The rougher the better for Land Cruiser
Somehow I'm reminded of the old saying about having to learn to crawl before you can walk.
That's because the newly facelifted Toyota Land Cruiser 200 Series has an updated version of a system called Crawl Control, which controls engine output and brake pressure to allow the big SUV to crawl across really rough terrain.
Anyone with an ounce of offroading experience will know that in many cases slow can be the fastest and most efficient means of getting from points A to B when the going is really tough. This Crawl Control really helps in this regard, and the facelift has seen it improved from three to five low- speed settings.
All the driver needs to do is activate the system, select the desired crawl speed using a rotating knob mounted next to the gear selector, and then fully concentrate on steering the vehicle.
The Crawl Control will work its hardest to maintain a uniform speed with minimal wheelspin or lockup.
Not only that, but there's now another feature called Offroad Turn Assist that automatically applies the inside rear brake to make it easier to negotiate sharp bends while offroading.
And that's not all.
The facelifted 200 Series introduces what is called Multi- Terrain Select (MTS). The next step beyond active traction control and all-terrain ABS braking, MTS regulates wheel-spin, while the ABS regulates brake lockup to ensure there is always the best traction when driving off-road.
The new MTS function regulates wheel-spin in tough off- road conditions through five driver-selectable modes: rock, rock and dirt, mogul, loose rock, mud and sand.
It all adds up to allow the 'Cruiser to continue to be one of the world's pre-eminent SUVs. It's held that title for years, and this latest facelift simply gives that reputation a boost - big-time.
We've just been driving the top of the range VX Limited, which offers even more. It is now fitted with what Toyota calls a multi- terrain monitor, which uses four wide-angle cameras to check 'blind' spots and revealing terrain hazards and apexes that are normally hidden from the driver's view.
Quite obviously Toyota will say the intention behind this is so the driver can use a dash-mounted monitor to keep an eye on how close the vehicle is getting to the likes of cliff edges and big rocks, but I found it is equally suitable for use in the urban environment - particularly when attempting to negotiate this big mother of an SUV into tight parking spots.
But hey - let's get back to the offroad environment one more time. The Limited also boasts what is known as a kinetic dynamic suspension system, which provides longer wheel articulation for the most challenging off-road driving.
The same system also provides the roll control needed for confident on-road driving, says Toyota.
This Land Cruiser VX200 is essentially the same vehicle as the big Lexus LX570 we reviewed recently - and which we criticised for consuming far too much fuel.
The big difference with this vehicle is that whereas the Lexus is powered by a 5.7-litre petrol V8, the 'Cruiser has a 4.5-litre twin- turbocharged diesel V8 under its bonnet, which means the fuel consumption is a lot more reasonable. The official stated consumption is 10.3 L/100 km, and during the week I had the vehicle for road test I achieved better than that.
It also goes without saying that there's oodles of power and torque on tap, too. The big turbodiesel V8 offers 195 kilowatts of power, and the torque is a ground-wrinkling 650 newton metres from just 1600 rpm. So obviously, not only does this result in smooth performance on the seal, but plenty of low-down grunt - and that ability to crawl at whatever slow-speed is chosen.
The engine is mated to a six- speed automatic transmission, full-time 4WD with Torsen limited- slip centre differential and a two- speed transfer case.
The Land Cruiser VX200 features freshened exterior styling, including a new front with revised bumpers and grille and newly styled 18-inch alloy wheels. Interior upgrades include the latest audio systems and improved information displays.
There is a new grille with chrome surround and grey metallic accents, chrome surrounds for the fog lights with two parking sensors in the front and four in the rear.
The big SUV also gets newly styled auto-levelling high-intensity discharge headlights with washers and daytime running lights with six power-saving LEDs.
Inside, there is an economy meter in the instrument panel - a feature progressively being fitted to Toyota vehicles to encourage fuel-efficient driving.
Land Cruiser 200 is fitted with a 3.5-inch thin-film transistor screen for viewing the multi-information display. The display now shows the steering-wheel angle, digital speed and turn-by-turn display linked to its electro multi-vision (EMV) navigation system.
A 220-volt connector has been added in the rear, while a reversing camera is standard.
Other standard items in the VX Limited include four-zone climate- control air-conditioning, a cool box, heated and ventilated front seats and heated steering wheel, rear-seat DVD entertainment system, electro-chromatic rear- view mirror and power glass sunroof.
The good news about this latest facelift is that it allows the 'Cruiser to remain true to its hard- fought heritage as a vehicle with real off-road ability.
It might have progressively had more luxury added - and that's why it retails for $147,500 - but it has also received new technologies designed to make it an even better offroad vehicle than before.
And, given its heritage, that is really saying something.
Taranaki Daily News