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2 doors, 2 seats
4.5DT, 8 cyl.
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5 Yr, Unltd KMs
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2023 Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series GXL Single-Cab ute review
Why is this old automotive dinosaur still in showrooms, and why is there a multi-year waiting list to buy one? Glenn Butler climbs into the Toyota that time forgot to find out.
- Peerless factory off-roader
- Bare-bones motoring without the pings and chimes
- Utilitarian yet incredibly versatile
- Technology from the age of MP3s
- Not a vehicle to run errands or commute in
- Safety suite is embarrassingly minimal
2023 Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series GXL Single-Cab ute
The Toyota LandCruiser is the oldest active Toyota Australia nameplate, and by some margin. This now-legendary off-roader traces its origins back to 1951, which makes it a decade or two older than Toyota’s other geriatric badges Corolla (1966), HiAce (1967), HiLux (1968) and Camry (1982).
But while the Camry, Corolla and HiLux have kept pace with automotive evolution through the decades, the LandCruiser ute we’re testing here is coveted more for its old-world charm and old-school skills than any modern amenities.
For those who don’t know, Toyota today offers three distinct LandCruiser flavours for sale in Australia. There’s the caravan-hauling, boat-towing, desert-driving land yacht currently known as the 300 Series that is most often seen collecting kids from city schools. This very big, very capable, very comfortable and luxurious beast debuted in 1968 and is seen as a rival for the Nissan Patrol and Land Rover Discovery.
The second LandCruiser sub-family is a 'light-duty' version called LandCruiser Prado – light duty is a relative term in LandCruiser-speak. The Prado came into existence in 1990 when Toyota sensed demand for a LandCruiser with 90 per cent of everything the big LandCruiser has, including the price. Like its bigger brother, the Prado can carry seven people, tow 3.5 tonnes, and climb the biggest sand dune in the Simpson, possibly all at once.
Both of these full-fruit LandCruisers share the same ancestor. An ancestor who, believe it or not, is still sold today in a guise that more closely resembles the 1951 original than either of its more refined, lifestyle-enabling descendants. This ancestor is known as the 70 Series, and it is instantly recognisable by its boxy aesthetic – which is a huge drawcard with predominantly utilitarian buyers.
The 70 Series is the most diverse LandCruiser sub-set because it comes in four different body styles, whereas the LandCruiser 300 Series and LandCruiser Prado are only sold as five-door 4WD wagons. Each body style has a unique numerical designation: there’s the four-door Wagon (76 Series), two-door Troop Carrier wagon (78 Series), and a Single-Cab and Double-Cab Cab-Chassis (79 Series).
Collectively they’re known as 70 Series LandCruisers, and they’re not afraid of the kind of hard work that keeps Australia’s mines pumping and cattle stations thumping. They’re also extremely popular with off-road adventurers and tradies.
You can immediately tell a 70 Series because it looks like it was designed in the 1970s. Because it was. Because this vehicle’s appeal is not about how modern it looks; it’s about what it has underneath and what it can do.
In fact, in a perverse way, this car’s dated and boxy design is actually a selling point. People who buy the 70 Series love its utilitarian styling because it talks to the vehicle's toughness and its no-fuss, workman-like attitude.
But there’s utilitarian style, and then there’s utilitarian.
Today, we are reviewing the Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series Single-Cab ute in GXL specification. This vehicle’s 4.5-litre turbocharged diesel V8 engine and five-speed manual transmission date back to 2007. Engine outputs are 151kW and 430Nm.
Earlier this year, Toyota announced a Q4 2023 update that introduces an optional four-cylinder turbo diesel engine with an automatic transmission. All 79s also get lane-departure alert, road sign recognition and automatic high-beam assist. It also gets a new 6.7-inch infotainment screen with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
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But this vehicle is not an updated example. It’s the old car because a two to three-year waiting list suggests we’d have to wait until 2026 to test the 2024 model. So instead we’re testing the 2022 model in 2023.
