For more than 30 years, the Toyota Landcruiser has been a frequent and iconic sight in the Australian Outback, aka ‘Landcruiser Country’!
The latest range, the 79 Series Landcruiser, is still the King off the road.
It is built for one specific purpose; hard work. While the huge range of mid range off road four wheel drives available these days can also take a beating, the real defining point of a Landcruiser is it can do so over and over, and over, for years on end.
They are true workhorses, straight off the showroom floor, and have very few heavy duty competitors.
Due to it’s off road prowess and reliability, the 79 Series Landcruiser ute is a very popular choice for off road touring with a Trayon slide on camper.
We’ve fitted many a Trayon to Landcruiser’s which have traversed the most remote corners of the planet, from the Kimberley in Australia, to the African Savanna, all the way to the icy cold roads of Europe and Alaska!!!
This 79 Series Landcruiser review is based on our in depth experience with the Landcruiser range. We’ve been building off road campers for 25 years! Not far off the 33 year Outback reign of the Landcruiser itself, and we have been fitting Cruiser’s with Trayon’s the entire time. This review provides everything you need to know to decide whether or not you want buy a 79 Series Landcruiser for work, play, or saddle it with a Trayon and gallop off into the horizon.
One of the unique things of the Toyota Landcruiser is how little it has changed from its ancestors. While most vehicles these days are in a technological race to see who has the most gadgets and who can look the most futuristic, the Landcruiser isn’t swept up into the buzz.
It’s focused on what you need for hard work, built stronger to last longer than almost any other vehicle out there.
It all started with the original 70 Series in the 1980s. From there, sprung the 75 Series, 78 Series and most recently, the 79 Series Landcruiser.
Today’s range includes three variants. The Workmate (the no frills version), GX and GXL (containing a few extra bells and whistles).
There are two different body styles. The dual cab and the single cab chassis. The dual cab only comes in the Workmate and GXL variants, while the single cab chassis comes in all three variants; Workmate, GX and GXL.
In 2017, the 79 Series Landcruiser had a range of updates, the first in four years. The dual cab took out the 2017 4×4 Australia winner of the year, demonstrating why it is still the off road king! Throughout this review we discuss the implications of these updates.
In today’s 4×4 market, which is full of mid range four wheel drives like the Ford Ranger, the 79 Series Landcruiser is one of the last heavy duty four wheel drives left standing. The Nissan Patrol reduced it’s engine capacity and their ute variant is no longer available for sale in Australia. The other recent competitor, the Landrover Defender, is no longer manufactured at all.
One of the only capable contenders is the Mercedes G300 Cab Chassis. However it is a more expensive beast, built specifically for emergency services and the armed forces, and even more ‘heavy duty’ than the Toyota itself. Unlike the Landcruiser, the G300 professional ute comes off the factory floor with all the accessories one needs for just about any off road use (the Landcruiser requires quite a few extras). Plus, the Mercedes has almost twice the payload capacity!
The Mercedes is a great touring option if you plan on stopping at nothing to ensure your vehicle is tough, however, we liken it’s abilities to a small off road truck, rather than a direct contender to the Landcruiser. The Mercedes is in a class of its own. Check out our recent comparison between the Toyota and Mercedes G Class ute for more information. If you were to fit the Landcruiser out with after market accessories to be as closely matched to the G300 Ute, the cost is frightfully close! The only major draw card is that Mercedes don’t provide a dual cab model of the G300 ute…..yet.
As a result, the 79 Series Landcruiser currently has the heavy-duty four wheel drive dual cab market all to itself, adding to it’s solid grip on the heavy duty 4×4 Outback crown.
The interior of the 79 Series Landcruiser is basic and unaffected by the race for style and tech.
You can expect all the essentials nestled into a nice sized dash. Radio and CD systems, air vents, a power antenna, USB and auxiliary input, a clock, plus MP3 and bluetooth connectivity. Seats are basic, with limited adjustability, but the height of a Landcruiser matched with it’s almost vertical windscreen create very good view out across the hood.
The GXL variant has a few extra trimmings, like cloth trim and carpet flooring, power windows, central locking, and remote keyless entry. In the dual cab range the back bench seats provide sufficient room for passengers (albeit with limited leg room, waist style seat belts only, and no rear air vents).
The real surprise is that air conditioning is still not standard, and is a hefty $2700 dealer fitted option (plus it’s not climate control). Add this to the retro looking radio buttons and ventilation controls (which are the same as they were in 1984), and it really does feel like your in a car meant for one thing only – hard yakka.
The great thing about the 79 Series Landcruiser is the way it has retained that retro look. It is a look associated with the Outback, and contributes to its continuing iconic reputation.
