BUYERS GUIDE
TOYOTA LANDCRUISER 70 SERIES
The market leader in this top-spec' segment - updated January 2018.

The Toyota LandCruiser has been the Australian bush’s favourite workhorse since Leslie Thiess (later Sir Leslie) introduced the first Land Cruisers to Australia in the 1970s. Evolution, not revolution, is the name of the game, but the 70 Series has now become much more complex.

Toyota isn’t stupid: you don’t get to be world number one by making many mistakes. Until relatively recently, the 70 Series was kept as simple as possible, with electronics only where they were necessary.

However, market pressure for best-practice dynamic and passive safety dictated much more electronic equipment in the MY 2017 vehicles that were launched in October 2016.

The current machine retains an electronically-controlled V8 turbo-intercooled diesel, because an electronic engine was necessary to meet Euro IV emissions levels. A plus for the engine is oil drain periods of 10,000km, out from the six-cylinder’s 5000km.

The 4.5-litre V8 is under-stressed in the 76/78/79 Series, putting out 151kW at 3400rpm, with 430Nm in the 1200-3200rpm band.

The principal negatives for this engine are the ridiculous location of the starter motor, in the engine 'vee' and the alternator, at the bottom of the engine bay.

Both electrical components have proved vulnerable to corrosion: the starter because if the engine gets a bath, water pools around the starter motor and the alternator gets wet at virtually every creek crossing. Dumb.

Incidentally, getting the corroded starter out is a massive job that requires dismantling the fuel injection plumbing and the alternator is also relatively inaccessible. On our old LandCruiser 75 Series we can swap out a starter motor in around half an hour (had to do it at 400,000km) and the alternator has never got wet or clogged with mud.

The 79 Series engine engine was 'upgraded' to Euro V emissions standard in late 2016, requiring a diesel particulate filter (DPF) to be added.

That's not good news, because DPFs fill up with soot unless exhaust temperatures are kept high. To clean out the DPF it's necessary to perform a 'regeneration' procedure, or the engine will shut down. This involves parking the vehicle and running the engine with an over-rich mixture to raise the temperature in the DPF. You don't want to do that in Mitchell Grass country!

This has already proved to be a big problem for owners who trickle along bush tracks or around properties at idle revs, with low exhaust temperatures. We've heard of several fires.

Given the complexity and maintenance issues involved with common-rail diesel injection, EGRs and DPFs It may be time Toyota thought about re-introducing a simpler, petrol engine to the 70 Series. (The 75 Series used to come with a 4.5-litre in-line petrol six option.) The standard engines for the 79 Series around the world are the old 1HZ diesel six that dates back to the Australian 75 Series and the four-litre V6 petrol engine that until late 2017 powered some Prado and HiLux variants here.

As we saw when a twin-turbo version was introduced in the 200 Series wagon range, the single-turbo V8 diesel engine is capable of much more output. However, considering the ancient heritage of the 78/79, the few upgrades made to the chassis and suspension, its notoriously weak clutch and a mere three-star ANCAP crashworthiness rating (until 2016 for the single-cab), the 151kW/430Nm outputs are just about right.

Until MY2017 the V8 model retained the same overall gearing as the previous generation six-cylinder models, so at cruising speed on the highway the V8 was spinning at a totally unnecessary 2600rpm and fuel economy suffered. Unbelievably, it took Toyota until late 2016 to revise the overdrive gear ratio, to drop engine revs to 2200rpm at 110km/h.

While Toyota was revising the transmission ratios it's a shame the clutch didn't get an upgrade, because slipping clutches are common in V8 'Cruisers. Toyota's warranty 'fix' is to replace the clutch with the same part, so most owners get the job done elsewhere and pay for a heavier-duty Exedy Safari Tuff clutch.

When the V8 was introduced the old 75-78 Series frame and body, with small grille opening, were widened to accept the V8 engine with its much larger radiator. The front axle track had to go up 80mm in the case of the split-rim-wheel Workmate version and 120mm on the aluminium-wheel GX and GXL versions. The V8 model’s front track was therefore wider than the track of the leaf-sprung rear axle and it showed: drive behind the vehicle and you could be forgiven for thinking that it was ‘crabbing’ down the road.

