Friday 26 February 1999
GOOD POINTS: Size, space, reliability, Toyota reputation, off-road competence, excellent quality and
gold-plated resale value.
BAD POINTS: Size, weight, old petrol engine is underpowered and thirsty. Tyres, running costs expensive.
Eats brake pads.
VERDICT: The most competent heavy-duty 4WD wagon on the market. Big, brash and able to go just
RATING: Three (out of five).
In May 1990 Toyota launched its 80 Series LandCruiser, a massive 4WD wagon that built on the well
established reputation of its predecessors.
Earlier LandCruisers had proved as rugged as Land Rovers and considerably more reliable. They gained
increasing favour among those who went deep into the bush or who needed a workhorse for mining or
farming and by the 1980s were popular with many who had no more than a vague dream of using anything
like the vehicle's off-road potential. Cruisers had stupendous space, a view over the traffic and, to many
drivers, a sense of greater safety.
For people regularly ferrying up to seven people and assorted chattels, this type of vehicle made plenty of
sense, more so if there was a muddy paddock or a river crossing on the agenda. As the boundary between
Serious Rough Stuff 4WD and urban people-mover blurred, the LandCruiser became, for many, a more
spacious alternative to a Commodore or Volvo wagon.
The all-new 1990 GXL had diesel, turbodiesel or petrol engines, was built as strongly as its appearance
implied and was superbly finished.
Even at its launch, Toyota acknow-ledged the 4.2-litre diesel was superior to the 4.0-litre petrol engine,
which performed only modestly but consumed fuel dramatically.
A five-speed manual transmission was standard and a four-speed overdrive automatic was a popular option.
The GXL's standard equipment included central locking, electric windows, a reasonable sound system and
unprepossessing but durable cloth trim. Air-conditioning was extra. This was the value buy in the range, at
little more than half the price of a Range Rover.
Highly popular from its launch, the 80 Series remains the most competent all-round 4WD wagon on the
Equipped with coil spring suspension, it handled better than its predecessor though sheer bulk and weight,
a high centre of gravity and its serious off-road suspension deny it the agility and subtlety of a sedan.
Few people realise how competent and versatile a LandCruiser is; many used vehicles have done nothing
more daunting than mount an occasional kerb.
The ride wasn't too bad (though not quite in Range Rover class), but a big mid-corner bump could seriously
unsettle the tail, causing LandCruiser Lurch. Toyota's cure on subsequent models traded off some ride
quality in favour of stiffer suspension. Any handling sins are more than offset by its reliability. Breakdowns
are rare; a sensor in the electronic fuel-injection can give trouble on early examples of this model.
That early petrol engine served until November 1992, when it was superseded by a brilliant 4.5-litre
twin-cam six that brought new standards of performance and fuel economy.
If your choice of Cruiser is a 1990-1992, you should take the turbodiesel, which combines excellent
economy for so heavy and blunt-shaped a vehicle with lively performance.
Brake pad life tends to be short, especially on automatics. Do not drive around town with the transmission
permanently in overdrive because there is then no engine braking; keep overdrive for 80 km/h zones and
higher. Some owners found themselves forking out for new front pads every 10,000 km at $140 a time.
The brakes, by the way, are less effective than on most passenger cars and their performance is not
sufficient for the Cruiser's weight.
The standard tyres were another source of premature expense, but there is no shortage of excellent
alternatives. Better tyres will also improve the steering feel and cornering ability, but don't expect sports
By 100,000 km, the inner axle seals will likely need replacing, at a cost of $400.
If you never plan to exploit the vehicle's abilities, you'll be spending a lot more than necessary on fuel and
brake pads, taking up more space on the road and blocking the view of other motorists. Conversely, many
Land-Cruiser buyers have had whole new worlds opened up to them.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
Manual gearbox - Check for wear on synchronmesh.
Chassis and under body - Check for signs of hard off-road use.
Brake pads - May last 10,000km. Can wear out quickly on automatic models.
Inner axles - Seals wear out by about 100,000km; $400 to replace.