A tweaked 200 Series is expected here soon-ish, but the next generation Toyota LandCruiser, the 300 Series, is expected here in the not-too-distant future, and that will reportedly have a smaller engine (a choice of V6 diesel, petrol or petrol/hybrid) and an even bigger price-tag all-round than the current 200 line-up.
So, does the current 200 Series represent your last chance to get a big V8-powered 4WD LandCruiser that’s capable of handling daily-driver duties, but also ready to tour remote areas in comfort and style?
We tested a top-shelf Sahara to see if the 200 Series is still an off-road champion. Read on.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
This is the seven-seat Sahara, the top-spec 200 Series* in a four-variant range and, as tested, it costs $124,996 ($124,396 plus $600 Premium Paint), plus on-road costs. (* The limited-edition Sahara Horizon costs $129,090 (plus on-road costs), but there are only 400 of those, so I’m not counting those in the mainstream line-up.)
It has a 4.5-litre V8 twin turbo-diesel engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, full-time four-wheel drive with dual-range gearing, a limited-slip centre diff and a stack of driver-assist tech including Toyota Safety Sense (which incorporates Pre-Collision Safety System with Pedestrian Detection, High Speed Active Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert and Automatic High Beam), as well as blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, a multi-terrain system (with various drive modes to suit different terrain), a multi-terrain monitor, crawl control (low-speed off-road cruise control), hill descent control and more.
As expected for a top-of-the-range 200 Series, it is packed with gear including a 9.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with sat nav, a wireless smartphone charger, a cool box between the front seats, woodgrain-look steering wheel and throughout the cabin, ventilated front seats, heated front and second-row seats, driver’s seat memory settings, four-zone climate-control air-conditioning, 11.6-inch entertainment screens for rear passengers, a nine-speaker audio system, and a moonroof.
Up front is a 9.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with sat nav, but misses out on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
It also has daytime running lights, a horizontal-split tailgate, side steps, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The Sahara is a seven-seater divided in three rows – two at the front, three and two at the rear – as does the second-from-top spec, the VX. The base-spec 200 Series, the GX, has five seats; the next spec up from the GX, the GXL, has eight.
The 200 Series is a big unit on the outside, but has quite a small interior. It is a bit of a premium space though with leather inserts on seats and around the cabin, woodgrain highlights on the steering wheel and dash, plus chrome-look finishings throughout.
The Sahara features heated and ventilated front seats.
Let’s work our way through the interior, from the back to the front.
With all three rows in use, there’s not a lot of space at all. Toyota does not have an official figure for the rear area's cargo capacity, but it’s plain to see that there isn’t much room. We packed in a first-aid kit and a portable air-compressor and there wasn’t much room left over. You could probably fit a few other bits and pieces, but not much. There are cargo hooks and a 220V power socket.
When the third row (side folding, 50/50 split seat backs) is stowed away, the cargo capacity is officially listed as 1276 litres, but the reality is those seats protrude into the cargo area, taking up a lot of useful space. Folding those seats away, or deploying them, is accomplished by way of a slightly annoying sequence of moves. (With such a high price-tag on the Sahara, you'd expect that when you purchase one, a Toyota bloke, whose sole job it is to fold away and deploy those third-row seats, would then always follow you around. Or at the very least, for that sort of money, shouldn't those seats be electrically operated?)
When the third row is stowed away, the cargo capacity is officially listed as 1276 litres.
Toyota doesn't provide a cargo capacity figure when the third row is in place, but as you can see there's not a lot of space.
No cargo capacity figure is officially listed for when the second- and third-row seats are stowed away.
Getting into the third row is not difficult as the door opens wide and there is a side step on the Sahara to aid your ingress, but once you’re in the third row, space is a bit pinched and the seats are rather flat and not really that supportive. It’s comfortable enough and really a kids-only zone, but that’s not a newsflash for a third-row. Bonus: you can watch the second-row 11.6-inch DVD screens, one each on the driver and front passenger head-rest.
