Remastered: Upgraded Land Cruiser 200 driven

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 BEST CRUISER YET? Toyota claims the new Land Cruiser 200 is its best model in the range yet.Image: Quickpic ~ Quickpic

Cape Town, Western Cape - It’s not called the Master of Africa for nothing. 

Since the first Land Cruiser 60 entered South Africa nearly 35 years ago, the Cruiser range has built up an enviable reputation as a reliable, rock-solid, go-anywhere vehicle – the king of off-roaders.

New derivatives

The latest 200 model builds upon this solid foundation and has been remastered with a host of technological advancements, making it, according to Toyota, the best and most capable Land Cruiser ever.

Of interest is the repositioning of the new derivatives in the local 200 range.

The top-spec petrol-driven VX model with its 4.6 litre V8 has now been dropped in favour of a lower spec diesel powered GX derivative – playing to the inherent strengths of the Cruiser brand.

Gallery: 2015 Land Cruiser 200

It may also be a tacit acknowledgement by Toyota that the 200 in gas-guzzling petrol form cannot compete against the latest generation of premium SUV’s from Europe.

So, besides the move to diesel power only, what’s new?

Powerful styling

Well, the first thing that you’ll notice is the Cruiser’s powerful and prominent new front façade. 
Its huge chrome grille, now enlarged and restyled, features a lower frame with inverted L-shape that extends into the restyled headlights; strengthening the big SUV’s sense of solidity and strength.

The flat bonnet lines of its 2007-predecessor has been changed to now feature a three-dimensional and more interesting design with convex and concave surfaces. 

LED daytime running lights are now integrated in the lower part of the headlights, while LED fog lamps, framed by chrome surrounds, are now positioned at the edge of the lower air-dam.

On the VX models the headlights now feature Bi-LED technology, while an auto high beam feature automatically switches between low and high beam, depending on the level of surrounding light, and the system can also recognise taillight signatures of other vehicles.

The side profile has also been honed to create a more modern, solid appearance and the raised rear bumper lines helps to alleviate that tail heavy look of its predecessor.

This is further enhanced by significant changes at the rear, including a new full-length chrome strip on the top-line VX model that now supports and unifies the extended and enlarged rear light clusters. A rear roof spoiler, as well as chrome door and window trim, rounds the package off.

In contrast with the traditional top-hinged rear door of the VX the lower grade GX utilises “barn-doors” at the back for ease of loading. However, with the spare wheel located under the vehicle, a big area of nothingness now dominates the rear…
The GX is also equipped with rugged 17-inch wheels and a massive (and unsightly) snorkel on the A-pillar, while the VX comes with 18-inch alloys and a wider range of colours (nine in all).

Propulsion providence

With the 4.6-litre petrol-V8 discontinued both the GX and VX are now propelled by Toyota’s proven 4.5-litre V8 twin-turbo diesel mill. While slightly refined the unit still delivers peak power delivery of 173kW at 3 200rpm and a useful 615Nm of torque available from a low 1 800rpm.

Mated to a smooth 6-speed automatic transmission the powerful, yet quite under-stressed V8 is surprisingly agile and free-revving – ensuring a comfortable and relaxed driving experience.

On the twisty, but smooth new tar roads around Clarens and the picturesque Golden Gate in the Free State, the big Toyota serenely negotiated the corners, and while its considerable bulk was noticeable, it wasn’t intimidating so.

Its steering is light, and so too are all the other controls, but even with a seven year old suspension layout on a body-on-frame platform it felt quite secure in the bends.

Sure, it’s no X5 when it comes to handling and precise road manners, but then the big 200 also does not pretend to be one… No, it’s a big, luxurious and comfortable cruiser offering a serene and refined driving experience – further enhanced by its super-quiet cabin with revised interior design.

Off-road prowess

Driving through some parts of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park not open to the public the Cruiser – now with even more technologically advanced systems and features – again proved its infallible off-road capability.

First up is a new Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) system that integrates with the A-TRAC traction control system to provide performance to suit the terrain or obstacle.

Six modes – Rock, Rock & Dirt, Mogul, Loose Rock; Mud & Sand and Auto –are available, as well as a Crawl Control feature.
The upgraded Multi-Terrain Monitor (MTM) with four cameras (front, side mirrors and rear) that’s automatically activated when the Multi-Terrain System is operational provides a 360 degree view of the vehicle surrounds so that obstacles can be easier traversed.

