Car Reviews

2016 Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series Sahara review

Robert Pepper’s 2016 Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series Sahara review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: The LC200 is the most capable large 4WD wagon on the market suitable for heavy-duty towing, offroad driving and long-range touring.

2016 Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series Sahara

Price : from $118,500 (plus ORC); Warranty : three-year, 100,000 kilometres; Safety : five-star ANCAP (33.09 / 37) 2016 test; Engine : 4.5L V8 common-rail turbo/intercooled diesel, 200kW @ 3600rpm, 650Nm @ 1600rpm; Transmission : six-speed automatic, full-time 4WD, low range; Body : 4990mm (L); 1980mm (W); 1970mm (H); wheelbase 2850mm; Turning Circle : 11.8m; Ground Clearance : 225mm; Approach / Ramp / Departure Angles : 30.0 / 21.0 / 20.0; Wading Depth : 700mm; Seats : 7; Tare Weight : 2740kg; GVM : 3350kg; Towing : 3500kg braked / 750kg unbraked, GCM 6850kg; TBM 350kg; Fuel Tank : 93L main, 45L subtank – total 138L; Spare : full-size alloy underslung; Thirst : 9.5L/100km ADR81/02 combined cycle; Fuel : diesel

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Editor's Rating

Room & Practicality
On the Inside
Around town
Open roads
Dirt roads
Offroad
Safety
Value
Practical Motoring Says: Toyota's biggest Landcruiser has been referred to as the bush limousine and that's still very true of the 2016 model. The interior design and refinement aren't what you'd expect for the money, but this is a practical car you buy for its size and robust all-round ability, particularly offroad and in front of a trailer. It is a big, gruff workhorse of a vehicle that has deservedly won and maintained legions of fans who rely on its immense capability for business and recreation, year in year out.

THE LANDCRUISER NAME is one of the most respected in 4WD circles, and what we have here is the latest in a long line of vehicles to wear the badge. It is the 2016 Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series, or LC200 for short. The vehicle was launched back in 2007, and hasn’t markedly evolved since; still independent front suspension with a live rear axle, full-time 4WD with a Torsen centre differential, 5, 7 or 8 seater depending on configuration, and still the same choice of V8 engines, petrol or diesel, both with a six-speed automatic.

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Yet, by the time we come to 2016 there have been improvements, not just a refreshed nose. The Crawl Control system has been revised and tuned, increasing from three to five speeds (more on that later). The engines use less fuel and are slightly more powerful; for the diesel 195kW to 200kW, ADR81/02 fuel consumption down to 9.5L/100km, or a reduction of 7.7%, for the petrol figures are unchanged at 227kW/439Nm, and fuel consumption is down to 13.4L/100km. All models benefit from a GVM increase of 50kg to 3350kg (as of 2012 models). And other electronics have been refined, plus there’s safety features creeping into the range particularly at the top end with the likes of blind spot warning.

There are four trim levels for LC200, and our tester is the top model, the Sahara with a diesel engine. We had the car for 10 days, and drove it in and around Melbourne’s CBD, on school runs, to the top of a mountain looking for snow, along some long roads better suited to sportscars, and into a state forest looking for hard 4WD tracks. And the week before the test I was towing a 3-tonne caravan with another LC200 so this report includes that experience too, so this test covers all the LC200’s considerable breadth of capability.

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Room & Practicality

The LC200 is one of the largest 4WD wagons on the market at 4990mm long, about 200mm longer than the likes of MU-X, Fortuner and Prado but shorter than the Y62 Patrol at 5162mm. The V8 engine is relatively short, so there’s a fair bit of space to use, but Toyota hasn’t exactly eked the best out of the room available. The glovebox is not massive considering the size of the car, but it is usefully split-level. The centre console would be huge, but in the Sahara it’s a cooler which is a bit smaller than non-cooled versions. There aren’t really as many storage spaces as we found in the MU-X, but it’s more than workable enough in the front row.

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The second row is spacious, a 40:60 split, and each part can be moved forwards or backwards. There is a bit of tilt adjustment in the seatbacks too. The seats aren’t particularly easy to operate, but friends managed it in the dark without too many swear words when I refused to assist on the basis it was part of the test. The second-row middle seatbelt is at least built into the seat, as opposed to hanging down from the roof. The width means that this is one of the more comfortable cars for three abreast in the back, and the centre table is usefully large, even including a storage compartment.

