July 21, 2019

Hard-working truck delivers sure-footed comfort

Toyota’s Land Cruiser Commercial Utility is a strong contender in an albeit specialist sector, says Dan Gilkes.

The 4×4 van market is a fairly small niche sector, but one in which customers have very specific requirements. Getting people and materials to inaccessible sites, in all weathers, requires as much off-road ability as on-road comfort, plus a decent load area and payload.

Admittedly, the double-cab pick-up seems to have taken over this role for many, but there will always be those who prefer the enclosed body and perceived security of a van. That said, as with the pick-up market, ever improving trim and specification levels have seen a fair number of management drivers moving to high level 4×4 vans as company cars.

Traditionally, of course, the trusty Land Rover Defender was for many the all-wheel drive van of choice, with more senior managers opting for the upmarket Discovery Commercial. Mitsubishi has also been a major player in the market, with its Shogun and Outlander Commercials, though Shogun is now gone, to be replaced next year by the Shogun Sport Commercial.

You can still have a Discovery Commercial, if you are very friendly with the finance director, but other than that there isn’t a huge choice on offer. At least, that is what Toyota is hoping.

Sturdy load floor

The Land Cruiser Commercial Utility was launched at this year’s CV Show in both short-wheelbase three-door and long-wheelbase, five-door models. They both have the rear seats removed and the rear side windows covered for tax purposes, with a sturdy flat load floor bolted in behind the driver.

This long-wheelbase model has a half height steel bulkhead, complete with steel mesh upper section to protect the front seat occupants. The left half of the mesh can be folded back, to allow longer loads to be threaded through above the passenger seat.

Despite offering more than 2m3 of load volume, the bulkhead is positioned well behind the front seat backs, providing a hidden storage area behind the front seats but in front of the bulkhead. This also ensures that taller drivers can get the seat fully back, which is not always the case with a solid bulkhead.

Of course, the five-door model has the added bonus of side door access to the load area, while the rear door glass can be opened upwards for smaller objects. This is particularly useful in tight car parks, as the rear door swings out to the side, requiring plenty of space to fully open. In terms of carrying capacity, you can haul just over 700kg of payload, while the Land Cruiser has a 3.0-tonne towing limit.

Traction control

Beneath that bluff bonnet there beats a 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, rather than the 2.4-litre motor found in the firm’s Hilux pick-up. This puts out a healthy 175hp, with 420Nm of torque. It drives through a six-speed manual gearbox and the truck has full-time four-wheel drive, with a limited slip differential and Toyota’s Active Traction Control system to make sure that traction is maintained in all conditions.

Despite its size, the Land Cruiser is very manoeuvrable, with a surprisingly agile turning circle given its all-wheel drivetrain. The suspension is fairly soft, with plenty of body roll in the corners, but the upside of that is a very comfortable ride. It is also remarkably sure footed and can happily make decent progress both on the motorway and across country.

Though Toyota will offer you a Hilux pick-up in a range of trim levels, the firm has opted to keep things simple with the Land Cruiser. The clue is in the Utility name tag, as this is no range-topping box-ticking exercise.

Indeed, with steel wheels, plenty of easily cleaned plastic trim and cloth seats, the Land Cruiser is all about the hard-working end of the market. That puts it somewhat at odds with the Mitsubishi Shogun Sport Commercial, which when it arrives early in 2019 will only be offered in a very generous trim level. This is mainly due to the fact that the majority of Shogun Commercials were ordered in range-topping Barbarian trim, so you could say that Mitsubishi knows what its customers want.

That’s not to say that the Toyota’s driver and passenger have to make do with a poverty-spec cab. The Land Cruiser comes with electric windows and mirrors, a host of airbags, a tyre pressure warning system, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control and automatic lights. If you want heated leather seating and fancy touchscreen sat-nav however, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Entry price

Yet, Toyota is not struggling to sell the 4×4 vans, thanks in part no doubt to a very sensible entry price and the firm is well on its way to passing rather conservative first year sales targets. It would appear that there is still demand for a hard-working truck of this type.

The profit potential of higher trim levels may be too much to ignore as things develop though. Land Cruiser Commercial Invincible anyone? We’ll see. Either way, the Land Cruiser Commercial is a welcome addition to this specialist sector and could be well worth a look if an all-wheel drive van is on your shopping list.