The Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series has been a much-anticipated release with speculation running wild as to whether it could live up to the precedent set by the 200 Series.
With world conditions setting the release date back there has been plenty of time for people to form opinions from leaked information. Is the V6 going to live up to the V8, will it be bigger than the 200, how will the fuel economy compare between the two, the list goes on.
When given the chance to take the 300 for a spin around the Toyota Landcruiser Clubs property I was eager to go for a run. I am familiar with the property having been to it many times to watch the Willowglen Challenge and knew it would be a good day with challenges aplenty.
There are more details on the 300 Series elsewhere on the site. This review is specifically aimed at actual driving impressions!
LandCruiser 300 Series First Impressions
Toyota had provided one of every model to test and I chose the GXL and GR Sport as they represent opposite ends of the spectrum. There was a Sahara ZX hooked up to a Kedron caravan to give an idea of the 300’s towing prowess.
The dash layout has been redesigned to make the controls for the 4wd systems more intuitive across the whole range with everything moved higher on the dash, you only have to lower your gaze level with the stereo to see what you’re doing, and the information is relayed through the instrument cluster. Once you get used to the layout you can easily change the settings as the Multi Terrain Select and CRAWL Control are just next to your left hand close to the steering position.
The only switches I found annoying to activate were the front and rear diff lock switches on the GR Sport, being low on the dash in front of my left knee and requiring me to take my eyes off the road to make sure I activated the correct switch. In reality this isn’t an inconvenience as you are stopped to activate them and need to creep forwards for them to engage.
Driving the 300 Series GXL model off road
I started off in the GXL as this is the lowest spec level that gets Multi Terrain mode and I wanted to compare it to the 200’s systems.
Throughout the course Toyota had put in suggestions on what modes to put the 300 in and I gave it a go, mud and rock being the main modes used along with CRAWL to climb and descend respective sections of the tracks. I’ve driven 200’s over plenty of different terrain and am used to the eccentricities of their activation, the 300 is a completely different kettle of fish. Gone are the pulsating pedal and jerky motion when the brakes are applied.
Toyota designed a new braking system to eliminate this and it works wonderfully, controlling descents smoother than I could manually. Climbing was just as smooth, only pausing when I crested obstacles as the system came to terms with the change of speed and load on the engine.
First gear is low in the 10-speed box and there is torque available from 1600rpm allowing the 300 to idle up obstacles when set to the lowest speed. Changing speeds is smooth, with a twist of the dial you’re going slower or faster without much fuss. I changed speeds while ascending and descending and there was some minor lurching on descent as the 300 came to grips with the new setting, nothing to get worked up about.
Driving through the muddy ruts in Mud mode was easy though it wasn’t deep clingy mud as there had been little rain out there, for everything else I used Rock mode as most of the property is loose rocky hills.
Climbing the hills, I tried to pick lines that would challenge the settings on CRAWL, deliberately putting wheels in holes and aiming for steps that would lift wheels. I was impressed at how refined the system is, there were a few spots where the 300 struggled for a bit with opposite wheels spinning trying to get traction but we got there.
The same applied for going down, I placed wheels into holes and lined up steps to see what would happen as we dropped off them. Again we went down in a controlled manner, the CRAWL system keeping a steady pace even on the loose shale section. Even the hole that had us doing an impersonation of a seesaw was taken in its stride.
The only time we came unstuck was when I lined it up on the steep hill and picked the line through the guts that was off camber and deeply wombat holed. We got to a point where there just wasn’t enough traction for CRAWL to effectively work and we sat there wheels spinning slowly as it tried to gain enough traction to pull us up. A quick reverse down and a line that missed some of the bigger holes and we were straight up.
The rocky creek bed was by far the biggest challenge, not for traction but for how narrow it was. The 300 maintains a similar size to the 200 but they are wide. Rocks and tree roots sticking out of the banks made for some close calls and the side steps took some damage. Unfortunately, side steps seem to take damage on any 4wd when you play hard. The final climb out of the creek saw us slide sideways as CRAWL fought to get traction on a rock shelf but finally grabbed and up we went.
The final obstacle was a run through the dam. Toyota offer a Genuine raised air intake, this is not a snorkel as it isn’t sealed.
Driving the 300 Series GR Sport model off road
I jumped in the GR Sport next to run through the same course.
I still used Multi Terrain but opted to use my own abilities and the diff locks. I should note that the GR Sport has more wheel travel then any other model in the line-up, a combined 715mm of articulation. The GR Sport is aimed specifically at the off-road market and it is noticeable.
I chose lines through the course that were as hard as available to us and every obstacle was conquered with ease with the engagement of the rear locker. There was no need to engage the front.
The extra articulation is apparent as I dropped into the hole that had the GXL see sawing, there was minimal rocking when I hit the brakes in the middle of the hole.
This was followed by the loose shale descent that the GXL in CRAWL mode managed easily, with me operating the brakes in the GR Sport there was noticeable wheel slip. CRAWL Control did a better job than I did.
The biggest challenge was the steep climb that brought the CRAWL Control unstuck and I picked a harder line than the previous attempt, as expected we went straight to the top. I did this loop a few times changing lines but as I expected the lockers took me straight up every time.
On a side note, lockers can bring you unstuck big time if you don’t treat them with respect. Learn how the vehicle reacts before you use them in anger, I have seen the results of thinking that lockers will get you there without any thought put into where you are going. Hell, I’ve done it myself showing off.
Driving the 300 Series Sahara ZX model towing
The final run for the day was the towing loop. The Sahara ZX is flagship of the range with all the bells and whistles.
From take off on the flat dirt access track to the property the Sahara ZX pulled away smoothly, you could tell the Kedron was there but the V6 took the load nicely.
At the end of the track there is a steep dirt hill in one direction and a gradual dirt rise in the other. I chose the steep option. Pulling out of the track onto the hill I gave The Sahara a decent right boot and immediately started spinning wheels which the traction control took care of straight away. When I got lined up straight, I jumped on the throttle again but with a smoother motion and we accelerated the whole way to the top of the hill without much effort. To give you an idea of how steep this hill is, my 80 Series crawls up the same hill in second gear.
Along the dirt road I could tell the Kedron was there with the extra movement generated from the centre crest of the road.
At the end of the dirt we got onto the bitumen and I gave the 300 a big stab of right foot accelerating easily up to 80kmh with short spurts of 100kmh thrown in when conditions allowed. Again there was extra movement as this was a secondary road in average condition but the Sahara handled it well. I would expect towing in freeway/highway conditions to be easy with minimal movement generated from road conditions, more from crosswinds/trucks.
The final leg of the towing section was back onto dirt but this was well maintained dirt easily 3-4 lanes wide and smooth, the Sahara ZX and Kedron cruised along sedately at 70-80kmh. I stopped on a straight section and gave the 300 another big smooth boot full and we moved off at a good pace considering I was trying to not have traction control come into play.
Braking was powerful on the two times I tested it on dirt and bitumen.
Tyre width has been reduced across the range. To me this isn’t really an issue as I have used many different height and width tyres in my years of 4wding and have never had an issue with width bringing me undone. Pressure is key when it comes to off-roading.
LandCruiser 300 Series final thoughts
Overall, I was happy with how the new 300 Series performed.
The V6 is powerful and delivered torque nicely and from a useable RPM.
The 10 speed auto had a gear for every occasion.
The driver aids all worked well for the settings I had the opportunity to try. NVH was good, I did all my driving with the stereo turned off so I could hear what was happening. The only let down to noise was in low range when the electronically controlled engine fan cuts in it is loud.
Ground clearance is better than the outgoing 200 but I still found its limits a few times.
There are Genuine Toyota under body guards available along with rated recovery hooks and a range of bull bars, Warn winch and an integrated light bar on the steel winch bar.
There is a Genuine Toyota 3 Bar roof rack or 2 bar roof rack for models with factory rails. A Genuine roof tray is offered along with the usual recreational roof accessories.
The GXL has a RRP of $101,790. GR Sport jumps to a RRP of $137,790 and the Sahar ZX comes in at $138,790.
One thing to keep in mind, the GX, GR Sport and Sahara ZX are only available as a 5-seater. GXL, VX and Sahara are 7 seaters.
Is the 300 as good as the 200? I would say its better. New construction techniques have been used on the body and chassis giving weight saving and more rigidity. Redesigned suspension geometry improving handling and articulation. Different materials used in the internals of the motor should give longer life and cope with the extra power and torque produced by the V6 twin turbo.
If I was looking for a good off road ready 300, I would choose the GR Sport hands down. Factory lockers and the extra suspension travel had it in the bag. The only let down for me is it’s a 5-seater.
In saying that the GXL, VX, Sahara and Sahara ZX are all capable off roaders with their driver aids making up for lockers for what most people will do.
The money you save in buying a GX adds up to a lot of accessories and modifications to take you to the same level as the others but without the extra comforts.