► Commercial version of Land Cruiser 4x4
► Short- or long-wheelbase options
► Stripped-down, lighter and relatively cheap
If a lavishly equipped seven-seat SUV is at one end of the scale and a pick-up truck with a dog chained in the back is at the other end, then this is slap in the middle. Available in long- and short-wheelbase versions, it’s the Utility Commercial version of the recently facelifted Toyota Land Cruiser. We tested the short-wheelbase version.
There are no rear seats – just a big, flat load bay, separated from the cabin by a mesh screen. There’s a good amount of safety kit, but few luxuries. Inside and out, it’s simple and tough, with steel wheels, plain black door handles, no leather and minimal automation.
There’s no doubt its proven off-roading ability makes it a durable and versatile vehicle for farms, quarries and building sites. But does it make any sense for non-commercial use?
What’s under the skin?
The short-wheelbase version has three doors, the one at the back being wide-opening and side-hinged. The rear glass can be opened with the door closed. The long-wheelbase model, despite its lack of rear seats, has rear passenger doors, which offer an alternative way to get to your load. At the back end, the long-wheelbase version has two independently opening doors, van style. All the glass overlooking the loadbay is made opaque by film the same colour as the body’s paintwork.
The longer version has a bigger load area – 2216 litres versus 1574 for the three-door. There’s an anti-slip flat floor.
Both have permanent all-wheel drive, with high and low ratios and a lockable limited-slip differential. There’s no choice of engine: it’s Toyota’s grunty 2.8-litre turbodiesel. And there’s no choice of transmission: six-speed manual.
And in the cabin?
In commercial vehicle terms, it’s pretty regular inside. So you get a good radio and CD player, rather than a fancy infotainment system. There’s basic but effective air-con (on the swb; it’s a more sophisticated system on the LWB). You get cruise control and cupholders, cloth seats and a manual handbrake, and a hard plastic steering wheel rim. Seat adjustment is manual. If your idea of a 4x4 is more Discovery than Defender, you might find it all a bit basic. But it all works. And when it gets dirty, it’s relatively easy to clean.
How does it drive?
It’s a pleasant surprise. It’s no limo and it’s no sports car. But compared to the civilian-spec Land Cruiser it feels short, light and nimble. Our three-door test car is more than a tonne lighter than the long-wheelbase passenger version we drove recently, and you can feel the difference on the road. You also notice the difference in supermarket car parks: it’s still wide, but it’s a welcome 445mm shorter.
The manual gearchange is precise and accurate, and the big diesel engine has so much torque, and is so sympathetically geared, that you can pull away smartly and keep a decent rate of acceleration going until you’re close to three figures. It’s very, very happy between 50 and 80mph; less so at town speeds, when you’re very conscious of all the big, heavy metal parts that are slowing down and speeding up. It’s also much happier on A-roads than B-roads, where its width and ultimate lack of steering precision count against it.
It gets noisy at motorway-plus speeds, and the other inhibitor is the soft suspension set-up. It’s great for lugging heavy loads and traversing deeply rutted ground, but you get a phenomenal degree of nose-up under heavy acceleration and nose-down under heavy braking. This can actually be a lot of fun, and with at most one passenger to worry about you’ll probably get away with it.
What exactly do you need from a car? While this makes a fantastic tool for taking your hedge trimmings to the tip, or your dog for a walk in the woods, there are far cheaper ways of achieving those results. If you like bombing around in big, simple, diesel-engined 4x4s, it will make you smile, although it can get wearisome on longer trips.
Where it really comes into its own is if you have a job that involves actual building sites, quarries, farms etc. In those circumstances, this is a fantastic way to cope with just about any surface, in any weather, while hauling a considerable load, and it’s a lot of fun on your way to and from the job. Especially if someone else is footing the bill, and you’re got a regular car at home for all the other parts of your life that this admirable but bruising 4x4 can’t reach.
Check out our Toyota reviews