Toyota Landcruiser 80 Series 1990 -1997

This series of articles offers buying tips and advice on some of our all-time favourite used four wheel drives. Vehicles that have proven themselves and stood the test of time. These vehicles, if serviced and looked after properly, can represent good value for anyone searching for a used 4x4. In this article we deal with the unstoppable 80 Series Landcruiser.

Time for Change
80 Series Landcruiser

The 80 Series Landcruiser was launched in late 1989. It was a welcome arrival with the Nissan Patrol edging ahead in reputation and off road ability - something the big 'Cruisers had always excelled at.

It replaced the 60 series which had begun to show it's age with the buying public demanding refined driving options, classier looks and car like performance.

Lumbering, uncomfortable 4WD's were being relegated to the dust pile and Toyota needed to drag the revered Landcruiser in the 20th Century.

A New Force

And drag it it did. Not screaming and fighting, but smoothly and effortlessly - back to the top of the big 4x4 heap.

The 80 Series Landcruiser was a completely new design. Live axles and coil springs all around delivered more comfort on-road without sacrificing Landcruiser's brilliant four wheel drive reputation.

A rounded body shape presented a better 'city' face - less truck like and less intimidating to drivers of small urban compact runabouts. Lines were smoother and better aerodynamics made the 80 Series look less like the front end of a Mack.

Better rust prevention was promised by the incorporation of galvanised steel plate in the manufacturing process.

Models and Options

These Landcruiser's came in three levels of trim and appointments. A base line 'Pauper Pack' supplemented the GXL and the extravagant VX Sahara, with a price tag to boot.

Four wheel drive options were primarily a centre differential equipped full-time system or, on the base line models, the familiar part-time system with manual locking hubs.

By 1993 Toyata had introduced optional electric rear and front diff lockers and 1996 saw front airbags introduced - another incentive designed to seduce the family-wagon buying public into converting to 4WD.

The GXL came standard with cloth trim, central locking and electric windows with air-conditioning an option.

Moving the Beast

Toyota indicated it believed that diesel power was the way forward for 4WD's with two good diesels engines to choose from and a lousy petrol option.

The proven 4.2 litre, 6 cylinder 1HZ diesel, as delivered in the workhorse 75 Series Landcruiser's, was supplemented by the 1HD-T. This 6 cylinder, direct injected, diesel engine sported a turbo charger and helped restore Toyotas reputation as a class leading 4x4 manufacturer.

The petrol engine seemed like an afterthought - slow, unresponsive and a complete fuel monster, it seemed out of place in the new lineup.

Eventually Toyota replaced this old-school petrol engine with the 4.5 litre 1FZ-FE. With overhead twin cams, multi valve technology and EFI it proved to be a much better proposition.

Of all the engines available in the 80 Series the turbo diesels are pick. Acceptable around town manners return 125kW of power at 3600 rpm and 380Nm of torque at 2500 rpm. The 1HD-FT offered more power, lower emissions and 10% better fuel economy. Service intervals of 10,000km helped keep maintenance costs down. Avoid early petrol models like the plague.

Getting Power to the Ground.

Transmission options were a five speed overdriven manual or four speed overdriven automatic, which automatically locked the centre diff on selection of Low Range 4WD. Both gearboxes proved a worthy match to the rest of the 80 Series with gear ratios working well for highway work and four wheel drive. Top speed in the Landcruiser's was 170kph while still remaining well controlled and stable. Admirable in a wagon tipping the scales at over 2000kg.

The long travel suspension worked well but set the vehicle 50mm lower to the ground than the 60 series - an indication of Toyota's commitment to urban families. It's a bit of shame because combined with an underslung spare wheel and a longish departure angle the 80 Series could 'get hung-up' in places it had no right to. A 35-50mm suspension lift and the remounting of the spare wheel to the tailgate or roof helps transform the 80 into a complete 4WD machine.

Driving and Handling

The torque of the turbo model made these vehicles highly responsive at touring speeds - making them desirable tow vehicles for big, heavy caravans and boats.

Comfortable seating (for up to seven) with plenty of cabin room and good visibility enhanced the popularity of the Landcruiser 80's. Folding or removing the 2 seats in the luggage bay and the ability to fold down the mid seats - turned the big wagon into a capable cargo mover.

Intrusive road and engine noise was vastly improved while good all-round vision combined with sturdy ABS disc brakes made the 80 Series a refreshing proposition to drive and stop.

Brake pad's need replacement more than you'll be accustomed to, especially in the automatic models.

Steering could be a little vague while the big, heavy beasts displayed some body roll while cornering - all symptomatic of four wheel drives designed to perform well off-road. You don't get this from a Porsche Cayenne but then again the Porsche won't go or tow like the 80.

These vehicles positively shine in the dirt with great gearing, positive traction and a polite ride over the rough stuff. The turbo kicks in around 1800rpm and a bit of familiarisation is required to keep the torque where you want it.


In 1996, a pair of Landcruiser 80 Series finished 1 and 2 in the gruelling Paris-Dakar Rally. They ran in the unmodified production class proving their sheer class and ability.

As used propositions they are still holding their value. The don't have any intrinsic and expensive faults while they do enjoy fuel and brake pads.

As touring and towing wagons they are fantastic and when it's four wheel drive time they walk away from many competitors.

We love'em.

The article How to Buy a Used Four Wheel Drive offers some advice when looking at second hand models.

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