Toyota reboots it’s unbreakable, ever-popular flagship

Peter Atkinson |

The Toyota LandCruiser Sahara ZX is a total rebuild, with a new chassis, body and engine.
The Toyota LandCruiser Sahara ZX is a total rebuild, with a new chassis, body and engine.

For decades, the Toyota LandCruiser has been so beloved that buyers seem to upgrade from one model to the next almost by habit.

It’s a bit like buying a pair of RM Williams boots – you get a shiny new pair, look after that glossy finish for a decade or so and then add a couple of centimetres of mud.

If the mud doesn’t wash off properly it might be time for a new car (or boots).

Like the RMs, you probably keep at least one Cruiser as a spare – for carting around boxes and lawn waste as it enters its later years.

In fact, an acquaintance loves his LandCruisers (he’s had six or seven) so much he can’t bear to part with them.

So, when the odometer had done a few circuits of the dashboard he would buy a new Cruiser and pass the old one down to one of his kids.

Try that in your trusty RM Williams.

But there’s something very different about this most recent LandCuiser, which is the first all-new model in almost 15 years.

When the car made a belated entry to Australia after a lengthy, Covid-caused supply chain delay, it was greeted by the sort of enthusiasm usually found at a Royal wedding.

Tested is the flagship of the range, the much-anticipated 300 Series LandCruiser Sahara ZX, which has arrived with more gadgets and gizmos associated with this unbreakable big off-roader.

Interior of the Toyota LandCruiser Sahara ZX
The 300 series LandCruiser has more technology than any previous model. (HANDOUT/TOYOTA IMAGES)

Why? Well, it’s hard to escape the fact that its Asian-built rivals – some from Korea, others from China and, of course, its well established range of rivals from Japan – are fighting hard to match the Toyota’s reputation and market appeal.

With so much competition, it was time for Toyota to add a bit of spice to its long-running love affair with Australian buyers and they appear to have done just that.

This is, after all, one of the most storied vehicles of modern era.

Like America’s famous Willy’s Jeep, the LandCruiser has its roots in the military with the first LandCruiser built in 1951, reportedly using “acquired” plans borrowed from Jeep.

Post-war, the Toyota version went on to become a vital cog in the construction of the Snowy River scheme, emphasising the bond between man and machine, as well the car’s deep relevance in the Australian market.

But it’s clear this latest version of the Toyota stalwart has made a technical leap not seen since it introduced a V8-powered Sahara flagship more than a decade ago..

There have been plenty of times LandCruiser models were difficult to tell apart, even the Sahara which, despite its expanded price tag, has not always embodied the luxurious persona.

In all that time the Cruiser has grown and changed, but with very few seismic shifts in its design or utility.

So this new LC300 series – if not the biggest thing ever to happen to the iconic Cruiser – it’s probably a grand finalist.

To emphasise its commitment to improving comfort, Toyota is offering up not one but two Sahara variants – the sporty Sahara GR and the tested and more luxurious ZX.

It’s pretty clear Toyota didn’t like the idea of rivals sailing quite so close to the company’s biggest and most expensive models – and its response will please all buyers.

Soon after its launch, eager buyers had to wait up to six months for some models, but Toyota has now cranked up the production line to all but eliminate these supply chain issues.

Even though it clearly has that famous LandCruiser DNA from a styling perspective, this latest 300 model is an almost total rebuild.

That includes a new chassis which makes its ride and handling about as good as any you’re likely to get in a vehicle pushing the three-tonne mark.

On the road it’s noticeably smoother, quieter and more refined than anything to wear the badge in living memory.

At the very centre of all this improvement is the most technically impressive drivetrains you’ll find in a big SUV.

The 3.3-litre, twin-turbocharged diesel V6 is a cracker – powerful, responsive and very quiet – and which bears little resemblance to the sometimes agricultural powerplants of years gone past.

Its 227kW and 700Nm are impressive numbers anyway, but the addition of a class-leading 10-speed automatic transmission, mated to an off-road capability which also raises the bar for a LandCruiser.

It’s particularly frugal with an official thirst of 8.9L/100km which shames many smaller, more nimble vehicles.

That off-road system is known as the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension, offering all manner of flexibility and capability.

The range of settings available to the driver include dirt, sand, mud, deep snow (yes, for Australia), rock and a self-adjusting Auto mode. If you can’t get comfortable you are hard to please.

Electronic driver assist functions include active Cruise Control, predictive curve speed reduction (clever for a vehicle this big and surprisingly quick); traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning and active adjustment and an under-floor camera to ensure you don’t drive into a bog without noticing.

Plush leather, bespoke woodwork, premium audio, broad range of electronic creature comforts and a general air of opulence have defined this new model, rewarding those people who’ve stuck with the Sahara for so long despite the model’s general disinterest in returning the favour for a loyal following.

Put that together and it makes for a substantial step forward in the Cruiser’s ability to get you just about anywhere and back, all done in style and comfort.



You need to ask? Obviously never ridden in one of these. Fair to say it’s as big as ever (in fact, even roomier inside) – even though it now has seven seats instead of the previous eight.


Well, about three tonnes takes some time to wind up – not really a strong suit – although the new engine and auto are first class.


Somehow they’ve trimmed its thirst to 8.9L/100km, which is excellent.


Prices start at $89,990 (plus inroads) for the base model, rising all the way up to $138,790 for the flagship Sahara ZX.