There’s no doubt that we have all become very used to Toyota’s LandCruiser 200 Series and for good reason — it’s been around for the best part of 14 years and is a good tow vehicle — a long model run by anyone’s standards, Toyota certainly followed the ‘when you are on a good thing’ mantra.
In the world of heavy caravan and boat towing, the 200 Series was the vehicle of choice for many a caravanner and for good reason. Its weight made it a very stable towing proposition and the big 4.5L turbodiesel made caravan towing an easy proposition.
Just checking a few other facts on the 200, the V8 delivered a maximum power of 200kW@3400rpm and a maximum torque of 650Nm@1600–2600rpm via a six-speed torque converter gearbox. Some of the other specifications included a kerb weight of 2720kg, a maximum towing mass of 3500kg and a Gross Combined Mass of 6800kg.
I mention some of those facts because when Toyota announced the new LandCruiser 300 Sahara, one of the changes that caused concern amongst the towing fraternity was the fact that the V8 turbodiesel is no more — the LandCruiser 300 Sahara comes with a 3.3L turbodiesel V6. Quelle horreur!
Here’s the good news. Having now driven the new LandCruiser 300 with a fairly heavy van on the back, I reckon the V6 is a better performer — as it should be because it delivers more power (227kW) and torque (700Nm) all through a 10-speed automatic gearbox. My test run included the old Hume Highway over the Razorback Range west of Sydney. For anyone who doesn't know it, it’s a fairly steep section of road and a good test for any towing combination, both for acceleration and braking, something the 300 Sahara passed with flying colours.
There are other reasons why the new ‘Cruiser is a better performer. Aluminium panels are used for the doors, roof and bonnet, carving off at least 100kg and more (depending on the model) in weight. Some things haven’t changed though — the 300 still has a ladder frame chassis, independent front suspension and a live rear axle.
That little weight saving is important because, although the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) and Gross Combined Mass (GCM) are slightly less than for the previous 200 model (3300kg/3280kg–6750kg/6800kg), the payload of the vehicle (650kg/580kg) is better as is the payload (620kg/580kg) of the 300 when towing the maximum 3500kg.
Being an upmarket model the Sahara includes quite a few goodies — wireless phone charging, roof rails, alloy wheels, side steps, 12.3in touchscreen, heated front seats, real leather upholstery, cooler box between the seats, CD player, powered tailgate, electric folding third row seats, heads up display, heating and ventilation for middle row seats, rear TV screens and a 14 speaker JBL sound system, just a name a few.
On the road, the new 300 is generally a better drive — certainly the steering felt more consistent around the corners and under braking I didn’t get the feeling of an instability with the van on the back. It had electric brakes fitted of course. The Avida Topaz C7652SL we tested it with is a heavy van at an ATM of 3500kg and ball weight of 272kg, but the new LandCruiser certainly proved to be well and truly up to the task, thus making for a relatively relaxed towing experience.
There was one thing I did not like is the Sahara has a feature known as Lane Trace Assist, otherwise known as a lane cantering system, by which there’s steering correction if you drift off lane. To say the least, it was distinctively unnerving when towing a caravan. At best if felt like the front wheels unweighting slightly and at worst like the bow wave of a truck approaching from the rear. I have to say it was more relaxing towing when I turned it off.
Apart from that, the 300 Cruiser with its Kerb Mass of 2630kg is a good towing platform for a caravan with a tare of nearly 2900kg, something better than the much lighter 3500kg towing mass rated utes.
Engine 3.3L turbodiesel
Gearbox 10 speed automatic with manual shift mode
External length 4.98m (16ft 4in)
External width 1.98m (6ft 6in)
Kerb Mass 2630kg
Maximum Towing Mass 3500kg