2009 Toyota Land Cruiser Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
May 8, 2009

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.

TheCarConnection.com has searched through some of the Web’s best reviews to compile a comprehensive review covering the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser. TheCarConnection.com’s editors have driven the Land Cruiser on- and off-road to bring you this overall Bottom Line assessment.

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.

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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.

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2009 Toyota Land Cruiser

Styling

The 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser isn't too spectacular inside, but it looks good from the curb.

Reviewers generally think that the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser offers a good-looking exterior, but some complain about a cluttered instrument panel design.

In the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser, a desire for function over style and a physical presence that evokes competence are still solidly in the aesthetic repertoire. Motor Trend assures us that "outside, it's unmistakably 'Land Cruiser.'" "There are no heroic Nissan Murano-like experiments with the styling here," says Car and Driver, just a clean modernization of the concept. Compared to its bulging-fendered competitors, Kelley Blue Book remarks of the Land Cruiser, "when you're confident of your ability, you don't have to pretend."

Inside the 2009 Land Cruiser, however, a clutter of 21st-century technology makes itself known perhaps too well. Kelley Blue Book laments that "the instrument panel, dash and console are awash with switches, gauges and displays; it will take owners some time to figure out what they all do." Edmunds reports that "Toyota has updated the cabin with a fresh design and enhanced features."

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2009 Toyota Land Cruiser

Performance

The 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser performs incredibly well. It's an off-roading wonder.

The 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser's performance is enough to get most reviewers raving. It's a tough, responsive vehicle.

Toyota's 5.7-liter V-8, shared with its other full-framed trucks and SUVs, was brought to the Toyota Land Cruiser in 2008. It churns out 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, enough to move this 5,900-pound SUV to 60 mph from rest in just 6.5 seconds. Remarkably, this athletic, serene combination yields less emissions and better EPA numbers, at 13/18 mpg, than previous models. Car and Driver describes the power delivery as "velvety" and explains that it invokes the magic of variable valve timing, a variable-volume intake system, and an electronic fly-by-wire throttle to give performance that is "silky smooth and quiet"—until you ask it for max urge, at which point "you hear a muted yet mellifluous snarl from the engine bay."

Also impressive is the way the Land Cruiser comports itself on the tarmac. "Body lean is fairly well controlled," comments ConsumerGuide, which also finds "responsive steering, combined with a fairly tight turning radius, results in good maneuverability for such a large vehicle." "Expect unflappable nonchalance over acned asphalt," assures Car and Driver.

Kelley Blue Book says the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser's "ride comfort comes close to...luxury sedans" and calls its handling "precise and confidence-inspiring." A trick technology, KDSS in Toyota tech-speak, increases roll-stiffness when both shock absorbers on a given side of the vehicle are compressed, lending this big, cushy boat surprising resistance to body lean on paved roads.

That same KDSS increases suspension compliance dramatically on the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser when only one wheel on a given side is forced upward, allowing for excellent suspension articulation necessary in true off-roading. That feature, a live rear axle (long known to be optimal for rock crawling), a locking Torsen center differential, and Crawl Control make the Land Cruiser "a mountain goat with stitched leather upholstery," according to Motor Trend. Crawl Control takes the driver's feet completely out of the equation when off-road, both accelerating and braking as needed to keep the Cruiser crawling at a predetermined speed, either uphill or down.

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2009 Toyota Land Cruiser

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser offers great seating for five—but not for seven.

Experts at TheCarConnection.com love riding in the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser with five passengers—but adding the third row to bring the passenger tally to seven may not be a wise move.

Up front, the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser offers "large, comfortable seats with lots of adjustments" that "combine with a tilt and telescopic steering wheel and ample headroom and legroom for first-class accommodations," according to ConsumerGuide. "The glass area feels big, the view panoramic. The seats are thrones," commends Car and Driver. Entry into those comfortable chairs, though, can be a bit challenging due to the Land Cruiser's height and lack of available running boards.