Unbelievably, when the 70 Series was given safety upgrades in late 2016 the stupidly-narrow-track rear axle was retained.


21st Century developments

In the early 2000s the very high retail price of the LandCruiser 79 Series GXL made it look decidedly underdone: no factory air conditioning, a tiny, open oddments tray, cheap-looking cloth seats and carpet, a squinty interior light and a 1980s metal and plasso dashboard. The only concession to the 21 st century seemed to be an MP3-compatible CD player.

The interior remained virtually unchanged from the previous 78/79 Series, until the introduction of SRS airbags in 2010, when the dashboard and steering wheel shapes were revised. Along with that came a Bluetooth-equipped sound system that was iPod and Android compatible.

78 series dual cabIn 2012 Toyota released the five-seat 79 Series double-cab:  a tray-back chassis with a cut-off 76 Series wagon body dropped on it. The rear door cut-outs showed where the shorter-wheelbase 76 wagon’s rear mudguards would fit. As with most double-cabs the bulk of the tray sat behind the rear axle, severely limiting real-world payload capacity.

Another casualty of the conversion was a drop in fuel tank capacity from 180 litres to only 130 litres.

At the same time ABS brakes were fitted and all GXL models scored standard differentia locks.

The $63,990 base-model Workmate version ran on 16-inch split rims (did anyone seriously want these in 2012?), with a limited-slip rear differential, vinyl seat covers and floor mats.

The $67,990 GXL model looked better value for money, boasting aluminium wheels with tubeless tyres, front and rear diff locks, fog lamps, power windows, remote central locking, carpet and cloth seat covers.

The October 2016 upgrades were the most comprehensive made to the 70 Series and it’s very easy to be cynical about the ‘improvements’. Clearly, Toyota has been forced to improve passive safety to retain its mining and government customers, yet the company has ignored the narrow-track rear axle issue.

The mining and government compamies' principal purchase is the short-cab 79 Series and that's the only model to win a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

ANCAP five-star ratings require multiple airbags. It’s also well known that a vehicle has to have pedestrian-strike ‘softening’ for a five-star rating and that has meant adding a bonnet ‘bulge’ to put some bonnet compression space above the engine, so that a pedestrian’s head doesn’t force the bonnet sheet metal immediately onto the engine.

That’s fine, for the one-percent of 70 Series that won’t have a bull bar fitted!

We welcome the addition of vehicle stability control; active traction control; hill-start assist control; brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution. Also welcome is cruise control, so the 70 Series is now no longer the only vehicle on the market – including trucks – that doesn’t have it.

Toyota claims improved fuel economy from the piezo injectors in the Euro V engine, which we doubt very much: if there is any improvement it’ll come from having an overdrive ratio that the V8 should have had since its introduction. Some pundits reckoned Toyota would have to fit a six-speed to the 70 Series, but they don’t understand the Toyota ‘don’t do it unless you have to’ philosophy.

A weird inclusion is automatic front hubs, with a manual-lock position. They’re a pain, because they never lock reliably in ‘auto’ mode and you have to ferret around for your wheel-brace to lock them. They’re more trouble than the simple, manual locking hubs Toyota has had for years.

These are exactly the same hubs that were fitted to Nissan Patrols 20 years ago, so maybe Toyota picked up some old stock once the ‘real’ Patrol was no more.

Sensibly, the split-rim wheel has finally gone: replaced by tubeless steel 6Jx16 wheels, shod with 225/95R16 tyres on Workmate and Troopy models. Incidentally, the only reason the Troopy comes on skinny wheels is that Toyota is too lazy to enlarge the rear wheel arch openings and fit flares.

We have to take issue with the choice of 225-section tyres. Try buying one in the bush and you'll see what we mean. Why didn't Toyota opt for the commonly available 235/85R16 that for years has been the tubeless replacement for 7.50R16 split-rim tubed tyres?

We like the fact that MY2017 single cabs now come with a stiffer frame, but we don’t like the fact that they drop to 130-litre fuel capacity from the previous 180. Another change is a set-back steering box, to restrict steering column intrustion into the cab in the event of a frontal accident.

Weight has gone up and GVM is still 3400kg, so Toyota's boast of a 1200kg 'payload' needs to be examined. Tare weight is measured with an empty, dry cab/chassis.