How much does the Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series cost in Australia?
Our test vehicle is the 79 Series GXL Single-Cab Cab-Chassis, so the price is $76,650 before on-road costs. But you can't buy one because Toyota has temporarily stopped taking orders while it wrestles with existing demand.
You'll need another five to 15 grand for a tray to go on the back because the vehicle comes with a bare butt. Toyota doesn’t include a tray in the retail price because of the varied and unique needs of buyers. Toyota does offer genuine options, although buyers are just as likely to take their naked-backed 79 Series to an aftermarket specialist to have a third-party tray installed.
The extras fitted to our test car are in the table below. All up, they raised the price to $84,426 before on-road costs.
So let’s be polite and call the 79 Series GXL Single-Cab a $92,000 drive-away proposition. That’s more than a brand-new Ford Ranger Platinum 4x4 Double-Cab with all the fruit. And I mean all.
Here’s what the Ford Ranger Platinum has that this LandCruiser doesn’t.
- A second row of seats
- Leather interior trim
- Two gloveboxes
- A fully digital driver’s instrument cluster and 12.3-inch digital infotainment system with touchscreen
- Push-button start
- Electrically adjustable mirrors
- Seat height adjust or electric seats
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- A connected smartphone app
- Digital radio
- Steering wheel buttons for audio control
- Climate-control air conditioning
- A trip computer, even a basic one
- LED headlights with auto-on and off
- Rain-sensing wipers
- The ability to close its windows just after you turn the engine off
- A phone charging mat
- Independent suspension
- Agile steering
- An ANCAP safety rating
- Front parking sensors
- Rear parking sensors
- Cameras of any kind
- Bottle holders in the door
- A second cupholder
- A tray – this one costs extra
- An electrically retractable tonneau cover
- Roof racks
- A domestic power socket in the tray
There’s more, for sure, but I think I’ve made my point. You’re not buying this vehicle because it has all the creature comforts of a modern ute.
|Key details||2023 Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series GXL Single-Cab ute|
|Price||$76,650 plus on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||Silver Pearl|
|Options||Galvanised steel tray – $5865|
Spare tyre hanger – $159
Tow bar with wiring harness – $1077
Metallic paint – $675
|Price as tested||$84,426 plus on-road costs|
|Rivals||No direct rivals for the price|
How much space does the Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series have inside?
The 79 Series Single-Cab has a utilitarian interior with two cloth seats that must be manually adjusted along with a manually adjustable steering wheel. Adjusting the driver-side wing mirror means lowering the window and reaching out with your hand. Moving the passenger-side wing mirror is best done by the passenger using the same method. The mirrors must then be tightened with a spanner or they will magically fold in at freeway speeds. Perhaps this is a fuel economy measure?
Getting into the high-riding cabin means using the side step and the A-pillar grab handle to lift your body up. The cabin is so high because this vehicle has serious underbody ground clearance that makes it more capable off-road. Once inside, the doors need to be slammed to close properly.
Occupant amenities are limited to a plastic phone holder slot, a single cupholder in the lower dash between the two front seats, and a 6.1-inch infotainment touchscreen for interacting with the AM/FM radio, media playback and satellite navigation.
Air conditioning is of the old-fashioned dials and levers kind. Speaking of old-fashioned, the cigarette lighter is an actual cigarette lighter and is next to a slide-out ashtray.
|2023 Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series GXL Single-Cab ute|
Does the Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?
The LC79’s two-speaker multimedia system does not support Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. The MY23 update, which we were not able to test, does allegedly support smartphone mirroring. Our test car has Bluetooth phone connectivity to take calls and play media via the 6.1-inch colour touchscreen.
The sound system has only two speakers and can play AM or FM but not DAB digital stations. Just make sure you raise the electrically operated antenna first after leaving low-roofed car parks or reception will be awful.
