Tow Test: Toyota LandCruiser Sahara 300 Series

Tow Test: Toyota LandCruiser Sahara 300 Series

The Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series is one of the hottest tickets in town right now, which is understandable given that its predecessor, the 200 Series, developed a formidable reputation as a durable and highly capable offroading tow tug during its 14-year model life. 

With media attention focusing on the imminent launch of the 300 Series for the last years of the 200s life, there was a collective cheer when the new model was unveiled in Japan last June, only to be quickly followed by a groan when the scheduled Australian launch was delayed — production in Japan was halted for part of August and most of September due to COVID-19 related supply chain problems, including shortages of vital semiconductor computer chips.

The news came as a blow for the tens of thousands of Aussies who had been hanging out to replace their old rigs and rely on the rugged 4x4 wagon for their livelihoods and lifestyle.

Although the frowns turned to smiles again when the 300 Series launched a month later than scheduled in October, the relief was short-lived with Toyota Australia confirming the initial batch of 500 would be dealer demonstrators only, and that customer deliveries would be further delayed by ongoing supply chain shortages. 

Since then, the news hasn’t gotten much better, with the factory that produces the burly 4x4 unable to produce any right-hand-drive models in September or October due to the aforementioned shortages, and production every month since then interrupted to varying degrees. 

Fast forward to today, and the bottom line is that for the many Aussie loyalists who hoped to have a 300 Series beneath their 2021 Christmas tree, it’s looking increasingly like it’ll be nearer to Christmas 2022 before they’ll be packing their shiny, new rig for that first big trip. 

At the risk of rubbing salt into wounds, Caravan World was fortunate enough to get its hand on a 300 Series Sahara and we spent a few days putting it through its paces with a Roadstar Safari Tamer Extreme 18ft 6in in tow. We reckoned the Roadstar, with its tare of 2750kg and ATM of 3700kg, was a pretty good fit for the ‘Cruiser, and with its focus on self-sufficiency it’s the kind of van that will attract serious outback tourers.


The Japanese giant has looked to broaden the appeal of its iconic 4x4 wagon, taking it further upmarket by adding two new models at the top of the now six model range — the established GX, GXL, VX and Sahara models carry over, with two new flagship variants coming in the form of the 300 Series GR Sport and Sahara ZX.

Unfortunately, progress comes at a cost — there are price increases across the board ranging from 5.6 to 11.3 per cent, with Toyota claiming much of the extra costs are offset by expanded specifications. Be that as it may, just one of the six new 300 Series models squeaks in below the psychological $100k barrier, with that model being the entry level GX which starts at $89,990 Manufacturer’s Recommended List Price (MRLP). From here prices progressively step up to $138,790 (MRLP) for the all-singing and dancing Sahara ZX. 

The Sahara tested here sits three rungs from the top of the range and carries a $131,190 price tag that buys a suitably rich level of standard equipment, including features like a 14-speaker premium JBL audio system, driver’s head-up display, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled second-row seats, power-folding third-row seats, and much more. 


Stylistically the 300 Series looks like an evolution of the 200, but Toyota insists it’s new from the ground-up. Vehicle dimensions including length, width, wheelbase and approach and departure angles are close to the outgoing 200, but the new exterior design includes many subtle changes, including the bumper shape and placement of lighting components.

A wide, horizontal grille flanked by slimline headlights gives the 300 its imposing on-road stance, with three different front-end treatments separating the core grades from the two new flagship models. Across all grades, the lights and radiator grille have been set higher than before to avoid the risk of damage when offroading, while the front bumper is also more rounded. 

In the case of the Sahara, it can be distinguished from lesser models by its chrome-accented door mirrors and door handles, sequential turn signals front and rear, and distinctive 18in six-spoke alloys finished in a super chrome metallic. 


At the heart of the 300 is a newly developed 3.3L twin-turbo V6 diesel, a smaller capacity engine that may have some towing traditionalists worried about its ability to match the power of its predecessor’s 4.5L twin turbodiesel V8. But Toyota claims the new engine offers “V8-beating performance and flexibility,” with its power and torque outputs representing an improvement of 27kW/50Nm over the V8. 

The new V6 is tuned to produce 227kW at 4000rpm and 700Nm between 1600 and 2600rpm. The engine’s two-way turbocharging system is designed to ensure smooth power delivery, with the primary turbocharger engaged for responsive power delivery at low speed, and the second turbocharger kicking in at around 2600rpm. 