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The boot is a practical horizontal split on all LC200s except for the GX which is vertically split, and the top part is power operated on the Sahara. Opinions vary as to which type of rear door is best, but the horizontal split means that you can open the top part of the door and not have the contents of the rear come sliding out, and you have a ready-made table. It does mean that when the tailgate is down you need to reach a bit further into the back. There are tie-down points available, the loadspace is flat and the largest on the market, thanks to the fairly square-sided body. That’s good, just what you want in a practical wagon.

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The third row is a disappointment because the seats fold up to the side of the boot. Not only does that reduce cargo space, but it also reduces visibility. At least the seats can be easily removed, unlike the Fortuner, and they are easy to operate with one hand. Once sat in the seats there’s not really very much room for an adult or tall child – that’s par for the course with 4WDs, but it is less forgivable in the case of the LC200 because of its size and cost, and the fact that the likes of the Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90 have done much better. However, the boot is so big that there’s even usable space behind the third row; our weekly shop fitted in quite nicely, which means there’s actually less space in a Suzuki Swift’s boot than behind the LC200’s third row!

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A good feature is a 12v socket in the rear and a 220v electrical socket, saving the need for an inverter.

We used the LC200 to transport four adults and three teenagers to a restaurant about two hours drive away. The 200 barely noticed the weight, estimated at 500kg. The second row occupants were comfortable, but there were complaints from the third row. The 200 isn’t the ideal people mover, but it can certainly do the job. All occupants were (unfortunately) able to talk to each other, but we used the fade/balance to drown out the worst of the complaints from the third row.

In summary, the LC200 is a big, practical wagon that makes effective enough use of its space to be a very useful vehicle for all sorts of purposes from people carrying to offroad touring. LC200-int

On the inside

The LC200 Sahara has a list price well into six figures but that’s not reflected in the interior. The switchgear placement is poor; the frequently-used camera view button and power rear door buttons are hard to see, and the only way to effectively control fan speed is by the touchscreen so you have a button press then taps on the screen to change it. Good luck doing that while on anything other than a smooth road. The error messages are a bit unhelpful, for example to engage Turn Assist you need Crawl Control on which requires low range and the centre diff unlocked, but the car doesn’t tell you that. On the steering wheel some white arrows are buttons, others are not.

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That said, with familiarity comes competence and you do get used to the controls. But the ambience is not of a premium vehicle; the controls feel low rent, especially the cheap high-low range selector, there’s no real evidence of cohesive design and the vehicle feels like what it is; luxury features tacked on to a more humble base dating from a decade ago.

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The inductive charging unit is useful, although it very slowly charged my Samsung S7 in its thin plastic case. The phone readily slides out when offroad or when accelerating hard onroad, so you need to close the bay’s door. But you can’t do that if you’re using the 12V socket. This sort of lack of attention to detail is typical of Toyota, and I never found anything in the interior to be impressed about.

The steering is electrically reach/tilt adjustable and moves up and out of the way when you switch the engine off. The LC200 was one of the first mass-market true keyless entry 4WDs and that works on all four doors. The electric windows are all one-touch.

Second row occupants will be happy with their cooling and heating in the Sahara, plus a 12v socket. There’s also two screens on the back of the first-row headrests, on which you can watch DVDs. So as I said for the MU-X, Pajero and Kluger – don’t bother. Today’s children have smart devices on which they stream YouTube, and discs are rapidly dying. At least Toyota have in this case used two screens which don’t interfere with the rear vision. Third-row occupants get four drinks holders, and small storage spaces. You don’t buy a Toyota for intelligent or beautiful interior design, and the LC200 is no exception to the rule. Does the job and that’s all.

Click any image below to start the gallery.

Performance, Ride and Handling

 

 

 

Around town:

The LC200 is a big, boofy car that doesn’t appear to be suited to the ‘burbs. But despite that, it works. You’re never short of power, and it’s pretty well instantly delivered – the diesel is good, and previous experience shows the petrol is even better. You need not worry about any ditches on driveways, or traction at any time, ever.

