Variant: GR Sport
Engine / Transmission: 3.3 twin turbo – 10 speed automatic transmission
Manufacturer Claimed Fuel Economy: 10L/100km combined (but much thirstier in reality)
Price: From about $148100
In a nutshell:
It can tow planets and has luxury touches but it still steers like a boat.
I have been so excited to get our hands on the LandCruiser GR Sport – Sahara levels of trim, uber cool retro grill and luxury appointments along with the sort of dedicated offroad tech that is normally reserved for rigs like Jeep’s Wrangler Rubicon. The concept promised so much! Unfortunately, the laws of physics just don’t allow for anything this big (and capable off-road) to be in any way ‘sporty’.
The GR Sport has tech luxuries, like big 12.3” touchscreens, heated and cooled seats front and back and a tidy little built in console fridge but the real tech of interest is directed towards off-road performance.
Key among these features is a little Aussie invention that has been fitted to top spec Toyota’s for years now – KDSS. KDSS is now electronic (and known as e-KDSS). KDSS allows front and rear anti-roll bars to be disconnected, allowing for increased suspension articulation. It used to happen with hydraulic rams; now it uses electronic controllers to achieve super twisty axles off-road and nice firm suspension control on-road. It works. The GR Sport is a much more convincing steer than lower spec models, such as the VX, GXL and GX (all miss out on e-KDSS), but, to be fair, it’s a low bar.
These lower spec models also miss out on the GR Sport’s three diff locks: front, rear and centre. Activating diff locks off road turns the 300 Series from SUV into a mountain goat and is among the most important features serious off-roaders can wish for.
Of less importance to experienced off-roaders will be five Multi-Terrain Select off-road drive modes. There is a good chance that this sort of thing helps first timers, but with a little experience these types of systems can become superfluous.
Something that will never become superfluous is the off-road crawl control system. This system is like off-road cruise control and allows for you to cross rough terrain at a fixed speed without the driver touching the pedals – something that is not always easy when rock crawling.
Likewise, no matter how good you are no one is going to forego assistive technology like the GR Sport’s Terrain Select Monitor. This system uses cameras around the car to not only show you the road and obstacles around the car but also help you place wheels with millimetre precision thanks to predictive guidelines. If this isn’t enough, patching cameras together creates a bird’s eye image of the terrain ‘under’ the bonnet. It’s deeply impressive and is the kind of feature that makes the big ‘Cruiser unbeatable off-road.
The whole 300 Series range is immensely impressive. If you need its towing ability (although while the GR Sport can still tow 3500kg, it has the lowest payload in the range) or go off-road regularly you might actually be able to see value in a LandCruiser, despite the huge initial outlay and running costs.
Alternatively, you might just need family wheels and want one of the finest six cylinder diesel engines you can buy no matter the cost. If this is you, you are also likely to appreciate the extraordinary resale value of Cruisers. Unfortunately, if this is you, you are making a mistake buying a 300 Series as a family car. This is going to upset a lot of people, but Volkswagen’s Touareg is a better family car in almost every way. It can even tow the same 3500kg! (Well, sort of. The VW has some very significant restrictions on tow ball weight, but you get my point).
Not So Impressive:
You simply can’t push this much metal and this much off-road ability down the road without the laws of physics spoiling the party. Despite the best efforts of e-KDSS and adjustable dampers, the GR Sport still rolls like a boat. Until you have driven a LandCruiser with quality aftermarket suspension, such as ARB’s Old Man Emu, you just won’t believe how much better these big off-roaders can turn corners. As an added bonus, your new truck will be much, much more comfortable. Toyota still subscribes to the train of thought that soft equals comfortable – I blame the Yanks. Soft suspension means you end up rolling over bumps and ridges like riding the swell past the Heads on the way to Manly. You simply must budget a suspension upgrade into the budget.
Equally unimpressive is Toyota’s Lane Trace Assist. Combined with the overly soft suspension, this semi autonomous steering system causes the GR Sport to bumper bowl its way down the highway. I guess you might get used to it, but I found it unnerving and nauseating… as I do most semi autonomous steering systems. The Toyota system is no worse than a lot of others, but when combined with the LandCruiser’s soft suspension it is horrible.
WHEN ON A TEST DRIVE:
Make sure you give the GR Sport and something like the GXL or VX a good run head to head. There is a good chance that, unless you have a very unique set of needs, it is hard to find value in the more expensive specification.