Toyota Land Cruiser 70 2.8D first drive: tough love

David Linklater
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New face makes 70-series look even more old-school - which is exactly the idea.

The new Toyota Land Cruiser 70-series has an automatic transmission! Plus auto-dipping headlights, Apple/Android phone projection, autonomous braking, lane departure alert and road-sign recognition. It’s positively modern.

When a Hilux or Prado just aren't tough enough, you need a 70-series (and up to $90k).

Not really. The basics of the 70 still date back to 1984 and it remains everybody’s favourite wilfully retro workhorse.

But the latest update has certainly injected a few worthwhile 2024 features into this spirit-of-the-’80s 4x4 package.

The new powertrain is the really big news. The ol’ Cruiser has picked up the Hilux’s 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel, which also means you can have this generation of 70 with a two-pedal gearbox. It’s not the new mild hybrid unit (let’s not get too carried away with this modernisation thing), but the earlier diesel with a useful 150kW/500Nm.

Toyota Land Cruiser 70.
Incredibly, new four-cylinder engine has more torque than the existing V8.

Toyota is continuing to build the updated 70 with the 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8, but it’s only being offered in the cab-chassis for New Zealand at this stage (single or double-cab, at a premium of $1500) and a spokesperson has told us: “At this stage, there are no plans to increase the current V8 lineup”.

The basics of the 70 still date back to 1984 and it remains everybody’s favourite wilfully retro workhorse.

So it’s clear the new four-pot powertrain is the mainstay; note how the bonnet-height now rises up forward of the windscreen to accommodate the taller engine.

Toyota Land Cruiser 70.
Other colours are available... but this one's awesome.

Are we better off? The new four has a snip more power and a whopping 70Nm more torque than the V8, although there will be those who prefer a manual in a vehicle like this, combined with the V8’s totally unstressed character; peak torque is delivered 400rpm lower than the four, for example.

The new 70 is still horrendous to drive on-road of course; you wouldn’t expect anything less.

As far as we hard-core 4x4/farm laypeople (might as well admit it) are concerned, the 2.8 is a much better drive. The four-cylinder isn’t as menacing, but it’s decidedly more lively in road driving, the 6-speed transmission powering through the gears with surprising enthusiasm when you put your foot down.

Toyota Land Cruiser 70.
LX is the flash one. No, really.

The four isn’t vastly more economical, mind: 10.6l/100km is a good showing for a vehicle of this type, but the big V8 still manages 12.0l. And there’s an argument that it might be more thrifty in proper off-road use than the four because it doesn’t have to work as hard. But overall, we’re fans of this new powertrain.

The 70-series is one heritage 4x4 that hasn’t crossed over completely into a fashion statement.

The new 70 is still horrendous to drive on-road of course; you wouldn’t expect anything less. It’s bumpy and struggles to keep a straight path on tarmac without constant steering correction. The rugged tyres are rowdy on the sealed stuff, too. The 70's sole purpose is to be the toughest Toyota 4x4 on sale: it has a better approach angle than the Prado or 300, ground clearance as good as anything the brand offers and up to 1380kg payload if you choose the right body style/specification.

Toyota Land Cruiser 70.
Difference in front/rear tracks still an issue for serious 4x4ers. But the 70 is still hard-core.

But it’s not really even about the numbers. The 70 is built upon incredibly tough underpinnings that are designed to be hammered over rough terrain all day long and come back for more. The Australian mining industry uses these things because they just keep going in circumstances where a Hilux would break; and Hiluxes are pretty tough.

The only real red flag among serious 4x4 types seems to be the 70’s difference in front and rear track. The former was widened by 95mm way back to fit the V8 engine, but the expense in matching the rear was deemed too great - at least to achieve the level of engineering integrity and durability required by the factory. But there are aftermarket companies that will space out the rear axle for you anyway.

Toyota Land Cruiser 70.
The 70 doing what it does best: keeping away from smooth stuff.

Unlike conceptually similar long-running models such as the Jeep Wrangler, Mercedes-Benz G-wagen, Land Rover Defender (or even Suzuki Jimny!), the 70-series is one heritage 4x4 that hasn’t crossed over completely into a fashion statement. All of the above have retained awesome 4x4 credentials; but 4/5 have evolved into vehicles also aimed at on-road drivers who would probably never dream of taking them into the rough.

The Toyota is unashamedly still a workhorse first and foremost; while the styling upgrades certainly ramp up the retro appeal, if you’re expecting a cushy ride or too many home-comforts in the cabin, you might be disappointed.

Toyota Land Cruiser 70.
Very basic. Note it still has one of those key thingies you put in the slot.

Inside it’s basic and durable, finished in school-shorts-grey with pretty terrible seats. But fully redesigned nonetheless and not without a bit of modern tech, which is where we came in. Still way less sophisticated than the likes of a Hilux. 

We do love that the 1970s-look speedometer (which is actually new for this model) is called a “heritage-style meter”. The wagon has neat tumble-fold rear seats, which makes it a pretty practical SUV. 

Toyota Land Cruiser 70.
Tumble-fold rear seats make 70 a great cargo-wagon.

The cab-chassis is a whole other thing of course. The wheelbase for the double-cab is 450mm longer than the wagon, which you’ll note by the fact that the carryover rear-door still has the cutaway for the wheelarch - and then the cabin metal just carries on! Sometimes you just have to make do, people. 

Also, note the LX double cab-chassis is still the most expensive model, sitting $400 above the LX wagon - and that’s before you include whatever you’re adding on the back (tray, fire tender, studio apartment, etc).

Toyota Land Cruiser 70.
Pickup takes up even more green space than wagon: 450mm-longer wheelbase.

The updated 70 still falls way short in many respects as a 2024 SUV, but that’s not the point; or perhaps exactly the point, depending on your point of view. Toyota has a bunch of better, more modern 4x4s if you’re after something still-tough but more rounded. The 70 is supposed to be a time capsule back to when the ultimate in off-road ability came way ahead of comfort or equipment in an SUV. With this new powertrain, it still rocks (and can go over big rocks).

ENGINE: 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four POWER: 150kW/500Nm GEARBOX: 6-speed automatic, part-time 4WD with low-range CONSUMPTION: 10.6l/100km (3P-WLTP) PRICE: $79,490 to $90,990.


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