2014 Toyota Land Cruiser Review

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Davis Adams Davis Adams Contributor
August 11, 2014

The 2014 Toyota Land Cruiser can still go off-road, but it's become increasingly expensive with time. So expensive, in fact, that it might be a hard sell.

When bigger is better, there's the Toyota Land Cruiser. Other crossovers and SUVs have downsized, and drivers are choosing more compact, more carlike wagons, more than ever--but for a few thousand drivers each year, nothing gets things done like the massive, and massively capable off-road, "Land Crusher."

Even by the standards of its class, the Land Cruiser's price tag is large, and its thirst for fuel is gargantuan. Over the years, the renowned Land Cruiser model name has morphed from a tough but basic Jeep-like vehicle to a huge, luxurious vehicle that competes with the high end of the German and English utility brands, hanging onto its off-roading abilities despite its many premium features. A past filled with desert treks, mountain climbing, and safaris has given way to a more refined exploration of high-end shopping malls and affluent suburbs.

Still, the Land Cruiser remains a highly capable vehicle that can do most things in most places. That's an enduring niche if a low-volume one, even if the values epitomized by the Land Cruiser stand in almost direct opposition to those of the rest of the Toyota lineup: sensible, reliable, un-flashy cars--including the uber-green Prius hybrid.

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The universe of mega-SUVs is shrinking, especially when provided by a mass-market brand like Toyota. That makes it surprising that Toyota even bothered to bring the very expensive Land Cruiser back for an encore. Starting at just a smidge south of $80,000, it's not the luxury icon that Land Rover has in the Range Rover, and it's $30,000 pricier than Toyota's own, slightly more practical Sequoia. Unlike the Range Rover, its shape is hardly iconic, and the base price is extraordinarily high--but what other vehicle has inspired the "Land Crusher" nickname and lived (again) to tell about it?

In looks, the Toyota Land Cruiser isn't all that different from the far cheaper Sequoia or the Land Cruiser's near-twin, the Lexus LX 570. Its 381-horsepower V-8 powers the hulking, 5700-pound, body-on-frame utility vehicle through four-wheel drive with a locking differential that combines with rugged suspension design to provide hardcore off-road ability. It will both accelerate the 5700-pound Land Cruiser to highway speeds and beyond (though with a prodigious consumption of gasoline) and slip and slide over slick rocks far from any highway at all.

But this prodigious off-road talent compromises its usefulness as an urban utility vehicle. The steering's loose; the ride can be choppy unless it's fully laden with up to eight passengers. And three of them 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 for the 2014 model year, Toyota's added as standard equipment all the Land Cruiser's previously optional safety and luxury options. To go with its standard 10 airbags, CD player, and leather upholstery, the Land Cruiser now gets a power moonroof; heated front and rear seats; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; push-button start; 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.

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2014 Toyota Land Cruiser

Styling

The Land Cruiser hasn't adopted any of the cool vintage touches of other Toyotas, and frankly it could use some.

The 2014 Toyota Land Cruiser wears traditional SUV styling with Toyota's big, modern design language across its front end. It's instantly recognizable for its size, though the current Land Cruiser also has a few of the most current industry trends going for it–like LED running lights, and it's bigger, bolder grille. While it might not look truly luxurious like the Land Rover lineup–or its near-twin, the Lexus LX 570–the Land Cruiser has the look of a confident off-roader, with big, handsome lines.

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.

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2014 Toyota Land Cruiser

Performance

A heavy, ponderous vehicle, the Toyota Land Cruiser handles like a truck, both on-road and off.

There's only one available drivetrain in the Land Cruiser, and it's a brawny, rugged one intended for off-road use. It's not our first choice of vehicles if you're just looking for a family hauler, but the Land Cruiser rides comfortably with reasonable power.

The Land Cruiser is powered by a 5.7-liter V-8 that produces 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque. That engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel-drive system.

It's just shy of 6,000 pounds, thanks largely to its very heavy body-on-frame construction. That structure also gives it some substantial towing ability, even though it sounds and feels pretty smooth on the highway. The Land Cruiser isn't quick, though–you just can't bend the laws of physics–and the steering feels numb, due its four-wheel-drive system.

It's a wonder that the Land Cruiser handles as well as it does–there's very limited body roll in the turns–thanks to its Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System. It's able to stiffen the front and rear anti-roll bars for highway driving, while essentially disconnecting them when you head off-road. Even with that system, the Land Cruiser can be a little firm, which is especially obvious through potholes and large bumps. It's a great system for off-road comfort and handling with such a large vehicle, but rough roads will leave no question in your mind about the fact that the Land Cruiser is based on a truck's platform.

On-road dynamics aside, the Land Cruiser is a real champ in the dirt. 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.

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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.
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2014 Toyota Land Cruiser

Comfort & Quality

Toyota calls the Land Cruiser an eight-seater, but we'd only fill four of the seats with adults.

The Land Cruiser's seats are excellent, even if it's not the most efficient with space. They allow for clear sight of the road in front of you, and they're shaped well–though they do sit very high off the ground. It can be a challenge for shorter people to get in an out, no matter which seats you're trying to mount.

Interior appointments aren't likely to wow you. Materials, fits, and finishes on this 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.

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.

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2014 Toyota Land Cruiser

Safety

The massive Land Cruiser doesn't have any crash-test data to its credit--just size.

Neither organization that crash-test cars has rated the Land Cruiser, likely due to its low sales volume. But despite a lack of NHTSA or IIHS ratings, its sheer mass and long list of safety technologies should keep passengers relatively safe in case of emergencies.

While there's plenty of window space in the Land Cruiser, visibility can be challenging in up-close parking situations because of its height next to other vehicles (not to mention kids and strollers and the like). Parking sensors are standard, and a rearview camera is included with the newly standard navigation system.

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 three 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.

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2014 Toyota Land Cruiser

Features

For about $80,000, the Land Cruiser comes very well-equipped--and at that price, it ought to.

Every feature that was once optional is now standard on the Land Cruiser.

That list of standard equipment also includes Toyota Entune. 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.

There are also power windows, locks and mirrors; a moonroof; leather upholstery; heated front and second-row 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.

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2014 Toyota Land Cruiser

Fuel Economy

The Land Cruiser's gas mileage is about as low as you can get in a modern passenger vehicle.

With its weight and engine size working against it, Toyota doesn't even try to pretend that the Land Cruiser is fuel efficient. The EPA rates it at 13 mpg city, 18 mpg highway, so it's not even remotely green. It is better than its Lexus LX 570 twin, though, which is rated at 1 mpg lower across the board.

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Those who wish to go green in this class do have other options, like the Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTEC, or even the Cadillac Escalade or Chevrolet Tahoe. They return fuel economy higher than the Land Cruiser's, though in all cases they're not quite as off-road-focused as the Land Cruiser.
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October 2, 2015
2014 Toyota Land Cruiser 4-Door 4WD (Natl)

There is still room for improvement.

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This is a wonder Mechine, it grips firmly to the road. It is heavy and balanced, high enough to overcome the challenges occassioned by bad roads. It is indeed built with third world countries in... + More »
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