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Toyota's muscular Land Cruisers

2003-05-08 05:20

Click here for Land Cruiser 100 photo gallery

Wilmer Müller

This week we had the chance to take most of the Land Cruiser models to their limits on a well-organised launch by Toyota South Africa in Gauteng and Limpopo which offered more than enough opportunity to take these vehicles through their paces in some tough off-road conditions. And we are indeed impressed.

The Land Cruiser line-up consists of nine models including a choice of petrol or diesel power. It ranges from the 1-ton pick-up utility, mid-range Prado wagon, to the 100 series wagon with a choice of GX specification or top of the range luxury VX specification.


The latest vehicles in the range are the new Prado models with three models options.

This latest Prado has more of a passenger vehicle feel to it than the previous model but this in no way detracts from the proven durability and off-road capability of the Land Cruiser brand.

The new platform was developed to enhance already outstanding characteristics in pursuit of superior handling and stability.

Key to these improvements are a lower centre of gravity and a wider track. The wider body ensures increased interior space while the rigid construction offers improved NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) characteristics.

The interior design reflects Toyota?s latest design trends. Dashboard components are all close fitting with reduced gaps and the general feel is one of upper end passenger car luxury.

Two-stage frontal airbags provide advanced protection for front seat passengers. Side airbags are also provided for the two front seats while curtain shield airbags provide protection in the upper body area for both front and rear seat passengers.

Seat belts with two-stage pre-tensioners and force limiters augment the airbags in the event of deployment.

The brake system includes ABS and EBD (Electronic Brake Force Distribution). Also included in the specification are mechanical brake assist ? which ensures adequate braking force in emergency braking conditions, traction control and VSC (Vehicle Stability Control).

Downhill Assist Control (DAC) assists in providing a smoother ride in mountainous conditions. Cruise control adds to driver comfort on long open road journeys.

The Prado VX V6 petrol model has an additional long-range fuel tank fitted as standard boosting fuel capacity to a massive 180 litres.

Active traction control is a feature of the V6 engine management package.

Three variants of the Prado are available with a choice of 4-litre V6 petrol or four cylinder turbo-diesel engines and GX or VX specification levels in diesel power and VX specification for the V6 petrol model.

Both VX models have four-speed automatic transmissions with a lock-up torque converter, and second gear start function.

Drive is via a permanent four-wheel-drive system with Torsen limited slip centre differential on all models. When low-range is selected a differential lock on the centre differential is engaged.

Diesel models are powered by Toyota?s refined 1KZ-TE new generation engine with turbo-charger, intercooler, and electronic control. Maximum power is 96 kW at 3 600 r/min and peak torque is 343 Nm at 2 000 r/min.

The V6 Land Cruiser Prado has a new generation 4-litre V6 engine that produces 179 kW at 5 200 r/min and a hefty 376 Nm of torque at 3 800 r/min.

Click here for more information about the Prado 4-litre V6 petrol
Click here for more information about the Prado 3-litre diesel

Land Cruiser 100

At the top end of the market Toyota offers four model variants of the legendary Land Cruiser 100 Series wagon, known as the "King of Africa" all with full-time four-wheel-drive and coil spring suspension.

At the end of last year Toyota freshened this range.

There is a choice between GX and VX specification levels and petrol or diesel power.

The GX model range is available with either six-cylinder petrol or diesel engines. Both GX models have a five-speed manual transmission.

Full luxury trim requirements are catered for by the seven seat VX trim level.

Engine options on the top-of-the-range VX Land Cruiser 100 are a 6-cylinder turbo diesel or a 4.7-litre V8 petrol engine.

Transmission on the diesel model is ECT four-speed automatic, while the V8 petrol model now has a five-speed automatic transmission with lock-up.

This flagship of the Land Cruiser range is powered by Toyota?s high-tech quad cam, 32-valve 4.7-litre 2UZ-FE V8 engine with electronic fuel injection and direct ignition system.

Maximum power is 173 kW at 4 800 r/min and an impressive 434 Nm of torque is available at 3 400  r/min.

The turbo diesel engine of the Land Cruiser VX diesel is a 4.2-litre in line six-cylinder unit that produces 150 kW at 3 400 r/min and has 430 Nm of torque available at just 1 200 r/min right through to 3 200 r/min.

The petrol GX model is powered by a six-cylinder in line engine which develops 165 kW at 4 600 r/min and produces 387 Nm of torque at 3 600 r/min.

The diesel model is powered by a 4.2-litre in line six-cylinder engine which provides 96 kW at 3 800 r/min and has a torque peak of 285 Nm at 2 200 r/min.

Click here for more information about the Land Cruiser 100

Driving experience

On the first day we did two trails at Serendipity, about 140km north of Pretoria in the scenic Waterberg Naboomspruit area in the Limpopo province.

The trails stretch over a combination of mountains, valley, streams and savannah.

The first trail, of about an hour, was really tough, but our Prado 4-litre V6 did it with ease. The Prado's excellent 4x4 setup did most of the work and actually needed very little skill from the driver.

Furthermore the vehicle had automatic transmission which also ensured further peace of mind. Even a tough downhill was tackled with ease and the Downhill Assist Control (DAC) is the perfect solution to take the stress out of you.

The only thing the driver had to do was to point the car in the right direction and to watch out for some serious obstacles. The Prado did the rest?

We continued on the second trail which seemed even more difficult, but again the Prado surprised us with its manoeuvrability and 4x4 capabilities.

In more scary conditions the centre differential lock will also help you to face the task ahead.

It was by this time that I realised that these vehicles can probably face the toughest conditions. Even if you are an inexperienced 4x4 driver the Prado makes off-roading a breeze.

It tackles sand, rocks, slippery conditions of all kinds, steep hills and sharp declines with confidence. The Prado also has more than enough ground clearance.

On the second day of the launch things got tougher and this time we had the chance to test the Prado 3-litre diesel's capabilities as well as that of the Land Cruiser 100 4.2-litre diesel.

The third route was at Wolwekloof just outside Pretoria. The trail took us through some extremely rough terrain in the Maggaliesberg. Some skill was needed, but the Land Cruisers showed their muscle.

The trail is a 4x4 paradise with water and rocks as well as steep climbs and descents.

The humungous Land Cruiser 100 proved why it is referred to as the "King of Africa". I got the feeling that the vehicle can go where no vehicle has ever gone before!

The Cruiser had to work hard on certain parts of the trail but it never seemed to struggle. At certain points on the route the Cruiser had to be guided through, but this was just a safety measure not to damage the vehicle.

On no part of any of the trails did any of the Land Cruisers showed a lack of confidence. Most of the times the obstacles were child's play for the Land Cruiser 100 and the Prado.

This is a line-up Toyota can be proud of.

Click here for Land Cruiser 100 photo gallery

Click here for Prado photo gallery


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