The sound system also has a CD player that can handle a home-made CD full of MP3s.
As for a smartphone app for interacting with your LandCruiser remotely in ways that 300 Series owners can... dream on buddy.
Is the Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series a safe car?
The 79 Series LandCruiser single-cab chassis has a five-star ANCAP independent safety rating from 2016. Since then, ANCAP has made numerous changes to its safety testing, which means a vehicle tested in 2016 cannot be compared to a vehicle tested in 2023. The LC79’s rating expires in December 2023.
The 79 Series GXL ute comes with front and curtain (aka head) airbags for both occupants. It also has a knee airbag for the driver.
What safety technology does the Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series have?
The LandCruiser 79 Series’s active safety suite is best described as Y2K cutting-edge. It includes anti-lock brakes with brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist, electronic stability control and traction control.
The only nod to more modern safety features is the inclusion of autonomous emergency braking (AEB), which Toyota added to the 70 Series earlier this year. This lifesaving advance has been on passenger vehicles and SUVs since 2009.
There are no ISOFIX child seat anchors in the 79 Single-Cab, nor do the seats have top tether anchors, which are compulsory if you intend to install a child seat.
How much does the Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series cost to maintain?
The initial purchase is not the only financial whack buyers cop with the LC79. Servicing is another area where owners will need deep pockets.
Despite the fact that most of the LC79’s oily bits are as under-stressed as the North Pole's post office 11 months of the year, Toyota says keeping the 79er in tip-top condition requires six-monthly (or 10,000km, whichever comes first) visits to the local service centre.
The first six services are $425 each, making for an annual outlay of $850 or $2550 over three years.
Years four and five are $1649 and $1469 respectively, bringing the five-year servicing total to $5668.
Insuring the LandCruiser 79 Series GXL on a comprehensive insurance policy at a $90,000 agreed value will cost $2315 each year. This is a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.
One area where the 79 has the potential to repay owners handsomely is at resale time. Because the wait time between placing an order for a new 79 and receiving is currently measured in years not weeks, low-mileage second-hand 79s are selling for as much as $20,000 more than the retail price of a new one.
|At a glance||2023 Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series GXL Single-Cab ute|
|Warranty||Five years, unlimited km|
|Service intervals||Six months or 10,000km|
|Servicing costs||$2550 (3 years)|
$5668 (5 years)
Is the Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series fuel-efficient?
Toyota claims that the LandCruiser 79 Series consumes 10.7 litres per 100 kilometres of city/country mixed driving, according to the Australian Design Rules 81/01 laboratory test that all new vehicles must undergo.
In the real world, we saw an average of 12.5L/100km for a 500km mix of primarily 100km/h highway and hardcore off-roading with a smallish portion of urban driving thrown in.
The 79 Series Single-Cab comes with a 130L diesel tank, which suggests an easy 1000km driving range between refills. This sounds great, but bear in mind you’ll be $250 lighter every time you fill ’er up.
Fuel Consumption - brought to you by bp
|Fuel Useage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||10.7L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||12.5L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||130L|
What is the Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series like to drive?
This is where anyone expecting a modern driving experience will be sorely disappointed, perhaps even bewildered at how such an archaic automotive machine can still be on sale as a new vehicle in 2023. Not only that, but with a waiting list that pretty much guarantees there will be a new Prime Minister by the time you receive your vehicle.
But if you are a primary producer, an off-road enthusiast, or an admirer of bare-bones motoring, the LC79 Series could be the answer to your prayers.
Driving the LC79 around town requires a lot of patience and perseverance. Nothing happens quickly and everything requires more effort than it should. Acceleration is plodding and dogged yet determined. Turning corners takes plenty of elbow (and shoulder) grease. Braking necessitates a firm leg, as does changing gears.
Parking in normal spaces is a nightmare because this vehicle is huge (5.23m long by 1.87m wide), it has no parking sensors or cameras, and getting a feel for the vehicle’s extremities takes time and practice.
