WHEN it comes to stating the bleeding obvious, saying Toyota LandCruisers are somewhat good off road is up there with the Pope being a bit Catholic.
Many Australians' livelihoods and even very survival depend on their off-road vehicle, and the LandCruiser is by far the most popular upper large SUV available here, with Toyota shifting over 9200 units last year for a market share of 83%. It is, quite literally, a giant in its field.
But what about its versatility? These days a lot of SUVs are sold on their go-anywhere, do-anything abilities, from offering cosseting cabins to having "car-like" handling on your favourite back road, while still being able to cart seven occupants around and climb a mountain when asked.
I've yet to discover this perfect SUV all-rounder - one would suppose if it actually existed we'd all be buying it - as there always has to be some sort of compromise. That's why you see Toyota offering myriad SUV options in its line-up to cater for nearly every taste. In the large SUV segment alone it offers the Prado, Kluger, FJ Cruiser and recently-launched HiLux-based Fortuner.
But none of these is as mighty as the LandCruiser Wagon (LC200); Toyota's big boy the ideal go-anywhere 4x4 adventurer with cavernous space for cargo and occupants. However, we wouldn't be rough road travelling on this test. Been done too much before you see, and the LC200 has more than earned its outback stripes over the years.
Instead, this would be the gargantuan Toyota's city test. Not its preferred natural habitat of course, but many LC200 owners will spend as much if not more time in crowded town and city environments as they will bush bashing. But when you're five-metres long, two-metres high, two-metres wide and three-tonnes heavy (with fuel and a few occupants on board), it's hard to be a saint in the city.
I was in Adelaide to compete in a stage of the Tour Down Under cycle event, and had brought along the wife, two kids under four (mad mistake, I know that now), a massive bike box, three suitcases, baby stroller and two kiddie car seats. A Toyota Yaris just wasn't going to cut it.
Picking the LC200 up at the airport, the first problem was obvious. Conventional parking spaces just aren't sympathetic to a LandCruiser's girth, so before loading in child seats I had to move it to the only available space with any room to fully open the doors. The sign said Airport Vehicles Only, but this was an emergency.
The LC200's width was back in my good books soon after however. Two car seats in situ and there was still excellent space for an adult to sit in between them - a real boon for pacifying screaming kids on long journeys. Then there's the boot. With the two fold-down occasional seats strapped to the sides, there's still a mighty 1276-litres of cargo space. Raise the boot door and drop the tailgate and the loading area is vast and easy to slide large bags into. Even with all our stuff piled high in the boot, I still enjoyed decent rear visibility.
Our LC200 was the diesel VX grade (yep, you can still buy a petrol LandCruiser if you insist on living under a rock), meaning a before on-roads price of $97,500. Only the $118,500 Sahara is higher specced, while the range starts with the GX at $76,500.
The $100-odd grand you pay for the VX means you get a decent dose of cabin luxury, but not to the extent of say the similarly-priced Audi Q7 large SUV. A completely different buying market for these, of course.
Since the 200-Series underwent an upgrade in October last year, inclusions for the VX make it even more sumptuous than before. Seats are huge, leather accented and power adjustable up front, while soft padding around the centre console to rest your leg against is great when assuming cruise mode. Also new are Optitron instruments with a 4.2-inch colour multi-info display between the speedo and rev counter, while there's a large (and decent resolution) 9-inch touchscreen display with sat nav and DAB radio.
Throw in goodies like a reverse camera, front and rear parking sensors, power mirrors, moon roof and woodgrain-look highlights and you're hardly short of features.
It still looks distinctively LandCruiser too, but has had a dash of modernising for 2016 with its new front grille, bi-LED headlamps, LED fog lamps, daytime running lamps, new bumper, bonnet and fenders up front, plus rear LED tail lamps.
Layout is excellent with unfussy switchgear thanks to the vast majority of controls managed through the touchscreen. If I'm grumbling though, the climate rather than stereo control should be done via the easy-to-reach rotary dials: trying to get the a/c to the right temperature quickly (screaming kids remember) was a hassle through the touchscreen.
Keep on truckin'
So, into the city. Adelaide is better laid out and more generous with its lane width than most state capitals, but negotiating the LC200 through traffic requires vigilance. Being higher than almost everything on the road means visibility is good, but there's no chance of squeezing into tight gaps when they open.
Get clear however and the mighty Toyota gets you up to speed faster than most city cars, and in a roar of V8 diesel thunder you have 650Nm at your disposal from just 1600rpm. The big brute simply flies. The six-speed auto delivers seamlessly, behaving much like the general ride of the LC200: smooth, unflustered and always comfortable, as long as you don't head into corners too hot.
Once you get used to the SUV's size it actually doesn't prove too burdensome in the city. Its turning circle isn't unreasonable, and if roundabouts are too small or kerbs a bit close, you simply drive over them - the car barely notices.
Over the course of our test the VX gulped 13.3-litres/100km. It's not an unfair return after much urban use in this big heavy machine, but it is a lot more than the official quoted figure of 9.5-litres (combined). We did cover a few hundred kilometres of freeway and open country road while testing.
As it's unquestionably a genius off the sealed black stuff, the fact the LandCruiser is liveable with in the city is impressive. Yes you'll be frustrated when trying to park it at times, or when clogged roads and parked cars delay progress, but this can be said of most large SUVs. Trade-off is superb cabin and boot space.
It won't corner like a BMW X5 and isn't as sumptuous as a Volvo XC90 for the same money, but in the LC200 VX you have an off-road and towing tool with unsurpassed reputation, blended with enough luxury and comfort to cosset you during hectic city life.
What matters most
What we liked: Superb boot and cabin space, mighty torque from the V8 diesel, its viability as a city car in many circumstances to match its renowned off-road prowess.
What we'd like to see: Better combined fuel economy, climate control not via the touchscreen, a touch more premium dashboard and cabin as seen in other $100,000 SUVs, larger parking spaces.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year 100,000km warranty with services required every six months or 10,000km. LC200s are covered by Toyota Service Advantage capped-price servicing at $220 per service.
Model: Toyota LandCruiser 200 VX.
Details: Five-door 4x4 upper-large SUV.
Engine: 4.5-litre V8 twin-turbo diesel generating maximum power of 200kW @ 3600rpm and peak torque of 650Nm @ 1600rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 9.5-litres/100km (combined).
Towing capacity: 3500kg (braked).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $97,500.