The big boy of Toyota's extensive 4WD line, the VX Landcruiser, has been the subject of a recent mid-life makeover which includes styling, specification and mechanical enhancements.
If anything, the sense of this being a large in-your-face beast is amplified by the latest upgrade, which includes a squarer front bumper and revised grille for the 4.95m-long machine, as well as new-look 18-inch alloy wheels.
It is reinforced by the big step that is required to climb aboard, and by the commanding view provided up front in the spacious cabin. As before, the VX offers two further rows of seats, each accommodating up to three, and a range of flexi-seating and load-carrying options. The middle row is great for adults, while the fold-down rear seats are better suited to younger passengers, up to and including those in their teenage years.
While Toyota has chosen the makeover to reintroduce the VX Limited as a $147,500 stand-alone variant, the vehicle supplied for appraisal was the standard $125,500 VX.
Even in this form, the standard equipment list runs to many dozens of items. Among these, the central touchscreen interface works especially well, allowing easy control of a range of functions, including satellite navigation, the audio system and associated Bluetooth connectivity.
A second display screen for the driver shows the trip computer and summary navigation instructions and - with off-roading in mind - can also display information on the steering-wheel angle and a range of specialist functions.
A big vehicle demands a big heart. As before, it comes in the form of a mighty 4.5-litre twin-turbo V8 diesel. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, the diesel is ox-strong (power and torque peak at 915kW and 650Nm respectively), and surprisingly characterful.
Its standard cycle fuel consumption figure of 10.3 litres per 100km is also impressive though, even on a test that featured relatively gentle highway cruising, Drivesouth could only manage a still adequate 12.2 per 100km return.
You would be deservedly criticised for buying a vehicle of this size and type for urban use, though, sheer bulk aside, it's a relatively easy around-town steer.
So long as the twists and turns are not too tight, it's an oddly attractive open-road proposition, too - the combination of a great view, roomy cabin, long-travel suspension, strong engine and smooth-shifting transmission gives it a relaxed, long-legged 100kmh gait, matched by the ability to surprise when snappy overtaking is required. It's a mighty tow vehicle as well.
But, of course, where the VX really comes into its own is for serious off-roading.
While the key requirements of low ratio and lockable centre differentials still apply, in true 21st-century fashion electronic control systems now augment just about every aspect of the off-road experience. The new developments introduced with this update are Multi-Terrain Select (MTS), and
Off-road Turn Assist, fitted in conjunction with a revised crawl-control system.
MTS, which Drivesouth first sampled in the Prado, is a driver-selectable system that sets the optimum throttle, brake and suspension response for surfaces ranging from mud and sand, to rocks and snow.
Crawl control, meantime, allows the driver to select any one of five low speeds, and then focus solely on steering, while the vehicle's electronic brain manages all braking and power-transfer requirements. Selected at the push of a button, Off-road Turn Assist (OTA) supports the crawl function by automatically applying the inside rear brake to improve the vehicle's turning ability on sharp bends.
All these systems are hugely impressive in off-road use, adding further to the VX Landcruiser's lustre as one of the best (and possibly even the very best) heavy duty four-wheel-drives around.
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