Beyond that, the ride quality is more rugged than refined, and wind noise competes with tyre rumble to drown out the sound system and any in-cabin conversation.
But take this vehicle beyond the bitumen and it all makes sense.
Very few other machines will go where the 70 Series can go, competently and reliably, straight out of the factory. This is the surefooted mountain goat of the automotive world. A 2.2-tonne, V8-powered mountain goat with live axles, locking diffs, low-range, loads of ground clearance, and a lazy V8 that will happily chug up cliff faces, over sand dunes, through mud bogs and down rocky mountain-sides without missing a beat.
We took the 79 test car to a 4WD training park outside of Melbourne – the same place we tested the Ford Ranger Wildtrak X the week before. The Wildtrak X is the mountain goat of the Ranger range, but there are goats and then there’s The Goat.
Putting the LandCruiser 79 through its paces in this retired open-cut mine that’s been chiselled into a tough test of four-wheel driving, it takes just one rocky climb to understand why there’s a multi-year waitlist to buy a new one.
|Key details||2023 Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series GXL Single-Cab ute|
|Engine||4.5-litre V8 turbo diesel|
|Power||151kW @ 3400rpm|
|Torque||430Nm @ 1200–3200rpm|
|Drive type||Part-time four-wheel drive, |
low-range transfer case
locking front, rear and centre differentials
|Weight||2195kg kerb weight|
1315kg payload (not including tray)
|Spare tyre type||Full-size|
|Tow rating||3500kg braked|
Should I buy a Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series?
There’s simply nothing like the LandCruiser 79 Series. Not for the price, not any more. It's a relic from another age that staves off extinction because there's still very much a need for a vehicle like this.
It may be crude, but it's so incredibly capable at doing what it's designed to do.
For primary producers, the 79 is seen as a must-have tool of the trade. Relaxed, reliable, and hard-working.
For tradies, the 79’s combination of 1315kg payload (without a tray), 3500kg tow capacity, and 4.5-litre V8 elevate it beyond single-cab HiLuxes, Rangers and the like.
For off-road adventurers, the 79 makes the toughest tracks easier. But the compromise is that the on-road journey to and from that isolated track won’t be as comfortable or as safe as in a modern single-cab or dual-cab.
For the rest of us who don’t do any of those things, the 79 is as suited to our daily lives as a Massey Ferguson.
How do I buy a Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series – next steps?
Get in line, and quickly.
We’ve got no idea how much longer Toyota will be able to offer the 70 Series LandCruiser family for sale, because safety standards and emissions regulations are getting tougher every year.
The 70 Series dodged a bullet by upping the LC’s GVM to 3510kg and reclassifying it as a medium-duty vehicle, but these legislative side-steps won’t always be this easy.
Rest assured, as long as more than 14,000 Australians want one every year, Toyota will do everything it can to keep the 70 Series family viable.
The quickest way to get a 79 Series ute is to buy one second-hand – and pay more than you would for a brand-new one, just to get it now.
If you’ve got your heart set on a new one, be prepared to wait at least two years, and up to four years if some of the wilder media reports are true. If you go down this path, be aware that the vehicle you order is very likely not the one you get. You’ll also cop any equipment changes and price increases between placing the order and receiving your vehicle.
The arrival of a second engine variant – a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel with six-speed automatic transmission – may have shorter wait times initially. We’ve had no word from Toyota on how many orders it’s holding for the new arrival.
The next steps on the purchase journey are to check the Toyota website for stock. You can also find Toyotas for sale at Drive.com.au/cars-for-sale.
We strongly recommend taking a test drive at a dealership before committing because personal needs and tastes can differ. Find your nearest Toyota dealer via this link. We’d also recommend test-driving the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux to decide if you are prepared to compromise everyday comforts for the 79 Series's off-road prowess.
If you want to stay updated with everything that's happened to this car since our review, you'll find all the latest news here.