For six decades, the Land Cruiser has served as Toyota’s traditional, full-size SUV. Supremely capable off-road, powered by a big V8, the SUV is built on a truck foundation, with a separate body.
Following a substantial freshening for 2016, the Land Cruiser is little-changed for the 2018 model year. The rear-seat entertainment system, formerly standard, is now an option. Outside mirrors now fold inward as the vehicle is locked.
Undeniably reflecting the past, but brought up to date with technology, today’s Land Cruiser clearly cannot match most rivals in on-pavement motoring. Off-road, on the other hand, it’s ready to demonstrate a passel of capabilities. Even on the highway, this SUV is a lot better than its off-roading reputation might suggest.
Clearly, the Land Cruiser is not a vehicle for everyone. Or for more than a handful. Its hugely admirable reputation for durability was established long ago, through successful ventures in some of the most remote, war-ravaged regions of the world.
Nothing else on sale today looks like Toyota’s cruiser, apart from its Lexus LX cousin. Even when operating in the most rugged conditions, its commendable record for reliability remains intact.
Toyota offers just one version of the Land Cruiser. A long-proven 5.7-liter V8 generates 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, working with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Every Land Cruiser has full-time four-wheel drive, with a locking center differential and a two-speed transfer case that permits Low-range operation.
Land Cruisers are packed with gadgetry that comes into play far beyond the pavement’s end. Multiple-mode traction control is standard. Crawl control functions like cruise control, but for off-road adventures.
Beneath its muscle-bound body, a traditional ladder-style chassis contains an independent front suspension and a solid rear axle, fitted with coil springs. Although the big V8 produces impressive thrust, despite pushing a 5,800-pound vehicle, fuel economy is abominable.
Up to eight passengers can expect pampered comfort and luxury, though some plastic pieces demonstrate the Land Cruiser’s work-truck foundation. Lexus’s version, the LX, has a more posh interior, plus some design and suspension differences, but is otherwise largely identical.
No U.S. safety agency has crash-tested the Land Cruiser. Several modern safety features are standard, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure alert, and automatic high beams. Front/rear parking sensors are standard, and a multi-terrain camera provides selectable views.
Land Cruiser ($83,665) comes with four-wheel drive, eight-passenger seating, four-zone automatic climate control, semi-aniline perforated leather seat trim, heated/ventilated power front seats, a cooler box, pushbutton start, 14-speaker JBL audio, a 9.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, LED headlights, and 18-inch wheels. A rear-seat entertainment system with DVD player and dual 11.6-inch screens is optional. (Prices are MSRP and do not include $1,295 destination charge.)
Kinship to the past is evident from a few styling cues, helping the bulbous but good-looking SUV stand out in its category. Starting with the nearly-classic 1991 model, the Land Cruiser’s sizable shape has retained its kinship with tradition.
Up front, chrome ribbons highlight the LED headlights. Despite 9.0-inch ground clearance, removable side steps make the Land Cruiser appear lower than expected. Chrome is amply applied to the rear as well, yet the overall look is conservative and reasonably tasteful.
Ready to cope with its array of off-road technology, the upright, symmetrical dashboard is packed with large buttons and knobs. Yet, most controls are built into the infotainment screen. At the center console, controls for the transfer case and traction system sit alongside a conventional gearshift lever.
At a glance, the Land Cruiser almost resembles a luxury sedan. Space is bountiful, though not every passenger enjoys equivalent accommodations. Front seats are wide and well-padded, helping to provide excellent views. Row two isn’t far behind in comfort, with space for three average-size adults.
Three seatbelts await in the third row, but youngsters are the most likely occupants. The truck-based third-row configuration precludes foldaway seatbacks. Instead, two removable seat halves can fold upward when not in use.
Semi-aniline leather upholstery feels tempting, but hard plastic trim seems out of place in such a costly vehicle.
Cargo volume totals a sizable 16.1 cubic feet behind the third row, expanding to 43 cubic feet when those seats are folded away. Removing third-row seats and folding second-row seatbacks boosts space close to 82 cubic feet.
Indisputably, the Land Cruiser’s solid rear axle and separate, reinforced chassis reach back to a long-ago time. Yes, Toyota’s big SUV feels solid all-around.
Ride comfort could easily be described as silken smooth and comfortably composed, helped by soft 18-inch tires. A huge amount of rear-wheel articulation is good news for off-roaders, but can translate to occasions of head-tossing during on-pavement stretches.
Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System allows oversize anti-sway bars to disconnect automatically at low speeds, when additional wheel travel is helpful. Relatively soft springs and sizable tires let the SUV cope handily with bumps.
Land Cruisers can roll through winding roads and twisty trails with commendably minimal body lean. Vehicle size and weight conspire with light steering to make handling ponderous, which is hardly a surprise.
Off-road trekkers can expect sterling levels of tenacity. Far beyond the pavement is where the Land Cruiser shines brightest. By pushing a button, Crawl Control uses the traction control and ABS to keep the SUV moving slowly though any terrain. Another knob selects specific traction-control settings.
One switch tightens the turning radius by braking an inside wheel, allowing the vehicle to pivot. For extreme conditions, the limited-slip differential can be locked. Even when dashing through sand dunes, the Land Cruiser feels nimble and eager.
When off-road, the foremost obstacle might be the Land Cruiser’s width: almost 78 inches. Obviously, some narrow trails could prove problematical.
Despite its weight, a Land Cruiser accelerates briskly. Transmission shifts are prompt and smooth, though an occasional moment of gear-change confusion can occur. Helped by its separate ladder frame, this SUV can tow up to 8,100 pounds
Land Cruisers are among the least-efficient vehicles available, EPA-rated at 13/18 mpg City/Highway, or 15 mpg Combined. Regular fuel is sufficient.
In addition to excellent ride quality and strong V8 power, the Land Cruiser stands apart for its off-road capabilities and assemblage of appropriate electronic gadgetry. Few vehicles of any sort come with such a distinct personal and noble heritage. Steering may be ponderous and gas mileage hideous, but a Land Cruiser is bountifully equipped for both off-road and on-pavement pleasures.
Driving impressions by Andrew Ganz, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.