In the gig economy, and swapping providers for anything and everything, the Toyota LandCruiser attracts the faithful like Yoda at a Star Wars convention. Who says brand loyalty is dead?
It stands as the original and undisputed king of the road. Unbreakable when faced with some of the world’s toughest terrain. Unconquerable by one of the harshest climates, it’s opened the way to wonders of this land that were once inaccessible. An iconic fixture on our roads. The Toyota LandCruiser.
BIRTH OF A BRAND
Its early iteration, the 20 Series, in 1955, saw it gain instant popularity, a trait that’s only continued to grow with the release of subsequent variants. Loyalists won’t so much as look at other models, continuing to pay the asking price for new and second hand, regardless of how exorbitant that request may be.
But why? What keeps both new and existing customers drawn like the moths to the flame? Is it reliability? The high-value retention and resale possibilities? Or is it simply better the devil you know? Does the LandCruiser stack up to the hype that surrounds it? We will dig to find out.
STACKING THE NUMBERS
If there is substance to the LandCruiser legend, it’s witnessed by the 200 Series’ predecessors. The presence of so many 80 (and 100) Series models on our roads, still towing and touring, is clear evidence that the original Cruisers were built to last. Whether the 200 Series will prove as enduring remains to be seen.
It is such build integrity that has provided the durability of the original models and reflected in the supply and demand figures. At the time of writing, there was a 1997 80 Series on Carsales for a staggering $70,000. A 22-year-old car with the same asking price as a brand-new 298kW Nissan Patrol. Nobody in their right mind would consider the former without very good reasons. Reasons like the belief, despite the superior pulling capacity of the Patrol, that the LandCruiser is still preferable for its longevity. The 80 Series has stood the test of time, with an abundance of vehicles still on the road despite up to half a million kays of tough driving behind them. It is little wonder it is considered by many to be the best diesel ever made.
Another factor appealing to the LandCruiser fraternity is the belief that the large capacity engine is essential for heavy workloads and long travels. But consider the fact that manufacturers such as Volkswagen have turned the misnomer of large engines equating superior torque on their heads during recent times. They have managed to manufacture engines as small as two litres in capacity, ramped up with bi-turbos that have proved heavy workhorses, with reduced fuel consumption added to the bargain. The old traveller adage that the bigger capacity engines will reduce strain and tow load, and in turn improve vehicle life, have been dispelled by the European competitions’ foray onto the market.
But perhaps ‘small and efficient’ holds little appeal for you. Perhaps ‘bigger is better’ is still your motto. If so, then other competitors are throwing up a challenge of their own. While the European manufacturers have thrown down their gauntlet to the Cruiser, the Americans have sidled up to slap an open cheek with leather riding glove of their own. The Yank tanks are not easily dismissed. The RAM Trucks and Ford F Series et al. look set to take over with monstrous torque and huge power clear evidence of their intent to tow. A closer look at the RAM reveals the 1500 Series has a towing capacity of 4.5 tonnes (on a 70mm ball). That is an entire tonne more than the 200 Series and with the more than reasonable price tag of only $79,950 attached.
Anyone who has frequented parks of late can attest to the growing presence of the American behemoths, a trend that may very well continue with Toyota’s decision to phase out the V8 models. This factor, which threatened to see the King of the Road title usurped, cannot be ignored. Teasers of the new LC300 are indicative of the lack of V8 available. Pressures to meet the demands of carbon emission policies have put a stranglehold on the Cruiser, and only unspecified V6 petrol and diesel engines will be available. That means those drawn to the characteristics only found in an eight will be forced to explore the competition, American or otherwise.
While this lack of V8 model in the 300 Series future may negatively impact sales; it may have a bizarre and juxtaposed resonance now. The last of the 200 Series will be the last of the V8s, and as such, it may prove blood in the water to the consumers circling the product. Like their great white counterparts, they may resort to a feeding frenzy to ensure they secure the end of an iconic V8 line, and the predestined indefinite rarity of the model will keep resale values sky-high. The consumption of the Series by the market will occur. As it stands, the 200 Series is outselling not only the Y62 Patrol, the Land Rover Discovery and the RAM, but is outselling all three combined. Whether it’s trading on past brand triumphs or future results remains to be seen, but is proving inconsequential so far. Perhaps more importantly, from a comparative resale point, the 200 will undoubtedly match, if not surpass its predecessors.
POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES
The shift toward a V6 may even attract new consumers to the product, with the benefit of fuel economy being a priority for anyone planning a long sojourn around the country. A friend who has owned both the 200 Series and a Mazda BT-50 revealed to me that the BT-50 proved the more economical. With additional extras, off-road tyres and a three-tonne van, the 200 drained around 25L/100km, while the BT consumed only 21. Again, it seems that Toyota can turn a perceived negative into a marketing positive for its consumers. And surely that’s the marker of a successful company: The ability to retain the mainstay features that make the product a favourite while evolving enough to meet the new consumer’s needs.
The warranty that Toyota used to offer, three years or 100,000km, that set it behind warranties offered by the competition, has been updated to offer five years with unlimited kilometres. Turning what was a negative (in our original 2019 version of this story) to a positive.
Still, Toyota has provided an important counter to most gripes, and at times, delayed service issues. And that is simply presence. While you may encounter the odd headache with the vehicle, remember the oil use issue on the early models? You can at least get it seen to, and taken care of, virtually anywhere across the sunburnt continent. Toyota fans are quick to point out, and rightly so, that while some dealers and service centres are more helpful than others, the less so are still there. You can be safe in the knowledge that Toyota has addressed the ‘bush’ market, something its competitors have yet to achieve. You may endure a repair setback and delay, but with the competition, that delay may be a hell of a lot longer than you can afford. It appears that even the one sore point for the Cruiser stills sees it ahead of the challengers.
So it seems the question, much like a revolving door, continues to smack you in the face: Why the Toyota? It may seem at first glance, that the above article has been a little on the fence, so if you’re still unsure if it’s the be-all and end-all, it’s time to clarify. We explored whether there are alternatives and discovered there most definitely are. For efficiency, the Europeans are up there. For raw power and muscle, an American truck will pick up the slack and then some. Are there pitfalls to the Toyota? A few, most notably the warranty and repair issues, the lack of V8 options in future and the durability of modern models. Most importantly, though, is it the best?
Yes, with a few caveats.
It’s tried, tested and durable. It’s kept true to its roots in design elements and upgraded its approach to a modern market. It matches its competitors in most facets and surpasses them in more than a few. While there are alternatives on the market, there is only one Toyota LandCruiser. A vehicle like that doesn’t attain the legend status without first proving itself, on paper and in person. The 300 Series? Let’s see!
WORDS FRANK RYDER, IMAGES RV DAILY AND SKYE MARTIN
To find out why our contributors who own them keep buying LandCruisers read: