|2002 Landcruiser 78 Road Test
by Fastlane of Australia
To find this review on the web, go to the
78 Series LandCruiser retains that `special something?
Within two hours of picking up the test vehicle, three mates had suggested I should change my name by deed poll,
possibly to something like `Sven the crash-test dummy??
Our test 78 Series LandCruiser was covered in red arrows and signage left over from the official launch of the 78 -
arrows that pointed out the extra length of the cab, the extra height of the cab, arrows pointing out the bigger tray,
arrows literally everywhere. It really did look as though it was ready for the NCAP crash tests!
It was quickly nick-named the Sven-mobile, but I manfully resisted the urge to wave and cry in my best Scandinavian
accent "Hell-oo!" as I arrived home. (The neighbours were worried enough by the stripes and arrows.)
No fiddling about with the look
If ever there was an example of designers knowing when NOT to change something, the 78 Series `Cruiser must be it.
The venerable 75 Series that it replaced holds an unrivalled position in the hearts and minds of 4WD enthusiasts,
particularly those using it as an offroad workhorse. Its no-nonsense appearance is a big part of that, and Toyota?s
designers obviously realised they would fiddle with the way it looked at their peril.
End result? A new 4WD that really is new, yet looks so much like its predecessor that you almost need a tape measure
to tell them apart. (Even the stripes and arrows did not alert several 75 owners to the fact that they were looking at the
And yet, if asked to list the differences between the 75 and 78 series `Cruisers, I might be tempted in turn to ask "Where
do you want to start?"
The 78?s chassis is longer and wider (200mm increase in wheelbase), the cabin of the SingleCab is 120mm longer, its
rear leaf springs are longer, and (this one did upset some of the traditionalists!) it uses the same coil-spring front end as
the 100 Series.
We?re not finished yet. The brakes also got some handed-on stuff from the 100, with the front discs growing to 322mm
in diameter and now gripped by four-spot fixed callipers. Rear discs are 295mm with floating single-spot callipers.
Which led to a significant but easily overlooked change?
The wheels on the 78 Series have a different stud pattern, with five studs instead of six and the diameter was increased to
provide greater clamping force on the hub. Since the brake discs and calipers had been dramatically increased, the old
six stud wheels would foul on these - changing the stud
pattern eliminates the possibility of incorrectly installing a 75 Series wheel.
Now, such things are not so obvious but changes that are readily apparent are those made where they were really
needed ? inside.
Taking the wheel of the 78 for the first time brought on an odd sensation of simultaneous familiarity and strangeness.
As there are no big changes to the bonnet or mudguards, the view through the windscreen looks exactly the same as
from my son-in-law?s 75 dual-cab, until you lower your eyes to the redesigned dashboard. And realise your legs are
stretching out further than usual.
The seats are completely new, with more comfort adjustments and 30mm added to the fore/aft movement, to make the
most of all the added legroom resulting from the cabin stretch. And there was even some space left over for a storage
area behind the seats. Already, this was shaping up as what I had always imagined the perfect 75 to be.
Well, maybe not quite. There have been some improvements made to the engines, but your choice remains the same,
between the 4.5 litre petrol in-line six or the 1HZ diesel fitted to our Sven-mobile.
But definitely new in the diesel is the use of what is called a "metal matrix".
Used around the piston crown and ring area, this is a hi-tech ceramic fibre inlaid into the alloy to provide additional
strength. In simple terms, it can be thought of as a bit like fibreglass.
As diesels run at very high combustion pressures the forces acting on the piston crown and ring are enormous and these
things have a tendency to flex under load. Another form of metal matrix is used in the cylinder bores of the high
No way will I criticise the 1HZ, a tried and true powerplant that churns out a useful 285Nm of torque, has a well-earned
reputation for reliability and can often seem almost weirdly quiet for an oil-burner.
But 96kW of power is far from overwhelming with two tonnes to drag about, and that?s before you put anything on the
back. Take heart, revheads, with a turbodiesel recently added to Hilux and Prado, it should only be a matter of time?
Beware of mopeds!
Unsurprisingly, the Sven-mobile was left behind at every traffic light ? even a furiously revving moped left me in its
wafting aroma of 2-stroke ? but it all came together on the highway. Although the SingleCab has a slightly shorter final
drive ratio of 4.30:1, at 110kmh the tacho needle rests on 2750rpm, and since the 1HZ finds peak torque at 2200 there
is some real grunt still on tap. Towing? No problem!
And while that 96kW of power might not do wonders in city traffic, it peaks at 3800rpm so there are good reserves of
both power and torque on hand for overtaking when you need to.
As the engine is invariably tonking happily along right smack-dab in the middle of all that, downshifting is a waste of time
? simply press on the pedal and the 78 leaps forward like a startled greyhound (well, okay, maybe not quite that rapidly -
but it doesn?t hang about.)
A quick 300-odd kilometre highway run confirmed the 78 Series as a good distance traveller, surprisingly so in fact.
The coil spring front end may have prompted some purists to tear their hair when they heard about it, but it has made a
huge difference to ride comfort and handling. (Just like in the Hilux, which caused equal concern when it acquired the
independent front-end, but has stayed together.)
There was a small bit of slackness, or backlash, in the Sven-mobile?s steering that I never quite figured out, but it
otherwise felt great.
Hitting the real stuff
It?s equally impressive off the bitumen.
On-road comfort of the new suspension is translated to better articulation and increased vertical wheel travel, both front
and rear, so it takes a bit more effort to lift a wheel free of terra firma (a challenge, but we managed it!)
Of course, the catch to wanting a turbo for more power on the road is that you are unlikely to ever need it in the rough
stuff, where the diesel?s low-revving grunt is what you will really appreciate.
The `Cruiser blissfully putters its way over broken ground, will drag itself through soft stuff with comparitive ease (or
skim over it with the tyres let down), and has good engine-braking for steep descents in low range. And even if you do
find yourself having to squeeze the brakes in that situation, they seem to resist any tendency towards premature lock-up.
Approach and departure angles have been increased as well, allowing a bit more latitude in what you can or can?t take
on. Considering that the old 75 was a definite champion at that sort of thing, an improvement like that is no mean feat.
I was actually quite reluctant to hand Sven-mobile back after a week at the wheel. The designers of the 78 Series
LandCruiser have made vast improvements to it while cleverly retaining most of the appearance, and all the personality,
that has always marked the original theme.
They?ll have to come up with something completely new sooner or later, of course ? but let?s hope it?s later.