11 January 2022 ·

First Drive of the LandCruiser 300

Vehicle review special

John Bormolini from Western 4WDriver Magazine took the All-New LandCruiser 300 out for a drive! See what he had to say below.

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It really has been re-engineered from the ground up...

A lot of the local four-wheel drive fraternity have been following the emergence of Toyota’s much anticipated new Landcruiser 300 series. Much of that early speculation has been replaced with first looks now as a few demonstrators arrive at dealerships around the country. These very limited early arrivals are under tight wraps and can’t be sold as yet as lengthy lists of back orders for the new wagon continue to mount up, not just here but around the world.

As one of the fortunate few to get hold of one for a few days and road test, I had a chance to experience the new Sahara in the model line up. Clocking up some kilometres behind the wheel and taking the time for a proper look certainly gives better meaning to what’s listed on spec sheets. Indeed, by the time this goes to print the 300 will have got plenty of first hand looks from the showroom floor or at the annual 4WD and Camping Show where they’re sure to be a popular drawcard at the New Town Toyota stand.

The key features of this newly designed and engineered cruiser have already been well flagged even before their landing as potential buyers grapple with the changing landscape for motoring. This Landcruiser will see for example, the end of the diesel engine being offered in its range as well as the end of a manual transmission option. The powerful new V6 twin turbo engine is understandably one of the key elements being questioned, along with its new 10 speed transmission and the long overdue updating of its interior and electronics. The closer look did throw up lots of other aspects that have changed and I’m convinced now that this really is a completely new vehicle. It is not a simple re design with the same dimensions, new engine and drivetrain and some more contemporary features - it really has been re-engineered from the ground up. 

Although it retains some classic Landcruiser elements to the external appearance closer evaluation quickly racks up the changes. Minimising weight was clearly a design priority. The fact that many of the external panels are now aluminium reduces the weight by up to 180 kilos on some models. That may not sound like much but this vehicle could not afford to come in heavier than its predecessor.

Previous rear entry access has been replaced by a one piece, lift up tailgate door. Electric assisted on the Sahara it does provide the advantage of being able to reach further inside the rear but I do like the drop down tailgate on my 200 which often serves as a shelf or place to sit. The rear interior space is the beginning of seeing how more spacious this wagon is. The boot space in the back is enormous and will fit truckloads of gear. Even the seven seat models such as this Sahara are complemented by the third row seat folding flat into the floor rather than tilted up by the rear windows, as before. Serious off roaders and tourers will really appreciate this change.

Sliding into the driver’s seat quickly confirms that this is a very comfortable and spacious driving position with vastly improved seating. Its more supportive, adjustable, wrap around and heated. Toyota have long been renowned for quality in their internal finish and this is no exception with everything well positioned for the driver and all of the switch gear intuitive and easy to operate. The electronics and level of tech is now in keeping with a 4WD of this class and expectation while still being functional and responsive to what Australian drivers would want.   

The large nine inch touch screen, smartphone integration with lay down charging, all round cameras, including a simulated overhead view, electric park brake, sublime 14 speaker JBL sound system and better integrated function controls on the steering wheel are just some of the array of improvements that are too numerous to go through individually.

Importantly, driving the 300 V6 is a revelation, especially compared to older Landcruiser’s. The feel and driveability are akin to something more medium sized with a direct and more responsive, agility. Matched to the seamless changes of the ten speed transmission, the engine responds without any real lag and is certainly quick off the mark. The braked 3500 kilo tow rating is retained and whilst there’s nothing to suggest that it won’t live up to being an adequate tow horse, it might take a year or two in practice to convince some diehard turbo diesel lovers that it actually does the job just as well.

I found the steering quite light and direct and an improvement on what was sometimes a criticism in past cruisers. Its handling on road instils a sure-footed confidence and the drive and feel is lighter than one would expect for what is still a large vehicle. Like everything about this totally revamped Landcruiser, the suspension has been built around a new concept called body-on-frame architecture with the redesigning of the double wishbone front and independent five link rear spring setup. By all accounts, serious off road testing to date is reportedly showing some significant advancements in off road capability, especially in the purpose designed GR S where standard diff locks, extended wheel travel, and further suspension improvements are a feature. No doubt 2022 and 2023 will see a lot more reported on the 300 going through its paces in rigorous fashion.

The combined cycle fuel economy figures touted for the successor to the 200 series is 8.9 litres per 100 kilometres. Even with leeway for varying conditions that’s still pretty remarkable for a motor that pumps out 227 kW of power and 700 Nm of torque but I reckon the driver’s foot might impact those numbers a fair bit particularly in Sports Mode and with the odd rush of blood.

The economy will certainly have played a part in determining the smaller 110 litre fuel tank capacity compared to the 200 series. The previous V8 turbo diesel was quoted at 9.5 litres per 100 kilometres giving providing excellent range with its 138 litre capacity but by all accounts it would seem the new 300 would lose only about 220 kilometres in range comparatively, on full tanks. Again, this remains to be put to the longer-term test in practice in the future.

What’s not to like? Those that have never been Landcruiser fans probably won’t be swayed but they probably never will be because something smaller, less expensive and more suited to their preference will have to come before it. Toyota has that covered in many ways in any case with its other leaders in the medium sized brigade.

I don’t like cute or superfluous ideas or gimmicks on vehicles if they’re unnecessary. There’s almost nothing in that category with this typically well engineered Japanese 4WD however If there was something that annoyed me it was the overzealous attention to some of the safety innovations that are becoming commonplace. The first is the lane departure safety feature that makes the steering wheel vibrate and literally pulls you away from the road edge. Fortunately, this can be turned off pretty simply by the driver. The other is the adaptive cruise control that will start applying the brakes for you as you approach a vehicle, way out in front. Again, it can be adjusted but it’s a little too automatic, albeit in the name of safety. Suffice to say the new safety features are very impressive and could take up a separate article on its own.

This rejigged six model range will appeal to specific preference, level of comfort and specifications that suit, as has been the case in the past.  The straight Sahara I drove is not the so called top of the range but would certainly still rate as a luxury four wheel drive. The GR S sits above it, along with the top Sahara ZX model. The GR S is already proving to be the real head turner though and represents a different approach by Toyota. It has all of the Sahara specs but it is more specifically tailored for serious off road or 4WD intent. (as mentioned earlier) And it’s impossible to miss with its blacked out trim, grille section and wheels, a styling trait that’s not uncommon with many different brands these days for one of their models. I can see  

 In terms of price, the new 300 series has increased between seven and ten thousand dollars, according to each model, over the 200. The base GX comes in around $89 000 and then it bumps up through to the luxury Sahara ZX at $138 000. My road tested Sahara comes in at $131 000.

So has it been worth the wait? At this early stage I would definitely say yes. The doyen of larger four-wheel drives in Australia will continue to shine, perhaps for another dozen years like its predecessor but who knows where we’ll be by then. The Landcruiser 300 Series looks to be the one that will continue to hold the mantle at this end of the market, all things considered. It is certainly really well made and well engineered and the only question is how long buyers will have to wait to get their hands on one because the queue is growing by the day.

Article credit to John Bormolini 2021.