The second row offers luxurious accommodations, as well. ConsumerGuide explains that "foot space is tight unless the front seats are raised," but overall the space is "impressive," with "plenty of headroom and legroom on comfortable seats that can fit three across in a pinch." Passengers get their own audio and climate controls, and seats slide back and forth roughly three inches.

The only comfort/convenience demerits in the interior belong to the third row of the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser. Those "iconoclastic side-folding third-row seats," says Motor Trend, "either leave you feeling like you're sitting in a barrel due to the elevated floor or are smack in the way of stowing wide cargo when folded away." "Entry is a jungle-gym climb," warns Car and Driver, "and once you arrive—typical of SUVs with rigid rear axles—the cushion is barely off the floor." Seemingly not able to decide between decent cargo storage or third-row seats, Toyota does a mediocre job with both.

Refinement is excellent. There is not one complaint of a harsh ride or untoward chassis motions, no small feat in a large, live-axle SUV. ConsumerGuide remarks that "materials are generally luxury grade" and "workmanship is likewise impressive." "Wind, road, and engine noise are well controlled, even at highway speeds, making the Land Cruiser as quiet as some luxury cars," enthuses ConsumerGuide.

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2009 Toyota Land Cruiser

Safety

The 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser hasn't been safety-tested, but it has all the crash-avoidance and passenger-protection bells and whistles one expects.

Experts at TheCarConnection.com note that while the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser has not been safety-tested, it does provide a bevy of great safety features.

Active headrests for front-seat occupants, tire pressure monitoring, anti-lock brakes, stability and active traction control, brake assist, and Toyota's VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) round out the list of features that keep the Land Cruiser safe and secure. "As one might expect," says Car and Driver, "the new Cruiser is replete with safety equipment including a barrage of airbags." That's 10 airbags, to be exact, including knee airbags for both front occupants, two rows of side impact airbags, and three-row curtain airbags.

A stiffened frame that enhances crashworthiness, says Edmunds, provides a foundation for many safety items. Toyota's optional precollision system, "which cinches the front seatbelts when the various electronic sensors detect skidding or sudden hard braking," adds yet another layer of safety to the Cruiser should it be involved in a mishap.

All SUVs, with their inherent higher center of gravity, are more prone to rollovers than cars, but the Land Cruiser's stability control mitigates this tendency considerably.

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2009 Toyota Land Cruiser

Features

The 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser includes plenty of features to keep every potential driver happy, whether they’re a gearhead or just along for the ride.

The 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser offers plenty of features—some high-tech ones for getting through the tough stuff, as well as some modern interior luxuries.

In conjunction with a Torsen limited-slip locking center differential, a live axle in the rear, a stout frame with "fully boxed sections and no fewer than eight crossmembers," KDSS (adjust roll stiffness on the fly), and CRAWL (foot-free crawling over rough terrain), the Land Cruiser's off-road capabilities are prodigious. Key off-road features on the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser include Hill Assist Control, Active-TRAC, and Downhill Assist Control. Some of these systems help keep the Land Cruiser on the road (VSC, EBD), while the others help it perform flawlessly off. "Gizmos and abbreviations abound," says Car and Driver, speaking of the Land Cruiser's standard HAC, VSC, EBD, A-TRAC, and DAC.

Standard equipment in the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser includes 18-inch alloy wheels, power and heated front seats, leather upholstery, four-zone automatic climate control, a 14-speaker JBL audio system with a six-CD changer and auxiliary audio jack, a sunroof, auto-dimming mirrors, keyless ignition, and parking sensors. The Upgrade Package includes items like a rear-seat entertainment system with 9-inch screen, a nav system with Bluetooth and backup camera, heated second-row seats, and a center console refrigerated compartment. Though Edmunds points out "there is only one trim level," Car and Driver states, "every convenience item known to the driving public has been integrated."

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8.2
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Styling 7.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
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