by Ian Wright
If you're looking for endorsements on the legendary reliability and off-road prowess of the Toyota Land Cruiser, look no further than the United Nations and International Red Cross. We say look no further because you'll also find desert-based militaristic terrorist groups also favor the Land Cruiser. That's a dark endorsement, but the Land Cruiser was long the vehicular equivalent of the AK-47 rifle - a tool you could beat on and expose to any element and then trust it with your life. However, the Land Cruiser has gained luxury interior chops and a tech-packed cabin over the years, and an MSRP to match. Add to that its sturdy V8 engine's ability to drink fuel and the Land Cruiser is not an inexpensive option at over $85,000, a price that places it in some tough company that includes the likes of the Infiniti QX80 and mechanically identical Lexus LX.
That V8 generates 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque through a full-time four-wheel-drive system with all the trimmings, including a terrain select system and a crawl feature. Inside, it has all the space a body-on-frame SUV should but, unfortunately, all the expected road manners that big, boxy off-roaders tend to demonstrate as well. The Land Cruiser is being discontinued in the US at the end of 2021, and its replacement isn't coming stateside, so if you want one, act now.
This is the final year the Land Cruiser will be on sale in the USA, but Toyota made little effort to celebrate this fact. The Heritage Edition - first introduced in 2020 - is carried over and can now be ordered with a third row. This Heritage Edition also serves as the top-spec model for the final production year. Toyota also added Classic Silver and Magnetic Gray to the color palette.
See trim levels and configurations:
It's fair to say that the Land Cruiser is iconic at this point, with a design to match. While the original design elements have disappeared over the years, the current design has cues dating back to the '90s J80 model. We wondered whether Toyota would be brave with the next Land Cruiser's design, but having seen it, it's basically more of the same. There's a lot more grille, but the basics remain the same. We're not entirely sure whether this was the right move, as Land Rover's drastic departure from the Defender's iconic design worked wonders for them.
The Land Cruiser 200 Series simply comes across as a generic SUV, especially from the rear. At least it has all the modern exterior adornments, like LED headlights, 18-inch alloys, some chrome, and a power moonroof. The Heritage Edition adds bronze BBS alloys, dark chrome accents, and a Yakima Megawarrior roof rack.
The Land Cruiser's basic boxy design does count in its favor when it comes to carrying passengers. It's 194.9 inches long, has a width of 77.95 inches, and is 74 inches tall. The 112.2-inch wheelbase is also impressive. The Land Cruiser weighs 5,815 pounds in standard trim, while the Heritage Edition's weight works out to exactly 100 lbs less.
It wouldn't be a Land Cruiser if it couldn't hit the dirt with confidence, though. The approach, breakover, and departure angles are rated at 32, 21, and 24 degrees respectively. That's not bad for an SUV that can easily handle the school run as well. The maximum wading depth is claimed to be 27.55 inches and the big SUV offers 8.9 inches of ground clearance.
Toyota's color palette for the Land Cruise is disappointingly limited to just four colors on both models. Midnight Black, Classic Silver, and Magnetic Gray are no-cost options, while Blizzard Pearl (white) will cost an additional $425. While we are disappointed with the limited color options, we appreciate the little bit of funkiness the bronze alloys bring to the party. They work exceptionally well with the darker color options but not so much in white.
Both Land Cruiser models are powered by the same 5.7-liter naturally-aspirated V8 engine designed and developed by Noah when building the ark. Little known fact, that. In any case, it produces adequate rather than incredible power. It's a torque-rich mule of an engine that doesn't enjoy being rushed. Yet, it's capable of accelerating the Land Cruiser from 0 to 60 mph in around seven seconds, according to independent tests. If you really want to, you can reach a top speed of around 120 mph but at that point, you'll be burning fuel at an alarming rate. The 381 horsepower is less significant in this application, with 401 lb-ft being the key figure. It's available from low down in the power band, making the Land Cruiser an excellent tow vehicle. Its 8,100 lbs tow rating might not be class-leading but is more than its Lexus cousin can muster.
The power is transferred to a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a low-range transfer case, a locking center differential, a terrain select system, and a rather useful crawl control which allows the driver to simply focus on steering. While it may not have the kind of power output to match newer, more road-biased SUV competition, it has adequate torque for most situations. For a car so obviously set up for off-road performance, it does an excellent job of being a daily cruiser as well, proving that it's possible for a hardcore off-roader to work as a daily driver.
The 5.7-liter naturally-aspirated 32-valve V8 is good for 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque. It has been used in various Toyota products for around two decades, and it has one thing still counting in its favor: reliability. Toyota has dropped the V8 in favor of a twin-turbo six-cylinder engine in the new Land Cruiser 300 Series, making many people very angry. We don't see the problem, as the US won't be getting it, and it will almost certainly be more efficient and kinder to the environment. It's more a question if a turbocharged power plant can supply the consistent and controllable low-end torque the current V8 in the 200 Series delivers in spades.
