New & Used Toyota Land Cruiser: In Depth
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While Toyota's plus-sized Land Cruiser doesn't much resemble the little truck it was decades ago, the model 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 here as today's 4Runner.
The Land Cruiser is the most luxurious Toyota-branded SUV available, and one of the company's most rugged. The Land Cruiser is a long-running nameplate in a league with other globally-known off-roaders such as the Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
MORE: Read our 2015 Toyota Land Cruiser review
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. 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-horsepower, 4.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine that struggled at highway speeds, whereas 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 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 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 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.
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, and tied to 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 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 $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.
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.
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 retains much more capability than most buyers will take advantage of.
Few changes were made to the Land Cruiser for the 2015 model year.