Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

70 Nm for the new Land Cruiser 70 Series 2.8GD-6

Few vehicles on the market today can do even half of what the Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series can do. It has incredible off-road prowess, which is why it is so popular in Africa. It’s the perfect vehicle to take you right across the middle of this amazing continent of ours.

First launched in Japan in 1984, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the legendary Land Cruiser 70. It is crazy to think that over 10 000 000 of these vehicles have been sold worldwide since then. That’s an astounding 250 000 per year!

History of the Land Cruiser

From its humble beginnings in 1951 as a mobility vehicle for Japan’s National Police Reserve, and then through over 70 years of continuous production, 14 model lines and thousands of variations, the Land Cruiser is the longest produced vehicle in Toyota’s history. During that time, it gained cult status within the four-wheel drive sector, consistently setting the benchmark for durability, ruggedness, reliability and flexibility. It is the world’s most customer-trusted vehicle and marked the foundation of Toyota’s development target of quality, durability, and reliability.

When North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950, Japan was still under American occupation. As the US and United Nations sprung to South Korea’s assistance, Japanese manufacturers were commissioned to supply compact four-wheel drive trucks to the US military. Toyota received huge purchase orders for these vehicles, as it had been one of the primary truck suppliers for Japan’s own forces during the 1940’s.

However, in building vehicles for the Allied forces and these forces being somewhat distracted assisting South Korea, the Japanese people felt vulnerable. A limited re-armament was therefore permitted, including a thousand four-wheel drive vehicles similar in specification to the Willys ‘Jeep’. However, they had to be built using domestically sourced raw materials.

Just five months after being given the go-ahead to start development, January 1951 Toyota presented its prototype to the National Police Reserve (NPR). It was a parts bin special, using the chassis of Toyota’s one-tonne Type SB truck, the oversized 3.4-litre Type B six-cylinder petrol engine of the four-ton truck, suspension from the Toyopet passenger car, and a rudimentary open body.

Unfortunately, the NPR preferred Mitsubishi’s familiar licensed version of the Willys to the Toyota offering. Unperturbed, Toyota saw great potential in its prototype, resolving to continue development and find customers on its own, especially as export restrictions had been lifted the year before.

Advancements were swiftly applied to the Toyota Jeep BJ (the initials referred to B-series engine and Jeep) and the vehicle was tested by tackling technological feats that had only previously been possible on horseback. This included replicating a samurai warrior’s legendary climb to the Shinto temple at the top of Mount Atago and driving up the old pilgrim route to the sixth station on Mount Fuji.

Five different versions sprung from the BJ platform: mobile communications, touring liaison, fire fighter, and two pickups. But it took until August 1953 for the start of series production, by which time a number of other government agencies and energy companies had put in orders for this new vehicle.

In 1954, the hand-me-down Toyota Jeep BJ tag was replaced (Willys had since trademarked the name ‘Jeep’) with the descriptively memorable name Land Cruiser. This helped launch the vehicle into export markets, with Pakistan receiving the first shipment later that year and Saudi Arabia following in 1955.

A fundamental redesign was applied for the third-generation 40 Series Land Cruiser for its launch in 1960, though casual onlookers often struggle to tell it apart from its predecessor. It featured slightly more rectangular arches and the indicators had moved to the front wings, but most people recognise the 40 for the lozenge-shaped bezel framing the circular headlamps and radiator grille.

Presentation of the 70 Series in 1984 as the successor to the long-serving 40 displayed the more workmanlike side of Land Cruiser, staying close to the original concept while simultaneously responding to market requirements for recreational machines.

In order to compete with other vehicles within the segment Toyota decided that the 70 Series should be split into two sections – a robust, leaf-sprung, cargo workhorse, and a more comfortable, people-focussed, coil-sprung version primarily tuned for the European market. The 70 Series Land Cruiser therefore arrived to market in two forms – Heavy Duty and Light Duty – and in an almost unimaginable variety of tumbledown models.

With well over 20 years separating the 40 and the 70 Series, the new Land Cruiser range looked and felt very modern. It shared nothing with the older car, but the engineering and styling vocabulary were instantly recognisable.

Heavy Duty models were characterised by flat, heavy-gauge steel body panels and a near vertical glasshouse. There was even the suggestion of freestanding front wings thanks to blistered arches emerging from a chunky central crease down the sides.

Fast-forward 40 years to 2024 and the introduction of the 2.8GD-6 motor in the Land Cruiser line-up here in South Africa.

The 2.8GD-6

The 1GD-FTV – which has been around since 2015- is a 2 755 cc (2.8-litre) straight-four common rail diesel engine with a variable nozzle turbocharger, chain drive and intercooler. It has 16 valves and a DOHC (double overhead camshaft) design. Its compression ratio is 15.6:1, with bore and stroke of 92mm and 103.6mm respectively. It generates 150kW and 500Nm of torque when mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, depending on the target market and emission specifications. Average fuel consumption is claimed at 11.2km/litre but on the Land Cruiser 70 we expect it to be between 9 and 10km/litre in real world conditions. It is, in short, an extremely reliable engine.

