The Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series is one of the most popular, most sought after and iconic 4WDs in Australia.
Its boxy truck-like presence never fails to send every keen 4WDer’s heart racing and even if someone knows absolutely nothing about the off-roading world they’ll still turn their head to gaze longingly at a passing 79. They won’t exactly know why, but they’ll do it.
But why is the 79 so beloved and in demand? It's an old-school boxy manual ute that’s essentially impractical anywhere other than on a rural property or on a mine site, or being driven in the most remote areas of Australia as a work truck or an expedition vehicle.
And it’s pricey, too. And that price has gone up with the new 79, but at least now the entire 70 Series range has AEB – welcome to the 21st Century! – and they’ve all had a GVM upgrade to 3510kg.
But, other than that, for better and worse, nothing much has changed.
So, it’s overpriced and under-specced, but is the 79 any good?
One of these utes costs about $76,650 (excluding on-road costs) and that’s without a tray.
Inside is a 6.1-inch touchscreen multimedia system. (image credit: Marcus Craft)
Our test vehicle has premium paint ($675), a general purpose galvanised steel tray ($5864.98), a tyre hanger ($158.91), a tow bar ($797.17), trailer wiring harness (seven-pin flat, $273.90), and a towbar hitch receiver plug ($5.97), so it’s price-tag as tested totals $84,425.93, excluding on-road costs.
The 79 is available in a variety of colours: 'French Vanilla', 'Graphite', 'Merlot Red', 'Sandy Taupe', 'Midnight Blue' and this colour: 'Silver Pearl'.
Design – Is there anything interesting about its design?
This 79 as tested is 5230mm long (with a 3180mm wheelbase), 1870mm wide, and 1955mm high.
Minus the tray, it has a listed kerb weight of 2195kg.
The 79 Series has a boxy truck-like presence. (image credit: Marcus Craft)
If you don’t like the look of this ute, then it’s not for you, so stop reading right now and head somewhere else, for your sake and mine.
For everyone else, there’s a lot to love about the 79’s classic straight up-and-down boxiness.
Under the bonnet – What are the key stats for its engine and transmission?
All LandCruiser 79 series have a transfer case with high- and low-range gearing working off the good ol’ traditional stubby stick. No simple button pushes here, you have to work to get this ute into low-range 4WD.
The 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8 produces 151kW/430Nm. (image credit: Marcus Craft)
While on paper its power and torque figures are bested by cheaper and more city-friendly wagons and utes, the 79’s engine-and-gearbox combination is a proven team-up, offering plenty of useable torque across a long flat curve, ideal for low-range 4WDing and towing.
It may not be wonderful to drive around town and in the suburbs, but it’s a monster off-road – more about that in the driving section, below.
Practicality – How practical is its space and tech inside?
There aren’t a lot of surprises inside – well, there aren’t any.
The interior remains the same as it’s been for donkey’s years: cloth seats and durable plastic pretty much everywhere else.
There isn’t a lot of storage space apart from the small glove box, small centre console bin, a cupholder, and the narrow area behind the seats.
The interior remains the same as it’s been for donkey’s years. (image credit: Marcus Craft)
The 6.1-inch multimedia unit is simple enough to use, but the screen is tiny and there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but there is Bluetooth.
There are two USB charge points as well as a 12V socket.
It’s a spartan space, but it’s a familiar and comfortable one.
Driving – What's it like to drive?
Pretty ordinary, but still lots of fun.
With a turning circle of 14.4m, steering the 79 around feels similar to driving an overladen mini-bus.
It’s a floaty, cumbersome ute to drive with a too-short first gear and crunchy gear-changes all the way through to a fifth that feels like it needs another one or two ratios above it to feel more at home on the open road.
No surprises for those in the know, but unladen ride can be bone-rattling harsh and jittery, even on sealed surfaces.
Steering the 79 Series feels similar to driving an overladen mini-bus. (image credit: Marcus Carft)
But, bloody hell, I love driving it. Always have, always will.
It’s a visceral driving experience: it’s gruff, rough and unashamedly agricultural. There’s plenty of engine noise and wind-rush around the boxy frame, snorkel and wing mirrors.
It demands the driver be dialled into the experience and give it the full attention it deserves. And if you do, the 79 rewards you, well and truly.
The seats are surprisingly comfortable and very easy to spend a lot of time on. And, while those comfort levels are certainly appreciated on long trips on bitumen, they’re appreciated even more when you’re driving tough bush tracks for extended periods of time.
In terms of off-road efficacy, the 79 can’t really be faulted. (image credit: Marcus Craft)
And, in terms of off-road efficacy, the 79 can’t really be faulted.
There is plenty of visibility, because of the boxy cabin, so the driver can see in all directions.
