- Off-road ability
- Confident handling
- Powerful, torquey V-8
- Conservative, dull styling
- Overly firm ride
- Third row won’t stow away
The 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser has a stellar, well-deserved reputation for off-road performance. On-road, the Land Cruiser falls far short of fantastic.
The 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser benefits from a complete redesign for 2008, essentially carried over for ‘09. Last year, the vehicle stepped up to a more powerful engine, a quieter and more refined interior, and some nifty technological solutions for better handling, while preserving its legendary off-road prowess.
A 5.7-liter V-8—the same one used in the new Tundra pickup—powers the Tundra and makes 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. 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 Land Cruiser's key off-road specs, including approach, departure, and break-over angles, along with ground clearance, are essentially unchanged compared with the model that ran through ‘07. The approach angle is especially impressive, at 30 degrees. Of course, four-wheel drive is standard in the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser. 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 its power to the rear wheels, depending on slip. Several electronic aids help the 2009 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. Tough body-on-frame construction for the 2009 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.
The 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser includes the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) introduced in '08 for more wheel articulation and a smooth ride. The system uses hydraulic pressure between opposed reservoirs front-to-back; they 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. The ride in the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser can be quite firm, with larger bumps transmitted as jolts, but the KDSS works well to allow relatively responsive handling for such a heavy vehicle. These technology features allow the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser to corner surprisingly flat during on-road driving, yet have the softer settings and wheel articulation needed for off-roading.
The 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser is 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. The interior of the 2009 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. Although when the Land Cruiser tops $70,000, TheCarConnection.com’s editors expect a little more. Wind and road noise are remarkably absent, though.
All the usual premium SUV features are either standard or available for the single 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser model, including a rear-seat entertainment system; Smart Key entry and ignition; remote start; Bluetooth hands-free; a sonar backup aid and rearview monitor; a pre-collision system; a navigation system; satellite radio; and a 605-watt, 14-speaker JBL audio system. A cooler box is also available for the center console.
The new Land Cruiser has not yet been crash-tested. Standard safety features on the 2009 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.