New & Used Toyota Land Cruiser: In Depth
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The Toyota Land Cruiser is the largest, most rugged, and most luxurious SUV in the Toyota lineup. It’s an icon for the Toyota brand, and the newest generation of Land Cruiser aligns with the badge’s trail-proven history. It competes with the Range Rover Sport and Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.
For the latest on this big, off-road-oriented SUV, see our full review of the 2015 Toyota Land Cruiser.
Proven for decades in tough international environments ranging from desert to mountains and tundra, the Toyota Land Cruiser has forged a well-deserved reputation for hardiness, reliability, and longevity over several decades. While the plus-sized Land Cruiser that's sold in the U.S. is no longer the version that's sold around the world (some parts of the world get the 4Runner-sized Land Cruiser Prado instead), nor does it much resemble the little truck that was sold decades ago, the Land Cruiser has stayed true to its roots while Toyota has gone after the highway towing and hauling crowd with the Sequoia SUV.
Although Land Cruisers tend to live for decades, the third-generation Land Cruiser models that were sold through much of the 1990s are the oldest ones you're still likely to see at a standard car lot. Earlier versions had a 155-horsepower, 4.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine that struggled at highway speeds, but the 212-hp, 4.5-liter six that followed it was a marked improvement. During this time Toyota also phased out the old manual-locking 4WD system that meant you had to go out and lock the hubs and phased in a full-time system. All of these models are a little more stark inside than you might expect, with a very simple layout but interior noise standards that don't hold up well to those of today.
In 1998, Toyota redesigned the Land Cruiser and introduced a new V-8 engine. The 235-hp or 275-hp, 4.7-liter V-8 managed to propel the big SUV reasonably well with a smooth five-speed automatic transmission, and suspension tuning—especially with the adjustable suspension system—was a big step forward for street and highway comfort. Three rows of seating could accommodate up to eight, the interior felt luxurious for the first time, and features such as stability control were phased in well before they appeared in most of Toyota's other models.
The most recent Land Cruiser, introduced for 2008, was slightly larger than the previous version. It received a big power upgrade, with a brawny 5.7-liter V-8, making 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque, with a six-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain felt strong in highway passing, or even when towing, and returned 13 mpg city, 18 highway. The four-wheel drive system came with a low range, of course, as well as a locking center differential, a host of electronics to keep everything in line, and lots of ground clearance. A Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System stiffened the anti-roll bars when on the road but loosened the setup for more wheel articulation when off-roading.
Inside, this Land Cruiser didn't feel downright lavish, but had plenty of space to sprawl out, and Toyota did a great job keeping wind and road noise at bay. Fit, finish and materials were a little questionable in places for its $70k price tag, and the third-row didn't fold flat into the floor; instead, it swiveled to the side, where it could get in the way of cargo space.
In 2010 Toyota upgraded audio and infotainment systems and added Safety Connect. Then a refreshed Land Cruiser, with cosmetic changes inside and out, arrived for the 2013 model year. It's largely the same as the model that was introduced in 2008, though some upgrades have brought modern connectivity to its infotainment system. A revised front end incorporates LED daytime running lights, and new panels beneath the bumpers are said to offer better underbody protection.
Although the Land Cruiser has received a few more standard features over the past couple of years, the drivetrain remains the same, with a 381-horsepower V-8 teamed to a six-speed automatic and four-wheel drive, biased 40:60 to the rear via a Torsen limited-slip locking center differential.
Those new features have been added as standard include a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; a center-console cooler box; a multi-information display with voice activation and Bluetooth connectivity; heated second-row seats; and finally, Toyota’s hard-drive based navigation system with Entune, which enables mobile-phone apps like Facebook and Pandora to be operated via the Land Cruiser's audio system.