2012 Toyota Land Cruiser 4.6 VX-R
– Solid offroading capability
– Cabin space and features
– Fairly comfortable ride
– Very expensive
– Body-roll on sharp turns
– Bit of a petrol addict
The Toyota Land Cruiser gets a complete makeover maybe only once every decade. But the 2012 model is not it, despite Toyota insisting that its an all-new model. There is one big fundamental change though.
But that change wouldn’t be obvious from the outside. The only external changes involve new bi-xenon headlights, new grille, slightly-different tail-lamp clusters, new wheels and a protruding lower lip on the front bumper that is oddly standard on VX-R models. But the change we are talking about is the replacement of the 4.7-litre V8 engine option with a new 4.6-litre unit.
Again, on the inside, nothing seems to have changed, aside from nicer-looking fake wood and a few extra buttons. The upper dash, door panels and armrests are all lusciously padded in our VX-R tester, with beige leather upholstery adding further airiness to an already-airy cabin. It is a huge vehicle after all, though Nissan, Ford and Chevrolet have already put out ridiculously-larger vehicles than the Land Cruiser when they didn’t need to be any bigger. Ironically, the Land Cruiser is more expensive than all of them.
Space is excellent in the first and second rows, offering wide bench-like seats with minimal side-bolstering. The third row is cramped as usual, but the second row can be slid forward to spare some more legroom to last-row occupants. The third row is accessed somewhat easily by flipping forward the split second-row seats. The boot is very big, though certain old-fashioned features are annoying, such as the heavy two-piece tailgate and the 50:50-split third-row seats that fold up onto the sides of the boot instead of disappearing into the floor like in most other SUVs.
On the tech front, the VX-R gains a big touchscreen with a nicer interface, exactly the same as in the new Lexus LX 570, integrating navigation, stereo, a/c controls and rear camera view, with the obligatory redundant buttons below it for quick access to the main functions. The CD/MP3 stereo is powerful, but the speakers lack bass, although you do get USB/AUX ports and dual rear DVD screens. The four-zone auto a/c remains a strong one, and other features in our tester included perfectly-working Bluetooth, smart keyless entry with starter button, front and side airbags, ventilated power front seats, leather, sunroof, cruise control, fog lamps, power mirrors with indicators on them, and even some cheap-but-effective magnetic stick-on sunshades for the rear windows.
The new 4.6-litre “Dual VVT-i” V8 option replaces the old 4.7-litre, though it behaves largely the same as before. It makes 304 hp at 5500 rpm in GCC-spec trim, with 439 Nm of torque at 3400 rpm, mated to a new 6-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive. Our tester wasn’t particularly broken in yet, having done barely a thousand kilos on the odo, so our 0-100 kph times were varied, with the best one being 8.4 seconds, a tiny bit quicker than the 4.7-litre we tested before. The big news though is that we averaged 17.1 litres/100 km with some offroading and a fair bit of highway driving involved, but still over 10% lesser fuel consumption than the old motor.
Highway comfort levels are impressive for a truck with independent front and solid-axle rear suspension, probably because our fancy VX-R was equipped with the optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, which apparently improves road handling, while retaining off-road articulation. It is very quiet at 120 kph, getting noisy only beyond 140 kph. Body motions are kept to a bare minimum over bumps, good enough to not disturb a sleeping baby. While its truckish roots still show on certain surfaces with a mild jitter, we feel the ride is smoother than even the Lexus LX 570 that rides on 20-inch wheels. Our Land Cruiser rode on meatier 285/60 tyres wrapped around 18-inchers.
Body roll around curves is controlled well enough with smooth driving inputs, but sudden steering moves induce an obscene amount of bouncy motions, though actual lean is less than, say, something like the Chevy Tahoe Z71. Squealing understeer creeps in if pushed too far, but its grip limits are reasonably high due to the wide tyres.
The steering and brake pedal have both been firmed up a bit compared to the old model, but still lack any sort of feedback. The brakes themselves are okay for a beefcake this big, though the forward lean on hard stops is ridiculous. Still, the optional stability control, automatic all-wheel-drive system and ABS brakes all should keep things safe, should things get too much for the tyres.
But those same tyres make the new Land Cruiser a truly great offroader. We went on a desert jaunt off the usual beaten trails, of course being mindful that our car had a low protruding lip on its chin that kept digging into the sand, and thus we avoided the steeper slopes. Its automatic all-wheel-drive system can distribute power to each wheel as needed, and we never bogged down in soft sand once the tyres were deflated and traction control was turned off. Our Cruiser also came with a locking centre differential, crawl control, offroad tight-turn assist and even a fancy multi-terrain selection system, but didn’t need any of those gimmicks because they all only work in 4-low mode, and we never needed low-range gear as it never got stuck.
The long front and rear overhangs require some care on sharp slopes, but we were taking even more care to save its chin, when the inevitable happened. The face of one dune was unexpectedly bumpy, so as we passed over it at some speed, we caught some air and landed smoothly, only to see later that the tacked-on chin had actually ripped right off after hitting the ground, although the front bumper itself was fine. After briefly crying over it, we then did some proper sand-bashing with the Land Cruiser as it was meant to do, side-sloping dunes and speeding over everything with ease. So if you buy a VX-R, do yourself a favour and get that lip removed.
The expensive Toyota Land Cruiser still maintains a certain charm that is hard to categorise. The Japanese carmaker has tried to make it appear sophisticated, with that colourful touchscreen, those fancy offroad gadgets, and that damn front spoiler, but underneath it all, there is a crude offroading monster that feels bottled up if it isn’t beating the crap out of dunes. And we’d have it no other way.
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