Our MY 2017 test ute was fitted with a Toyota Genuine dropside steel body, towbar and under-tray spare wheel carrier, and tipped the scales at 2850kg with two people on board and a full tank of fuel. That dropped the real-world payload figure to 550kg and if you fitted a steel bar, winch and second battery the payload would drop even further, to around 400-450kg.

Many private buyers of previous 79 Series have opted for a pre-registration GVM increase, usually to 3700-3900kg, to allow them to fit a camping body. However, the 2017 model has electronic stability control (ESC) and that's calibrated to the 79 Series' factory-rated GVM. There may be safety and legality issues with such a GVM increase on MY 2017 vehicles.

On that topic, one of the compamies that has developed GVM upgrades, ARB, offers a 3780kg GVM upgrade kit for the 70 Series and states that it: "...undertakes all necessary testing to ensure its GVM kits are suitable for ESC-equipped vehicles, in order to obtain approval from DOTARS (Department of Transport and Regional Services)".

The 70 Series cab/chassis pricing is horrific, as we've come to expect: from around 61 grand to 69 grand, plus air conditioning at $2761, making the 70 Series the only vehicle - car, SUV, 4WD or truck - in the Australian marketplace that doesn't have aircon as standard.

With a tray fitted, some bar work and needed suspension upgrades you won't get any change out of 80 grand.

Those who can't live with the narrow-track rear axle have two wide-track, legal choices : 4WD Mods - Powertrain/Dana axle for 70 series V8 models - March 2016 and 4WD Mods - Powertrain/e Tru Tracker wide-track kit for LandCruiser 70s.

 

2019 model spied

Toyota is testing at least one prototype 2019 70 Series in Australia during 2018. A sharp-eyed Outback resident spotted it and gave us the low-down. An obvious change is a wide-track rear axle that, finally, matches the front track. Less obvious is a new six-speed transmission and there'll be an automatic option as well.

We don't know about the 2019 powerplant, but it's obvious if Toyota wants to remain competitive with Ram and Silverado imports it'll have to do something with the under-delivering 4.5-litre diesel. Our guess is a displacement increase to six litres or more, so that outputs can go up, without stressing the engine too much.


On and off road in the 2017 model

Our test vehicle was a short-cab GXL, fitted with a steel dropside tray. Being a GXL it had factrory-fitted front and rear diff locks, in addition to the new electronic traction and stability control aids.

On-road behaviour was much as we've reported below in the 2012 model test, except that the revised steering geomtery resulted in a 'dead' spot in the steering. The big 'Cruiser needed frequent steering correction when running in marked lanes and on cambered roads.

Seating was better than before, except for intrusive headrests that knock off your Akubra.

Cruise control was appeciated and we're pleased to report that Toyota resisted putting the controls for it on the steering wheel. The 'old fashioned' Toyota cruise control wand is more ergonomic than any wheel-hub button arrangement.

The revised transmission ratios should have been there from the day the turbo-six diesel was introduced, let alone the V8. We cruised happily at 2200rpm at a true 110km/h, with the drop in engine noise then replaced by wind noise from the snorkel top and the square mirrrors that someone must like.

Ride and handling aren't any different from before and Toyota continues to demonstrate that it has no shock absorber specialists on staff - here or in Japan. The dampers don't damp bumps and over-restrict rebound, North American style.

Secondary bitumen road driving was a lumpy experience, but a set of decent shockers could fix that to a large extent. Gravel road driving was also unnecessarily rough. Most recreational drivers will throw away the standard dampers anyway.

We couldn't measure economy fairly, because the test vehicle had only 810km on the clock when we picked it up and was very 'green'.

Vision was as before and the hideous new bonnet bulge didn't intrude...on road. Off-road it was a vision blocker for shorter drivers.

Off road is the 70 Series' forte and the new model continued with class-leading capability. Stability control is cancelled when low range is engaged, but, oddly, traction control on the test vehicle was cancelled in low range. This may be because the GXL had diff locks and the traction control system doesn't work in concert with them.

Hill descent control wasn't missed, because engine braking was as good as it gets.

In summary, the latest 70 Series iteration will please the Big Boys, but has far less appeal for the recreational market, we reckon. It now is even more expensive, has less fuel carrying capacity, less payload and more engine complication and emissions control complexity.

