FIRST DRIVE | The 2022 Land Cruiser 70-series is a hardy stalwart
Adapt or die, is a saying wielded around more than ever in our fast-paced, ever-changing digital world.
But enduring stalwarts such as the Toyota Land Cruiser 70-series is proof that sometimes, shunning change is an approach that pays off.
This is a model that has hardly evolved since inception in 1984. In fact, if you sit inside one, you will identify fixtures that would have been familiar to owners of other Toyota products from that era. The door handles, locking buttons atop the door sills, ashtray and shifter are all throwbacks from yesteryear. Its exterior is a boxy anachronism in a time of furrowing front-ends and coupé-crossover aesthetics.
But you know what? Those in the know love the iconic Land Cruiser for those very reasons. And even those who identify as modern citizens of the globe can concede to the charming nature of the unashamedly retro Toyota.
Of course, there is a whole lot more to it than nostalgia. The true appeal of the 70-series lies in its robustness, durability and go-anywhere nature. It has been engineered to a standard that would make the average B-segment hatchback wince, with a chassis that is virtually indestructible and internals designed to withstand the most punishing terrain the planet has to offer.
Poetically, the 70-series celebrated its 70th birthday towards the end of last year. And recently, we had a turn behind the wheel of the limited-run model in celebration of this milestone. In case you have forgotten, the 70-series includes the 76 (station wagon); 78 (“Troopy” wagon) and the 79, which is available in single-cab or double-cab pickup formats.
This 70thanniversary version applies exclusively to the 79. It is distinguished by a mesh grille with the Toyota nameplate in upper-case. A special emblem is found on the sides of the doors. Functional equipment includes a tubular rear step bumper with detachable tow-bar, inner load-bed protector, tubular front steel bumper and integrated winch preparation. Pick between two colours: Ivory White or Sandy Beige.
Getting inside the special 79, buyers will note seat covers with model-specific embroidery and branded floor mats. A touchscreen audio system with Bluetooth and navigation ensures that drivers will not be left completely out of the technology loop.
Our test unit for the day was a double-cab. Driving the Land Cruiser 79 is unlike anything else on the market today. Ergonomically, you are quite aware that you are sitting in a vehicle conceived decades ago. The most natural way to be comfortable is to have your right elbow resting on the sill. And if you like vehicles that require involvement as a driver, the 79 will not disappoint.
Its steering is heavy and requires effort. Me and my city-slicker arms were sawing at the wheel during an intense dirt slalom course, which also revealed that the 79 has a turning circle similar to an orbiting planet. The gearshift action is wonderfully tactile. And the sound from that V8 diesel mill is one of a gruff, hairy-chested bellow. It displaces 4.5 litres and has an output of 151kW and 430Nm.
We put that unbreakable ladder-frame construction through a pretty rigorous off-road obstacle that involved water, mud and boulders. Yes, all together. It was the kind of situation that you would never want to find yourself in behind the wheel of a softer, contemporary 4x4 with reliance on electronic aids.
We grimaced on behalf of the 79 as its undercarriage made unavoidable contact with the unforgiving hurdles underwater. Its differential locks were engaged for the climb out, as a heavy right foot planted us into the mire. After reversing and trying again with a bit of momentum, we were free. Tricky though that was, on a blisteringly hot Friday afternoon, it was likely a stroll in the park compared to what else our Land Cruiser would be seeing in the course of its lifetime.
These are vehicles used for agriculture, cross country expeditions, mining activities and more. While the automotive landscape continues to change, you can guarantee that there will always be a market for the 79 and its tough, rudimentary attributes.
Land Cruiser 79 S/C 4.5 Diesel V8 70th Edition: R 889,700
Land Cruiser 79 D/C 4.5 Diesel V8 70th Edition: R 943,100
A three-year/100,000km warranty is included.