If a 38-Year-Old Truck Ain’t Broke, Never Fix It

Lyle Ellerbee

The automotive world is a place where change is a constant. Market demands and the pressures of competition conspire to keep automakers on the hedonic treadmill, always striving for more. It’s a process that has led to the cars of today, filled to bursting with features, equipment, and luxuries. The 2022 Land Cruiser 70 Series, however, bucks this trend.

Over the years, it has stayed true to its original ethos and purpose, skipping the fad of tacking on trinkets and baubles model year after model year. It’s stuck around because it works so well, not in spite of its simplicity but because of it.

Lewin Day

2022 Toyota Land Cruiser LC76 Wagon Specs

  • Base price (as tested): $67,400 AUD ($78,500 AUD) 
  • Powertrain: 4.5-liter turbodiesel V8 | 5-speed manual | four-wheel drive, dual-range
  • Horsepower: 202 @ 3,400 rpm
  • Torque: 317 lb-ft @ 1,200 to 3,200 rpm 
  • Curb weight: 4,994 pounds
  • Zero-to-60 mph: Not quick
  • Fuel economy: 10.7 L/100km combined (est. 22 mpg, manufacturer claim)
  • Quick take: A rugged, no-nonsense rig for getting the job done, sans any fancy window dressing.
  • Score: 9/10

When The Going Gets Tough, Start the Land Cruiser

For most of its history, the Toyota Land Cruiser has never really been just one vehicle, with the nameplate instead being applied to several off-roaders targeted at different users. Years after the original rugged 40 Series was launched, the Land Cruiser line split in two. The 55 Series was released featuring improved amenities and comfort to better cater to family buyers. 

The 1980s saw the 70 Series take on the workhorse role of the 40 Series that came before. As the 55 Series gave way to future comfort-oriented generations—leading to the 300 Series of today—the 70 Series stuck around and has been with us here in Australia ever since. 

Comfort-oriented Land Cruisers have ballooned in size and weight over the years, adding equipment and improving refinement. Meanwhile, the 70 Series really hasn’t. Instead, it’s stuck to its guns as a rugged machine for handling tough conditions, with few to no concessions to trivialities like noise, vibration, and harshness.

Updates over the years have largely been limited to complying with new regulations, with airbags, stability control, and ABS notable inclusions on modern examples. Safety and emissions laws come for all vehicles sooner or later.

Fundamentally, though, the bones of the truck remain the same a full 37 years after its debut. Underneath, it’s still packing a ladder chassis paired with solid axles. There’s an old-fashioned dual-range transfer case shifted with a lever, and the front hubs can even be locked manually by hand if you don’t trust the not-exactly-new-fangled automatic locking mechanism to do it for you. It’s a simple formula that worked way back when, and it still works today.

Stepping Into Another Time

As soon as you unlatch the door with the all-metal chrome handle, you’re aware that this Land Cruiser hails from another time. It opens with a click and shuts with a clank, entirely divorced from the overdamped thud of a heavy modern SUV. The very sound of it indicates that this is a bare-bones, purpose-built vehicle. It’s as far as you can get from an overstuffed couch built for the daily school run. 

The doors really do tell you everything you need to know about the 70 Series Land Cruiser. Inside and out, the handles have barely changed in over three decades, if at all. The trim is little more than thin plastic cladding that doesn’t even cover the whole door—there’s a body-colored metal stripe visible at the top. “Soft touch” isn’t really a word that comes up a lot at 70 Series design meetings.

The seats are simply upholstered and the footwells sport rubber floor mats for easy cleaning once they’re covered in mud and gravel. The only nods to luxury are the electric window switches and some wood trim on the dash unique to the 70th Anniversary special edition. Road noise is ever-present, too, with the 70 Series largely ignoring the last three decades of progress in the world of NVH reduction. 

Other touches take you back decades as well. In 2022, this is a truck you still start with a key, though you can unlock the doors with a separate key fob, at least. Most examples still come with halogen headlights, too, though the 70th Anniversary edition seen here gets LEDs as a nice little upgrade.

Oh, and forget about automatic gearboxes. The 70 Series is solely equipped with a five-speed, three-pedal manual across the range. 

You could be forgiven, then, for thinking that the 70 Series is a brusk, cantankerous sort of vehicle that needs to be wrestled rather than driven. Indeed, given the task to fly to Australia’s busiest city and drive a big, heavy, manual four-wheel-drive downtown, I reckoned that I might face some challenges. I’m happy to report that was not the case.

Just like the more mainstream Land Cruisers, the controls are all so pleasantly weighted and familiar that you’re totally able to jump in and drive confidently from the word go. Despite the vehicle’s size, its old-school glasshouse cabin provides excellent vision. The slab-sided design makes it easy to keep track of all corners of the vehicle, too, even without the aid of things like reversing cameras and parking sensors. 

The power steering is perfectly weighted, neither heavy and tiring when winding on lock, nor too floaty and disconnected to inspire confidence. You’re aware you’re driving a large vehicle, and a tall one, too, but it’s easy to wheel around the streets when driven accordingly. 

The clutch action is smooth and easy, and the long shifter is of the grip-it-and-rip-it variety. It’s not the slick, precise shift of a sportscar; instead, you grab the big stick and firmly pull it home and you’ll find the desired gear. Shift it like the truck that it is, and you’ll be pleasantly rewarded.

The hefty curb weight meant I expected the 70 Series to be an absolute dog about town, but I was pleased to be proven wrong. The mighty torque of the turbodiesel engine, paired with short gearing, meant pulling away from a stop or accelerating onto the highway was easy. 

A boot full of the right pedal got the V8 growling
and the Land Cruiser hustling along with the rapid pace of Sydney traffic, no problem. It’s by no means a thoroughbred racehorse, but for what it is, the 70 Series never felt sluggish or slow. Acceleration was thoroughly adequate, with the exhaust note going some way to add to the experience. 

Now, the 70 Series is in no way suited to inner-city life, for a multitude of reasons. Great visibility and power steering can’t make up for the wide turning circle that will have you doing three-point turns where a U-turn would normally suffice. Squeezing into tight carparks can also be a trial, and with the LC76 standing at six feet four, you’ll want to check for vertical clearance before wheeling into a multistory carpark.

The diesel particulate filter does not enjoy short trips, either, and can clog over time if your driving doesn’t involve regular jaunts at highway speeds. It’s a problem that has dogged Toyota in recent years, leading to lawsuits in some cases

Of course, when the 70 Series is used in its proper environment, all these problems melt away. It’s built to work in the outback, and in farms and mining operations well off the beaten track. When it’s stretching its legs on rural backroads and dirt tracks, concerns around the tight confines of the city simply evaporate entirely, along with any buildup in the diesel particulate filter.

Off-road, though, is where the 70 Series really comes into its own. Riding over rough terrain is what it was built to do, after all. With nine inches of ground clearance as stock, lumps and bumps are of little concern on most tracks, and suspension lifts are a popular aftermarket mod for those wishing for more capability in this area.

It’s easy to get used to rocking and swaying gently in the driver’s seat as progress is made on a rutted dirt track. It’s not a smooth, cossetted ride by any means, but you can plow along at a decent clip without worrying about breaking anything or running off into the weeds.

Fundamentally, the 70 Series drives exactly like any classic ladder-frame four-wheel drive because that’s exactly what it is. Stability and traction control are fitted, as well as ABS, but this Land Cruiser is one that relies on good old-fashioned mechanical grip rather than fancy electronic aids with impenetrable acronyms. 

The old-school solid-axle design provides for good articulation when the going gets tough, too. Recent flooding and the desire not to ruin Toyota’s lovely vehicle prevented me from testing this out to any real degree, but this classic layout remains popular with four-wheeling diehards for good reason. 

The classic dual-range transfer case works just like they always have, too, and pairing 4LO with the short ratio gearbox turns the 70 Series into a stump puller if you really need some torque. Locking diffs front and rear are also fitted which can really help if you find yourself regularly duking it out in slippery muddy or snowy conditions. 

Pros and Cons

Up front, the design is very work-like, and seating positions are upright and plenty roomy. It’s obvious right away though that this is an old format. Cup holders are scarce and there really isn’t anywhere good to put your phone. The 70th Anniversary model does come with plenty of high-current 2.1A USB ports for charging your devices as needed, which does help a little.

The infotainment system is, to put it politely, archaic. It features Bluetooth audio and can also play MP3s, but that’s about the extent of its abilities—there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto here. The system feels about a decade old, or even more. The GPS system is so sluggish to update that it was virtually impossible to use it in the rat runs of Sydney. After a day of repeatedly missing turns, I simply splashed out on a phone mount so I could use Google Maps on my phone instead. 

The back seats themselves are a simple bench, with the middle seat only getting a lap belt and legroom is adequate, if not generous. They do fold up if required, and cargo space in the back is cavernous in either configuration. 

These may sound like harsh criticisms for a vehicle on the market in 2022, but to take them seriously would be to miss the entire point of the vehicle. While the 70th Anniversary edition adds a tiny bit of wood trim to fancy up the vehicle, the 70 Series remains a work truck in all its forms. More luxurious appointments would be at best unappreciated, and at worse, a hindrance for the truck’s true application. 

In reality, the vast majority of 70 Series Land Cruisers will be shipped out to mining sites and farms, where workers will jump in and out on a daily basis in muddy boots and oily overalls. Specs like the Workmate, GX, and GXL are the order of the day here, complete with cloth or vinyl interiors. At best the radio might be switched on to one of the rural AM stations, or used to belt out some “Acka Dacka” while driving between sheep sheds. 

A few 70 Series do end up in the hands of those who like to tour around and take in the sights. For those customers, the 70th Anniversary edition, with its extra USB ports and premium black upholstery, makes sense. However, the vast majority of these customers would likely be better served by the 300 Series Land Cruiser anyway, which eclipses the 70 Series in passenger comfort by several orders of magnitude. The right tool for the right job, as they say. 

It’s no accident that a lot of 70 Series Land Cruisers are sold in cab-chassis form, where they can be readily fitted with toolbox
es or trays to suit their given purpose. The Troop Carrier is also a popular version, with its long wheelbase and additional cargo room at the rear often used for off-road tour vehicles or to create a camper or mobile workspace that can travel where it’s needed. 

For its given role, the 70 Series has everything it needs and nothing it doesn’t. It’s a no-nonsense truck, and Toyota has seen fit to leave it as it is, not meddling with an already perfect formula. There are no buttons on the steering wheel, no voice assistants, no frustrating menu systems to contend with on a daily basis. There are simply three pedals, a shifter, and a steering wheel to get you where you need to go. 

When appreciated for what it is, the 70 Series is a truly special thing. 

The Market

In the Australian market, the 70 Series stands virtually alone in its category with little direct competition.

The range starts with Workmate models, available as a wagon from $67,400 or cab chassis starting at $68,950 AUD. This gets you a vinyl trim interior and is the barebones, no-frills package most popular with fleet buyers. Meanwhile, the top of the range is the GXL, at $71,500 for the wagon or $75,600 for the dual-cab chassis version. Niceties at this level include central locking, a chrome bumper, 16-inch alloy wheels, and diff locks as standard.

The closest recent competitor to the 70 Series was the Y61 Nissan Patrol, available in a stripper cab chassis format, but it never had the same market penetration or legacy as the 70 Series. It left the market in 2016 as new emissions regulations made updating the vehicle for compliance prohibitively expensive. 

Instead, mid-size pickups are really its main competition. Think vehicles like the Ford Ranger, Isuzu D-Max, and Mitsubishi Triton. These typically feature similar power and torque figures and are built to work. However, they’re much more modern vehicles at heart, with things like independent front suspension, plusher interiors, and fancier four-wheel-drive systems.

Mid-size pickups typically start in the $50,000 AUD range for 4WD models, coming in cheaper than the $68,950 starting price for a cab-chassis Land Cruiser in the lowest Workmate trim. 

That said, the mid-size pickups suffer from one drawback: at the end of the day, they’re not a 70 Series Land Cruiser. They don’t have a big honking 4.5-liter turbodiesel V8 up front, nor do they have manually locking hubs or solid axles front and rear. 

For many fleet buyers, farmers, or those living out in the bush, it’s no contest. When it comes to a 70 Series Land Cruiser, they know exactly what they’re going to get. Nothing else really enters into the equation. 

A Hard-Working Relic

The 70 Series has stuck around for so long because there is still real value in the classic solid-axle, four-wheel-drive layout. For heavy-duty applications that go far off the beaten track, this simple design can’t be beaten for ruggedness and reliability. 

Toyota made a call decades ago that trying to do everything with one vehicle would be a mistake. Instead, it split the Land Cruiser line so that it could build the perfect off-roader for all tastes. This call allowed the 70 Series to live on without compromising on what makes it so great. 

At the root of it, the 70 Series is one of the last analog vehicles still left on the market. It remains because the design has genuine real-world applications and a customer base that loves it for that. As long as those fundamentals ring true, Toyota will find value in maintaining the 70 Series platform, and if there’s any hope left in the world, customers will keep buying them. 

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