The Sahara’s surround camera system may not be high-def enough for offroad use, but it’s perfectly good for slotting into a carpark space, and the front/rear reversing sensors help too. The height and size of the car helps you find it in carparks, and the steering is easy enough to handle at low speeds. The car is long, but the split rear door makes for easy access to the back when parked close to a wall, easier even than many hatchbacks. In short, the LC200 isn’t really made for towns but it can deal with them easily enough, and I wouldn’t mind running one as a daily driver, as indeed many people do. Don’t be put off by the size.

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LC200 next to a Q7 and previous-model Range Rover for a size comparison. Parking it in the gap was easy thanks to the reversing camera.

 

 

On the open road: This is the LC200’s element, loping unfussedly from state to state. You’ve got that massive 139L diesel tank, and on freeway cruise you can expect a bit less than 10L/100km so range is well in excess of 1100km. I found the steering fairly direct, but there was a little more tendency to wander than I recalled from previous models.

There is more than sufficient power for any situation – overtakes are easy, long steep hills are no problem, and the muted V8 burble never gets old. The seats are comfortable and the driving position adjustable. The LED headlights are excellent on the Sahara, to the point where I wouldn’t rush to add driving lights unless you’re going offroad. The auto-high beam assist is like most of these things, not yet at the stage where it can be truly trusted. I did find the brake pedal feel to be a bit oddly inconsistent although effective, but got used to it over the ten-day test. The radar cruise control on the Sahara is also effective and nicely adjustable, although it doesn’t operate at low speeds. There’s plenty of adjustment to the climate controls once you’ve fiddled with the touchscreen.

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Happened to have the phone out when we found Mr Roo taking a rest in the middle of the road. He got out of the way, perhaps scared by the brilliant LED headlights (and no, that is not oncoming traffic in the distance).

 

 

 

 

Dirt roads:

 

It’s good. Very good. The LC200 has supple, long-travel suspension able to handle pretty much anything , including getting its considerable power to the ground. The steering wander noted on bitumen doesn’t apply on dirt, and there’s sufficient feedback to punt along quite nicely. Power can’t be faulted; if you want to make progress on dirt roads then you often need to slow down for problems and then speed up, something the LC200 does with smooth ease and barely a burble from its V8.

But power is nothing without control, and the LC200 has control; a 41:59 front:rear torque distribution with a Torsen centre differential and while the electronics are effective the mechanicals are such that their talents never need to be called upon, which is just the way things should be. You would need to drive at rally speeds to upset the LC200 to the point where the electronics kicked in. The LC200 has it all, and is a wonderful dirt-road cruiser.

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More on dirt-road driving here.

Offroad:

Before we get into the detail, a recap on what the LC200 offers:

  • Full time 4WD – 41/59 front/rear torque split via a Torsen centre diff, optionally lockable in high and low range.
  • KDSS – Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System. Has the effect of a swaybar (anti-rollbar) disconnect, but works entirely differently. Uses cross-linked hydraulics to resist body roll on road, and improve flex when offroad.
  • MTS – Multi Terrain Select. Toyota’s adaptive terrain system that modifies throttle, stability control and traction control settings; the five modes are Rock, Rock and Dirt, Loose Rock, Mogul, Mud & Snow.
  • MTM – Multi Terrain Monitor. Surround camera system.
  • Crawl Control – Low range cruise control.
  • Turn Assist – Brakes the inside rear wheel to tighten turning circle.

All the above are described in more detail below. We also need to go over the electronic systems; by default in high-range stability control (VSC in Toyota-speak) is enabled. Lock the centre diff and it is still on, but reduced sensitivity. Press the stability control button and you switch it off entirely, along with brake traction control and engine traction control (read this for the differences). In low-range engine traction control is off, brake traction is on by default. Long-press the button and you turn brake traction control off too, not that you’d want to, but you can. This is exactly how the other serious Toyota 4WDs work, for example Fortuner and FJ Cruiser.

 

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Enough theory, now let’s talk offroad performance in reality.

Offroad driving

Toyota always make good, flexible suspension and the LC200 is no exception with a live rear axle and independent front. That suspension is both supple and long-travel (not the same thing), so the LC200’s wheels are almost always in contact with the ground and that means stability as well as traction. In fact, the LC200 can out-flex many live axled vehicles (cry into your beer) thanks to its inherent long travel but what also helps is KDSS.

 

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Then we have the engine, which delivers smoothly usable torque at low revs, but is capable of quick power, and lots of it when the occasion demands. Toyota’s brake traction control is also absolutely first class and always has been on the LC200, which is perhaps why Toyota never offered a cross-axle differential lock.

The electronics are further improved by the Multi Terrain Select which tailors it a little here and there (see video below). In the centre of the vehicle is a Torsen differential which naturally allows a differential effect between front and rear axles but not so much the front axle can spin with the rear sitting there doing nothing. When that’s not enough Toyota has kept things simple and just gone for an old-fashioned centre diff lock, activated by a button. That’s handy, because in tight situations you can quickly unlock the centre diff so you can turn tightly, then re-lock it once the maneuvering has been done. Unlocking the centre diff is also a prerequisite for Turn Assist to work (see more in the video).

 

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A feature unique to the Sahara is Multi-Terrain Monitor (MTM), a surround-camera system that shows you the pitch and roll of the car, and yellow lines where the front wheels will go. It’s nearly useless because the cameras are low resolution, and of course prone to being blocked with mud. There was a nasty stump that we wanted to avoid, and I couldn’t make it out on the MTM even though I must have been looking directly at it. So, MTM goes into the gimmick basket until the cameras improve. They could ask Mercedes where they source theirs from. MTM might in fairness work better in high-contrast situations, but offroading tends to be dirt and dust, not brightly painted traffic lines.

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Multi-Terrain Monitor with and without Crawl Control activated.
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A view of the surround camera system.

The LC200 also has Crawl Control, Toyota’s slow-speed offroad cruise control. Select one of five speeds and the vehicle will drive itself, feet off pedals, up and down hill. Some say that’s a pointless feature, but they’re missing the point and haven’t truly understood how it works. Crawl Control is very effective when your accelerator foot would bounce around, say on rocks. It’s also good any time you need to make steady, unhurried and constant progress. And here’s the thing that’s missed – it doesn’t give up. If the car comes to a stop, the computers take stock of the situation and variously increase the traction control sensitivity, increase power or spin the wheels a bit quicker until progress is made again. You can feel the car thinking its way out of a problem, slowly but surely, eking out the grip. It is a very impressive system. The slowest speed still shakes the car to much, so I prefer using speeds 2 to 4.

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That said, Crawl Control has limitations. Twice on test we came to a halt and Crawl Control couldn’t help (you can see that in the video below) – what did help was backing up 20 centimetres, and taking the most minor of runups to get a back wheel over a ledge. So Crawl Control isn’t a substitute for a skilled driver, but it can certainly help less skilled drivers, and even skilled ones might find it useful in tricky conditions – it is no gimmick. It is also the electronic hill descent control system and very effective; it can bring the LC200 down slippery and steep hills better than any human driver as it can individually brake each wheel. The crawl ratio is only 37.5:1, but it feels more effective, probably thanks to the huge compression of the 4.5L V8. And on the subject of low range, one annoyance is the whine from the transfer case. It’s always been irritatingly noisy even on the very first 200s, and the 2016 model is no exception.

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Electronic hill descent systems are at their best on smooth-ish, slippery descents like this one.
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Crawl Control drove the LC200 up and down this track with no problem at all, not even a hint of wheelspin.

Crawl Control is great, but sometimes you just need raw momentum and something that very much annoys me with modern cars is their tendency to not let you have full control of the horses when you need it. Case in point was on test; we were trying to cut across to Woods Point and the track involved a river crossing, as most of them do in that area.

Given the amount of rain the crossing was always going to be sketchy, and when we got to the bottom of a longish descent it did indeed turn out to be a no-go. That meant a climb back up the hill…which was damp clay, and we had the standard Grand Treks on. Naturally, we’d looked at the hill before descent and knew it would be driveable, but not easily so. I was banking on Toyota letting me control the car, which these days is not a given with modern vehicles.

