- A true off-roader
- Inspires confidence by sheer bulk
- V-8 is powerfully smooth
- Tows and carries...anything?
- A long-haul experience
- Uninspired looks
- Choppy ride
- Third-row seats
- Astronomically expensive
Still an off-road specialist by design, the 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser's grown ever so expensive; did it ever make sense?
After a year out of commission, the 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser rejoins the automaker's lineup without much news to report. It's still a huge SUV with a huge pricetag, huge off-road talents and a huge appetite for fuel--personality traits that put it in direct conflict with Toyota's carefully groomed, green-tinged appeals to mainstream car shoppers.
The Land Cruiser's back, and has stuck around, because it's a unique part of the company's heritage. It cut its teeth exploring the globe, and despite the arrival of the expressly American-minded Sequoia full-size SUV, there's still a place in the world (albeit a very low-volume one) for a vehicle that can do all the things, in all the places, the Land Cruiser can reach easily.
The $78,000 Land Cruiser--actually, more than that--maintains classic SUV talents to justify all its clanging discontinuities with the rest of the Toyota lineup. Not too distinguished in looks from the Sequoia or especially its near-twin, the Lexus LX 570, the Land Cruiser sports the kind of body-on-frame construction, locking-differential four-wheel drive, and rugged suspension design that enables hardcore off-road ability. At the heart of the package: a 381-horsepower V-8 that's strong enough to tug the 5,700-pound vehicle to highway speeds, and delicately tuned to slip and slide over slick rocks where no highway exists.
The prodigious off-road talent baked into the chassis compromises its usefulness as an urban ute. The steering's loose; the ride can be choppy unless it's fully laden with up to eight passengers, three of whom will have to ride in third-row seats that fold up to the sides of the cargo area--not into the floor like most modern crossovers, because that's where the rear axle lives. In this land of compromise, the latest electronics keep the Land Cruiser happier both on and off the pavement, controlling the way it trundles down and up hills, the way it traverses all kinds of terrain, keeping its hydraulic suspension at the proper stiffness.
To woo more buyers back for the 2013 model year, Toyota's added all previously optional safety and luxury options. To go with its standard ten airbags, CD player, and leather upholstery, the Land Cruiser now gets pushbutton start; a power moonroof; heated front and rear seats; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; Bluetooth; a rearview camera and parking sensors; a navigation system; HD radio; and Entune, the Toyota connectivity offering that enables mobile apps for use with its audio system, whether it's streaming Pandora audio or on-the-go Facebook updates filed by voice commands.
The universe of mega-SUVs is shrinking, for sure, which makes it surprising that Toyota's bothered to bring the Land Cruiser back for an encore. It's not the luxury icon that Land Rover has in the Range Rover, and it's about $30,000 more than Toyota's slightly more practical Sequoia. Okay, it's not the most evocative shape, and the base price is extraordinarily high--but what other vehicle's inspired the Land Crusher nickname and lived (again) to tell about it?
2013 Toyota Land Cruiser
The Land Cruiser could use a heavy dose of retro to highlight its old-school SUV goodness.
Mildly restyled for its return in the 2013 model year, the Toyota Land Cruiser presents a classic SUV profile and a more integrated Toyota theme across its very large front end this year.
You'd know it at a distance based on size alone, but now the rugged Land Cruiser locks in on your brain a little easier, with its safari-chic shape highlighted by new LED daytime running lights and a bigger, brighter grille. It's not an inspiring look, per se, like the divinely detailed Range Rover--and it has a near-clone in the form of the Lexus LX 570. Objectively, though, the Land Cruiser keeps with tradition, in looking confident and off-road-ready.
Inside, the Land Cruiser has the same, very upright, chunky styling that all the newer Toyota trucks have received. It's a pretty technology-heavy presentation, with a navigation screen top and center, plus climate, audio, and off-road controls below that, and it emphasizes a certain truth about the Land Cruiser's appeal—that it's rooted more in gated communities than in remote outposts. New this year are a perforated leather trim, more glossy woodgrain on the dash, and brighter metallic trim surrounding some of the dash panels.
2013 Toyota Land Cruiser
Off-road talents are strong, but on pavement the Land Cruiser feels like every one of its 6,000 pounds.
With a single drivetrain configuration, the hefty and brawny Land Cruiser is one talented off-roader. It's not the first choice we'd make for ferrying a carload of passengers on the highway, but in truth it's not awful at moving those people under reasonable power, with a decently controlled ride.
The drivetrain consists of a strong, torquey 5.7-liter V-8 engine with 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. Related to the engine found in Toyota's Tundra full-size truck, the engine couples to a six-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive.
Built from a traditional body-on-frame design, the Land Cruiser tucks in at a few hundred pounds under the 6,000-lb mark. While it sounds and feels strong enough to manage highway speeds, and shifts in a timely way to accomplish those feats or to pull off a fair amount of towing, it's not particularly quick--there's no overturning the laws of physics at work here. As is usually the case with four-wheel-drive vehicles, the Land Cruiser lacks good steering feel: it feels numb on center, and has too much slack built in its rack.
The Land Cruiser manages to handle reasonably well—and reasonably flat, without a lot of body lean, on the road—thanks to a hydraulic suspension system called Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System. It dynamically stiffens the front and rear anti-roll bars through a hydraulic reservoir system on the highway, but can effectively disconnect them in the dirt, allowing smooth and stable handling on-road while allowing all that wheel articulation off-road.