The part-time 4WD system is easy to use – you just work off the good ol’ stubby shifter near the longest gear stick in the world – and the 79’s powertrain is perfectly suited to high- and low-range 4WDing, with heaps of torque at low revs. In fact, low-speed low-range crawling is this ute’s happy place.
There is nice throttle control at low speeds over bumpy terrain, engine braking is top notch and the 79 has an all-around set-up purpose-built for off-roading, including not the least of which are a separate chassis and live axles.
Ground clearance is 316mm (unladen) and off-road angles are a guesstimated 35-degree (approach), 29-degree (departure) and 26-degree (ramp-over).
This is an off-roader with decent real running clearance, so climbing steep rock steps isn’t an issue and you never have to concern yourself with bashing the undercarriage on the earth.
The departure angle is a bit shallower in comparison though, because of the tray overhang and the tow bar.
Official wading depth is 700mm, but apart from driving through a shin-deep mud hole I didn’t have the opportunity to really test that measure, but I have no reason to doubt it.
The payload is listed as 1000kg, but that depends on the tray. (image credit: Marcus Craft)
And while you could drive a 79 Series straight out of the car yard and into the Simpson Desert, I'd think about replacing the standard rubber – Dunlop Grandtrek AT1 (265/70R16), decent light truck tyres in their own right – with a set of even more aggressive all-terrains, just to further boost this ute’s off-road ability.
One of the 79’s more annoying characteristics is its 14.4m turning circle, especially if you’re driving along a tight bush track and you’re forced to turn around because of an immoveable or un-choppable obstacle in the way or catastrophic track deterioration.
A turnaround might end up being an Austin Powers-style infinity-point turn.
This is not a highly nimble vehicle in the bush; you have to think about where you want to put it, and you have to think about the line you want to take – but that’s part of the 79’s appeal.
Also, some people have a problem with the 79 Series’ different wheel tracks front (1555mm) and rear (1460mm) and, while the mismatched tracks do make for odd viewing from the rear, if you adjust your driving style while 4WDing to suit, then you shouldn’t have too much strife, other than it being a bit annoying on sand and through dried-mud wheel ruts.
The standard rubber are decent light truck tyres. (image credit: Marcus Craft)
The 79 has an unbraked towing capacity of 750kg, and a braked towing capacity of 3500kg.
Payload is listed as 1000kg (but it depends on the tray – our test vehicle's tray weighs 319kg), and the Single-Cab Cab-Chassis GXL has a gross vehicle mass of 3510kg (up 10kg) and a gross combined mass of 6900kg.
When all is said and done, many – most? – 79 Series owners don’t even venture out in the stock-standard vehicle other than to drive it straight from the showroom to the nearest aftermarket supplier to immediately set about modifying it to suit their plans.
Those changes may include: adding a bullbar, roof rack, rooftop tent, aluminium canopy and more; correcting the mismatched front-rear wheel track; remapping or chipping the engine to get more power and torque out of it; replacing the five-speed manual with an auto transmission out of a 200 Series; replacing standard axles with portal axles (which improves ground clearance by raising the axle and diff housing); or even chopping it, stretching it and turning it into a six-wheeler.
Who knows what other wild and wonderful aftermarket mods are being thought up and implemented, even as I write this…
Efficiency – What is its fuel consumption? What is its driving range?
Our actual fuel consumption on this test, from pump to pump, was 12.5L/100km, which is pretty good because I did a chunk of low-range 4WDing.
The 79 has a 130-litre fuel tank. So, going by those fuel consumption figures, and if you drive conservatively like me, you should get an effective driving range of, give for take, about 1000km, out of the LC79’s 130-litre fuel tank, when doing a mix of road and dirt tracks, and low-range 4WDing.
That range grows to around 1200km if you can get your fuel use closer to the official fuel-consumption figure.
Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What is its safety rating?
The 79 Series LandCruiser single-cab cab chassis has the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as a result of testing in September 2016.
As standard, it has AEB, driver and front passenger airbags, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, 'Brake Assist', vehicle stability control, hill-start assist control, electronic brake-force distribution and active traction control.
The 79 Series is bloody good fun, but there’s no escaping the fact that it’s entirely impractical unless you live on a farm, work in a mine, or are a hard-core off-road tourer.
It actually makes very little sense for anything other than those scenarios.
There are plenty of cars that are much cheaper, a lot better equipped, are far more functional, have more driver-assist tech, are much more comfortable, and are much nicer to drive than the 79 Series.
And yet, despite all of those reasons, and probably more, it’s hard not to love this ute. It’s a 4WDer’s dream, an absolutely wild unit in the bush, and, for those who care about such trivial and shallow things, owning a 79 Series gets you instant Insta fame.
There’s a real visceral enjoyment in driving a 79. It’s like one gigantic testosterone injection. (Not that I need one, mind you. Or do I?)
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