Momentum was the only way the LC200 was going to get to the top, so into low range, selected 2nd gear start, 3rd gear on the transmission, Rocks on the Multi Terrain Select and off we go. I’m able to floor the throttle and the car’s electronic do not restrict the power, and up we go at full noise… but it’s not enough. Don’t you just hate it when you need to reverse all the way back down a muddy hill? I used Crawl Control in reverse to help, but something that really did save the day was the centre diff lock, which meant that it is impossible to lock the front wheels and have the rears still rotate. If you get into that situation you end up sideways or worse on a hill, and that’s a long afternoon of recovery. So many vehicles these days have ‘clever’ computer-controlled centre clutches which don’t lock up in reverse at slow speeds, leading to very dangerous hill descents. As I said before, Toyota have done it right with the centre diff lock. I’d really like to take these overly-clever engineers out on muddy tracks so they can see the problem.

Anyway, at the bottom again and it’s time for Plan B. Tyre pressures are at 25psi, so I drop them to 20. I also change modes to Loose Rock which is more suited to full-throttle climbs than Rock. And that works, up we go albeit with some effort from the electronics. The modified Patrol we’re with has decent offroad tyres and he sails up too. Here’s a summary for the offroad capability of the LC200 – I would not have driven down that track in just any 4WD, knowing I’d most likely have to drive back up. Toyota claim the 200 is King of the Offroad, and based on this and my other offroad tests over the last several years, I agree.

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Never drive down a hill you’re not prepared to drive back up. Photo taken on the way back to the car after walking the track on foot.
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Beautiful snow! We test in all conditions…

Towing:

Confused about towing terms? Learn everything you need to know about towing trailers.

Usually this section is a desktop analysis of towing capability because very often the claimed tow figures don’t stack up in reality. And I didn’t tow with the Sahara, but the previous week I did a tow test with a 2012 LC200 GXL which has much the same engine and transmission so the results are valid for the 2016 model.

Let’s do the maths first; 750kg unbraked, 3500kg braked which is as good as it gets for this class of vehicle. The GCM (combined total of trailer and vehicle) is 6850kg, which is the same as the sum of the GVM (max vehicle weight) and max braked tow. That’s good, because it means you can tow the maximum when the vehicle is loaded to the maximum. Payload is a bit low though at 645kg for the Sahara diesel, and as usual the lower-spec models are better, 715kg for the GX. The maximum TBM is 350kg, what you’d want for a 3500kg tow. Here’s the numbers, all in kilograms:

 DieselPetrol
 GXGXLVXSaharaGXLVXSahara
Kerb2635263027052705258526402705
GVM3350
Payload715720645645765710645
GCM6800
Towing3500
GCM6850
Roof200
Front axle load1630
Rear axle load1950
Combined axle load / GVM / difference3580 / 3350 / 230
Maximum towball mass350

I made this table some years ago for an LC200 test and when I updated it I noted that the GVM has increased from 3300kg to 3350kg, but the vehicle weights remained around the same or even decreased. The LC200 has long been panned for its low payload, and it’s still not great even after the GVM improvement. Anyway, the basic numbers stack up as they tend to on Toyotas, unlike some others who are prone to tow-rating exaggeration.

The LC200 also has full-time 4WD with an effective front-rear torque split thanks to its centre Torsen differential so you never need worry about traction, ever, unlike part-time 4WD towcars. It’s also a heavy vehicle at around 2700kg unladen, it’s beautifully powerful thanks to a V8, and has a big fuel tank. Then there’s TSC, Trailer Stability Control, to help keep sway in check. You can even put the vehicle into low range and not lock the centre diff which is handy for low-speed manouvering.

If all this is sounding like pretty much the perfect towcar then you’d be right. Last week’s LC200 test bore that out; pulling a 3000kg twin-axle caravan wasn’t a problem for the LC200. You knew there was a trailer on the back but you could still move along, and the 200 controlled the weight reasonably well. Traction was never, ever in question. That particular test was a comparison with an F250 and it was fair to say the LC200 came off a distinct second best as it’s about 900kg lighter, much smaller and is well down on torque compared to the F-Truck. But if you want to pull a big trailer and can’t step up to a bigger vehicle then an LC200 is what you want to be looking at, particularly if you intend to travel long, remote journeys. As ever, I’d much prefer to pull a 3000kg trailer with an LC200 than one of the smaller vehicles which is rated to a maximum of 3000kg. You will too if you do a back-to-back test.

