Toyotas Legendary LC70 Series is a real 4WD for real men. The LC76 Workmate has none of those wussy features for the driver of this workhorse.
However some would say the Workmate has gone soft with 4 doors and airbags. Not me I say bring it on!
Today we will go for a drive in one of the few 4wd’s that I would confidently drive from the showroom to the centre of Australia. The vehicle in question is Toyota’s indestructible Landcruiser 76 Series Workmate Wagon.
This is one of the few mass production 4wd’s that have stayed with the traditional construction of ladder frame chassis and live axles front and rear and this has its good and bad sides witch I will discuss later. The test vehicle was also fitted with factory option front and rear diff locks.
The 76 series is aimed at those who want a no compromise off road vehicle that can be used for work during the week and to disappear into the scrub on the weekends. These will go anywhere you point them, without you being foolish.
The Toyota 70 Series haven’t changed much style wise in the past 20 years. From the front you can pick up styling cues that trace their heritage back into the 80s and beyond. They are basically a box on wheels and this shape has made them the vehicle of choice for mining, exploration, agriculture and outback touring as it lends itself to being easily equipped with the essentials for all of the above applications. That combined with Toyotas legendary reliability and service/parts availability.
From the outside it really is a box on wheels. Sharp, square bodywork and a tall roofline are part and parcel across the entire range. The 70’s now come standard with a snorkel and the inclusion of the bonnet scoop to provide air for the intercooler throws a bit of spice into the picture. The 76 Workmate runs on 16in steel wheels and 7.50 R 16 light truck tyres again keeping to the keep it simple method.
Inside the 76 things are spartan. This is after all a workhorse. There are no power options for anything so you will have to do it the strongarm way. With the facelift they received airbags and a different stereo to the previous models and this has resulted in a redesigned dash to accommodate them. They still retain the feel of a 70 Series but your Doug’s Tub won’t fit in the new glove box. The heater and aircon controls are a direct carry over from the previous model and there are no steering wheel controls for the stereo.
The seats are cloth and I found them to be adequate with firm padding and relatively good adjustment, though as usual with me they don’t go back far enough. I found that the driving position was a bit of a compromise as the pedal placement didn’t fall to foot easily but I am willing to put up with it because of the off-road capabilities.
On road ride is on the poor side because of the chassis design. A ladder frame chassis with live axles front and rear is something not many people new to the off-road market would ever have experienced. Those of us that have been around a while know that you will feel the bumps more, that the turning circle isn’t as good and that they behave differently to modern designs with IFS. But again people who are looking to buy these would not be bothered about this they want pure off-road/load carrying ability.
The floor is vinyl, this stuff is the dream of the serious off roader. When you get home, put the hose in and wash out all the muck how simple can it be. No scrubbing carpet for the owner of one of these.
As mentioned earlier the entire 70 Series range now comes with driver and passenger airbags and that’s about as far as it goes for occupant protection. At least Toyota are starting to look in the right direction for occupant safety.
Now we get to the heart of the mighty Tojo, this is where the 76 leaves all its competitors for dead. 4.5 litres of V8 turbo diesel putting out 151kW and 430Nm of torque and this torque is available from 1200rpm through to 3200 rpm, what a load of pulling power. All this power is transmitted through a 5-speed manual and dual ratio transfer; there is no auto option (hint hint Toyota from the competition inclined – modify).
As I touched on previously the chassis is ladder frame with live axles. This is the ideal setup for load carrying and off-road work. All you have to do is look at all the Utes on the market to see why. Leaf springs at the rear provide the best compromise for load carrying, comfort, price and service life but they are rough unless you have a bit of weight in them. On the front they have gone with live axle and coil springs instead of the leaves that adorned the old model. This is to provide higher levels of comfort while still maintaining strong off-road ability.
Both axles were fitted with the factory optioned diff locks; Toyota is the only manufacturer other than the Wrangler Rubicon that I can think of to offer a front diff lock as a factory fit. This is great for the weekend play time or for the big trip but I found them a bit fiddly to use and the fact that you can’t engage them separately a bit annoying but I guess they have to do that for safety reasons. The switch is a rotary switch with the first point on the turn engaging the rear locker and the second activating the front as well. As a failsafe they can only be engaged in low range, again a bit annoying. But who else offers factory warranty on front diff locks?
Off into my playground is where the 76 will show its true colours. The combination of all the good off-road credentials and power of the engine meant that I didn’t have to use low range on any of the tracks at all. There is so much articulation for a factory vehicle that I didn’t even come close to lifting a wheel even when I deliberately set out to by driving up an embankment. The only thing that stopped me was a tree!
The only down side of the factory kit out is the tyres, they are a good tyre for playing in the bush but they are only a light construction in the side walls which means you need to be a bit more careful when watching out for puncture hazards on the track.
The 76 is up there with its competitors in the towing stakes being rated at 3500kg but what would make me recommend this over any of its competitors is purely and simply the engine. As the old adage goes, you can’t beat cubic inches. While the others will pull this kind of load the 76 does it with ease. You don’t have to change gears as often as there is always torque on tap.
Every manufacturer and his dog makes aftermarket accessories for these so all your bases are covered when it comes to fitting one out for whatever you want to do.
If you are looking for a no compromise weekend warrior or a heavy duty work rig then this should be up there on your list of vehicles to choose from. At around $56,000 as a MLP it is not cheap but there are few as robust. For the weekend warrior it doesn’t matter too much about the on road handling, as the road is only there to get you to your favourite playground. For those who need the heavy duty work rig you want it to be tough to handle the job, so who cares if it’s a bit rough on the ride side when you know you will be loaded to the hilt most of the time so the sharpness will be taken out of the leaves.
However if I was to try and use this as my daily commuter just to run to and from work then I think I would go a bit crazy.
What is Good
Power and torque
What is Not so good
Lack of interior features
Article Copyright © all rights reserved – Auto Alliance Group Pty. Ltd. 2010
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