 1,600-2,600rpm. It’s a modern double overhead cam engine with common rail direct injection technology, which is meant to help with fuel efficiency.

The official combined fuel use is 9.5L/100km and for my week including our off-road adventure I achieved 17.2L/100km, which is almost double the amount I used driving the Land Rover Discovery SE (but this was only a 2-litre diesel engine). I would preface this usage with the fact that the Cruiser I drove had less than 1,000km on the odometer when I collected it and so the engine is most likely still running itself in?

The most challenging drive should have been to Wombeyan Caves along Wombeyan Caves Road from the Mittagong side, but the LC200 performed brilliantly here. This is a mostly single-laned dirt track with corrugations and plenty of harsh stones in the road. I would not want to attempt this road in anything less than the Land Cruiser and certainly not with a modern SUV shod with standard road tyres.

The road winds its way down to the beautiful Wollondilly River (see feature image) where many people were enjoying their Easter weekend camping in this remote part of the world. This road is not for the faint hearted as the cliff edge feels uncomfortably too close to the edge of the road and there are no barriers to stop you should something go wrong. The road is also not suitable for caravans and even though there is a sign at the beginning of the road advising this we still met one caravan tower who didn’t think that message applied to him and as such there was a bit of backing up and manoeuvring in order to get around him!

The LC200 rode over the corrugations effortlessly and the ride was very comfortable even on the bumpy roads thanks to the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension. The reward at the end of the journey was to walk through the Wombeyan Caves and admire the calcite formations that have taken thousands of years to form. The good news is you can also access the Wombeyan Caves from the Goulburn side and this is a much easier drive to complete.

Back on the black stuff and inside the cabin it is quiet, so there must be plenty of sound deadening at work under the big off-roader. Another good feature was the lack of dust that entered the cabin while we were on the dirt road and if you were driving through the red centre of Australia this is certainly something you would appreciate. The rubber mats also mean easy cleaning of that dirt that comes in on your shoes as you would just need to hose off the mats and dry them.

But let’s rewind back to me picking up the LC200 in Sydney and things were less relaxing. I needed to get to the north side of Sydney and the sat nav must have been set on ‘avoid tolls’ and was therefore trying to take me on every road except the one I knew I should be on, but this was not the most stressful part. That was going over the Harbour Bridge and looking out to see that my LC200 was taking up the entire width of the lane!

When I got to my destination things didn’t get any less stressful, for the first time ever driving into a shopping centre carpark I had to check if I fitted under the maximum height bar. Then once I was in the shopping centre I found the length of the bonnet to be a hindrance in determining if there was anything in front of me. If a small child were to run in front of this car you would not see it, and that is a very scary thought!

Thankfully the car park was relatively empty and I did not have to negotiate trying to park between two cars as I think I would have given up and just driven out of the place. But as you can see from the picture the LC200 only just fitted within the lines of the carpark and if there were cars next to me it would have been hard to open the doors to get out. The 360o view camera was certainly a blessing here and it also has guidelines to assist with hitching up a trailer on the optional Towing Kit with Electric Brakes ($1806.27).

The Land Cruiser is very high off the ground, which is great for off-roading but another downside for urban driving as you can’t see small cars behind you in the rear view mirror. The VX does come with blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert that helped me out.

The seats in my VX were covered with accented black leather and were very comfortable for the bumpy off-road trip and the next day I did not have a sore back or kidneys so a big thumbs up there to Toyota. The front seats are electrically adjustable, but do not have a memory function.

The VX has a four-way climate control system, but I found that I had to crank the temperature up very high in order to start feeling the heat from the system and so did my children in the back (Toyota believes there was something incorrect about the operation of the system and are investigating this further). I could also control the rear climate from the front; something I think is a must for any car that has rear climate functionality.

Both the VX and Sahara models come with a nine inch LCD touchscreen with sat nav and multiple audio options including AM/FM/DAB or for when you are out of radio range in Outback Australia you can also listen to your favourite playlists via the AUX, USB or Bluetooth.

Front passengers will also appreciate the ‘double’ sun visor, something I have never seen on any car before. The sun visor has two parts, one that works in the traditional manner at the top of the windscreen and a second visor that can be folded out for the window, rather than just having one visor that can lead to a compromise as to where you want to block the sun the most and in Australia to answer is everywhere possible!

There are many storage cubbies in the cabin for all of your maps and other off-road necessities. The cubby at the front of the centre console has one USB and one AUX outlet, while under the large arm rest is a three level storage area. The first level is for shallow items like sunglasses; the second level is deeper and has two additional drink holders. This part can be lifted out for easy cleaning or to reveal a deep square-shaped cubby for the storage of larger items.

The second row of seats have plenty of leg and head room for adults to fit in and a 40/20/40 folding mechanism for different storage options.. They have two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat restraint points, but if you are going to be accessing the third row on a regularly basis some thought would be required as to the placement of car seats. This is because in order to access the third row of seats you need to flip up one of the second row seats and this could not be done if there was a car seat fitted on it.

The second row passengers get air vents in the rear of the centre console and also in the roof, but the air doesn’t blow very hard out of the centre console vents. There is one 12V outlet at the base of the centre console.

Once you flip up the second row to access the third row there is a small step for you to tread on and get in. Headroom in the third row is OK for adults, but legroom is not and your knees are slightly elevated. These seats would be best suited for tweens as they are meant to have rear tether child seat restraint points, but I could not confidently say that I could identify them, so it would be best to ask your Toyota dealer about this and don’t just assume that they are there. The third row has six drink holders (for some reason?) and only roof air vents. But annoyingly the rear suction vent is located just behind you and this makes a lot of noise.

The third row of seats is manually engaged with three simple steps and it is easy to fold back up out of place. With the third row of seats in place the boot is about 30cm deep, perfect for school bags. However with the third row folded up the boot is very large and would carry much of your camping requirements if you were to take the Land Cruiser on a camping holiday. There is also a 100W 220V power outlet, so you can power AC appliances provided they do not exceed the wattage output.

The tailgate is split so the top half can be opened independently or the bottom half folded down there is a step for sitting on or lifting items into the boot without scratching the rear bumper. This bottom half also contains storage cubbies for more stuff you will need to carry on that great Australian road trip. Of course because the LC200 is a true off-road vehicle there is a full-sized spare tyre. 

The VX LC200 comes with driver and front passenger frontal, knee, first row side and first and second row curtain airbags, second row side airbags and third row curtain airbags. While all models in the current LC200 range achieve the maximum 5-star ANCAP safety rating. Every new Toyota model bought after 1 January 2019 is protected by a minimum five-year unlimited kilometre warranty.

This colour was excellent for not showing all of the dust that covered the LC200.

As tested the VX LC200 diesel I drove was $101,237.27 and my top tip for anyone looking to buy a Land Cruiser is if you live closer to a city than the outer rural fringes, then don’t buy one! They are too big for urban areas and really don’t belong there. That said, if you are planning on finally doing that round Australia driving holiday, then look no further than this rugged but comfortable 4WD that will get you to wherever you want to go in our wide brown land. Visit your preferred Toyota dealer to explore the LC200 in more detail.

Pros Cons
Highly capable 4WD vehicle Too large for urban areas
Excellent suspension Poor fuel economy
Rugged, but comfortable and practical interior Climate control issues (being investigated further by Toyota).

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.