- Torquey, responsive V-8 powertrain
- Tenacious and stable off-road ability
- Handles well for such a heavy vehicle
- Towing ability
- Reputation for toughness and longevity
- Ride quality still isn’t very smooth
- Third row doesn’t stow neatly
- Play-it-safe styling
The 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser builds on a world-class reputation for hardy off-road performance and greatly improves its on-road performance, but don’t expect a plush ride or posh interior.
For the first time since 1998, Toyota’s legendary rugged off-road model has been completely redesigned for this year. The 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser remains about the same size as the vehicle it replaces, but it gets a much more powerful engine, a quieter and more refined interior, and some innovative mechanical and electronic solutions that improve the Land Cruiser’s on-road handling and its off-road capability.
The 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser is now powered by a new 5.7-liter V-8—the same one that’s used in the new Tundra pickup—making 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, and of course, there’s standard four-wheel drive.
The four-wheel-drive system provides a separate low range, along with a Torsen center differential that can be locked in either range. The system sends 50 to 70 percent of power to the rear wheels, depending on slip. The Land Cruiser’s key off-road specs, including approach, departure, and break-over angles, along with ground clearance, are also essentially unchanged compared with the outgoing model. The approach angle is especially impressive, at 30 degrees. Tough body-on-frame construction for the 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser allows more abuse than most vehicles, and the rear suspension is designed for nearly 9.5 inches of travel from normal to give good wheel articulation when off-roading.
Several electronic aids help the 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser maintain stability and gain traction off-road. In addition to Hill Descent Control and Hill Start Assist, which are offered on other Toyota SUVs, a feature called Crawl Control helps maintain a very low speed when off-roading, employing the throttle, brakes, and stability control to do so.
A new Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) is also adopted for the 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser. The system isn't electronically controlled; it instead uses hydraulic pressure between opposed reservoirs front-to-back, which function together, cleverly, as a stabilizer-bar system when front and rear pressure are similar but effectively detach the stabilizer bar when wheel movement varies, allowing more wheel articulation and a smooth ride.
These technology features allow the 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser to corner surprisingly flat during on-road driving, yet have the softer settings and wheel articulation needed for off-roading. The V-8 engine doesn’t give the nearly 5,700-pound Land Cruiser blistering acceleration, but there’s enough for very rapid takeoffs with an empty load and plenty for hauling or towing; the automatic transmission works perfectly with it, downshifting quickly. The ride can be quite firm, with larger bumps transmitted as jolts, but the new KDSS system works well to allow relatively responsive handling for such a heavy vehicle. Wind and road noise are remarkably absent.
The interior of the 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser is nicely appointed but not especially fashionable or luxurious—sort of in the same way that the Avalon compares to other luxury cars. Positively, it’s laid out quite simply and should stand up nicely to off-road knocks, with no major rattles and no especially delicate breakables. The first two rows of seating are comfortable, though not all that plush, with third-row seats that swing around to the side, rather than folding downward.
All the usual premium SUV features are either standard or available for the single 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser model, including a sonar backup aid and rearview monitor; a pre-collision system; a navigation system; a rear-seat entertainment system; Smart Key entry and ignition; remote start; Bluetooth hands-free; satellite radio; and a 605-watt, 14-speaker JBL audio system. A cooler box is also available for the center console.
Standard safety features on the 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser are extensive, including electronic stability control, active traction control, driver and front passenger active front headrests, driver and front passenger knee bags, first- and second-row outboard thorax side airbags, three-row roll-sensing side curtain airbags, and multiterrain anti-lock braking. The new Land Cruiser has not yet been crash tested.