There are plenty of storage spaces back there: two cup-holders on each side, stash-away spots for bits and pieces, cup holders in the middle, directional air vents, and lights.
The third row seats are rather flat and not really supportive.
Passengers in the second-row (40/20/40 split folding feat backs) have access to a lot of controls: air con, seat-warming (outer seats), and DVD remote (hidden in the fold-down centre arm-rest, which also has cup-holders and a shallow grippy tray for the DVD remote or a smartphone). There are also directional air vents, lights and storage spaces in the form of hard-plastic door spaces and mesh pockets on the back of the driver and front-passenger seats.
As mentioned, the DVD screens are on the driver and front passenger head-rests.
The seats here are, as expected, more comfortable than the third row with plenty of support.
Second-row passengers are spoiled with DVD screens on the driver and front passenger head-rests.
Upfront, it seems like a bit more of a premium space, and it’s all well laid-out and easy to navigate – to quickly establish which controls are where – but the dash and centre console is all starting to look and feel a bit dated. Especially when the Sahara carries such a hefty price tag.
That 9.0-inch multimedia touchscreen doesn't help either, because it's a bit clunky to use, with its mix of controls, on-screen and dials.
There are a fair few storage spaces though: glove box, door pockets, the cool box (in between driver and front passenger), and cup holders (with a flip-top lid). There is also a wireless smartphone-charging tray.
Upfront, it seems like a bit more of a premium space, and it’s all well laid-out and easy to navigate.
There are USB charge points upfront, as well as a 12V power socket.
The Sahara also has a moonroof if your passengers want to look at the sky, night or day, while you’re on the move.
Overall, it’s a well put-together cabin, build quality is very impressive and there’s nothing terribly wrong with the interior, but it just doesn't feel like a prestige space, worthy of a $125,000 price-tag.
What's it like as a daily driver?
As mentioned, the Sahara is 2740kg, but it surprisingly doesn’t feel like it’s so big and heavy, most of the time.
Steering is reach-and-rake power-adjustable and it’s pretty sharp on and, despite its bulk, the 200 is generally easy to manoeuvre in city and suburban settings, although it does feel its every now and again. Turning circle is 11.8m and, on squeezy city streets, quick turnarounds can become a challenge.
But the 200 Series turbo diesel V8 is a simple, powerful and effective engine and it works supremely well with that six-speed auto.
Nothing much has changed dramatically about the LandCruiser’s appearance in years.
Acceleration is particularly smooth, making for easy off-the-mark blasts from a standstill and also overtaking moves on the highway.
The coil-spring suspension yields a spongy, comfortable ride but the 200 Series never feels as huge and lumbering as you’d imagine.
All-round, it’s very comfortable as a daily driver, if not entirely practical in terms off cargo space, for its size, and for its price.
But, is the 200 Series still as capable off-road as it has been in the past?
What's it like for touring?
The gravel and dirt tracks, on the way to our 4WD proving and testing ground, provided ample opportunities for us to again experience how settled and composed the 200 Series is.
The 200 Series suspension set-up – independent front, live-axle rear and coil springs all-around – helps the Cruiser to sit really nicely on the road. It's not even thrown off its game by deeper potholes or sharper corrugations.
The Sahara and VX also have KDSS (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System), which acts like a swaybar: on-road its aim is to improve handling and to reduce body roll; off-road, it performs like a swaybar disconnect in that it adjusts to suit the terrain to maximise articulation and stability. Note: KDSS is not on base-spec GX variants and is an option on the GXL.
When it comes time for low-speed low-range 4WDing, the 200 is big and bulky, so it does always require considered driving.
There’s plenty of visibility out of the 200’s windscreen, but the bonnet is quite large and does at times obscure your forward vision, but it's not a deal breaker, and if you’ve spent any time in a 200 Series – or any large 4WD wagon for that matter – it likely won't annoy you too much.
The 200 Series is 4990mm long (with a 2850mm wheelbase), 1980mm wide and 1970mm high.
Steering remains light and responsive at lower speeds, and that's important for such a big almost three-ton beast on tight bush tracks and bush routes that twist and turn.