The cameras are also useful for parking and as such, the system provides parking assistance with multiple modes to assist the driver.

A unique feature is the 'underfloor' view, recording the ground surface prior to the vehicle passing over it, thus creating a 'forward looking' image –quite useful for determining wheel and under-body position in rocky and deep sand conditions.
The Hill Descent Control also works a charm, and can be very useful in muddy or very wet conditions.

Interior opulence

The Cruiser 200’s lavish interior has been subtly revised with redesigned and regrouped instrumentation and controls, while driving-related controls have been moved to a newly designed console around the gear lever.

The centre console is decorated with high-tech and ingot-like metallic accents, adding to the elegant ambience, while leather inserts form two pillars that suspend the centre dashboard.

The VX models have a 9-speaker Electro Multi-Vision (EMV) audio system with high clarity 23cm full colour TFT Multi-Information Display framed by stylish Piano Black trim, as now also has a Heads-Up Display.

The leather seats are comfortable and the cabin is roomy and spacious, with luxurious wood accents rounding off the sophisticated interior.

Safety systems

The VX spec list is further bolstered by the addition of Lane Departure Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Blind Spot Monitoring, while a Tyre Pressure Monitoring system now gives added peace of mind.

Also in the VX is a new Pre-Crash Collision Mitigation System that utilises a milli-wave radar sensor and front-facing camera to detect potential collision risks, while Adaptive Cruise Control utilises this infrastructure to automatically adjust vehicle speed to maintain a safe following distance.

In GX trim a touchscreen audio system and SatNav is available, while durable grey fabric is used for the seats and interior trim. The GX models are fitted with eight airbags, with VX versions adding rear side airbags.

A full complement of driver support systems are also fitted, include ABS, EBD and Vehicle Stability Control.

Taking into account that the latest iterations of the Cruiser 200 are based on a seven-year old design it is actually quite extraordinary how this big and sturdy vehicle has withstood the test of time.

In terms of opulent interior appointment, cabin space and quietness, as well as engine power and all round versatility, the VX version, now going for R1 141 700, still rates with the best, while the new GX, at R850 000, will further enhance its reputation as the off-road master…

The Dark Side

*In a surprise unveiling at the LC200 launch Toyota also introduced the big Cruiser’s more opulent cousin, the Lexus LX – now with an aggressive new Darth Vader-esque face and a diesel derivative to boot.

While perhaps not to everyone’s taste, the large trapezoidal front grille is bold and brash, and forms the main focal point.
Its new headlights utilise triple LEDs, while L-shaped daytime running lights (DRL) enhance its strong frontal view. The rear was also updated, with the rear lamps using a wider design and L-motif.

The interior exudes style and sophistication, with sumptuous leather trim, piano black facia and metallic accents adding to the luxurious ambience. 

The LX comes equipped with a new 12.3-inch multi-media display which interfaces with the Remote Touch Interface system to provide easy navigation of the plethora of features. 

This is further augmented by a 11cm full colour Thin Film Transistor (TFT) Multi Information Display (MID) and Heads Up Display (HUD) system with the ability to display linked information across all three screens.

Bells and whistles

The refreshed LX now also receive a rear sunshade, tyre inflation pressure warning, wireless cell phone charger (using Qi technology), seat ventilation and heating for both front and second row passengers, as well as roof rails.

Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, further enhances safety and convenience and supplements the comprehensive safety spec level which includes ten airbags and a full electronic assistance package in the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management System (VDIM).

Like the 200 the Lexus has a Multi-Terrain Select system to conquer rough terrain, and for the first time it has a diesel option – its high-output 4.5 litre V8 twin-turbo punching out 195kW (20kW more than the 200) and 650Nm of torque available from a very low 1600rpm, mated to a six-speed auto transmission. 

The established 5.7 litre V8 petrol engine (270kW and 530Nm), coupled with an 8-speed auto transmission, is still available as an option. Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, further enhances safety and convenience. 

Prices

Land Cruiser 200 model line-up
Toyota Land Cruiser 200 4.5 GX 6AT - R850 000
Toyota Land Cruiser 200 4.5 VX 6AT -  R1 141 700
A five-year or 90 000km service plan and a three-year or 100 000km warranty included.

Lexus LX model line-up
Lexus LX 450d - R1 393 000
Lexus LX 570 R 1 435 100
Both models have a 4-year/100 000 km Distance Plan Complete maintenance plan.

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