 

Towing a caravan

4WD touring: Every LC200 is ready to roll across Australia; it’s what they do. The spare is an underslung full-sized alloy, there’s a healthy 139L of fuel, the tyres and rims are sensible although I’d definitely suggest the 17″ rims over the 18s, it’s a first-class towcar and the money you pay goes into reliable, robust engineering that you can rely on wherever you are, not pretty cosmetic touches or gadgets. There are a vast array of aftermarket accessories to help kit the vehicle out for your adventures. The LC200 is a comfortable long-distance cruiser, and one of the most capable offroaders on the market. It should be on the shortlist for anyone considering Australia-wide adventures in a 4WD wagon.

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LC200 modified by ARB with the usuals; bar, winch, rack, snorkel, tyres, better sidesteps and other touring gear.

Safety

The LC200 is 5-star rated as of 2016, so the basics are in place. However, given the price there’s not an abundance of safety features, and the few that are fitted aren’t always effective – typical of Toyota. Of the range, only the Sahara gets anything more than front and rear parkings sensors, so let’s run through what it offers.

The lane departure alert is prone to false warnings. The radar cruise is effective but stops working at 40km/h, whereas most go down to a stop and restart. The forward collision alert system just alerts and doesn’t apply the brakes, so it’s not a full autonomous emergency braking system. There is no lane keep assistance. The blind spot detection system is effective, but lacks an audio option. There is a surround camera system, but the resolution is poor. However, there are useful guidelines for the back of the car and the outside front wheel, and two modes of camera view. That’s very good, and something not often seen on other vehicles. The front and rear parking sensors are effective.

The second row has three child restraint points, but the centre one is set very low on the back of the seat base. There’s none in the third row. There are two ISOFIX restraint points on the outboard second row seats.

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The reversing camera design is effective and sufficiently high resolution to work well in suburban carparks. The two views are shown here.

Pricing & Equipment

There’s two engines and four trim levels of LC200, making a total of seven options as there’s no petrol engine with the base trim. Here’s your options:

Trim Levels, Engines & Seats

  • GX – diesel only – 5
  • GXL – petrol – 8 / diesel – 8
  • VX – petrol – 8 / diesel – 7
  • Sahara – petrol – 8 / diesel – 7

Pricing and specs are below. Prices exclude on-road costs:

GX key features (petrol N/A, diesel $76,500)

  • Snorkel
  • 138L fuel (93 and 45)
  • Crawl control, Turn Assist
  • Bluetooth, cruise control
  • Steel 17″ rims
  • Barn door tailgate (see photo below)

GXL adds over GX ($82,000 / $87,000)

  • No snorkel (available as an option)
  • KDSS (std on petrol, option on turbo-diesel !!!)
  • Split tailgate
  • Dual zone climate control
  • Reversing camera
  • 6.1″ touchscreen, satnav
  • LED headlights
  • 220v and 12v rear power

VX adds over GXL ($92,500 / $97,500)

  • Rain sensing wipers
  • 18″ wheels
  • Four-zone climate control
  • 9″ touchscreen
  • Daytime running lamps
  • Moon roof
  • Leather accents, wood grain
  • Multi-information display
  • Power front and rear seats
  • Front and rear parking sensors

Sahara adds over VX ($113,500 / $118,500)

  • Automatic high beam
  • Front and second row heated/cooled seats
  • Driver’s seat memory
  • Rear seat entertainment (2 x screens on back of front seats)
  • Coolbox
  • Power rear door
  • Multi-terrain monitor
  • Blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert
  • Pre-collision safety system
  • Radar cruise control
  • Wireless phone charger

Options

  • Premium paint $500 (which is most paint options)
  • KDSS (GXL diesel) $3500
  • Snorkel (GXL, VX, Sahara diesel) $500

Quite a lot to unpack here. First of all, let’s give Toyota a serve for the extra cost of the diesel. It’s not as bad as it was when the LC200 was first released when the difference was in excess of $10,000 but today $5k is still a lot extra, and owners should be aware that it’ll take a lot of driving – probably around 90,000km – to recover the additional outlay through reduced fuel consumption. Don’t default to a diesel unless you’re sure you’ll need the range, and believe me, the petrol is just as good offroad as the diesel. It’s also a handy tower, and very quick off the mark.

