The go-anywhere Land Cruiser isn’t quite the bastion of unimpeachable reliability you might expect. We find out how not to get your fingers burned
26 November 2018

“Check out at least 10 to find two worth considering,” says Trevor Castel of Freedom 4x4, a Toyota Land Cruiser specialist. 

His advice will come as a surprise to those of us raised on a vision of the big Cruiser as a tough, go-anywhere vehicle beloved of UN aid workers. But the reality is that the model – and specifically the J120 series of 2003-09 under consideration here – has its fair share of problems. 

Inspect any prospective purchase with a fine-toothed comb, looking for corroded inner sills and floor pan, sticky brake calipers, corroded coolant pipes, split suspension air bags (on LC5 versions) and worn suspension and steering bushes. 

Not so tough after all, then, except that you’ll encounter many Cruisers with well over 170,000 miles under their wheels. Our champ in this respect is a 2004 D-4D with 300,000 on the clock, asking price £3990. 

Our Verdict

Toyota Land Cruiser 2018 review on the road

Toyota’s rough-and-ready, old-school, unstoppable 4x4 gets a bit less rough-and-ready. Likeably simple and functional, and worth considering if you need a genuine dual-purpose SUV

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The D-4D is the 3.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel with 161bhp. Early examples fitted to the J120 dodged the copper injector seal problems that blighted later D-4Ds built between June 2004 and October 2007. 

Initially the engine was paired with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. In 2004, gearboxes were upgraded to six and five-speed units respectively. 

Automatic Cruisers dominate the classifieds, but check the condition of the coolant radiator, which also embodies the gearbox oil cooler. Both can break down, allowing gearbox fluid and engine coolant to mix. To be safe, haggle down the asking price to include a new radiator. 

In 2006 the power of the D-4D was increased to 170bhp. The cheapest example we saw was a 2007/07 with 126,000 miles and partial service history for £6500. 

There’s also a 4.0 petrol V6 with 245bhp, but it was short-lived and does 20mpg next to the diesel’s 30mpg. We found a top-spec 2004 V6 LC5 with 128,000 miles for £5995. 

The J120 featured a tough ladder-frame chassis at a time when rivals were moving to monocoques. Suspension is independent at the front with a rigid rear axle. Trims range from short-lived LC2 to popular LC5. All have four-wheel drive and Downhill Assist Control (DAC). Most have a locking rear diff to which the LC3 adds a centre diff. LC4 and LC5 autos dispense with the rear diff in favour of Toyota’s Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) which uses the ABS to control wheelspin when pulling away on slippery slopes. 

The LC5 has air suspension with optional height adjustment. Experts prefer the LC4, though, because its conventional suspension is simpler and because it has traditional heater controls where the LC5 has unnecessarily high-tech and potentially troublesome touchscreen ones. At the top of the tree sits the fully loaded Invincible of 2006. 

Whichever version you choose, follow Castel’s advice, do your checks and you might just bag a Cruiser worthy of its UN reputation. 

An expert’s view:

Trevor Castle, Freedom 4x4 Ltd: “My passion for the Land Cruiser began with a J70. I’ve since owned other J70s 80s and 120 series models. The 70s and 80s are easy to work on; 120s a little less so. All are strong with good winching-off capability when you get stuck. My daily driver is a J120 D-4D LC5 with an ARB winch bumper, snorkel and roof rack, a drawer system with a fridge. I drove it to Slovenia this summer and took it on the trails there.” 

Buyer beware 

Engine: Diesels are rattly but check it’s not knock caused by faulty fuel injector controls. With the engine in gear and your foot on the brake, check if the engine rocks more than an inch or so at idle, indicating the pneumatic engine mount bushes have failed. Timing belts should be changed at 100,000 miles. 

Gearbox and drivetrain: The automatic is sealed for life but specialists recommend regular fluid changes. Check for coolant contamination – the panel between the coolant radiator and the gearbox oil cooler can rot, causing contamination and wrecking the ’box. Poorly lubed propshafts ‘thump’ when stopping. 

Suspension: On top-spec LC5s check the variable-height rear suspension works in all three modes. Inspect the air bags for splits, that the sensors are working and that the car returns to normal height above 30mph. On all versions, check the rear upper control arm bushes, and steering rack bushes. 

Brakes: Check for seized calipers and pistons. 

Body and chassis: Check the body floor, inner sills, rear axle and rear chassis for corrosion. Look for salt corrosion from towing boats out of the water. Check overhangs for grounding damage. 

Interior: On LC5s, check the touchscreen heating controls work – repairs are possible. Heater pipes for the middle-row seats can rot through under the vehicle, causing coolant loss. 

Also worth knowing: In 2011 there was a recall for faulty injector gaskets covering models KDJ120 JTE BZ29J 00049705 to 00160767, and KDJ125 JTE 00019035 to 00050831, built from June ’04 to October ’07. Combustion gas could leak through the injection nozzle seat, turning the engine oil to sludge. 

How much to spend 

£3500-£4995: 2003-05 D-4Ds with over 170k miles. 

£5000-£6450: More 03-04 D-4Ds, 120-140k miles. 

£6500-£8495: Choice of 05 to 08 D-4Ds with 150k miles and good histories. 

£8500-£9995: Range from an 04/54 D-4D with 86k miles and fsh for £8950, via an 08/57 with 143k and fsh for £8990 to £9995 for an 07 with 110k for £9995. 

£10,000-£12,450: Still more low-mileage early cars and higher mileage later ones. 

£12,500-ON: Low-mileage, late-plate D-4Ds rising to £24,000 for the very best.

One we found 

TOYOTA LAND CRUISER 3.0 D -4D AUTO, 2005/54, 118,000 MILES, £6995: Full Toyota history it’s the LC4 so no air suspension to worry about. It’s a private sale, too, so you can quiz the owner (its third) about any towing or off-roading misadventures.

John Evans

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Comments
5

26 November 2018
Thanks for this tips and advice

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26 November 2018

You Brits really do live in the dark, this is not the full fat Landcruiser. That title belongs to the 200 series which you do not get. It is that vehicle that has built the Landcruisers reputation and the vehicle that is mostly used by the UN together with the Nissan Patrol Y61.

This is the baby Landcruiser usually referred to as 'Prado' in most other markets. Educate your readers Franjevci.

 

 

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26 November 2018
geed wrote:

You Brits really do live in the dark, this is not the full fat Landcruiser. That title belongs to the 200 series which you do not get. It is that vehicle that has built the Landcruisers reputation and the vehicle that is mostly used by the UN together with the Nissan Patrol Y61.

This is the baby Landcruiser usually referred to as 'Prado' in most other markets. Educate your readers Franjevci.

No idea what happened there! They are Patrols in the last image...blog will not lete me posts a pic of a 200 series....

 

3 February 2019

AM so amazed... 

15 May 2019
I have bookmarked it.  I was now able  to redirect my  website and

I have bookmarked it.  I was now able  to redirect my  website and

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