The 70 Series LandCruiser is an off-road icon, and it's still kicking about after four decades on sale. Does this update do enough to keep it relevant?

Few cars stand the test of time quite the way the Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series has. Despite launching 40 years ago, astonishingly, it’s still in production and selling just as well as ever. In fact, the waiting list stretches around the block a few times over, attesting to what an icon this utilitarian off-roader is.

Last year, an impressive cab chassis ute versions alone found a new home, with farmers and the mining sector accounting for a great proportion of that. Given its age, however, an update was very much needed, that’s precisely what the 2024 model delivers.

Featuring tweaked styling, more interior technology, and some very overdue active safety tech, the updated model’s headline act is the availability of an automatic transmission for the first time in the model’s history – a six-speed which is hooked up to the same four-cylinder diesel engine found in the HiLux and Prado.

The single cab 79 Series GXL you see here, though, doesn’t have it, with this example instead featuring the tried and tested V8 diesel offered since 2007. It’s so astonishingly popular, the order books have remained shut for months now, while the company admits there’s as a chance they may never reopen due to pressure from the incoming New Vehicle Emissions Standard (NVES).

That popularity endured despite significant price increases for this new model, with this spec running for a whopping $85,000 before on-road costs, an increase of $8350, which pits it squarely against the significantly newer Jeep Gladiator, although undercutting the Ineos Grenadier Quartermaster. The equivalent four-cylinder model retails for a good few thousand less at $80,900.

Most notably on the styling front, the LandCruiser has been treated to a nose job, with a new blacked-out grille featuring retro ‘TOYOTA’ lettering which houses new automatic LED lights on either side of it that also include daytime running lights for the first time. 

The alloy wheel design is a carry-over from before, although they’re now painted dark grey  rather than the usual silver. Beyond this, though, the same classically boxy exterior remains, but considering it’s worked for four decades so far, it’s not like Toyota we’re going to mess with it too much.

On the inside, the dashboard has actually gone through a bit of a redesign, particularly when it comes to the location and design of some switchgear, although the basics remain the same. That means lots of grey plastic, fabric on the door cards and seats which feels straight out of the 1980s, and a positively truck-like driving position. 

Some key bits of modernisation can be seen, however, with the nicer steering wheel from a HiLux now in use, bringing with it steering wheel controls – yes, that’s a new addition! There’s also a new instrument cluster which is bespoke to the LandCruiser and finally features a 4.2-inch digital display for the speedometer and trip computer.

There is also a 6.7-inch infotainment system running the same software as the pre-update Isuzu D-Max. It does at least add wired Apple CarPlay, but with no sat nav it offers little beyond that. There’s also a mere two-speaker stereo – not that anything is drowning out the burble of its big V8 mill.

Do consider that ute versions ship as a cab chassis, so fitting the tray is an optional extra. My tester was fitted with the General Purpose Steel Tray, and while prices aren’t listed for it online, it will set you back several thousand dollars on top of the initial purchase price. Of course, you can also look at aftermarket tray options or at fitting anything you like to the back such as a camper. Do note that the Merlot Red hue of my tester is also an additional $675.

Those familiar with the 70 Series will know the engine from this version well, with its veteran 4.5-litre single-turbo V8 diesel offering up 151kW and 430Nm. It comes mated exclusively to a five-speed manual gearbox with a part-time four-wheel drive system that includes front and rear differential locks as standard on GX and GXL variants.

While the focus here is on the V8, I have briefly driven the new four-pot, to which I’ll include a few comparisons throughout. It’s also a familiar engine, if a lot newer, with the 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel producing 150kW and 500Nm – yes, it’s torquier! – with it paired to a six-speed Aisin automatic transmission.

Despite riding on live axles with leaf springs both front and rear, the LandCruiser rides surprisingly compliantly, particularly on country roads where it soaks up bumps more confidently when sitting at 100km/h or so. Of course, the leaf springs also afford it an impressive payload of 1315kg (excluding the tray) which while I didn’t have a chance to test, it’s easy to assume it’ll handle hauling a load with ease. Its 3510kg GVM and 7010kg GVM are also well above average compared to most utes.

