New & Used Toyota Land Cruiser: In Depth
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The Toyota Land Cruiser is the most luxurious and most rugged sport-utility vehicle Toyota sells today. One of the brand's longest-running nameplates, the Land Cruiser is in a class with other globally known off-roaders, like the Range Rover and the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
While the plus-sized Land Cruiser doesn't much resemble the little truck that it was decades ago, this model has stayed true to its off-road roots while Toyota has gone after the highway towing and hauling crowd with the larger Sequoia SUV. 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 here as today's 4Runner.
MORE: Read our 2015 Toyota Land Cruiser review
Proven for decades in tough environments ranging from desert to mountains and tundra, the Toyota Land Cruiser has forged a well-deserved reputation for hardiness, reliability, and longevity.
Although Land Cruisers tend to last a long while, 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, while 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—which required the driver 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 and interior noise levels that don't compare well to 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 five-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 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.
Today's Toyota Land Cruiser
The current Land Cruiser, introduced for 2008, is 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 feels strong in highway passing, or even when towing, and returns 13 mpg city, 18 highway. 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 loosened 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 $70k 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 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.