13 November 2021

Stop what you're doing and hail the new off-road king

| James Coleman
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Not awkward at all. Photo: James Coleman.

Forget Squid Game, McDonald’s pulling the breakfast menu, or zero emissions by 2050. This is the news of 2021: the Toyota LandCruiser 300 has arrived – the first all-new model in 14 years.

In fact, all-new is almost an understatement. But when it comes to off-road, is the LandCruiser still the king it always has been?

The affectionally dubbed ‘Cruiser enjoys such a cult following in Australia that it’s now up there with Star Wars, where every little change to the script will be met with deep scepticism. In this case, from people in flannies and wide-brim hats.

Well, if you’re in a flannie (and a hat), you may want to sit down for this: the V8 is gone.

The classic engine has been sacrificed on the altar of the god of emissions. Instead, it’s been replaced by a 3.3-litre V6 twin-turbo diesel.

And more sacrilege: the manual gearbox is also gone, replaced by a 10-speed automatic.

But before you tear down all your posters, not only do you get more power and torque with this new arrangement, you get more of it, more of the time.

Diesel engines offer an immense amount of pulling power, which makes them perfect for this sort of vehicle, but there’s only ever a small window when you do get it. The rest is just noise and smoke. What all the gears do is keep the engine operating in that small window.

The long and the short of it is that now you can ride a smooth wave of effortless performance whenever you put your foot down.

READ MORE The story of the Toyota LandCruiser, the car that built Australia’s engineering wonder

Feeling better? Don’t yet – the 300 is crammed with technology.

There’s a switch for going between high and low range and another for locking the diffs much like every other ‘Cruiser from the past 20 years, but in no way does it stop there.

A ‘Multi-Terrain System’ tinkers with the stability control, three differentials, and probably other technical things to create the best possible arrangement for dirt, mud, snow, sand and deep snow. There is even a ‘Sport’ drive mode.

Cameras are mounted everywhere while guidance lines on the centre screen move with the steering wheel, predicting where your wheels will end up. This is all extremely helpful when you’re attempting to pick a path through ruts, rocks, plants and the odd lizard.

Many will scoff at this. These are the people who think you haven’t proved your mettle until you’ve lived life on the edge, sweating and wrestling with the controls while negotiating the environmental version of lumpy porridge. To them, the 300 is cheating.

But these are also the same people who love camping. And living under a stretched-out canvas, sleeping on the ground and defecating behind a bush was something we did centuries ago. We’ve moved on from that for a reason. It’s not somehow more courageous to go back to it.

READ ALSO The much-maligned family van has entered the space age

During my adventures on the fire trails along Paddys River Road, I found the technology came in very handy, and I have a hunch that even the most diehard fans will secretly think the same.

However, I do get that the trouble may come in the future when you aren’t able to find a spare ECU in a farmer’s shed. But it is still a Toyota at the end of the day, and all of the basics are present and accounted for – it is still a ladder-frame chassis, and it can still tow up to 3500 kg (braked).

The only thing that really grated me was when it felt the need to audibly remind me to “please adhere to all traffic regulations”. I’ve bought (OK, borrowed) a LandCruiser – I do know how to drive.

For those who want simplicity, the GX model is available from $98,316. This Sahara sits in the middle of the range and starts from $141,405, which does make you feel a little guilty spraying it with mud and tracking dirty footprints into the plush carpets, but there’s no denying the car’s ability.

Maybe it’s part sheer size and part the cossetting nature of the soft, leather-lined cabin, but it is hard to fully comprehend the gravity of what’s going on outside.

On one occasion, I emerged from the driver’s door and had to catch myself from tumbling to my death into the gully below. Further investigation revealed that one wheel was nearly tucked up into the wheel arch with the opposite one hanging limply in the air. I could have sworn it was just a simple reversing manoeuvre over a particularly lumpy patch of grass.

Long live the king.


A familiar shape, but somehow neater and less clumsy than the previous model. Photo: James Coleman.

2021 Toyota LandCruiser 300 Sahara

  • From $141,405
  • 3.3-litre V6 twin-turbo diesel; 227 kW / 700 Nm
  • 10-speed automatic, 4WD
  • 8.9 litres / 100 km fuel usage
  • Yet to be rated for safety.

Find out more at Canberra Toyota.

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Should look pretty good mounting kerbs at school car parks or weekend sporting grounds.

For serious off-roading the Ineos Grenadier looks promising

Capital Retro7:48 am 15 Nov 21

The starting price for one of those Grenadiers is about $85,000. Why waste that amount if you want to do some “serious off-roading” when you can get a second hand Cruiser or Pajero that’s already been “broken-in” for a third of that price?

It has a Hot V like the BMW V8 motors, which are prone to gasket leaks from the heat of the turbos in configuration of a Hot V motor. I wouldn’t rush to buy one, wait a year to see if there are issues. If not go ahead

Finagen_Freeman8:38 am 15 Nov 21

Meaningless munchings.

It has a piston like a lawnmower, but that doesn’t equate to anything.

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