The engine is also claimed to achieve noticeably lower fuel consumption and emissions, with fuel economy reduced to 8.9L/100km compared to 9.5L/100km with the V8. That’s due in part to the fact the engine is paired with a newly developed 10-speed torque converter automatic transmission.

Toyota claims the new 10-speed shifts twice as fast as the previous six-speed auto, with the lock-up control range of the torque converter expanded to allow for lock up from low speeds, further enhancing fuel economy and direct driving performance.


Underpinning the burly LandCruiser is a newly developed TNGA-F platform which Toyota says protects the vehicle’s core by maintaining a body on frame structure, while the braked towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes matches that of the current model.

Newly developed independent front and four-link rear suspension systems promise improved on-road dynamics, while a new AWD Integrated Management system aids handling and stability by managing steering assist, brake and throttle control, shift pattern and drive torque distribution.

Additionally, improved suspension performance and increased wheel articulation expands the ‘Cruiser’s traditional capabilities in rough conditions, while the new body structure has been designed to be lighter, sturdier and more corrosion-resistant, with extensive use of aluminium for the bonnet, roof, rear hatch and door panels. 


As you might expect at this price point, the Sahara comes loaded with kit, including a new 12.3in touchscreen multimedia system that’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and features Bluetooth connectivity, AM/FM/DAB+ radio and voice recognition. Other features include satellite navigation, a CD/DVD player, and wireless phone charging. 

Add to this smart entry and start a colour head-up display, heated and power adjustable steering wheel with woodgrain-look trim, tilt and slide moon roof, automatic rain-sensing wipers, Bi-LED headlamps with auto high-beam, heated power exterior mirrors, aluminium side steps, roof rails, rear privacy glass, and one-touch power windows. 

Standard, too, is the latest Toyota Safety Sense package featuring autonomous emergency braking and a pre-collision system that can detect pedestrians (day and night) and cyclists during the day. The 300 Series also boasts all-speed active cruise control, and lane-keeping technology that steps up to lane-trace assist with steering-wheel vibration in VX variants and above, a reversing camera and 10 airbags including third row curtain airbags.


The interior design is characterised by a broad horizontal upper instrument panel, with a well laid out instrument cluster featuring a new 7in multi-information display (MID), centred between an analogue-style tachometer and speedometer. The switchgear is all grouped logically, with driving mode functions on the driver’s side of the centre console, and climate control functions arranged under the multimedia display. 

The comfortable eight-way power adjustable front seats feature leather-accented upholstery and three-stage heating and ventilation, while the second row boasts 92mm of extra legroom and a reclining function. The second-row seat is split in a 40:20:40 arrangement, with outboard passengers also getting seat heating and ventilation. The power operated third-row seats fold flat into the floor when not in use, and the tailgate is also power operated. With the third row folded there’s 1004L of luggage capacity, expanding to 1967L with both rear rows folded.


Now as before, the ‘Cruiser features a full-time all-wheel-drive system with a transfer case and a lockable centre differential that distributes torque 50:50 between the front and rear axles when locked. There’s no limited slip or cross-axle diff locks though, and anyone needing such ability will need to look to the Sahara ZX with its rear Torsen LSD, or the GR sport, which gets front and rear locking differentials.

Back with the Sahara, Multi-Terrain Monitor (MTM) uses four cameras and the multimedia screen to help the driver see what’s going on at track level, while the Multi Terrain Select function features six different modes including automatic for optimal traction in different offroad conditions.


Toyota says the ‘Cruiser’s new platform has 20 per cent more structural rigidity than the outgoing model, while also shaving up to 160kg off its kerb weight, depending on the grade. The new frame features larger cross-members and more superhigh tensile steel plate for increased strength, while a strong, highly rigid towing receiver built into the rear cross member enables the 3500kg braked towing capacity.

Handy tow-related feature includes standard trailer wiring harness, front and rear parking sensors, back guide monitor, and trailer sway control. Every 300 Series model also now comes equipped with Toyota’s newly introduced Connected Services technology, which includes automatic collision notification, an SOS button, and stolen vehicle tracking.


Our loop with the Roadstar took us from Melbourne to Macedon via Woodend for a total of around 200km, including 150km of freeway and 80km/h zones, 20km of ambling about town, and the rest on our offroad circuit. 

One of the first things to notice when behind the wheel of the LC300 is that it still feels like the king of the road, with ample road presence and high seating position that provides a clear view out over its substantial bonnet. It’s big but not overly so, and when it comes to an unladen run to the shops the LC300 feels a decent size for Aussie conditions. 

