BEST TESTS ’22: King of Africa Land Cruiser 300 on Safari
The Kruger Park camp parking lot is an interesting place. People arrive in waves, depending on the camp’s location and the time of day as they stop for a break and a little refreshment after a few hours in the car. They have taken in the glorious bush and everything from lion to leopards and the big five to glorious raptors and antelope, to the tiniest of wild, weird and wonderful African creatures.
LC 300 Rivals the Big Five in Allure
Proud men emerge from their Hiluxes, Rangers, Fortuners and Pajero Sports, et al. The stretch a little, push out the chest and strut around their steeds. Then they will peer around the lot to check what else is parked there. To a man their eyes stopped at our Land Cruiser 300. That’s when he taps his wife, his dad or his son on the shoulder, gesticulating ‘there it is.’ They keep glancing to ogle it as they amble on by.
Such is the magnetism of the new King of Toyotas to a Toyota-mad South African public. You’d almost expect to see little LC 300 magnets alongside the lion on the sighting boards inside. At one sighting deep in the Park we noticed more than one fellow peering at our LC 300 through his binoculars, rather than those mating lions. Yes, that’s how big this car is to the average South African motorist. Most people seemed more than just curious about our King of Toyotas.
Based on Toyota’s new ladder frame New Global Architecture, LC 300 is unmistakably angular and dynamic looking. With more than a passing resemblance to its great ancestors. This blackened black GR version has an off-road pack on with smaller wheels and bigger tyres and that perhaps helped split the opinion. Styling appreciation is of course subjective. Some of us loved the Tonka toy looks. Others not so much.
LC 300 Sucked It All In. And More.
Rolling back a few days, we were going on safari, driving perhaps the ultimate vehicle for the job. First things first, we were off on a family vacation so we had to pack the regular more than necessary holiday stuff in the trunk. Not that it mattered. You’d need to stow down one of the split rear bench seat backrests at least, to get it all in into any other car. Not 300. All packed up with everything neatly stowed where it should be, we set off on what would prove a fine ten-day adventure.
Our GR badged Cruiser 300 was powered by Toyota’s hugely significant new 227 kW 700 Nm 3.3-litre bi-turbodiesel V6. It brings a 32 kW and 50 Nm hike over the old atmo V8 and they promise a 210 km/h top end and a meagre 8.9 l/100 km at 238 g/km. LC 300 soon lulls you into a sense of serenity. The lazy diesel V6 is supreme on the open road, its invisible 10-speed auto always pulling the correct cog for what you need.
One must floor it occasionally to remind yourself of its stump-pulling performance. You need to do that to even hear the engine and still then, it belts out a soothing tone. Wind noise is minimal with the windows rolled up, but it does gets a bit blustery with a side breeze at lower speeds with the side glass wound down. Still, we were more than comfortable throughout our time in the serene Cruiser.
A Little Real Off Roading on the Side
Being a Cruiser, there’s a fair amount of feedback from rougher road surfaces, but on smooth highways its supreme. We had a little time with it well off the beaten track. We paused for a couple of days en route to the Park at a little trout escape far from the madding world near Dullstroom. That meant some real off-roading to access the cabin and travel to the ponds. Needless to say, our Cruiser proved unstoppable on any regular off-road challenge it faced.
LC 300’s mud plugging party trick is of course, to hydraulically decouple its suspension anti-roll bars. That allows ultimate vehicle control, excellent axle articulation and supple body-roll, for supreme 4×4 ability and comfort. And when you get back on the tarmac, switch the chassis to Sport Plus and 300 delivers a splendid performance car repertoire. The best of both. Not bad for a literal block of flats. We kept it in plusher Comfort most of the time, thank you very much!
We had more than enough time to get to know all the little bits and pieces, spending most of our seven days in the park aboard our 300. And the couple of days getting there and back too. Some of it took a little getting used to. With so many buttons and functions, the infotainment logic isn’t as deft as among LC 300’s higher class European rivals. Their interfaces are simpler and easier to use. But by the time we were done, we quite enjoyed the infotainment and the rest.
Complex Infotainment Comes to You
The broad central screen shows three narrow panes, or a wider one and a narrow one. Touch functions are backed by buttons in most cases, which hard interfaces we prefer. We quickly learned their place as we went. The deep, refrigerated cubby under the centre armrest is a boon in the bush. The front cup holders are big enough to take large Kruger Park thermo mugs and their handles. The conductive phone pad works a treat. Add USB and USB C ports, and more too.
It was also good to spend time in the back of LC300, something less common in regular tests. It’s tauter and rougher aft, but there’s ample legroom and the seats are comfy. Oddly enough, the fold-down central armrest does not open up and its pop-out drinks holders do not fit those big mugs! And the optional rear carpet is a mess. You have ample control in the back thanks to four zone climate with roof vents, controls and more vents at the rear of the centre console. Add two USB C ports too.
We spent hour upon hour time exploring the splendid Kruger National Park. Travelling far enough north to find a Baobab tree as we ticked off a significant number of the animals in the guide as we went. Most impressively, this frugal, powerful and unstoppable bi-turbodiesel V6 averaged 9.5 litres per hundred travelling 1,700 km on all surfaces throughout our ten days away. That’s a huge Cruiser step forward, especially at closing on R300 per 100 km.
LC 300 True to the Land Cruiser Badge
That’s supreme. As is just about everything else about this fine vehicle. As noted up top, wherever we went with it, the Land Cruiser 300 GR stopped the traffic. Everyone knows what it is and its rarity almost a year down the line due to the thankfully now easing chip shortage, seems to add to the allure. Sure, there are a few little aspects that could be different. Or better, according to some. But it’s a Land Cruiser and all of it is true to that badge.
Powerful and efficient, hugely capable and broadly versatile, the omnipotent Land Cruiser 300 is not the King of Africa for nothing. Judging by how people react to it, LC 300 certainly earns that title. It almost even earns a place alongside the lion and the leopard, the elephant, the rhino and the buffalo on those Kruger Park sightings board maps! Yip. It is that significant. — Michele Lupini