Driving the newcomer was a real treat. The acceleration is impressive for a Land Cruiser 70 and the fact that you are not burning diesel at over 15 litres/100km really makes it fun to overtake and even push it here and there.

What amazed me is the difference 70Nm makes to the vehicle. Going up a fairly steep hill just outside of Vaalwater in Limpopo we accelerated to 130km/h and engaged the cruise control. We lost some momentum but by the time we reached the top the speedometer had only dropped to around 122km/h. That’s really impressive since you would have likely had to gear down a fair amount in the 4.5 V8. There is a remarkable increase in power and acceleration. For me the only drawback was the slight lack of engine braking going downhill, but I expect it is due to the gearing of the six-speed auto box it is paired with.

A look at the outside

The Land Cruiser 70 Series has also undergone some exterior styling changes. The most noticeable of these changes are the circular halogen headlamps with the Toyota lettered grille and the hood cooling vents reminiscent of the 40 Series, along with the three-slot vent below the grille first seen on the initial model of the 70 Series. The bumper is completely independent to take reparability and customisation (replacement bull bars) into consideration. The bumper corners were scrapped to avoid damage from debris when off-roading. The headlamps are now independent from the turn signal lamps, taking visibility – and again – reparability into consideration. The redesigned bonnet also stands out when viewed from the side.

What happened inside?

I was a bit disappointed by the interior after seeing a couple of YouTube video reviews of the Aussie-spec 70. They had buttons on the steering wheel and a pretty update instrument cluster with a decent trip computer that indicated range, fuel consumption and some other not-so-relevant information. Unfortunately, we did not get that for SA, and when we asked about it, we were informed that these choices were based on final pricing of the vehicle, but it might be included in future models.

There is still a very analogue aircon panel with slider for heat and cold. However, the 79 now has three cup holders – two around the centre console and one in the bottom of the passenger door. The dash is made of hard plastic and as you climb in you can smell the new plastic. Some will love it, others won’t… I loved it!

The verdict

The Land Cruiser 70 Series is a very, very basic vehicle. There is no adaptive cruise control, collision warning or even auto headlights. Everything still looks rather ‘un-modern’. This is not a luxury vehicle; this is purely a workhorse that was built to get you from point A to point B, regardless of the roads or lack thereof. It is a no-nonsense vehicle that delivers exactly on what it promises – getting you there! Sure, it’s a hard ride, but you can always have the suspension upgraded. Most aftermarket suspensions have warranties build into the price to cover you if the product is faulty.

As an overlander I really like this vehicle. I never considered the 4.5 V8 because of running costs; you would need a really big budget to do a 3 000km-plus trip in it. The 2.8 just makes more sense. The acceleration is much better, and it will also make a better towing vehicle. Simply put, it is just a better choice than the 4.5 V8. I would put in my order tomorrow if I wasn’t running a magazine!

What does the updated Land Cruiser 70 cost? 

Single Cab

  • LC79 4.0 Petrol S/C 5MT – R765 500
  • LC79 4.2 Diesel S/C 5MT – R829 000
  • LC79 4.5 Diesel V8 S/C 5MT – R956 200
  • LC79 2.8 GD-6 Diesel S/C 6AT – R917 100

Double-Cab

  • LC79 4.0 Petrol D/C 5MT – R864 600
  • LC79 4.2 Diesel D/C 5MT – R920 800
  • LC79 4.5 Diesel V8 D/C 5MT – R1 039 200
  • LC79 2.8 GD-6 Diesel D/C 6AT – R1 009 000

Station Wagon

  • LC78 4.2 Diesel SW 5MT – R900 100
  • LC76 4.5 Diesel SW 5MT – R1 076 800
  • LC76 2.8 GD-6 Diesel SW 6AT– R999 900
  • LC 76 2.8 GD-6 VX Diesel SW 6AT – TBC

Five Facts about Toyota’s Land Cruiser 70 Series

  • It was the 40 Series that properly established the Land Cruiser’s reputation as being the most outstanding four-wheel drive vehicle globally, and especially in Australia, South America and Africa.
  • It was the introduction of the Nissan MQ Patrol in 1980 that forced Toyota to upgrade the 40 Series and create the new 70 Series to be a vehicle that would ensure market dominance.
  • The 70 Series made its debut in 1984 and quickly established a solid reputation.
  • The model was substantially upgraded in 1999, with its front suspension changing from the old fashioned semi-elliptic leaf springs to coil springs with radius rods and an anti-roll bar. Atthe rear longer leaf springs were fitted to provide better suspension travel and ride comfort.
  • The V8 engine required the front of the Land Cruiser to be made wider, which created some unexpected problems such as the front and rear track being different. This resulted in that the rear wheels do not run exactly in the wheel furrows made by the front wheels, causing the vehicle to have to work harder to push through soft dirt.

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