The Car Connection Toyota Land Cruiser Overview
The Toyota Land Cruiser is the most luxurious SUV available from the Japanese automaker, and one of the company's most rugged.
The Land Cruiser is a long-running nameplate in a league with other globally recognized off-roaders such as the Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
While the plus-sized Land Cruiser doesn't much resemble the little truck it was decades ago, it has stayed true to its off-road roots. Toyota created the larger Sequoia SUV to go after the highway towing and hauling crowd, leaving the Land Cruiser to what it does best.
Still sold around the world, the Land Cruiser has spawned a smaller Land Cruiser Prado model in many markets, a version of which is sold in the U.S. as a 4Runner.
MORE: Read our 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser review
The new Toyota Land Cruiser
The current Land Cruiser, introduced for 2008, is slightly larger than the previous version. Compared to the last generation, it also received a big power upgrade, with a brawny 5.7-liter V-8 making 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, and tied to a 6-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain felt strong in highway passing, or even when towing, and the 8-speed automatic added for 2016 should make it more responsive. Fuel economy remains the same at 13 mpg city, 18 highway, 15 combined.
The four-wheel-drive system includes 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 stiffens the anti-roll bars when on the road, but can loosen the setup for more wheel articulation when off-roading.
Inside, this Land Cruiser doesn't feel downright lavish, but it has plenty of space to sprawl out and Toyota did a great job keeping wind and road noise at bay. Fit, finish, and materials were initially a little questionable in places, especially considering the $70,000 price tag, and the third row doesn't fold flat into the floor; instead, it swivels to the side, where it takes up what would otherwise be usable cargo space.
In 2010, Toyota upgraded the 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 was largely the same as the model that was introduced in 2008, though some upgrades brought modern connectivity to its infotainment system. A revised front end incorporated LED daytime running lights, and new panels beneath the bumpers offered better underbody protection.
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.
Toyota has made some significant changes to the Land Cruiser for 2016. In addition to the new 8-speed automatic transmission, the Land Cruiser adds a suite of active safety features, including an automatic braking system with pedestrian protection, lane-departure warnings, automatic high-beam headlights, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts.
This 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 touchscreen.
Toyota Land Cruiser history
Proven for decades in tough environments from desert to mountains and tundra, the Toyota Land Cruiser has forged a well-deserved reputation for hardiness, reliability, and longevity. Toyota markets the Land Cruiser as being engineered for 500,000 miles, none of which are traveled on-road and it's easy to believe. Modern models add luxury to the inherent capability that has been a fixture.
Although Land Cruisers tend to last a long while, the third-generation 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-hp, 4.0-liter inline-6 that struggled at highway speeds, whereas the 212-hp, 4.5-liter inline-6 that followed it was a marked improvement. During this time, Toyota also phased out the old manual-locking 4WD system, which required the driver to get out of the vehicle and lock the hubs one by one, 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 and interior noise levels that are much higher than those of today.
A 1998 redesign of the Land Cruiser included the fitment of a new V-8 engine. Displacing 4.7 liters, the engine was available in two different tunes: 235 hp and 275 hp. Both were paired with a smooth-shifting 5-speed automatic transmission and were able to move the big SUV reasonably well. This model's suspension setup, which was available with driver-adjustable tuning, greatly moved the Land Cruiser's handling and ride comfort forward while retaining its off-road capability. The new interior made the leap into the realm of true luxury and offered seating for up to eight passengers in its three rows. During this generation, the Land Cruiser received features like stability control prior to their phase-in in Toyota's less expensive models.