The New Land Cruiser 300 - "Still the best base vehicle to armour?"
It's now in the market for quite a bit, the first armourers completed their R&D and also ACP was proud to be part of the very first certification according to the new VPAM ERV2010 Edition 3 blast testing norm.
There it is - The all-new Toyota Land Cruiser 300.
It comes along with its well-known but weak V6 petrol engine from its predecessor, Toyota Land Cruiser 200 or the Hilux. This engine was only sold in very little numbers, the naturally aspirated engine got just not enough crunch to push a heavy armoured SUV. It was more famous for its V8s. Especially the Diesel with plenty of torque.
The rumours were loud and nasty as Toyota announced the new Land Cruisers appearing with the loss of two cylinders. People got crazy and emotional about the "death of an icon". Especially in the AV industry, serious concerns were brought up about the agility of future AVs and the reliability of modern engines. After the announcement of an aluminium body structure instead of good-old steel people questioned the existence of the new 300 version at all.
Now, a few months after its release everything seems a bit cooled off. Most armourers finished R&D and even received good results in the new VPAM ERV2010 Edition 3 certification that uses modern Biofidel dummies for blast-test evaluation. But the question of the Landy's capabilities in the field, under daily operation, stays valid:
"How will it perform in future? Is it still the best base vehicle for up-armouring?"
In our opinion it is and we will tell you why:
1. The engine & transmission
"It's too small, it got turbos, it will blow up, it is a gift to Greta, it won't be good at off-roading,..." - Bla, bla, bla.
The new 3.5 V6 Twin-turbo - Petrol (V35A-FTS) is a well-known engine at Toyota. It already runs in a slightly different version in Lexus vehicles, like the LS500. We all know that Lexus is ain't no cheap crap. These engines are well-designed and got a massive output of 415 hp and 650 Nm of torque. Now some may say, "those are only paper facts". Live tests have shown that it does not lack behind in any case. Onroad and off-road performance outrun the old TLC200. It got plenty of torque and in combination with the revised crawl-control function, it is basically idiot-proof. Even without lockers, the off-road capabilities are super, by far enough for the level of off-roading an armoured vehicle should undergo.
The Diesel got Ad-blue now, that's nothing of use in conflict zones or areas with low infrastructure. But guess what, people will get used to or just cut off the whole system. The "little" 3.3 V6 Twin-turbo (F33A-FTV) got an impressive 700 Nm of torque. It is a great choice and already got its fans in Australia where the Landy's are being (ab-)used in the hardest terrain.
Both engines deliver great performance in combination with the 10-speed gearbox. A decent transmission was built by AISIN with a torque converter and wide gear ratio. 10-Speed? Yes. No worries about nerve-racking continuous gear changing or slow shifting. The gear setup and its programming fits very nicely into an off-road and on-road situation. Especially for armoured vehicles, it is a blessing. It skips gears where necessary but provides a more specific ratio when you need it. Just great.
But enough great news, there are of course a few downsides as well, focused on fleet managers and operators of armoured vehicles.
- Both new engines require even more of a steady maintenance plan and short, regular oil-change intervals. Do not trust the OEM standard schedules. Direct injection, exhaust gas recirculation systems (EGR), particle filters (both Petrol and Diesel), and Ad-blue injection (SCR catalysts) mess with oil quality fast. Already the old 4.5l Diesel (1VD-FTV) got its problems here. Time will show but I wouldn’t risk it.
2. Chassis and body
Especially the older generation had doubts as Toyota dumped the Land Cruiser steel chassis. Now it is a smart mix of hot-formed steel panels, (ultra-) high-strength steel and aluminium. A weight reduction (in combination with the smaller engines) of 200kg is the result. Impressive figures as the steel ladder frame could be stiffened by about 20%. No disadvantage if you want to carry a steel cell of 1.5 tonnes for the rest of your vehicle life.
Especially for up-armourers, that bears a few challenges:
- We all know that aluminium and steel in direct contact won’t become friends. They also don’t like to connect very much. The result is a much higher construction effort to armour doors and tailgates. Without independent, self-carrying steel structures underneath, the aluminium doors will suffer an early death. Some armourers already implemented those structures for their heavy VPAM BRV 2009 VR7 and VR9 models, to avoid door sagging and improve blast safety, but not there is a definite need for it. This will of course complicate the production process a bit and boost the prices. Luckily everybody got the same problems here.
Already the old Land Cruiser, J200 showed stress cracks on its front carriage. Especially if heavy ram bumpers, winches, radiator armour or fender armour were installed. Even the armoured battery boxes attached to the engine-bay radiator mounts created cracks and caused intense body damage.
If compared fairly and professionally, aluminium got a much higher strength than steel. Modern vehicles, like plenty of full-electric vehicles (EVs) or models like the Audi A8 with its aluminium Space-Frame, have proven an at least equal performance in crash-testing. BUT, if aluminium exceeds its stress limits, it tends to crack fast and without a lot of deformation.
Heavy and rigid safety cells, radiator armour, ram bars or wheel arch armour in combination with a multi-material vehicle body may form similar problems in future.
There are plenty more singularities the new Land Cruiser 300 brought into the game with armourers. All of them would fill a book.
If you like to read or hear more about this topic, take part in one of our training or live talks. Learn how those changes affect your fleet management and how you can cope with rising costs.