2011 Toyota Land Cruiser Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 12, 2011

The 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser keeps with its iconic off-road tradition in some respects, but in most it simply bows to the suburbs.

Even among big, body-on-frame sport-utility vehicles, the 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser stands as something different. Compared to Toyota's own much more affordable SUV, the Sequoia, the automaker has put forth extra years of engineering effort to imbue the Land Cruiser with top-notch off-roading ability and toughness that live up to its legendary name. Unfortunately, it doesn't look that much different from the Sequoia, and those who buy the Land Cruiser for suburban driveways might not be able to tell why.

The only engine that's offered in the 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser is a brawny 5.7-liter V-8 engine rated at 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. It's the same engine that's found in the full-size Tundra pickup, and here it's mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive. On the road, the Land Cruiser's hefty 5,700-pound curb weight doesn't do it any favors in acceleration, the engine still feels strong in freeway merges and hauling or towing duty. The six-speed auto makes easy work of the necessary gear changes, operating quickly and smoothly. The only thing lacking from the equation is steering feel; it's a bit numb, and the ratio feels too long for tight highway esses.

The Land Cruiser's off-road capabilities are prodigious, thanks in part to its rugged body-on-frame construction and in part to its wide range of assistive technologies, including Hill Assist Control, Active-TRAC, and Downhill Assist Control. All of these can be activated and adjusted by controls in the center console. And it handles 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, which acts as a tight anti-roll bar only when needed.

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The 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser has a very spacious interior layout, with nice, high, and amply shaped front seats that afford a good view of the road, plus a second row that slides fore and aft several inches and has enough headroom and legroom for adults. Don't plan on using the optional third-row seating frequently, though; that's still a bit of an afterthought. Interior appointments aren't likely to wow you overall. 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.

Many of the Land Cruisers normal-vehicle features are buffed up for use off-road or in extreme elements. For instance, the four-zone climate control system includes 28 air vents and a PTC heated that heats air instantly to help with cabin warm-up.

You won't run short of standard features and available options to ratchet up the price. All models come standard with a JBL six-disc CD changer stereo with 14 speakers, Smart Key keyless entry and push-button start, security system, cruise control, power moonroof, auto-dimming side and rearview mirrors, HomeLink garage door opener, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, and heated power front and rear seats with driver memory settings. Available options include a rear-seat entertainment system, Bluetooth hands-free calling, sonar-based backup, and rearview monitor system. Last year, the optional navigation system was upgraded, including a smoother interface and an all-new Safety Connect telematics system that can inform emergency services in the case of an accident. Most of these options are bundled into a take-it-or-leave it package that boosts the Land Cruiser's sticker price to $75k though—a pretty penny, as it's about 20 grand more than a well-optioned V-8 Sequoia and nearly as much as the closely-related Lexus LX570.

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2011 Toyota Land Cruiser

Styling

The 2011 Land Cruiser looks more like a modern Toyota SUV than an off-road icon.

The latest Toyota Land Cruiser is thoroughly modern up close, but you'll know it from a distance. The rugged, class, somewhat safari-linked look is instantly recognizable. But at arm's length, the latest Land Cruiser isn't inspiring like some of its Land Rover rivals; the issue is that while the Land Cruiser used to have a unique look, the latest version, introduced a couple of years ago, looks a bit too much like its Sequoia and Titan brand-mates, in our opinion. 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.

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2011 Toyota Land Cruiser

Performance

The 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser performs exactly as it hints off-road, but a lot better on-road than you would ever imagine.

The only engine that's offered in the 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser is a brawny 5.7-liter V-8 engine rated at 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. It's the same engine that's found in the full-size Tundra pickup, and here it's mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive.

On the road, the Land Cruiser's hefty 5,700-pound curb weight doesn't do it any favors in acceleration, the engine still feels strong in freeway merges and hauling or towing duty. The six-speed auto makes easy work of the necessary gear changes, operating quickly and smoothly. The only thing lacking from the equation is steering feel; it's a bit numb, and the ratio feels too long for tight highway esses.

With an approach angle of 30 degrees, standard four-wheel drive with low and high range, and a locking Torsen center differential, off-road performance is predictably very good. The system can send anywhere between 50 to 70 percent of the engine's power to the rear wheels depending on conditions, and a range of electronic stability and dynamics controls help to maintain grip on- and off-road. Hill Descent Control makes it easy to cruise slowly down tricky inclines, and Hill Start Assist helps keep you from rolling backward on uphill starts. 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 rear suspension offers a full 9.5 inches of travel to help articulate the wheels over the most demanding terrain.

The Land Cruiser's off-road capabilities are prodigious, thanks in part to its rugged body-on-frame construction and in part to its wide range of assistive technologies, including Hill Assist Control, Active-TRAC, and Downhill Assist Control. All of these can be activated and adjusted by controls in the center console.

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.

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2011 Toyota Land Cruiser

Comfort & Quality

The 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser offers good space for five, though the ride and interior appointments are far from luxury-class.

The 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser has a very spacious interior layout, with nice, high, and amply shaped front seats that afford a good view of the road, plus a second row that slides fore and aft several inches and has enough headroom and legroom for adults. Don't plan on using the optional third-row seating frequently, though; that's still a bit of an afterthought. The third-row seats don't stow into the floor like many modern SUVs, instead swiveling off to the side where they impinge somewhat on available cargo space.

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 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.

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2011 Toyota Land Cruiser

Safety

The 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser has an impressive list of safety features, though it hasn't yet been crash-tested.

Yes, size and weight do have something to do with vehicle safety, but the relationship isn't straightforward enough for us to declare the 2011 Land Cruiser particularly safe. This full-size luxury SUV still hasn't been crash-tested in either of the major U.S. programs.

It does come with a good list of safety features, though: Electronic stability control, 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 are included in all Land Cruisers. .

Optional on the Land Cruiser is a pre-collision system that cinches up the front seatbelts during skidding or hard braking.

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). While parking sonar is standard, a rearview camera is only offered as part of the nav system.

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2011 Toyota Land Cruiser

Features

The 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser comes with plenty of features for trail junkies, along with plenty to make commuters and families content.

You won't run short of standard features and available options to ratchet up the price, either. All models come standard with a JBL six-disc CD changer stereo with 14 speakers, Smart Key keyless entry and push-button start, security system, cruise control, power moonroof, auto-dimming side and rearview mirrors, HomeLink garage door opener, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, and heated power front and rear seats with driver memory settings.

Many of the Land Cruisers normal-vehicle features are buffed up for use off-road or in extreme elements. For instance, the four-zone climate control system includes 28 air vents and a PTC heated that heats air instantly to help with cabin warm-up.

Available options include a rear-seat entertainment system, Bluetooth hands-free calling, sonar-based backup, and rearview monitor system. Last year, the optional navigation system was upgraded, including a smoother interface and an all-new Safety Connect telematics system that can inform emergency services in the case of an accident. For 2011, the Land Cruiser also gets available XM NavTraffic services for the nav system.

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2011 Toyota Land Cruiser

Fuel Economy

If you consider yourself green or environmentally responsible, the Land Cruiser might be a bit of an embarrassment.

With EPA ratings of just 13 mpg city, 18 highway, and a huge 5.7-liter V-8 engine, the 2011 Toyota Land Cruiser is a bit of a guzzler, and pretty far from a green choice—especially if you plan to travel longer distances with only one or two in the vehicle.

Those who wish to go green in this class do have a few options, like the Mercedes-Benz GL350 Bluetec or Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid; both return fuel economy that's in the 20s, but in both cases they're not quite as off-road-focused as the Land Cruiser.

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Styling 7
Performance 7
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Features 9
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