Then look at the KDSS option. Many offroaders are going to want KDSS, so what do we get? No KDSS on the offroad-friendly GX, so you’re not only forced into the GXL but on top of the GXL diesel price you have to shell out another $3500 to make the price a cool $14,000 more than the GX. The KDSS system is good and you’d want it, but even without it the LC200 is a very capable vehicle offroad, and quite liveable on-road. Many of the options you’d get on the GXL can be added aftermarket, for example a reversing camera (and Toyota’s isn’t all that good anyway).

If we look at the VX then we have another $10,000 ask on top of the GXL price which is already an expensive vehicle. For that you get a bit of bling, with the useful bits really being electric seats. Again, you can add parking sensors and a reversing camera yourself. The 9″ touchscreen is nothing special, and offroaders would not want 18″ rims although we understand that that’s the minimum size now on VX and Sahara.

Finally, the Sahara adds some genuinely useful safety gear such as radar cruise, pre-collision safety and blind-spot monitoring, even if the Toyota implementation isn’t the best. The rest is bling, although the heated seats are lovely! The Multi-Terrain Monitor is definitely not worth much, the power rear door is handy, and the wireless phone charger works but is much slower than a cable. The Sahara itself does not deliver a premium feel like you’d get from Audi, BMW or Land Rover at this price point, and it’s a breathtaking $42,000 more than the GX – in other words, the price of a very nice camper trailer, or a brand new but basic 4WD ute. Really hard to justify that sort of cash.

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It feels wrong to do this to most 4WDs over $100k, but in the Sahara it feels natural.

I think that for many buyers a GX makes sense. Not only is it significantly cheaper than the others but it’s the lightest at a ‘mere’ 2635kg, some 100kg lighter than the Sahara so with a GVM of 3350kg payloads are 714kg for the GX and only 610kg for the Sahara, not a lot for such a big vehicle. That’s one reason why the diesel VX and Sahara aren’t 8-seaters, because divide 610 by 8 and you average a human cargo weight of 76kg each, exclusive of whatever modifications have been made to the vehicle or bags the passengers may be carrying.

Let’s look at GX vs GXL diesel; the GXL has LED headlights, which are great but you could fit spotlights for less. There’s satnav, but I’d suggest a phone mount and your phone is better. The 220v socket in the rear is good, but that and 12vs are easily added aftermarket. What you really miss is the split tailgate, and the $3500 KDSS option. While KDSS and traction control are superb, I’d be thinking about a set of ARB cross-axle differential locks instead. Even without lockers a GX is still formidable offroad machine, well able to get you up and around 4WD tracks once it has decent tyres and a slight lift.

So the summary; if you don’t need long range then think about the petrol, for example if you’re just going to tow your boat down to the ramp every weekend and run a load of kids around other times. If you need longer range – let’s say long-distance offroad touring or long-distance heavy towing – then go the diesel, but seriously consider the GX and spending the saving on aftermarket gear.

Finally, a note on colours. There’s only four colours for the GX, white or greys. GXL and above get more.

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2013 LC200 GX on test – note the snorkel and barn rear doors. No KDSS, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t capable.

What about a GVM upgrade?

Some of the aftermarket GVM upgrades available for the LC200 simply increase the GVM to the sum of the two axle loads, 1630kg front and 1950kg rear to total 3580kg, or another 230kg. That’s a very useful increase, but it does mean you lose the flexibility of loading up the front of the vehicle more than the rear; you need to maintain a perfect 46/54% front/rear split if you use all that extra 230kg. There are some upgrades that increase the total to 3800kg and re-rate the axles. Regardless, the usual caveats about overloading apply; modern vehicles are so powerful and capable they are easy to overload, so use that extra capacity with caution.

Further reading

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Old and new, an LC80 with the LC200.
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2007 year LC200s, one petrol, one diesel.

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper is a motoring journalist, offroad driver trainer and photographer interested in anything with wings, sails or wheels. He is the author of four books on offroading, and owns a modified Ford Ranger PX which he uses for offroad touring. His other car is a Toyota 86 which exists purely to drive in circles on racetracks, and that's when he isn't racing his Nissan Pulsar. Visit his website: www.l2sfbc.com or follow him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RobertPepperJourno/ or buy his new ebook!