Despite the high-tech KDSS suspension setup, we found the Land Cruiser's ride to be a bit too firm at times, even jolting over larger bumps. The system is well suited to helping reduce head-toss when out on the trail, and keeping the Land Cruiser level in the corners, but when cruising straight ahead on a choppy road there's no doubt you're in a truck.
What it lacks in on-road finesse, it more than makes up for in off-road talent. The Land Cruiser sports an approach angle of 30 degrees, a real low range for its 4WD system, and a locking center differential that can shift from 50 to 70 percent of available torque to the rear wheels, depending on the traction state and needs of the moment. The rear suspension offers a full 9.5 inches of travel to help articulate the wheels over the most demanding terrain. The Land Cruiser's construction also aids its off-road ability, with its body-on-frame construction making it more rugged and tough than most.
The Cruiser's stability control is also deeply integrated into its off-road package to manage grip: Hill Descent Control makes it easy to cruise slowly down tricky inclines, Trailer Sway Control mitigates the wagging motion induced by towed loads, and Hill Start Assist helps keep you from rolling backward on uphill starts. Newly added CRAWL control adapts throttle and braking to one of five settings tailored to different surfaces, making the Land Cruiser simpler to drive on mud, rocks, sand, or snow. Finally, an Off-Road Turn Assist does what other torque-vectoring systems do: it clamps an inside rear brake to help tighten corners.modulate the throttle or brake pedals. The Off-Road Turn Assist feature pulses the rear corner brakes to help the vehicle make sharper turns when maneuvering through tight quarters on rugged terrain. CRAWL Control with Off-Road Turn Assist includes Downhill Assist Control (DAC), which is designed to augment the low-speed descending ability of low-range by helping to hold the vehicle to a target speed with practically no driver intervention. Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) provides additional control for off-road driving by helping to keep the vehicle stationary while starting on a steep incline or slippery surface.
2013 Toyota Land Cruiser
Comfort & Quality
An eight-seater by the spec sheet, the Land Cruiser's most comfortable for four adults and four children.
Big but not entirely space-efficient, the eight-passenger Land Cruiser has terrific front seats. They're shaped well, and give an excellent view of the road ahead, with the caveat that they sit very high from the ground--it's a climb to get in and out of the big ute, regardless of which seat you're occupying.
In the second row, Toyota fits a sliding mechanism that enables several inches of fore-and-aft motion for the bench seat, to add flexibility to go with plentiful head and leg room. It makes up for the relative lack of utility in the third row: like most of these way-back seats, the Land Cruiser's rearmost bench is an afterthought. It's worse than usual, since the seats can't stow in the floor (that's where the off-roading hardware resides). Instead they swing off to the sides, where they narrow the Cruiser's cargo area.Interior appointments aren't likely to wow you. Materials, fits, and finishes on this $70k+ vehicle aren't much of a step beyond those in a $30k Highlander, and the Land Cruiser won't earn points for feeling lavish. But it's quiet, tight, and vaultlike, with nearly no wind or road noise to speak of—though you do hear the engine a bit too much, despite the addition of foam filling in the A-pillars and new cladding under the front bumper and engine.
2013 Toyota Land Cruiser
No crash-test scores are in, but the Land Cruiser has ten airbags and some advanced safety technology.
While the 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser doesn't have any crash-test scores to prove its implied safety, from either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), it does have an ever-increasing array of safety technology and lots, lots of ground-hugging weight in its corner.
Among its standard safety features are some that were options just last year. They include ten airbags--among them second-row side airbags and front knee airbags--along with active headrests, stability control, tire pressure monitors, and anti-lock braking tuned for a variety of on- and off-road surfaces.
Toyota’s Pre-Collision System, new two years ago, is designed to detect other vehicles and obstacles and help optimize the restraining performance of the front passenger seatbelts if a collision is imminent.
While there's plenty of window space in the Land Cruiser, visibility can be challenging in up-close parking situations because of the height of this truck next to other vehicles (and kids and strollers and the like). Parking sensors are standard, and a rearview camera is included with the newly standard navigation system.
2013 Toyota Land Cruiser
The standard Land Cruiser comes with plenty of luxury features--and for nearly $80,000, it should.
That means that not only does standard equipment include the formerly free stuff--power windows, locks and mirrors; a moonroof; leather upholstery; heated front and second-ro seats; and four-zone climate control--it now also includes Bluetooth; a navigation system; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; rain-sensing wipers; a center-console cooled compartment; adaptive cruise control; and a heated, leather-trimmed steering wheel.
Entune is also standard on the Land Cruiser for 2013. Wrapped into the audio system along with HD radio, satellite radio, a USB port and Bluetooth streaming, Entune enables mobile-phone app connectivity. That means your phone's Bing search can be run through the Land Cruiser's audio system, bringing live results to its navigation screen. Pandora music can filter through its audio system. You can even make OpenTable reservations using voice commands and steering-wheel controls while on the go.
2013 Toyota Land Cruiser
The Land Cruiser's one of the least efficient vehicles on the road of any kind.
Toyota's unapologetic about the Land Cruiser's fuel economy. With its massive 5.7-liter V-8 engine and 381 horsepower, the nearly 6000-pound sport-utility vehicle turns in EPA gas mileage of 13 mpg city, 18 highway. It's not even remotely a green-car choice, unless every one of its eight passenger seats is filled--but hey, at least it's better than the nearly identical Lexus LX 570's 12/17-mpg rating, which is likely due to that vehicle's slightly higher curb weight.Those who wish to go green in this class do have a few options, like the Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTEC, Cadillac Escalade Hybrid or Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid; all return fuel economy that's in the 20s, but in all cases they're not quite as off-road-focused as the Land Cruiser.
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