 

On and off road in the 2012 model

Driving the LandCruiser was a journey into the past, but traditionalists loved it. Ride was…er… lively over rough surfaces as the coil-sprung front end and leaf-sprung rear coped with their different reactions. Handling was weird, because you had a coil-sprung, wide-track front axle with a relatively low roll centre in combination with a narrow-track, leaf-sprung rear end with a much higher roll centre .

People who ask why Toyota didn’t give the V8 more grunt (it was up only 29kW and 50Nm on the old turbo six) haven’t driven one on something loose or slippery. Also, the old driveline was largely preserved, with the same gearing, so there were limitations on how much torque it could handle.

Braking was powerful, but heavy-footers needed to remember there was no ABS. The engine was a smooth performer, with ample flexibility and that was just as well, because the clunky transmission was well past its use-by date.

Fortunately, it was easy to drive the unladen 78 using first, third then fifth, but for smooth, more economical towing a nice six-speeder with closer gaps and a taller overdrive ratio was long overdue. An auto option perhaps, or was that too much to expect?

Seating in the GXL’s bucket chairs proved quite comfortable on our Sydney-Brisbane and return journey, but we did miss cruise control and some in-cab noise mitigation. Induction noise through the snorkel and wind noise around the edges of what was a slightly streamlined brick drowned out Mozart.

When towing a Conqueror camper’s one-tonne weight the ‘Cruiser’s performance was hardly affected, but the lively rear leaves transmitted dynamic inputs from the trailer. After-market suspension specialists can moderate the standard suspension b ehaviour.

Vision of the trailer through the r ear window and the old-fashioned flat mirrors was OK, but surely Toyota could improve on door-mounted frames that let the mirrors jerk out of alignment whenever a door was opened and shut.

The V8 could pull taller, 3.91:1 final drives than the previous 4.11:1 diffs, but engine revs at legal cruising speeds were still too high (2600rpm at 110km/h) so fuel consumption was at best 12.5L/100km . Our tow test saw fuel consumption climb to 16L/100km.

The standard offering of twin 90-litre fuel tanks continued on the new LC78 and 79, but the 76 Series four-door wagon had only 90 litres’ capacity. This ‘new’ four-door 76 Series was a revived, repowered and slightly rebodied wagon, with live front and rear axles, marketed years ago in some markets as a Prado, but closer to being a four-door version of the Bundera, with leaf rear springs.

Toyota didn’t fit a wider cab to the new 70 Series, so the squeezy-three-seat, bucket plus bench arrangement remained. The GLX ute models had twin buckets.

The interior and dashboard remained virtually unchanged from the old 78/79 Series, until the introduction of SRS airbags in 2010.

Already too-high pricing of the 70 Series was held in check, with the LC79 cab/chassis in the $53,490-$56,490 range and the LC78 Troopie ranging from $58,890 to $61,490. The four-door LC76 wagon was priced from $53,990.

Air con was an expensive $2640, but the double-diff-lock option was well priced at $2735.

 

Proper deep-reduction gearing, the fat-tyred GXL rubber and optional front and rear diff locks made the ‘Cruiser extremely competent off-road. Wherever it could get grip it would go. After a drop in tyre pressures of 78 Series and trailer the combo flitted over soft beach sand quite happily.

An ‘idle-up’ switch increases idling revs, primarily to improve cold-start warm-up times, but makes a substitute hand-throttle for rough-terrain driving. At around 1500rpm the big V8 allows the ‘Cruiser to idle over most obstacles.

The factory-fitted diff locks worked quickly and effectively in demanding conditions, unlike the older Toyota designs that took too long to engage. They’re not a retro-fit possibility, because the axle housings are different.


Previous models

The 75 Series was introduced in January 1985, replacing the ubiquitous 45 Series. The existing petrol and diesel engines carried over into the new models. Toyota offered well-sorted vehicles with the right spec' for most applications, but the base-model front seats were a pretty ordinary bucket-plus-bench arrangement.

Despite its working class vocation, the 75 Series was easy to operate, with all controls well-positioned and functional. The across-vehicle rear seat on RV models was a tad featureless and unsupportive, but vision was quite good from this rear perch.

