AFTER we were so impressed with the features, upgrades and performance of the LandCruiser 79 we had on the 4X4 Of The Year test, we really didn’t want to give the doublecab GXL back to Toyota. They offered to swap the Hilux we’d been using for the previous three months for this Merlot Red LC79 single-cab. Done deal!

The Cruiser is pretty much all standard bar a genuine Toyota colourmatched heavy duty steel tray. That, plus air-conditioning, which is incredibly still a $2761 option, takes the price of the truck up to $74,715, plus on road costs.

There is a pretty extensive range of genuine accessories available for the 79 including steel and alloy bullbars, side steps, tow bar, steel or alloy trays, and even a Warn winch.

With the air-intake snorkel and front and rear axle diff locks standard on the GXL, plus the inclusions of cruise, electronic traction and stability control, we are pretty happy with the level of equipment.

The single-cab 79 is the only model in the 70 Series range to achieve a full fivestar ANCAP safety rating. To achieve this it now has thicker chassis rails and an extra crossmember to improve torsional rigidity, plus an additional three SRS airbags over the two front airbags that are standard across the LC70 range. The extras are A-pillarmounted side airbags and a driver’s knee airbag. We hope Toyota see fit to introduce these safety features across the full range.

The two big ticket changes that really make driving the 79 different to the previous model are the longer top gear in the five-speed manual gearbox, and the inclusion of electronic traction control. The VDJ 70s have always been geared too low for highway speeds, meaning they’ve sucked diesel like there was no tomorrow. The new ratios drop

the cruising revs significantly to reduce fuel use. At 100km/h the engine is now pulling just on 2000rpm, where in the past it was closer to 2800rpm. This may not sound like a big difference, but it’s now far more relaxed at this speed and it saves fuel. Unfortunately the fuel tanks have been cut from the twin 90-litre ones to a single 130-litre unit, so touring range is reduced.

The GXL 79 has front and rear lockers as standard so traction is rarely an issue, but now with ETC and long-travel liveaxle suspension you need them less because the nicely calibrated ETC does the work for you. It’s still great to have the lockers as back up, though.

We got the keys to the red 79 straight after 4X4OTY testing, and we still had the Mercedes-Benz cab-chassis in the carpark, so we loaded them both up for the comparison test found on page 64 in this issue. Then it was Christmas break time, so I loaded it up with camping gear and set off to the Victorian High Country for some touring and camping with friends.

A problem we have found with the 79s and the genuine Toyota trays is that the location of the rear number plate is the lowest point at the back and scrapes over the smallest of bumps. We lost the rear plate off both the double-cab on 4X4OTY and this single-cab. Anyone driving one of these vehicles off-road should secure the front plate using all four corners, and then relocate the rear one to a higher point on the tray.

At 100km/h the engine is now pulling just on 2000rpm, where in the past it was closer to 2800rpm. So it’s far more relaxed and it saves fuel