The no frills Workmate variants have a simple, work focused feel. The extent of their style is a black front bumper and radiator grille. They come standard with rear mudflaps and steel side steps.
The GXL variants are slightly more imposing with wheel arch flares, and a chrome grille. They also come with aluminium side steps and front mudflaps.
All 79 Series Landcruiser utes are powered by a 4.5L Turbo Diesel V8 engine. This provides a heap of low down torque, which makes for great performance when carrying big loads, towing, and driving off road. In terms of power, it pumps out 151kw at 3400 rpm and 430Nm at 1200 rpm.
All models come with a five speed manual gearbox. This has been an issue in the past because the engine revs quite high when at cruising speed on the highway. One of the reasons Toyota may have stuck with five gears is that it reduces the number of gear shifts throughout the vehicles life, thus reducing long term wear and tear to the gearbox and clutch.
The 2017 updates lengthed the second and fifth gears, which had two key benefits. First, it allows you to use the second gear for longer in soft terrain (instead of shifting to third and losing revs and momentum), and second, it lowers revs at highway cruising speed. We discuss these benefits further in the review.
The 79 Series Toyota Landcruiser utes are 5220mm long, 1955 to 1970mm high (depending on the type of model), and 1790mm to 1870mm wide (also dependant on the model). The wheelbase (from midpoint of the front wheel to midpoint of the rear wheel) is 3180 mm in length.
All models come standard with:
The 2017 update handed the single cab model five-star ANCAP safety rating. The most notable changes included additional curtain and driver’s knee airbags, thicker frame rails and front seatbelt pretensioners.
However the dual cab is limited to the standard driver and passenger airbags, and as a result has not yet been given the same safety rating. It does however come with an engine immobiliser, something the single cab does not. .
The 79 Series has recirculating ball and nut steering, as opposed to the more modern rack-and-pinion set-ups. However, this does not affect the feel to much. It still has a nice predictable feel on the open road.
Body roll is more pronounced when cornering than many of the mid range four wheel drives. This is because the Landcruiser is taller, with a skinnier wheel track. However, it doesn’t cause any difficulties when driving.
As can be expected with a heavy duty off road vehicle, the suspension is stiff. The stiffness is reduced when carrying a load, which smooths out the impact over lumps and bumps. If you’re looking for a vehicle based on it’s ride quality, then a 79 Series Landcruiser is not your ideal match! But that shouldn’t be what your here for anyway.
When putting pedal to meddle there is some significant engine vibration, but this is nothing surprising with a rough and ready powerful workhorse.
One of the key things we would like to see in the next update is an increase in breaking capacity. We find that braking could be better.
The kerb weight and gross vehicle mass for the single cab and dual cab vary slightly:
|Single Cab||Dual Cab|
|Kerb weight (kg)||2,180||2,190|
|Payload Capacity (kg)||1,220||1,110|
For an idea what you will be able to carry with this payload capacity, we’ll give a Trayon example. At 390 kgs, a Trayon slide on camper is the lightest in its class.
With a single cab 79 Series Landcruiser, after sliding on a Trayon, you’ll still have more than 800 kgs left for everything else. The dual cab will give you slightly less. While it still seems a lot, it will fill up quickly (including all your passengers, fuel, water ad everything else).
Later in the article we discuss the upgrades which can give you more wriggle room to carry extra gear and deal with unexpected load carrying requirements in the Outback.
All 79 Series Landcruisers have a towing capacity of 3,500 kgs, a big feature for anyone wanting to haul a big load.
However one needs to be careful with this figure. Like many other one Tonne utes with the same towing capacity, this limit is a bit ambiguous, with very limited warranty options if there is a chassis issue.
In particular, there are some concerns about genuine Toyota towing hitches (or a lack of), which we discuss further in our comparison article between the Landcruiser and the Mercedes G Class ute.
Fuel efficiency is one of the weaker points of a 79 Series Landcruiser. But with a Turbo Diesel V8, that’s nothing too surprising!
The 2017 update did quite a bit to improve these thirsty vehicles. The gearbox tweak extended the 5th gear by almost 15 per cent. As a result the Toyota will cruise along at 100 km/h revving around 2000rpm.
The new gearbox, combined with piezo injectors and a diesel particulate filter (which were required to comply with modern emission standards), lower overall fuel use by around 10 per cent.
Toyota’s claimed overall fuel economy (the average of urban + highway driving) is 10.7 L/100km. We recommend it will more often be around the 12 – 14L/100km range. That’s unladen.
To give you an idea about the 79 Series Landcruiser’s off road prowess, it is one of the few utes on the market we would feel confident driving straight off the showroom floor and out to the Canning stock Route.
