Archive, Van Reviews

Cruising in the Toyota LC79 Cruiser

Testing the work-focused fourby down the Pacific Highway from Brisbane to Sydney and back to see how it copes with a couple of long runs and a country interlude


There are some lessons that have to be learned the hard way.

For example, I recently learnt that it’s not really advisable to try and park a 70 Series Landcruiser anywhere near Sydney’s CBD. Especially the Rocks area.

However, after a couple of failed car park entries (too high) and multiple 43 point turns on back streets I finally found a spot I could legally occupy. I was sweating by the end.

Of course, nobody with a modicum of sense would use an LC79 as an inner city commuter.

The recently revamped workhorse fourby is the staple of mining companies, cockies and an aspirational get away truck for the masses. It ain’t no shopping trolley.

The latest update revised gearing in the 5-speed box but didn’t add another gear. Much to the annoyance of it’s loyal adherents.

However, the taller ratios for 2nd gear and 5th gear has led Toyota to claim much improved highway fuel economy as well as better driveability.  

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to play with the ‘Cruiser off-road, and in stock form it remains a formidable mudslinger. Especially when optioned with front and rear diff-locks.

The last update also included the addition of traction control and electronic stability, which may make the Toyota sound like it’s going soft.

The reality is that off-road the traction control actually helps the truck when crawling over rough obstacles rather hinder it.

If a wheel breaks traction power is directed to another wheel to keep you moving rather than roaring up a bushy hillside with the engine roaring and rocks flying.

But these things also do plenty of long distance highway kilometres.

So I took my LC79 single cab for a run down the Pacific Highway from Brisbane to Sydney and back to see how the work focused fourby coped with a couple of long runs and a country interlude along the way.

This single cab copped the bulk of changes and improvements from the update.

An all-important 5 star ANCAP crash rating was needed to keep the tough Tojo on the radar of mining and civil contractors.

So the single cab gets more airbags than it’s dual cab, wagon and troopy stable mates.

It also got a heavier, stiffer chassis and an extra cross-member as well as softer tune on the rear leaf springs to make it ride better when unladen on crap roads.

The narrow rear wheel track remains unchanged from previous models yet from the outside some subtle and not so subtle panel changes have taken place.

This apparently keeps pedestrians safer (without a bull-bar of course) and a larger bonnet bulge helps with heat rejection from the 4.5 litre Euro 5 EGR V8.

On paper that bent eight turbo-diesel looks a little anemic in terms of output. 151kW and 430Nm seems pretty tame when compared to some ute engines half it’s size.

But, it’s such a delightfully un-stressed engine in stock form.

In fact the aftermarket has proved that the engine is easily capable of much more power without a great deal of intervention.

And torque is available from very low in the rev range, just 1200rpm in fact. Maximum power is at just 3400rpm.

You also get the feeling that the modest spec from this power plant will serve it well in the long run.

The move to Euro 5 saw the addition of an active regeneration Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) which will perform a burn off once the DPF get’s clogged with soot.

The 200 Series wagon with the twin-turbo version of the same donk also does this automatically however it doesn’t have the parked regen option like the 70 series does.

This is mainly because the 70 series won’t perform a regen at speeds of under 80km/h. If the DPF clogs up because the truck is just wandering around a mine site it needs the option of doing a parked burn off.

I would however, like to see a DPF status gauge (like that used on the Euro 5 HiAce van) on the LC79.

As it stands the first you know of it needing a burn off will be when a light comes up on the dash.

If you’re heading into a sensitive site it would be nice to be to check the DPF soot level and have the option of doing a parked burn before heading in. 

Unlike every other ute on the Aussie market (save imported American pick ups) it can legally carry a tonne on its back and tow 3,500kg.

The already expensive LC79 also saw a price hike of 5 grand which will no doubt raise the eyebrows of some. And air conditioning is still a 3K option!

But perhaps the LC79 is best seen in the context of being a commercial light truck rather than a ute.

It’s certainly engineered that way. From that point of view it’s priced pretty close to the mark when compared to car-licence 4×4 truck offerings from Isuzu, Fuso and IVECO.

And as I found out, it’s a damn sight more confortable on a long haul than any forward control light truck I’ve driven. And doubly so off-road.

The big diesel 8-iron makes a satisfying if subdued burble when hauling the highway and has plenty of legs for overtaking.

The tacho now sits on 2,000rpm at 100km/h for improved economy and it will comfortably cruise at 110km/h.

Our GXL was a little more cushy inside compared to the Spartan Workmate variants.

The seating provided good support for hours in the saddle as well. The tilt/telescope wheel was also a nice touch and oft overlooked in vocational rigs like this.

The revised ‘box ratios have improved driveability however, you still get the best results by skip shifting through the cogs like a truck. Very rarely did the revised 2nd gear get a look in. 

The power, reception, sound and range of the radio was pretty disappointing and it struggled to hold onto FM stations for very long while traveling.

I realize that this is just a minor gripe but this truck is most often found out the back of beyond so it would be nice if it had a decent wireless (sorry just found an excuse to use an old man word).

Wind noise also makes the Bluetooth useless at highway speeds. This isn’t a wind tunnel styled wagon!

I stopped at a mate’s farm along the way to get a bit of off-road action in… and scare his horses.

The new auto locking hubs do make life easier on what is still an old-school fourby in many ways.

The dealer fit tray has a lot of space but in serious off-road situations it has a little too much overhang at the rear.

Inner-city Sydney antics aside it was a comfortable cruise in the ‘Cruiser. It plants itself on the road and steers well for an empty truck.

Twenty hours in the saddle over the two legs of the trip still saw me walking upright and able.

Toyota is claiming improved fuel economy for the LC79 of 10.7l/100km combined. My truck was still a little green with only 860km on the clock when I picked it up.

However over 2,134km my combined average was 13.5l/100km. Still not too shabby for a slab sided commercial vehicle.

It’s still a comfy truck for long-haul cruises and dirty detours. Just don’t try and join the latte set when parking it.

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