Toyota’s well-priced Disco-crusher lacks little but name-appeal

What is it?

You’re looking at Toyota’s reply to the recent launch of the new Land Rover Discovery 4.

As before, there’s a two-tier range of full-size Toyota offroaders — the Land Cruiser (formerly Colorado) and Land Cruiser V8 (formerly Amazon) but this new edition of the smaller model is now the Disco’s keenest rival, packed with gadgets and with its dynamic ability greatly improved.

It’s the usual all-steel body-on-frame structure the Land Cruiser has always been, siting on the same wheelbase as before but with a body a couple of inches longer.

What’s it like?

In the UK, the Land Cruiser comes in three equipment levels (LC3, LC4 and the full-house LC5 version we tested). All have the same powertrain: a mighty 3.0 litre four-cylinder turbo diesel that puts its 171bhp and 302lb ft of torque through a five-speed automatic and a full-time four-wheel drive system that delivers a 40:60 power split, front to rear, or 50:50 when you lock the centre diff for some serious off-roading.

The main difference between the LC5 and its lesser brothers (besides The price and lots of cabin gadgetry like on-board video systems and cameras that allow the driver to monitor his wheels via the fascia’s central screen) is a new traction-keeping system called Crawl Control, that allows a driver to choose an appropriate feet-off crawling speed between 1km/h and 5km/h, whether the car is going uphill or down, which frees him to concentrate on the steering.

Toyota’s chassis men claim that they’ve worked “100 per cent” on developing both the off-road and on-road abilities of the new Land Cruiser, rather than settling for a mere compromise between the two.

When you drive the machine, you see what they mean, sort of. The new electronic gizmos (lockable centre diff for all models, plus rear diff for the LC5) give the Land Cruiser amazing purchase and steering authority on treacherous-looking climbs and slopes, and wheelspin is rarely a serious issue. Occasionally the car pauses, while its electronics assess the situation. But it always proceeds, and the Crawl Control keeps its progress steadier in really rough going than a human ever could.

On the road, this is a very large car, but the driver is saved from being overwhelmed by its enormity by good visibility, light and surprisingly accurate steering and quick-acting brakes that have very strong initial bite.

Sitting miles above the road, there’s some well-tamed SUV bounce (along with the usual comparative freedom from pervading road noise) and the electrically adjustable damping keeps body roll under surprising control in corners taken fast.

The engine is effortlessly torquey and the five-speed auto (which you mainly leave to its own devices even in arduous off-roading) is as discreet as a gearbox could be. Interior hardware is beautifully made and fitted, though the textures and surfaces say “durability” louder than “luxury”. There’s a new seven-seat system for the LC4 and LC5 models that folds more compactly than previous models, leaving a flat loading floor.

Should I buy one?

Get your order in now. Toyota thinks the first year or so of sales (1500 units) will be to the faithful, who know the Landcruiser’s extreme trustworthiness and durability of old. They won’t be disappointed.

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Like its ancestors, the new Land Cruiser feels — and is — ready for a 200,000-mile life of trouble-free hard work in a way a Disco isn’t quite.

The Toyota’s foibles (a rather vocal engine which isn’t as smooth as Land Rover’s V6; derivative styling that features yet another big, chrome grin) won’t deter dyed-in-the-wool Landcruiser lovers in the slightest. Not should they.

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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Add a comment…
RobotBoogie 9 November 2009

Re: Toyota Land Cruiser LC5

I think that the Disco and Land Cruiser are aimed at completely different markets. Whatever my-mate-owned-one-and-it-never-broke-down anecdotes people might cite here about Land Rovers, survey after survey show that their reliability is consistently shocking, especially for a so called luxury car. However, they are pretty nicely styled and behave well on the road. On the other hand, the Land Cruser is unlikely to really impress anyone from the golf club but would probably, along with the cockroaches, survive a direct nuclear strike.

38carssofar 9 November 2009

Re: Toyota Land Cruiser LC5

I have had two RRs (53 reg. and 08 reg.) an RR Sport (55reg) and now have a Disco 3 (09 reg.) - no reliability issues whatsover.
tannedbaldhead 6 November 2009

Re: Toyota Land Cruiser LC5

"Like its ancestors, the new Land Cruiser feels — and is — ready for a 200,000-mile life of trouble-free hard work in a way a Disco isn’t quite".

Great if you're going to buy a white one, stick a giant sky blue UN on the side and roof take it to the back of beyond and work its ass of in a part of the world where a breakdown may deliver it's occupants to nasty men with a predisposition for dressing people in orange jump suits and lopping off their heads.

Wild as certain parts of Glasgow are I think my brother will stick to his Disco with the deciding factor being that the Land Rover's interior is just a nicer place to be. Also in all fairness to Land Rover I know quite a few people who run them and none have been let down by unreliability.