New & Used Toyota Land Cruiser: In Depth
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The Toyota Land Cruiser is the biggest, most luxurious, and most rugged sport-utility vehicle Toyota sells today. As one of their longest-running nameplates, the Land Cruiser is in a class with other globally known SUVs, like the Range Rover and the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
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 off-road roots while Toyota has gone after the highway towing and hauling crowd with the Sequoia SUV.
MORE: Read our 2015 Toyota Land Cruiser review
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.
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.
Today's Toyota Land Cruiser
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 it 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 considering the $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.
While the current Land Cruiser has been updated in many ways over the course of this generation, it still retains the drivetrain it started with. A 381-horsepower V-8 sends its output through a six-speed automatic and on to a 40:60 front:rear split -wheel-drive system with a Torsen limited-slip locking center differential. That also means it remains much more capable than most buyers will take advantage of.
Toyota added previously optional equipment like a center-console cooler to the standard-features list, while also adding heated second-row seats, a new information display, voice activation, Bluetooth connectivity, and a rear DVD system. The current Land Cruiser also features a version of the Entune system paired with hard-drive-based navigation; Entune links to a mobile phone, using its connection to access apps like Pandora and Facebook on the built-in touch screen.
Few changes were made to the Land Cruiser for the 2015 model year.