One of the first options we had fitted to the Landcruiser was the Lovells GVM Upgrade. This is a suspension upgrade that increases the Cruiser's Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) from 3300kg to 3800kgs, an increase of 500kgs. It also gives the vehicle a ride height increase of about 2 inches. Why on Earth would you want to do this to a Landcruiser in the first place? Surely it has sufficient cargo capacity as well as sufficient off road ability.
Answering those questions is not too difficult. In standard form, the Landcruiser VX has a kerb (or empty) weight of 2675Kgs with a full fuel load. That leaves about 625kgs of capacity for a load and passengers. Now that is without any accessories fitted to the vehicle. Add a steel bull bar, driving lights, drawer system, towing hitch, extra batteries and all the other accessories we may want to add and it could increase the 'empty' weight by 250kg or more. Then add 2 full grown adults at say 80kgs each (total 160kgs) and you're left with 215kgs for all the extra stuff you may need like tool kits, spare parts, first aid kits, fridge, food and water. Then you put your huge caravan on the back and the now the towball weight has to be included, its easy to see how the available cargo capacity can be exceeded. Imaging if you had to include kids and all their gear. It starts to add up very quickly.
The Landcruiser is better than many other vehicles in this regard however the GVM upgrade allows us to have the additional capacity up our sleeves. It also assists the cruiser to cope with there extra load of the caravan on the rear axel.
We had our upgrade done prior to the vehicle being registered. If you want to do this, you need to talk to your Toyota dealer to ensure they are happy to do it for you. Most will but many will not. Getting it done before registration means the upgrade is valid in all states and territories. If you decide to move state, you can have the vehicle registered with the GVM upgrade without the need for an engineer's certificate.
When the upgrade is done, there is a second compliance plate fitted to the vehicle. It shows the new GVM post upgrade. Curiously, ours included an additional seat capacity. Not that it matters to us as we took the third row seats out.
Driving the cruiser with the GVM upgrade, the ride has certainly firmed up compared to the standard model. Its nowhere near as cushy as it was before. That said, it certainly is not uncomfortable and for the most part, the ride is insulated from most harsh bumps and potholes. With a load and with the van on the back, it rides really well. Corrugations simply do not make their presents felt like they did in our Patrol.
Handling also seems to have improved. For a 2.6t high riding truck, the cruiser corners near flat. It does inspire a high degree of confidence.
Back on towing, with the Safari Tamer on the back and a minimal load, the rear of the cruiser dips a bit not not too much. We have driven around without a WDH without any problems at all. Perhaps just a slightly jerky ride over some bumps. With a full load, the ride hight dipped a fair amount. It still drove really well, probably better than with a lighter load, but I still feel a WDH is required. We will be fitting one of these in time.
If I had one negative thing about this upgrade, is it has raised the height of the cruiser quite a fair bit. Getting in and out of the cabin is...well....entertaining to say the least. The grab handles in the cruiser come in handy. It has also made for some heart stopping moments in low clearance carparks. I would not attempt anything lower than about 2.1m...!
All up we are very satisfied with the Lovells GVM upgrade. Its given the Cruiser a nice high stance, it handles the additional weight of the caravan very well and it has given us a fair bit of flexibility when it comes to loading our rig.
I highly recommend getting this upgrade before you register your new Landcruiser.
Update 8/8/2016: Tire Plackard Anomaly:
Last week I found out something very interesting that I never realised. When Lovells do the GVM upgrade, not only do they change the compliance plate as shown above, but they also change the tyre placard. See pic below. In the case of the VX or Sahara, this raises a bit of a question as the tyre and wheel size on the placard states 17” rims where both the VX and Sahara are fitted standard with 18” rims causing a potential issue.
Reading the NSW RTA’s vehicle standards information booklet, it states, “as a general rule, it is recommended you only fit wheels and tyres that are listed on the tyre placard or in the owner’s handbook. These have been tested and proved for your car.” It goes on the say, “wheels up to 26mm wider than the largest optional wheel recommended by the vehicle manufacturer for the vehicle can be fitted without the need to notify the RTA. The outside diameter of the wheel and tyre combination must be no more than 15mm over the largest diameter wheel and tyre combination specified for the vehicle and not more than 15mm below the smallest diameter wheel and tyre combination specified for the vehicle.”
I believe that while the VX rims are 1” (or approximately 2.5cm) taller, the tyres fitted are a lower profile and would bring the overall size back to, or very close to, the same as the 17” set. Whether this is a satisfactory analysis or not, I’m not certain. If the rule is that the individual components need to be taken into account separately, then it may still be an issue. If the intent of the rule is that the overall diameter remains the same, then there should be no issue.
The other possible solution is that the vehicle's manual may state a range of wheel and tire sizes and combinations that Toyota deem to be suitable and the standard 18" rims would be in this approved list. That is somethign I will need to confirm.
In any case, I will still check with Lovells and see what they say. More to come.