LandCruiser 200 Altitude Special Edition: Tow Test

By: Michael Borg, Photography by: CAMPER crew


Ever wondered why the LandCruiser is so popular? We hit the road and crossed the entire country to find out!

Toyota Land Cruiser 200 Altitude Special Edition 5

It’s real ‘Cruiser country here in the land of Oz. Sure the little buzz-box hatchbacks or SUVs might rule the streets of the big smoke, but make no mistake, the trusty LandCruiser is still the king of the bush! The big question is, why? I mean, they’re not cheapest option around. They’re not exactly the pinnacle of modern technology, either. And to be brutally honest, there are loads of other makes and models that would seriously leave Toyota for dead when it comes to the fancy pants bells and whistles side of things. Still, there are more LandCruisers in outback Australia than fleas on a dingo, especially when it comes to grey nomads lugging three-tonne vans right around the country. So we thought we’d put the latest from Toyota (a 200 Series Altitude Special Edition) through its paces. You know, to see what all the fuss is about. But your average lap around the block is never going to cut the mustard with this heavy weight. So in true Camper style, we upped the ante, big time. How? Well, we tackled an epic cross country trip from Sydney in the east, right over to Port Augusta in the south and then right up the guts to Darwin up north. Oh and we slapped a three-tonnes on the back, you know, for testing purposes. Here’s how it fared...

THE TEST VEHICLE

Toyota Land Cruiser 200 Altitude Special Edition 4

The vehicle we managed to get our mittens on was a brand new 2017 model LandCruiser 200 Altitude Special Edition. If it sounds a bit fancy, trust me, it was – especially when you’re a fairly basic fella like me that literally just completed a similar expedition in a worn out 80 Series ‘Cruiser with over 600,000kms on the clock.

If you’re wondering what the "Special Edition" model has that the other versions don’t, don’t get too excited. It turns out the top of the range Sahara model still wins the war on luxuries. But the Altitude does come with a healthy dose of additional extras when compared to the mid-range GXL model. You get things like front and rear parking sensors, a refrigerated cool box and leather-accented seats which are now electrically adjusted. Oh, and there are only 600 of these bad boys being produced each year, so we feel quite privileged to chuck a few kays on one!

TOWING THE LINE

Toyota Land Cruiser 200 Altitude Special Edition 6

I’m going to come right out and say it, the LC200 Series is a weapon of a tow vehicle. I mean, the thing rolls off the showroom floor with 200KW of power and 650nm of stump pulling torque thanks to a 4.5L twin-turbo-diesel donk! What’s even more impressive is the way that all that grunt is delivered right to your door step. The power is always just a flick of the foot away, yet the throttle isn’t too twitchy which lends to that "safe" kind of feel on the road. So it goes without saying, acceleration is effortless – with three-tonnes on the back or not! I mean you know there’s a load on the back, but the ‘Cruiser never actually feels like it’s working!

It handles the rigours of dirt road travel like it should. There’s obviously less traction so that load we were lugging didn’t mind pushing its weight around like a six-foot-seven bouncer on a bit of liquid courage. In saying that, the LC200 would make an absolute meal out of towing your average camper trailer pretty much anywhere. Those huge brakes keep the ‘Cruiser firmly in control, and with the towball’s 350kg rating camper selection isn’t exactly limited either.

The factory rear suspension springs will need a bit of beefing up if you plan on towing big, like us. The suspension sagged a fair bit, so a good chunk of the weight transferred off the front wheels. We had a few teething issues with the load swaying around at highway speeds, but that can mainly be put down to the 'Cruiser’s factory rear-end suspension being a bit soft for such a job, and bugger-all ball weight, thanks to an unloaded van at first.

INSIDE OUT

Toyota Land Cruiser 200 Altitude Special Edition 3

From the captain's chair the LC200 feels quite bulky, a bit like a Prado on steroids. But in saying that, the first time I planted my butt in the driver’s seat, I just felt at home. It was familiar in a comfortable, traditional sort of way. Everything was in arms reach, which was a little surprising when you consider how chunky it looks from the outside. While I wouldn’t say internal space is lacking, it doesn’t feel quite as roomy as the older 100 Series 'Cruiser, in my opinion. But hey, any vehicle I can drive from one side of the country to the other without whining about a sore back, knees or neck gets a pretty big tick in my books.

While it’s got a few little mod-cons, like the push-button start and smart entry system, there were no adaptive cruise control systems or lane departure warnings. No blind spot sensors or crash mitigation. To be perfectly honest, I felt it lacked modern features for a vehicle of this calibre and price bracket.

Toyota Land Cruiser 200 Altitude Special Edition 2

 

We unhitched the van and drove it around town a number of times (Alice Springs and Darwin, mainly), and I’m happy to say it pretty much drove like a car – until you want to park it in a tight spot. The good news is you do get parking sensors and a reversing camera in the Altitude, which really helps take the guess work out of those tighter parking spots.

It’s a true eight-seater, too. Although I reckon the three seatbelts on the third row is a little optimistic. The front five seats are big enough to handle a couple of burly big units quite comfortably though! Like the majority of eight seat vehicles you effectively get no boot space when the third row seats are in use, but hey, your towing a camper so it shouldn’t be a problem right?

LOW RANGE TO TOUGH TOURING

Toyota Land Cruiser 200 Altitude Special Edition 1

When it comes to offroad and touring ability, few will stack up on paper or in the real world like a LandCruiser. The LC200 might appear soft and overly stylish (compared to previous models), but it’s still surprisingly capable. It’s a full-time 4WD system with no manual locking hubs to worry about, so transitioning from high speed bitumen to fire trails requires literally no input from the driver. If the going gets tough, a centre diff lock button locks both front and rear axles together, although with an absence of cross axle diff locks at either end, a lot of the equation is left up to electronic aids.

The hill start assist system is an absolute pearler if you’re tackling steep terrain, and Toyota’s Crawl Control helps take the guess-work out of tricky ascents and descents where you’d rather focus on the precise steering input rather than juggling the brake and accelerator to maintain speed. There are three selectable speeds you can choose from, depending on the steepness of the terrain. Turn Assist is also available to help tighten up the turning circle by locking the inside rear wheel, something that seriously comes in handy towing down tighter tracks. Like most LandCruisers, I found the 200 to essentially be point and shoot, incredibly capable but it did make things a little boring. Any track that would challenge it offroad is the exact kind of track you wouldn’t want to punt close to $100K worth of car down. For the average weekend adventure with the family and camper in tow, the 200 Series LandCruiser is more than capable enough to go anywhere you’d want to take it.

Like the base model GX and the GXL, the 200LC Altitude comes standard with traction control and multi-terrain anti-lock braking system.

WANT ONE?

Toyota Land Cruiser 200 Altitude Special Edition 8

The 200 Series Altitude asks $93,460 before on-road costs, so you get all the extras and convenience features for a conservative $4630 premium over a GXL turbo-diesel. While some might argue the extra chrome and a few little knick-knacks aren’t really worth it, the fact that it’s a limited edition would probably be enough to persuade me into coughing up a few extra bucks. Surely a slightly inflated purchase price would pay dividends in resale value of a limited edition model down the track, right? You’d want to be quick to buy one though, rumour has it these things sell like hot cakes.

THE WRAP UP

Toyota Land Cruiser 200 Altitude Special Edition 7

Toyota’s LandCruiser has been the go-to 4WD for serious offroad work for the better part of a century now. The earlier models were capable because of their simplicity, whereas the 200 is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s still every bit as capable offroad, thanks to some smart technology and does it in a way that doesn’t compromise its on-road performance. It’s the kind of rig you can load up with camping gear, hitch a 1.5t camper on the back of and drive from Melbourne to the Old Tele’ Track, or as luck would have it, Port Augusta to Darwin with camper in tow with not a care in the world.

So to bring you right back to the start of this article, when the question begged: why is it so popular? I think it’s pretty clear – it’s the perfect blend of capability, performance and reliability. It does have its drawbacks in terms of its sheer bulk and lack of tech that should realistically be standard at this price point, but in a lot of ways that same lack of tech is often preferred for long distance touring — less to break, eh?

If you had the keys to a 200 Series LandCruiser and the trailer of your choice on the back, you’d be hard pressed to wipe the smile off your face, and even harder pressed to doubt its touring ability!

HITS AND MISSES

Pros…

  • Heaps of torque for towing
  • Comfortable seating position
  • Great offroad-ability
  • Reasonable fuel consumption for its size and power

Cons…

  • Feels bulky to park around town
  • Less tech than other vehicles in the same price range
  • Not as optioned up as I expected from a limited edition model

SPECS

Vehicle

  • Tare 2740kg
  • GVM 3350kg
  • GCM 6850kg
  • Towing capacity 3500kg
  • Engine 4.5L V8 twin turbodiesel
  • Torque 650@1600rpm
  • 4WD system Full-time dual range
  • Fuel consumption 14.2L/100km, as tested
  • Fuel capacity 138L
  • Suspension Front: independent coil spring; rear: live axle coil spring
  • Brakes Front and disc
  • Seats 8 (2/3/3 configuration)
  • Wheels/tyres 17in alloy 285/65R17
  • Style Wagon

Dimensions

  • External dimensions 4990x1980x1945mm (LxWxH)
  • Cargo load space 1276L
  • Wheel base 2850mm
  • Wading depth 700mm

Price as shown

$88,460 plus on roads

Check out the full tow test in issue #120 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.