Standard ground clearance is an impressive 283mm, max wading depth is 700 mm, the max approach angle is 35 degrees and departure angle 27 to 29 degrees, depending on the model.
Unlike the mid range four wheel drive category (e.g. Ford Ranger and the Toyota Hilux), the Landcruiser has very few advanced off road aids like hill ascent and descent control, or off road stability assistance. And it doesn’t need them.
A Cruiser in two wheel drive will outperform many four wheel drives! Enter 4×4 mode, lock the diff/s, and a 79 Series will just about go anywhere you point it! Add a few extras like front diff locker, lift kits and 4×4 tyres and you will be thoroughly impressed. Rear diff lockers are standard in all models. Front diff lockers also come standard with GXL variants, or can be added for $1500 extra.
With auto-locking hubs, front and rear live axles, front coil springs, rear leaf springs and an impressive low-range gearing of 44.1:1 in first gear, there won’t be too many places you’ll get stuck. Turn off traction control (to prevent loss of power to slipping wheels) and you have an ‘access all areas’ machine!
A long clutch is perfect for balancing power while traversing rough terrain, and an idle-up button can be pressed to stop revs dropping too low. The standard snorkel is ready for water crossings and standard 265/70R16 tyres come more than enough sidewall.
The minor issues to keep in mind include:
A 79 Series single cab will usually come standard with a 2.4 m long tray. Dealer upgrades are available from 2.5 to around 2.7m, giving you valuable extra headboard space, and more flexibility when carrying loads. A dual cab version will usually come with a 1.8 m long tray.
Trays are available in light alloys, steel or aluminium. We prefer aluminium trays because they are the lightest option and thus do not impact on your vehicles payload capacity as much as the heavier tray options.
Interestingly, the 79 Series Landcruiser ute doesn’t come with the option for an under chassis spare tyre mount like most four wheel drive utes. This means you need to integrate your first spare into your tray somehow. Your options are behind the headboard, or an upgrade to an under-tray mounted spare (which is where the whole tray is lifted slightly to fit a spare between it and the chassis).
Toyota offer all sorts of genuine Toyota trays to fit these needs. A Landcruiser tyre on a steel rim will weigh around 40 kgs, so it’s very important to get a tray which allows you to position it to result in the best weight distribution possible. We have seen Landcruiser rigs with two spares attached to very rear of the vehicle (i.e. on the a camper or canopy), which places huge strain on suspension at all times. We strongly discourage this approach.
With the dual cab version, it is best to go with the under-tray spare approach, because you already have less tray length to store things like a spare behind the headboard. This does raise the centre of gravity of your load slightly but not enough to cause any real issues when traveling off road. The raised tray further aids the mounting of a Trayon camper. Dual cab camper models are built to overhang the cab slightly, and the extra height of the tray reduces the amount of modifications we have to make to the Trayon to fit over the cab.
The tray can be fitted with various storage options like racks, standard boxes or gullwing boxes (which we can do at Trayon, check out our post on creating expedition vehicles). The Trayon aftermarket gullwing box sits permanently on the chassis rails behind the cab, with a tray mounted behind that.
If you can’t get the tray you want through your Toyota dealer, contact us at Trayon and we can organise a Genuine Trayon Tray to be sent to and fitted at your Toyota dealer before you drive it out the door.
We don’t make the Genuine Trayon Tray here at the factory. We have an arrangement with a large, high quality tray manufacturer to build trays which are perfectly suited to a Trayon camper. We can then have it sent anywhere in the country (i.e. to be fitted at your specific Toyota/Vehicle Dealer).
If you’re planning to carry a Trayon camper with your 79 Series Landcruiser, a Genuine Trayon Tray will help avoid hassles like:
The Genuine Trayon Tray combats all of these issues.
The 79 Series Landcruiser is an off road touring specialist. Not necessarily in comfort, but in capability, resilience and longevity.
So, the choice to go with a Cruiser is horses for courses. We like to explain it like this:
We would much rather spend 12 hours on the highway in a Hilux, than a 79 Series, because comfort is not what the 79 Series workhorse was made for.
But, we would much rather spend 12 hrs on the Canning Stock Route in the 79 Series Landcruiser, because we can be confident it will make it. Yes, you can upgrade a mid range four wheel drive like a Hilux to take on the rough roads like the Canning, but you’ll flinch at every bump because you know at any moment something could go wrong. With a Landcruiser, you have more confidence and peace of mind in that kind of country.
That is why every farmer in the Outback has got one. Another advantage is that spare parts are readily available across the country, and Toyota dealers are spread far and frequently to address things which go wrong under warranty.
