2017 Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series offroad review


The good first – that engine. It has gobs and gobs of torque in first low, all nicely controlled with a near-perfect throttle delivery, and can deliver it as quickly and precisely as you like. In second it’s not as good though, the higher gear ratio isn’t always a bonus offroad.

For a leaf-spring rear end the flex is good too, although after 9000km our test car did look a little saggy in the back. The factory sidesteps are high up, and the 44:1 crawl ratio is nicely low. You can often just let the car idle along in first low, feet off pedals.

Then there’s the cross-axle differential locks, standard on GXLs, optional on Workmaktes and not available for some basic 70s. Once locked these give the 79 a huge degree of offroad capability, but they’re not perfect. The rear comes in fairly quickly, the front not so much, but both can take a while to disengage.

The 2016 models onwards of the 70 have a new style of locking hub. This is not an improvement as it removes the ability to drive in low range in 2WD, or isolate the front drivetrain in the event of failure. However, it works pretty well for a locking hub, keeping the vehicle in 4WD even with back-forth movements. For really tough going it would still be a good idea to lock them manually rather than relying on the automatic facility though.

The long overhang means you run out of departure angle on tougher tracks.

Now to the not so good. Obviously there’s the wheelbase which is quite long at 3180mm although not even as long as the Ranger at 3200. The turning circle is huge at 14.4m, and the length with the tray is 5220mm. This is not a maneuverable vehicle by any means.

There is now brake traction control, which Toyota call Active TRC. This works well to a point, then gives up. It is nowhere near as effective as the same system seen on Prado, Fortuner, HiLux or LC200. It’s like Toyota’s engineers just spent half a day on it and then went home. Maybe they thought the difflocks would do the job instead. To some extent they’re right, but the LC70’s traction control calibration is definitely below-par and not up to Toyota’s standards. It should be much better, and properly complement the cross-axle lockers.

The real negative is that the LC70 is also prone to getting hung up on those massive leaf springs which are underslung the axle. Like this:

And if you avoid the springs you’re liable to hit the diff:

And this:

The photos above were taken in the course of a normal offroad drive, the vehicle wasn’t specially positioned for it. Here’s an example:

There is however a solution to the clearance problem:

Portal axles from Mark’s 4WD Adaptors, seen here with 35-inch tyres. That lifts the diffs and the springs well out of the way, and also changes the rear track to the same as the front.

Overall, the LC79 is a very capable offroad machine, mostly thanks to its twin lockers. We also know it is considerably less bothered by heavy loads than most other vehicles.

Here’s a short video showing how the LC79’s traction control and lockers work:

We didn’t tow with the LC79 this time, but the numbers tell a very interesting story. First, there’s a 3500kg tow rating, which is not unusual these days but what is unusual is that it is a bit more real than the average ute 3500kg rating, not one dreamed up by marketing with small print that means you can’t actually use it.

Specifically, the 79’s GVM is 2175kg and its GVM is 3300kg so there is a useful 1125kg of payload, more than other dualcabs, and more than most single cabs. The GCM is 6800kg, which is 3300 + 3500kg. That means that you can tow your full 3500kg when the 79 is fully loaded, unlike most vehicles.

Then we have the front and rear axle loadings of 1480kg and 2300kg, which total 3780kg. That is 480kg more than the GVM, so you have considerable load flexibility front and rear. It also means that if you put a bar and winch on it then you aren’t instantly exceeding the front axle load, as you would in say the N70 HiLux. The massive 2300kg rear axle load means that you can add on your 400kg or so of towball mass and probably not exceed the rear axle load. Why 400kg? Because the towball is some distance behind the rear axle so a 350kg towball mass is more than 350kg on the rear axle, and it also decreases load on the front axle too.

Now those figures above are good, but bear in mind that LC79s do not come with a tray so that weight needs to be factored into the equation too.

The summary is that the LC70 isn’t the world’s finest handling tow vehicle, and it lacks modern aids like trailer stability control or even all-wheel-drive. On the other hand, it does have a wonderfully luggy engine and the basic, solid engineering has the specifications to actually pull heavy duty loads, not just numbers to make a glossy brochure look good.

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper