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The Big Desert: Toyota Land Cruiser Sahara.

Australian tv broadcast, in the mid 1970s, a program called Aunty Jack. The spoken theme song featured the lyrical lines: “Though you’re ten feet tall” and “You’re big, bold and tough”, lines appropriate for Toyota’s evergreen behemoth Land Cruiser. The Sahara sits at the top of the Land Cruiser profileLand Cruiser family tree, complete with brawny 4.6L petrol V8 (or 4.5L V8 diesel), DVD player and the legendary off road capability, backed up with some hidden modern tech. Is the legend still legendary? A Wheel Thing took the beast bush to find out.

The Donk.
The numbers look good with 227kw @5500 rpm while max torque is 439Nm @3400. These numbers don’t: 2665 followed by kilograms. Then there’s 13.6/18.4/10.9L per 100 kilometres of travel for combined/urban/highway. Although a double over head cam and alloy head setup is in situ, sitting underneath is an old school iron block. It’s a mix of good and not so. Transmission is a six speed auto, a fluid and smooth shifter.

The Suit.
Land Cruiser frontLand Cruiser rearIf one were to put the current 200 series ‘Cruiser next to the original from the ’50s, there’d be little to draw a line of resemblance from then until now, yet, throughout its evolution, Toyota’s design team has managed to keep the new model close to the one or two before. The 80 series launched the rounded, organic look to be found in the 200 series, ditching the rectangular dual headlight for a more squared off style in the 100 series and returning to a integrated dual setup plus sunbright LED DRLs as a base for the assembly in the 200. The rear of the Sahara shows off a horizontal split rear door, upper half electrically activated via the keyfob and a soft fall mechanism for the lower. It’s the edgy, somewhat protuberant, tail light extension that shows the move from the slimline and integrated set found in the 80/100 series. Front and rear, under the bumpers, can be found four tow hook mounting points. In profile, the extended, smooth wheel arches bracket a subtle crease at door’s base, highlighted by a chrome strip. There’s sidesteps, front and rear mounted cameras for parking assistance, tilting wing mirrors when reversing and chunky bumpers front and rear. Toyota have stayed with the ladder chassis for the ‘Cruiser, which goes somewhat to explaining the weight of the vehicle. Size? Huge. Call it five metres long, with cose to two metres total width and 1.9 in height. Maximum wading depth is rated at 70 cm and approach/departure angles are thirty and twenty degrees respectively

On The Inside.
Unsurprisingly, there’s more room on the inside than the TARDIS….almost. A full five seater, complete with fold out seats in the cavernous cargo section to make it an eight seater, a centre console coolbox, leather clad heated/vented front seats (via two push and twirl knobs front left of the gear lever), full rear aircon with roof vents, roof mounted DVD screen (player is in the front console), touchscreen navitainment with Landcruiser front seatsLandcruiser rear cargoLandcruiser rear airconAM/FM/DAB, sunroof, electric steering column and memory seating. There’s a flourish from the dash LCD screen on startup with a big Land Cruiser logo coming up in stylised silver grey and blue back lit Land Cruiser logos in the front door sills.
The radio screen is somewhat busy, suffering from a messy layout and the map screen refused to stay away for more than ten seconds after the audio buton was pressed. Annoying, also, is the procedure to access audio for the DVD then have music for the non headphone wearing passengers. It’s a multistep and complicated process, plus the audio through the speakers doesn’t shut off once the vehicle’s transmission is put into Drive. Safety fail. The Land Cruiser centre consoledigital receiver provides crsip clear sound, however is still limited by the DAB broadcast range.
The third row seating is folded up to the sides, allowing plenty of floor and cargo space, but they do rattle over the slightest of bumps.
Land Cruiser fridge There’s a mix of woodgrain and piano black plastics at the front, a comfortable mix however the impression is anything but yelling luxury. Sure, the seats are comfortable and supportive, allowing the body to feel rested rather than exhausted after a trip, the overall ambience just doesn’t feel luxury like. As is the norm nowadays, there’s airbags everywhere, Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary inputs.

On the Road.
The Sahara rolls on 18 inch wheels, not huge, however the rubber is. 285 width and sixty profile allows for both plenty of footprint and sidewall flex, contributing to the quality ride, almost wafting along, despatching small bumps and undulations to the Do Not Care bin. Until you wish to turn, that is. Plenty of planning is required, as the steering ratio allows some latitude before the front end barges its way through a turn, feeling the sideways flex somewhat when pushed. Planning is also required for stopping; with some 3000 kilos of mass the brakes do a reasonable job in hauling up the beast, but there’s not a lot of alacrity in doing so.
Off road, well, I have to say the feel was skittish, uncertain, on the track used (in New South Wales, the track to the Glowworm Tunnel, east of Lithgow), with the surface a hard,compacted gravel/clay mix. The ‘Cruiser was prone to tramlining at moderate speed, requiring constant Land Cruiser stuckmonitoring of the handling. I never felt 100% certain of where the car was going but, once into proper off road sections and in low range using the grunt of the engine and the technology, it all came together. Until one particular unassuming part of puddled road had the ‘Cruiser stuck on its chassis. A wait of twenty minutes until one bloke stopped, tried his snatch strap, tried his chain, neither worked. A second group showed and both used their winches. A heartfelt thank you, gents.

In Summation.
It’s a big vehicle and it comes with a big thirst, with an average of around 18L/100km. No wonder the primary tank is 93 litres and the auxiliary is over 40L. It’s a big cost, with over $122K (driveaway) attached to the Sahara name plate. There’s plenty of manners on road and there’s little to doubt in regards to its off road credibility. For me, the Sahara Land Cruiser is somewhat out of place; the interior isn’t particularly luxurious, the off road ability it possesses is largely shared by its lesser (and cheaper) brethren, plus they’d be more likely to be used in a dirt environment. There’s also little doubt that the Sahara does have a market, someone like the better financed farmer that needs something capable of handling a soggy paddock without a thought but doesn’t need the interior of, say, a Range Rover or a well to do family in suburbia that isn’t ostentatious, eschewing a BMW or M-B four wheel drive.
It IS, however, a nameplate that has survived over sixty years and one that Toyota is rightly proud of.
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Range: Toyota Land Cruiser Sahara.
Engine: 4.6L petrol V8, 4.5L diesel V8 (option).
Power/Torque: 227kW @5500 rpm, 439Nm @ 3400rpm (petrol).
Fuel: 91RON petrol.
Tank: 93L (main), 45L (auxiliary).
Fuel Consumption: 13.6L/100km Combined, 10.9L/100km Highway, 18.4L/100km Urban.
Weight: 2665kg dry, gross vehicle mass 3300kg.
Dimensions: 4990mm x 1970mm x 1905mm (Length, width, height).
Wheelbase: 2850mm.
Off road specifications: wading depth 700mm, approach angle @ 30 degrees, departure angle @ 20 degrees.
Cargo volume: 1276L.
Warranty: Three years/100, 000 kms (whichever comes first).
Wheels/Tyres: 285/60V/18.
Safety: airbags for front passengers, (front, knee and side), curtain airbags (front, mid, rear seats).