The 200’s big torquey V8 engine, which works really well with the automatic transmission, offers up plenty of that torque at low revs and you can always rely on it.
Low-range gearing is good and the 200 also has a limited slip centre differential.
Wheel travel is pretty decent, but with KDSS, which acts like a mechanical swaybar disconnect off-road, the Sahara gets even more flex, more wheel travel, to help you get a wheel to the dirt and keep moving.
As well as reliable low-range gearing, good wheel travel and all-around suitability for 4WDing, the Sahara can also tap into a stack of driver-assist tech, including the multi terrain select*, which gives you the capability to dial through five different terrain modes – Mud & Sand, Loose Rock, Mogul, Rock & Dirt, and Rock – and that tweaks, among other things, the traction control system to suit the terrain you're on. (The VX also has multi terrain select, but the GX and GXL do not.)
The Sahara has five different terrain modes.
Crawl Control, which regulates your speed at very low speeds via engine power and brake input to each wheel, gives you the ability to select a different low-speed setting to suit the conditions and terrain. This system incorporates turn-assist, which is handy when you need to make a very tight turn while 4WDing, as it applies brakes to your inside rear wheel at low speeds to help reduce your turning circle.
Visibility is good all around, as there’s plenty of glass at the front, rear and to the sides but, as stated earlier, that large bonnet can obscure your forward vision, especially when you’re cresting hills. If you’re finding your vision is hampered, then you can always make use of the multi terrain monitor (standard in the VX and Sahara, but not available in the other variants.) This system is a four-camera set-up designed to offer you views at the front, back, and down the sides, but I wouldn't rely on it. The lenses easily become dirty, as they did on our stint, and it only provides quite a basic, distorted view. Instead of relying on these cameras, the driver should get out, walk the track to see where you're going to drive or, at the very least, stick your head out the window to make sure you can see where you’re going, just to be on the safe side.
Engine braking is generally pretty good, as is the hill descent control, although on some of the very slippery muddy hills we tackled, the 200 tended to feel like it was running away a bit on the downhill runs.
The Cruiser has 225mm of ground clearance and a wading depth of 700mm, so we had no problems driving through deeper wheel ruts and mud-holes.
The only real chink in the 200’s off-road armoury are its standard-issue Dunlop Grandtrek AT25s (285/60R18), which are not aggressive enough for anything more than light off-roading, I reckon. They’re on 18-inch alloy wheels. (GX and GXL variants get 17-inch wheels and tyres).
I recorded an actual fuel consumption of 12.8L/100km on this test, but I did do a lot of low-range 4WDing.
The 200 Series has a 93-litre main fuel tank and a 45-litre sub tank – that’s a total of 138 litres.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
The 200 Series has a five-star ANCAP rating (from testing conducted in 2011), 10 airbags and plenty of driver-assist tech, including blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, multi terrain monitor, front and rear parking sensors and more. There are ISOFIX points on the two outer seats, and three top-tether child-restraint anchorage points.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
As of 1 January 2020, the service pricing for a LC200 Sahara turbo-diesel under Toyota’s capped price servicing is $300 per service for three years/60,000km (up to the first six services). The service interval is every six months/10,000km.
The warranty period for any new vehicle bought after 1 January 2019 is a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty that covers any part, panel and accessory made by Toyota. In addition to this, Toyota will extend your engine and driveline warranty from five to seven years if the annual service schedule is adhered to.
The LandCruiser remains one of the best large 4WD wagons on the market. It really is capable and comfortable, but the cracks are starting to show: the interior feels dated and less than premium, that multimedia system just isn't up to scratch and the price tag, especially at this spec, it just feels like too much money for too little.
I don't think you need the top-shelf Sahara, but if you've got the money and that's your sort of thing, well, go for it.
But the GX or GXL, the lower specs, are appealing propositions because either of those make an ideal platform as an off-road tourer.
Because, afterall, if you want one of the last great modern remote-area 4WDs, it’s hard to ignore the long-term appeal of a 200 Series.
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