The Toyota options list for the 75 was comprehensive: air conditioning, a second, 90-litre fuel tank (later made standard), electro-pneumatic differential locks and a snorkel, so many used machines are fitted with some or all of these.

In November 1989, the 2H pushrod diesel was replaced by the overhead-camshaft 1HZ 4.2-litre, rated at 89kW at 4000rpm and 271Nm at 2000rpm. Optional, vacuum-operated diff locks were added to the specification. The factory diff locks can’t be retrofitted and still can’t on the 78/79 Series, because the diff-lockable axle tubess, their internals and half-shafts are unique parts.

The next upgrade was in November 1992, when the 1FZ-FE twin-cam, 24-valve petrol six was introduced. At the same time, all the 75 Series scored four-wheel discs, complete with drum-in-rear-disc parking brakes, in place of the previous tail shaft drum brake. The diff lock actuation method changed to electro-mechanical.

In March 1995, the diesel was given a minor rework and a power increase, up to 96kW.


78/79 Series introduction


Toyota upgraded the 75 Series to 78/79 level in 1999 with coil springs at the front end and longer leaves at the back. The petrol engine option was dropped. The existing diesel engine was upgraded and fitted with a high-altitude compensator, to reduce rich-running and oil contamination.

The engine was mated to an improved, lighter-shifting five-speed transmission and there was also a new clutch, with reduced pedal effort. The 78 Series was fitted with shorter-geared, 4.3:1 final drive ratios in the axles, to improve performance and top-gear flexibility.

The 78 Series' coil-sprung front end was derived from the 100 Series wagon range and incorporated larger-diameter disc brakes with four-pot callipers.

Rear leaf spring length on all 78 models was increased by 172 mm, for longer wheel travel and improved ride comfort, and an anti-sway bar was made standard on Troop Carrier models. The leading spring hanger was positioned lower than the 75 Series hanger, to reduce the rear-axle steering effect inherent in leaf spring arrangements.

Low-pressure gas-charged dampers were fitted front and rear.

The 2002 year model 78 Series could be ordered with a lower compression ratio version of the 100 Series' turbo-diesel, minus that engine's intercooler. The 1HD-FTE diesel six put out 122kW at 3400rpm, with peak torque of 380Nm between 1400rpm and 2600rpm.

Because of the new engine's greater torque Toyota was able to use 4.1 final drive ratios on most models, with only the 11-seat Troop Carrier turbo-diesel model having 4.3:1 diffs.

The 78 Series ute had a 200 mm wheelbase increase over the 75 Series and a 120 mm increase in cabin length, for more interior space.

The five-stud wheel pattern introduced on the 100 Series was used on the 78/79 Series. Toyota claimed greater wheel clamping power from the new arrangement, which had thicker, 14 mm studs and a larger-diameter pitch circle.

The 78 Series didn't receive any significant bodywork changes with the turbo introduction, but the previously optional snorkel was made standard equipment.

A new RV-grade cab/chassis was introduced, with bucket seats, carpet, remote central locking, power windows and aluminium wheels.

Internally the 78 Series looked little different from the 75, but the instrument panel integrated the auxiliary fuel tank gauge, rather than its previous location on top of the dashboard. The new panel had backlit electronic instruments, a digital odometer with two trip meters, and warning lamps for door ajar, fuel filter condition and, in the case of snorkel-equipped models, air cleaner restriction.

The factory differential locks and snorkel options were retained for the 78 Series, and front and rear bars, spotlights and a Superwinch were added to the options list.

Toyota resales ensure you’ll pay plenty for a used 70 Series.

 

Used 75 Series

The twin-cam 4.5-litre petrol engine was almost overkill in the 75 Series, while the diesel slogger was one of the best low-speed, off-road engines ever made. For most used 75 Series buyers the diesel is the preferred engine, blending reasonable performance with acceptable economy around 12-13 L/100 km. The big petrol engine drank like a sailor and usually returned no better than 16-20 L/100 km.

The plus side of the crude leaf-spring equation was a suspension that was very reliable in tough conditions and easily repaired in the bush. What the 75 Series lacked in wheel travel, it provided in controlled chassis twist, so a well-driven 75 was very capable in demanding off-road conditions.