The test rig came equipped with a factory fitted Redarc Tow Pro Elite 3, which worked in tandem with the Cruiser’s powerful four-wheel discs to provide smooth and assured stopping power with the 8.2m, 2750kg Roadstar in tow. The Cruiser’s 6750kg GCM allows for bigger vans such as the Roadstar while retaining a decent level of load capacity inside the vehicle. Vehicle payload is only 650kg, though, which in our view needs to be more like 800kg to allow for common add-ons such as bull-bar, lights, winch, and roof rack. We’d recommend a GVM upgrade to around 3900kg if contemplating equipping your 300 with all the necessary touring bells and whistles. 

Moving off the mark with trailer in tow, the new V6 pulled smoothly and confidently, gathering pace strongly to easily keep with traffic. It feels perkier and more responsive than the old V8, spinning up more freely and generally feeling that bit smoother and more responsive. There’s a deep, throaty growl when under load in the mid-range revs but other than this it’s noticeably quieter than then V8, with a less gravelly note that makes the cabin a more pleasant place to be.

The expanded gearing range of the new 10-speed auto means the engine always feels to be sitting comfortably within its peak torque zone, while the auto shift points themselves are so smooth it’s barely discernible. One of the things we did notice when unladen, however, is that the auto downshifts more aggressively than necessary when braking, requiring a bit more focus on brake pedal modulation to avoid jerk and lurch. 

Back under tow, the combination felt impressively stable due in part to the fact that both front and rear tracks have been increased to provide greater stability. But the reduction in kerb weight over the 200 Series dies seem to allow the van to push the bum around a bit more than expected.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of this first LC300 tow test, however, was just how thirsty it is. It used around 23L/100km over the course of our test route, or more than double its unladen combined cycle claim of 8.9L/100km. Our gut feel is that this is a touch higher than we’d have seen with a 200 in front of the Roadstar, but this may also improve as the engine frees up. 

Despite this, the 300 felt relatively unstressed by the Roadstar and we believe it will comfortably tow above its 3500kg braked towing limit when aftermarket upgrades begin hitting the market.


Toyota describes the LandCruiser 300 Series as “a giant leap forward in 4WD performance and technology,” and while we can’t argue with that, there’s something reassuringly familiar with this new model that makes it feel immediately comfortable. For customers who’ve previously had a 200 Series there’s enough that’s new and different here to make it a more than worthwhile upgrade, but it doesn’t drive or feel like a revolutionary vehicle.

Yes, it’s quieter, more powerful, refined and capable than ever, but it feels evolutionary rather than revolutionary and under the skin it still feels like the LandCruiser we know and love. Of course, this makes sense — when you’ve been serving up a recipe for decades that Aussies clearly can’t get enough of, why mess with a winning formula?


Length 4980mm

Width (excluding mirrors) 1980mm

Height 1950mm

Wheelbase 2850mm

Ground clearance (unladen) 235mm 

Kerb mass 2560kg

Payload 650kg 

Gross Vehicle Mass 3280kg 

Gross Combined Mass 6750kg

Towing capacity unbraked/braked 750kg/3500kg

Towball download (max) 350kg 


Engine F33A-FTV 3.3L twin turbocharged V6 diesel, 24-valve DOHC, chain drive

Transmission 10-speed automatic

Drivetrain Permanent AWD with low range transfer case and centre-differential lock

Power 227kW @ 4000rpm

Torque 700Nm @ 1600-2600rpm 

Fuel Consumption (combined) 8.9L/100km 

Fuel Consumption (on test) 3L/100km 

Gear ratios 1st 4.923, 2nd 3.257, 3rd 2.349, 4th 1.944, 5th 1.532, 6th 1.193, 7th 1.000, 8th 0.801, 9th 0.661, 10th 0.613

Reverse 4.307

Final drive 3.307

Transfer gear ratio – high/low 1.000:1/ 2.618:1


Fuel capacity 110L (80L main tank/30L sub-tank) 

Suspension Independent, double-wishbone (front); four-link rigid axle, coil springs, stabiliser bar (rear)

Brakes 354mm ventilated discs, 4-piston callipers (fr); 335mm ventilated discs, floating 1-piston calliper (rr) 

Wheels 18 x 7.5in alloy 

Tyres: 265/65R18 Bridgestones

Warranty 5 years/unlimited km 

Servicing Six months or 10,000km, whichever comes first. Toyota Service Advantage offers five years/100,000km capped-price servicing for the first 10 services at a cost of $375 each

Roof load 90kg (with 5kg two-bar rack system installed)

PRICE AS TESTED $131,190 (plus on-road costs) 

ACCESSORIES FITTED Towbar, wiring and Electric Brake Controller.