Toyota traditionally had two 90L fuel tanks on board, which was great for touring. The 2017 update removed the double fuel tank system, and replaced it with a single 130L tank. So travel range has decreased a bit. However, this is slightly counterbalanced by the 10% better fuel efficiency.
You can still expect to get almost 900 km on a single tank (on the bitumen without a load).
If 130 Litres isn’t enough, you can find a variety of aftermarket fuel tanks to boost that capacity. For example slim line tanks which can be fitted underneath the belly of the tray which are filled via a separate nozzle, and use gravity to feed their contents into the main 130 L tank when it is empty. When full, the auxiliary tank also acts as a ballast to smooth out a Cruiser’s stiff suspension.
The 79 Series doesn’t come with an auxiliary battery, but there is room to squeeze one in under the hood. Internal cabin storage space is also a bit light on for touring, so you may want to get an overhead compartment installed. Overall, the Cruiser comes with very little specialized touring gear, so you will have to look into aftermarket options.
The great thing about a 79 Series Landcruiser is the engine size. It’s so powerful that it will never feel too stressed. It hasn’t got as high peak torque as some other four wheel drives, but it makes up for this in low down torque, which is what you really want when driving off road. What you end up with is a horse that can pull you through almost any terrain, year after year without a hitch.
Here is our main tips for touring in a 79 Series Landcruiser:
As we previously explained. It has big implications for storage flexibility, payload capacity, and off road performance. These days aluminium trays are super strong and much lighter than steel, so they don’t eat into your payload any more than necessary.
Everyone’s old school tool kit had zip ties (for things which are moving but shouldn’t be), and WD40 (for things which aren’t moving, but should be). These days, an OBD link adds an extra option to check and solve issues with electronics and computer chip related alerts.
Electronics can actually limit driving capability if they sense a problem. If the vehicle senses an issue, it can limit driving capacity and actually prevent you from quickly limping to get mechanical help. The OBD link, synced to your phone or another device, can read the code sent out by the vehicle CPU and tell you what’s wrong.
Then you can use the old duck tape or WD40 to try and fix the issue and limp to a mechanic if you have too!
A 79 Series Landcruiser GVM can generally be upgraded to 3.9 Tonne, and you may even find single cab options to go to 4.2 Tonne. A GVM upgrade to the maximum provides a number of benefits:
By doing this through the dealer and before first registration, it is considered a second stage dealer upgrade. This saves you money and also ensures it is legally certified at the same time.
We have access to fleet sales, which means cheaper prices, and it forces car dealers to be more honest and thorough. We handle the end to end process, so all you do is order what you want in terms of dealer fitted options, aftermarket off-road accessories and camping equipment, then pick up a complete off road touring package a few months later!
For more information on what this service entails check out our TurnKey expedition vehicle article.
At the end of the day, the base model Workmate ute is only part of the way through the journey to a fully set up long distance touring vehicle. In its simplest form, it will be able to survive the bush, but a number of mods and accessories are required to turn it into a suitable touting vehicle. .
A key mode we recommend for a 79 Series Landcruiser is wheel track correction. Making the rear axle the same width as the front makes for better steering, braking and the rear wheels aren’t always trying to find their own track in soft terrain.
A luxury option is auto conversion (there is no auto option available of the showroom floor). However, it is a very costly. So you should focus your rupies on other essentials before looking into the potential for auto conversion.
The essential accessories which are handy for off road travel and touring include include:
For aftermarket accessories we recommend ARB simply because they have so many locations and contacts Australia wide, which is perfect for touring and Outback driving.
Off Road Warranty Implications
Driving a Landcruiser off road will not impact warranty itself, but be aware that warranty only applies to factory defects (in materials or workmanship). So if you incur damage as a result of reckless driving, extreme weather, or any other accidental damage, you’re unlikely to find support through the vehicles warranty.
That’s where your insurance should come in! So, as with any vehicle purchase, make sure you find the right provider who can cover you for the type of driving you will be doing.
For the entry level Workmate variant, the Toyota 79 Series Landcruiser single cab recommended retail price starts around $63,000 and $70,000 for the dual cab.
Just bear in mind that to turn these vehicles into full touring rigs which match something like a Mercedes G Class ute, you will be looking at almost double that price (as demonstrated in our Mercedes G Class comparison article).
Regardless of the extra dollars it will cost for accessories and mods, what you get off the showroom floor will still go further into the Outback than almost any other vehicle, and will survive for far longer.
A 79 Series Landcruiser is a tough and resilient vehicle. It is a great match for a Trayon slide on camper if you are planning on undertaking long off road trips for many years to come.
It is still the off road King, and that doesn’t look like changing anytime soon!