That’s particularly due to how accessible the torque is in this brutish V8, with peak torque coming on at a mere 1200rpm. Indeed, there’s so much torque down low, you can take off in second gear without any throttle by simply feathering the clutch. Given how short first gear is, setting off in second should he the norm unless you need to utilise all the grunt it’s got. 

Despite being a diesel, there’s a distinct V8 soundtrack as you rev it up, with the standard snorkel amplifying the whistle of its turbo. The four-pot, in contrast, sounds like any other rattly diesel engine, so the eight is the one to go for in terms of sound alone. It also feels smoother and less stressed than the four-cylinder, which is more fitting of the LandCruiser’s character.

Although an automatic transmission has been a popular request for some time, the manual is one of the easiest to drive that you’ll ever come across. It’s virtually impossible to stall it thanks to how forgiving the clutch is, with both it and the shifter feeling deliberate and ideally weighted.

Given the rudimentary platform, the LandCruiser isn’t exactly a corner-carver, with its slow and heavy steering making it feel cumbersome at times, although it’s not unmanageable once you learn to work with it. In fairness, its old-school hydraulic power steering helps give it more feel when off-roading.

Unsurprisingly, it feels right in its element on dirt roads and challenging tracks, with its length the only real point of contention. The Dunlop Grandtrek all-terrain tyres work a treat and there are locking front and rear differentials for any tricky situations, so it feels like you could make it through any terrain imaginable in it – even more so if you start modifying it as well, which many owners do given the plethora of aftermarket options on offer.

Make no mistake, though – this isn’t a refined off-roader at all. If you’re after that, get yourself a Land Rover. This is rugged, tough, and durable, and that’s reflected in the way it bucks around on challenging off-road terrain. However, it handles it as well as anything you’ll come across, so there’s a reason it’s still so popular.

Of course, it isn’t without its drawbacks. For one thing, the V8 loves a drink as a verified return of 12.4L/100km indicated. Do note that although this figure was calculated based off brimming the tank, the trip computer displayed exactly the same number.

The servicing costs will also hurt your hip pocket. Servicing is capped at $525 for the first five years, but servicing is required every six months/10,000km which means you’ll be spending a whopping $1050 every year. On the upside, the popularity of this V8 and the LandCruiser in general means you’ll be able to get it fixed anywhere – even in the middle of the outback.

As with all Toyota models, the LandCruiser 79 is covered by a five year warranty with no mileage cap, although there is a seven-year engine and drivetrain warranty so long as it’s serviced regularly.

The fact Toyota is still selling the 70 Series to this day – and making updates to it to ensure it can remain on sale – speaks to the model’s immense and ever-enduring popularity. Money talks, and despite the high price tag, plenty are happy to keep paying it.

There’s no denying that the LandCruiser has its drawbacks, most of which are due to its age, but that’s also what gives it some real charm and character. Credit must be given to Toyota for pulling off this facelift without spoiling any of that while adding in the necessary safety and convenience features required by the market today.

If you can get your hands on one, and that’s a big if considering the questionable situation surrounding the V8 model in particular, you certainly won’t regret pulling the trigger on that purchase while you can. This is a vehicle that will truly last a lifetime, and the fact it’s still on sale after four decades is testament to it. How many other cars can you truly say that about?

2024 Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series GXL V8 Manual List Price: $85,000
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Ride & Handling - 7.5/10
  • 7/10
    Tech & Features - 7/10
  • 6.5/10
    Practicality - 6.5/10
  • 6.5/10
    Value for Money - 6.5/10

Pros: Torque-rich V8 engine is a proven performer, will handle any terrain you throw it at, timeless and iconic styling
Cons: Definitely feels its age, new infotainment system feels aftermarket and underdone, you can’t order a V8 one right now and it’s unclear when you’ll be able to

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Toyota Australia for one week with all fuel expenses covered.

Patrick Jackson
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