When the mountain in front of you appears to flatten in supplication, you know are piloting a Toyota Land Cruiser 300 and the latest generation – the first change in 14 years – brings an even bolder face and more intimidating attitude to the sport of terrain taming.
Aboard the Land Cruiser 300 ZX 3.3D, I am swathed in luxury fittings and fixtures, and this is not even the actual halo model in the range – that being the 300 GR-S – with enough space between the people a youngster might feel justified in believing WhatsApp is the only means of communication from the rear to the front.
The design, featuring an all-new TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform designated as TNGA-F where the ‘F’ designates a ladder-frame construction, is a two-box style with some resemblance to the 80-Series of the 90’s.
The front façade features a large and prominent radiator grille with rectangular headlamps on each side, that blend into the grille. The rear features large trapezoidal tail lamps with stylised light guides which are complemented by large Land Cruiser lettering and the Toyota Insignia.
The Cruiser is undeniably large and, while it can absorb everything plus the kitchen sink on the inside, it does require some care on the outside. Since most of these vehicles will spend their lifetimes as kerb-hoppers in upmarket shopping centres, accurate positioning is a must since the vehicle fully fills the designated space.
The test unit was fitted with a new 3,3-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine – there is also a 3,5-litre V6 twin turbo petrol – and features new technology that makes it more efficient than the previous V8 engine range.
Technologies include a dual-stage turbo-charging system – which offers both low-speed response and high-rev power. An electronically controlled bypass valve directs all exhaust gasses to the primary turbo-charger (which also employs a variable nozzle design) at low engine speeds – aiding spool-up of the turbo-charger.
At mid-to-high revs, the valve opens to direct exhaust gasses to both turbines, contributing to increased power and a broad, flat torque curve.
This helps the 3.3 V6 Diesel output 225 kW at 4 000 r/min with 700 Nm available between 1 600 r/min and 2 600 r/min.
Top speed is pegged at 210 km/h and it is mated to a new 10-speed automatic transmission with low-range and diff-lock functionality.
Fuel consumption figure is listed as 8,9 l/100 km for the diesel, a figure I was not able to replicate – getting 9,1 l100 on the combined cycle and 12,3 l/100 km in challenging off-road conditions.
In terms of the revised grade line-up, the ZX model is the luxury variant with unique 20-inch alloy wheels, chrome detailing and luxury-oriented interior trim.
All models have LED headlamps with integrated DRLs, keyless entry with auto-door-lock, park distance control, an electric parking brake, climate control with rear zone, power driver-seat adjustment, Multi-Information Display (MID), built-in navigation, multiple power outlets with charging port, Crawl Control and Drive Mode Select.
The ZX additionally gains power fold-down third-row seating, a power-operated back door with hands-free function, heated steering wheel with wood accents, JBL 14-speaker audio system with DVD playback and 12,3-inch screen, Multi-Terrain Monitor with Panoramic View, seat heating and ventilation for first and second-row passengers, a wireless charger and tyre pressure monitoring.
The ZX model also add a Wi-Fi enabled rear-seat entertainment system with wireless headphones, additional drive select modes and a AWD Integrated Management (AIM) system for superior vehicle control.
And, being off-road, is precisely what this vehicle was designed for. With enough grunt to be able to tackle just about any obstacle, the Land Cruiser is an extremely capable ‘bundu-basher’ that makes going nowhere slowly a pleasure.
The All-wheel Drive Integrated Management (AIM) combines the vehicles' key dynamic modules to deliver enhanced performance across all terrains. The Electric Power Steering (EPS), VSC, Brake Control as well as engine and transmission logic are all tailored to suit conditions via the Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) interface.
The MTS-system allows the driver to select different terrain modes including Deep Snow, Mud, Dirt and Sand – to optimise vehicle performance and maximise traction. In Low-range mode, Rock, Mud and Sand are available alongside the new Auto mode which allows the LC300's terrain logic and camera system to help predict the preferred driving mode based on inputs from various sensors.
The MTS-system allows the driver to select different terrain modes including Deep Snow, Mud, Dirt and Sand
The ZX includes a new 3D Multi Terrain Monitor (MTM), which uses four surround cameras to display obstacles around the vehicle – including terrain conditions. A Panoramic View mode creates a birds-eye view of the vehicle aiding visibility.
Also new to the ZX is the Turn Assist Function, which helps the vehicle make sharp turns on loose surfaces by braking the inside rear wheel.
On the road the Land Cruiser is big and solidly planted. The high level of passenger and driver comfort does rather diminish the sensation of speed and the Cruiser quite rapidly breezes up the speed charts to handcuff regions if spotted by Mr Plod. Worth making use of the cruise control on longer trips to keep inside the safe zone.
For a vehicle of its size and heft it handles rather well with minimal body roll coming from directional changes and, equally, minimal protestation from the tyres. It is not designed for point-and-squirt operation and tighter corners are best approached with the slowly in and quickly out style of driving – or you could find yourself facing some hefty understeer.
Offroad, it soaks ups the ruts and bumps to keep the ride comfortable and remains sure-footed. Getting into the rough stuff it simply eats up the chosen terrain and will power its way through – providing the necessary offroad rules are followed.
Toyota Safety Sense is fitted to the ZX and offers a full suite of active safety aids with autonomous driving technologies such as Lane Trace Assist and all-speed radar cruise control. The usual supporting functions such as Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), Lane Departure Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) with braking, and Adaptive High Beam are also included.
Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Active Traction Control (ATRC) and Hill Assist Control (HAC) join Trailer Sway Control (TSC), Downhill Assist Control (DAC) and anti-lock braking, EBD and Brake Assist (BA) driver support systems.
All LC300 models are sold with a 9-services / 90 000 km service plan with service intervals set at 12-months or 10 000 km (whichever occurs first). A 3-year/100 000 km Warranty is included across the board.