Leaf-spring suspension relegated the 75 Series to a rough ride on all but smooth blacktop or dirt. Since ride quality wasn't exactly the 75's strongest point, many used vehicles have various suspension mods intended to improve the situation.

The base-model 5.50x16 split rims are popular with cockies, councils, government departments and mining companies, but most recreational users fit widies and tubed or tubeless one-piece wheels.

The stock limited slip diff was weak in comparison with the Patrol's, so serious off-roaders normally opted for diff locks. The factory diff lock actuation was complicated, however, and there was often a delay in getting the locks to engage, which is why the design was progressively changed to full-electric operation.

The 75 Series' engine bay had an unusual tapered shape, which caused some dramas for operators in hotter parts of the country. Airflow through the radiator wasn't as good as it might be, which wasn't a problem most of the time, but could be if owners extracted more grunt from the diesel engine by turbocharging it.

 

Used 78/79 Series

The LandCruiser 78 Series wasn't planned as a revolutionary development, but an evolutionary one. Payload capacity, off-road and rough-road ability, and powertrain and driveline simplicity were preserved.

 

Revised seats and the coil-sprung front end improved ride quality out of sight. Even empty, the Troop Carrier had balanced handling, albeit with a stiffer feel from the back end than the front. With a half-load in the back the ride was reasonable, even over corrugations.


The upgraded engine didn't smoke. It would cough up a blue puff on a cold morning, but the rest of the time it ran with almost a clear exhaust. That augured well for slightly extended oil service intervals, because the 78 Series didn’t dump as much soot into its engine oil as the 75 did.

 

On-road ability was enhanced by the additional engine urge and cog-swapping in the revised gearbox was much sweeter.

 

Toyota claimed a five percent fuel consumption bonus for the 78 Series over the 75, but we were unable to measure the difference when testing the 78.


We tested the naturally-aspirated 78 Series against a factory-turbocharged, 4.2-litre Nissan Patrol GU and found that the Toyota wasn't far behind the Nissan, despite a significant on-paper advantage to the Patrol.


Off-road the 78 Series was a better performer than the 75 Series, thanks to greatly improved engine response, lower-speed gearing and better wheel travel front and rear. Ride harshness was noticeably less on rough surfaces. Even the non-turbo 75 and 78/79 models were capable on-road solo vehicles, and there are many 1HZ 78/79s in the used market that have been successfully turbocharged.


The factory-turbo 78 Series had impressive performance and top-gear flexibility that the naturally-aspirated engine couldn't match. Highway hills that sent the naturally-aspirated model into fourth gear wouldn't force the turbo version out of fifth.


Because of the new engine's greater torque the 4.1 final drive ratio on all but the 11-seat Troop Carrier turbo-diesel model let the 78/79 lope along in fifth at 110 km/h with 2600 rpm showing on the tacho.


We found that low-speed, off-road crawling performance wasn't affected by the final drive ratio change, because the new engine had ample torque, even when the turbo wasn't spinning at optimum boost revs. Toyota tuned the engine's torque curve to be almost flat from 1400 rpm to 2600 rpm, so off-road behaviour was very stable, with no sudden torque surges.

Used current-model, V8-diesel-powered models have a huge performance advantage over their six-cylinder predecessors, but could really do with a six-speed box to drop engine revs at cruising speeds.

 


Mechanical issues


Mechanically, 70 Series lasted well, although the part time 4WD driveline was easily abused. Many working 70s spent much of their time in 4WD, even on hard surfaces, so transfer case and differential problems were common. Transfer case bearings and front tail shaft splines are prone to wear.

Swivel hubs, bearings and seals need regular attention, as do the gearbox lever bushes.

Rear disc callipers are prone to failure and the V8 seems to be a bit much for the old transmission, sometimes causing premature wear.

Later model front diff housings bend, like coil-sprung Patrol axles used to do.

After-market turbocharged 1HZ engines seem to last well, provided oil drains have been done every 5000km.

 

Bush Modifications

Toyota 70 Series rear leaves sag quickly when loaded, so an after-market suspension is essential. The factory-fitted diff locks give excellent traction, but a pair of after-market, driver-controlled diff locks can be fitted to those vehicles that don’t have factory locks. The Toyota factory locks cannot be retro-fitted, because the diff lock axle housings are different.







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