The Toyota Land Cruiser is getting long in the tooth, but it remains the real deal. It’s no crossover-car masquerading as a rugged vehicle. A Land Cruiser is for offroad adventures, and don’t use it for that you’re wasting your money. It might be the perfect vehicle for crossing the Outback, but it’s overkill for crossing America on Interstate 90, or even taking the family to the Outer Banks on vacation.
Not that it doesn’t work as an on-road luxury SUV. For a family of eight with three little ones that doesn’t want a minivan, the Land Cruiser is a reasonable choice. It looks like a luxury SUV, not a rugged off-roader, even though it is. For mere urban needs, you get the about same utility from the far less expensive Toyota Sequoia. With its off-road capability combined with luxury, the Land Cruiser is more comparable to the fancier Lexus LX 570 or Range Rover.
Despite a sophisticated suspension, the ride can be choppy on a bumpy highway, although it’s smoother with eight passengers because of the weight.
A big 5.7-liter V8 making 381 horsepower drives this massive 5700-pound truck with body-on-frame construction. The Land Cruiser is equipped with trailer sway control and is rated to tow up to 8100 pounds, though we’d opt for a heavy-duty pickup for any trailer approaching that weight. Four-wheel drive with a locking differential is standard, along with a sturdy suspension.
For 2016, the Land Cruiser engine gets paired to a new 8-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain accelerates smoothly and competently. Fuel economy is an EPA-rated 13/18/15 City/Highway/Combined.
Because of the small numbers of Land Cruisers, the NHTSA hasn’t gone to the expense of crash-testing it. But you know it’s a tank, and your worries about coming out the loser in a crash with a responsible small car are few. Plus, standard safety features include 10 airbags, active headrests, rearview camera, parking sensors, and Toyota’s Pre-Collision System, which tightens the belts if sensors see a crash coming. For 2016 there’s a new suite of active safety features, including automatic headllamps, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors with rear cross traffic alerts, lane departure warning, and a forward collision warning system with pedestrian protection that applies the brakes at speeds below 24 miles per hour.
The 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser ($83,825) comes fully equipped, with leather, heated rear and front seats, sunroof, rear entertainment system, Bluetooth, navigation, HD radio, Toyota’s Entune suite for mobile apps, and on and on.
Despite its size, no one is going to look twice at the Land Cruiser. It used to have some chunky distinction, but its styling today is lost in the crowd. The big chrome grille is boring. The LED headlamps aren’t designed in any creative fashion. It doesn’t have an iconic style or a true-luxury presence like a Range Rover. It’s just big and square with chrome.
The Land Cruiser’s cabin is nearly as luxurious as that in the Lexus LX 570, but the materials aren’t as rich as those in the Range Rover. Given the price, the Toyota materials not impressive. The Toyota Highlander’s materials are nearly as nice.
It doesn’t look or feel like a truck or offroad-oriented vehicle inside. The instruments are heavy on technology, with a big nav screen on top. It’s very quiet, with negligible wind and road noise, and the front seats are extremely comfortable. You sit way up high, so forward visibility is outstanding.
The second-row seat slides several inches, for good legroom to go with good headroom. But the third row is unimaginative. Because of the big rear axle for off road, there’s no room for the seat to fold into the floor when it’s not used; each side swings against the bulkhead, reducing cargo space.
The engine lets out a nice growl when you floor it and manually upshift the automatic transmission through the eight gears. That 381-horsepower V8 also makes 401 pound-feet of torque, which can open your eyes.
The steering feels numb because of its full-time four-wheel drive (50 percent front, 50 percent rear), and also loose, but it handles well for its size, and it’s happy enough on the road. There’s a limited amount of body roll in the turns, thanks to the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension that stiffens the front and rear anti-roll bars on the road and essentially disconnects them off the road. The KDS system is great on washboard dirt roads, but it’s a bit firm on highway big bumps and potholes, where you are reminded that your Land Cruiser is a truck.
Off road, you are reminded the Land Cruiser is a champ. It has an approach angle of 30 degrees, a low-range transfer case, traction control integrated with the stability control, and a locking center differential that can swing 70 percent of the power to the rear wheels, as determined by electronics. The rear suspension allows up to 9.5 inches of travel to get the wheels over rocks and logs.
Hill descent control helps going down steep, muddy trails, hill start assist is useful when stopped at a traffic light in San Francisco. Crawl control sets the throttle and applies the brakes according to one of five settings the driver makes for rocks, mud, sand, or snow. Finally there’s Off-Road Turn Assist, which pulses the rear brakes to help the heavy Land Cruiser take sharp turns on rugged terrain.
The Land Cruiser is comfortable and highly capable, but it’s dated and is outclassed by Range Rover.
Sam Moses reported to New Car Test Drive from Australia, with staff reports from The Car Connection.