Built for remote terrain around the globe, the hulking Toyota Land Cruiser feels forced into suburbia. It’s highly refined, with poise and presence, but it can’t escape its truck roots. It seats eight, but the third row is more of a jump seat. The Lexus LX 570 is the luxury version of the Land Cruiser, with hydraulic suspension to smoothen the ride and escape those roots.
The chassis is body-on-frame, and the drivetrain is full-time four-wheel drive, with a locking center differential. The engine is a brawny 5.7-liter V8 making 381 horsepower, mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The 5700-pound Land Cruiser is emphatically propelled down the road by this powertrain.
The Land Cruiser hasn’t been redesigned since 2008, although it got updates to styling, technology, and that new transmission for 2016. For 2017 it adds active safety features, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam LED headlamps, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors with rear cross traffic alerts.
The Land Cruiser is a gas hog, no surprise, getting 13 miles per gallon city, 18 highway and 15 combined, about the worst in class. But at least the big V8 doesn’t need high-test fuel.
It won’t be crash-tested by the government or insurance industry because the cost is high and sales are low. But it’s a tank, no worries if you crash into a Fiesta. Standard safety equipment includes 10 airbags, rearview camera, tire-pressure monitor, and LED headlamps with auto high beams. And Trailer Sway Control, an important safety feature.
There is one Land Cruiser ($84,775), no options. It’s equipped with leather seats, JBL Synthesis audio system, two-screen rear DVD entertainment system, navigation, moonroof, Toyota’s Entune infotainment system with 9.0-inch touchscreen, front and rear tow hooks, and 18-inch wheels because they work offroad, compared to the popular but stupid 20-inch wheels.
Even with the 2016 restyle, the bulbous Land Cruiser sticks to its massive chrome front grille from the nineties. If you want to put a positive spin on it, you can say it’s true to the past.
The rear is less distinctive, which is to say not distinctive at all. If you want to put a positive spin on it, you can say it’s rare, because you’re not likely to see another new Land Cruiser on the road this day.
There are not options, but the supple and fragrant semi-aniline leather upholstery comes in two colors, saddle or black. The level of luxury drops with hard plastic trim here and there on the doors and dash, along with fake wood. It doesn’t look fake, but for 85 grand you’ think Toyota could spring for real wood trim. But the plastic is a reminder that most Land Cruisers aren’t intended for luxury buyers, but rather hard duty in wars and stuff.
The cabin has an exceptionally high degree of comfort and utility, but lacks flair. The center console is chilled, so you can keep your water cool during desert battles. During the breaks in fighting you can watch movies in the back seat, on two 11.2-inch high-resolution screens.
The dashboard is vertical and not deep, like the truck that it is. The controls are grouped well, with a complement of buttons and knobs to for the modes of four-wheel drive.
The Entune infotainment includes HD and satellite radio, as well as Pandora integration, with the sound coming through the JBL Synthesis sound system. Entune functions are on a nine-inch touchscreen standing on the dash. They include OpenTable reservations using voice command; a smartphone search through Bing brings info to the screen. The concierge apps seem dubious to us.
The front seats are tall like thrones, heated and air-conditioned The rear seat is a 40/20/40-split bench that slides forward or back.. The outside rear seats are also comfortable, and the middle passenger has decent elbow and hip room.
The third-row jump seats fold up against the cargo area, but sacrifice padding to do so. When the third-row passengers complain, remind them they have their own climate control vents and cupholders.
The tailgate drops down like a Land Rover Range Rover, to access the cargo area.
The V8 engine is brawny and has a mean growl, with its 401 pound-feet of torque available way down low for towing. The Land Cruiser can accelerate from zero to sixty in 6.7 seconds, awesome for a vehicle weighing nearly three tons. The eight-speed automatic transmission is Toyota’s own and mates smoothly with the engine.
The body-on-frame construction is rugged. The front suspension is independent, but the rear uses a solid axle, unlike most competitors including the Cadillac Escalade.
The Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System uses very thick anti-roll bars that hydraulically disconnect to allow wheel articulation off-road. In the curves, the Land Cruiser doesn’t show the body roll that might be expected, and although the steering isn’t very communicative, it’s confident in corners. The fat brakes stop this beast well. That wasn’t always true with Land Cruisers.
The Land Cruiser is even better off-road than on the highway. It has 9.5 inches of suspension travel, a 30-degree approach angle, a low range in the transfer case, and a locking center differential that can send up to 70 percent of the power to the rear wheels. The stability control is electronically joined with the offroad program, while hill descent control and hill start assist are standard.
But there’s more. CRAWL control has five modes for throttle and braking for different surfaces such as mud, rocks, sand, or snow. Off-Road Turn Assist dabs the rear brakes to turn the rig more sharply in tight situations.
It’s hard to see the Land Cruiser being worth $85,000. It does some things well, but so do others for a lot less money.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.