Australians love V8 engines, but there are increasingly few affordable V8 cars on the market these days. But as the new Toyota LandCruiser LC300 demonstrates, we shouldn’t look back in anger – an 8-cylinder donk isn’t the be-all and end-all if you want to have some true-blue vehicular fun.
When Toyota unveiled the LC300 (also called the 300 Series or J300), the first new comfort-oriented LandCruiser in a whopping 15 years, expectations were understandably high. That’s why it came as a shock to many Aussies that Toyota would not be offering a V8 engine option for the immensely popular 4×4.
Instead, the LC300 has but a single engine option Down Under: a 3.3L twin-turbo diesel V6. Indeed, Toyota isn’t offering a V8 of any description anywhere in the world for the LC300 – this isn’t a case of Australia getting gatekept or something.
Of course, the venerable, utilitarian 70 Series LandCruiser – which has been in production since 1984 – can still be had with a 4.5L single turbo diesel V8 (again, the only engine option for the car in Australia), but the 70 Series is a true anomaly and doesn’t have the same customer base as the comfort-oriented LC300 or the LC200 the former replaced.
Many Australian Toyota purists were dismayed by the news that the new LC300 wouldn’t be available without a V8 – myself included. It just seems un-Australian for a vehicle that’s so deeply embedded in our motoring culture; one that’s so loved, so ubiquitous, and crucially, so massive, for a LandCruiser to not come with a stonking big V8.
But then I drove the new LC300, and my prejudices were put to bed.
That new twin-turbo diesel V6 not only sounds pretty ferocious but has plenty of grunt, making 227kW/700Nm – a solid 27kW and 50Nm more than the 4.5L single turbo diesel V8 that powered the outgoing LC200 and continues to power the 70 Series. It does that while also sipping less fuel, too.
I was particularly surprised by how dynamic it was, too. Put the new LandCruiser in sport mode and it actually becomes pretty damn sporty, despite its gigantic proportions. You can actually chop people at the lights. Again, this is a credit to the car’s engine and Toyota’s engineers.
Let’s be clear: there are many areas other than a lack of a V8 that might give you pause for concern with the LC300. I was surprised by how average the interior fit and finish was (I was driving the base model GX, but still). The button on the automatic shift lever was unpleasantly cheap-feeling, for instance. The infotainment system is properly archaic, and try as I might, I couldn’t get it to work properly with the Toyota app. It’s also a bloody expensive car, with prices starting at $96,370.
But one thing I can’t fault is the engine… Or the LC300’s immense off-road capability, which is in no small part also a result of the fine powertrain Toyota has blessed this 4×4 with.
There are, of course, many other traditionally or previously V8-powered cars on the market right now in Australia where you can demonstrate that the absence of an 8-cylinder is no dealbreaker. The four-cylinder Ford Mustang High Performance immediately springs to mind, as do the new Jeep Grand Cherokee and Audi RS4, both of which have eschewed V8 power for V6s.
But it’s the LandCruiser where (for some at least) the loss of a V8 option is more controversial… As well as where it makes the most difference. Or should that be the least?
In short, the absence of a V8 engine option hasn’t ruined the new LandCruiser. Far from it. The venerable off-roader is better than it’s ever been, so there’s no need to get chauvinistic about cylinder configurations.
Find out more about the new Toyota LandCruiser LC300 at Toyota’s online showroom here.