The most modern part of the powertrain is the eight-speed automatic, which replaced the outdated six-speed in 2016. The transmission isn't snappy, but it's smart enough to be in the right place at the right time and transition gears smoothly and with no fuss. Overall, it's a perfect blend of applied V8 power through a drivetrain that you'll have to dedicate time and effort to break.
There's no getting around the fact that the Toyota Landcruiser is a heavy piece of machinery. It weighs north of 5,500 pounds and it shows at every turn or stoplight, and it's hard not to wince when getting up to speed on a freeway ramp at the amount of fuel being burnt to keep up with traffic. When cruising, the Land Cruiser is wonderfully comfortable, and the interior is insulated well from the world around. However, paved roads are not what the designers had at the front of their mind when putting pen to paper, and it's off-road where the Land Cruiser thrives. Long dirt tracks through the desert areas are as comfortable to roll upon as a crossover on a slightly bumpy urban road. You can pick up speed with confidence in the drivetrain and grip if you have suitable tires, but the stock tires are not suitable. The tires on our test vehicle were road tires designed with fuel economy in mind and are completely unsuitable for the rigors of off-roading. Still, get into more challenging territory and the Land Cruiser's permanent 4WD system and the engine's low-down grunt gets you over obstacles where other off-roaders would struggle, and Crawl mode does its job keeping you out of trouble. There's also little doubt the Land Cruiser's suspension system is the best in the body-on-frame business when it comes to getting off the beaten track. Only Land Rover competes when it comes to traction control when it gets into the rough stuff.
If desert tracks and mountain fire roads are going to be the Land Cruiser's only challenge, the tires are okay, but if things are going to get sandy or wet and slippery, a set of more aggressive rubber is essential.
The Land Cruiser's EPA-estimated gas mileage figures read like a sad romance novel. In the best-case scenario, you're looking at 13/17/14 mpg city/highway/combined. Even with the sizeable 24.6-gallon tank, it will only do 344 miles between refills. It's not like the Land Cruiser's main competitors are that much better, but the Ford Expedition Max 4WD - an SUV that is significantly longer and similarly heavy - is a perfect example of what's capable with a turbocharged six-cylinder engine. The Ford's smaller engine provides more power and torque (400 hp and 480 lb-ft), but its EPA-estimated figures are 16/21/18 mpg. That's still not great, but you can see the argument for a smaller-capacity turbocharged engine going forward. On our test drive, the Toyota's consumption dipped to 11 mpg on mountain roads and fire trails, and only got an indicated 16 mpg on normal roads.
The Land Cruiser isn't short on features and has enough space for eight people. A third row can now also be added to the Heritage Edition, which was previously only available as a five-seater. Our main gripe with the interior is not the quality or lack of standard fare but rather an absence of any sort of imagination. Given the large interior dimensions, there's a lot of room to play around with, so why not use that room to build something exciting? For reference, take a look at the new Defender's rugged, playful, yet minimalist interior. On a positive note, the Land Cruiser offers loads of space in the first two rows, excellent visibility, and lovely leather upholstery.
Retailing at around $80,000, it's only fitting to expect a generous amount of standard features. Toyota delivers on this front by including power-adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation, four-zone climate control, a nine-inch infotainment screen, and a 14-speaker JBL sound system.
Inside the Land Cruiser, there's a ton of space and seating for a maximum of eight, although the final three passengers in the optional back row won't be thrilled. The packaging for the third row is awkward and eats up cargo room when folded, so we would only option those if they were going to be essential. Legroom and headroom are plentiful for the first and second row and, while the interior is not quite up to Lexus standards, the seating is comfortable and beautifully upholstered. For the driver, there's more than enough adjustability in the 10-way power-adjustable seat to get the perfect driving position, whether short or tall. Essentially for a large off-roader, visibility is excellent with plenty of glass at every angle, and a non-sloping hood lets you know exactly where the corners are.
The interior colors and materials are even more basic than the color palette. The standard Land Cruiser comes with semi-aniline perforated leather in either Terra or Black. The Heritage Edition is only available with black leather but adds Bronze contrast stitching. Deep Wood is the only available interior trim. It looks good enough, but it loses a lot of its initial appeal once you touch it. As expected, both the shift lever and steering wheel are trimmed in leather.
In its eight-seater configuration, the Toyota Land Cruiser SUV comes standard with 41.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the third row folded down. With the second row folded flat, the cargo capacity increases to a colossal 82.8 cubes. The Heritage Edition without the third row boasts an impressive 53.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Those are some excellent cargo-hauling specs.
The big difference in cargo capacity in the five-seater and a Land Cruiser with the third row folded flat is the location of said seats. They don't fold flat into the floor like on most modern SUVs. Instead, they're mounted to the sidewalls, which chows into the available space. With these small seats folded up, you're left with an awkward narrow loading space. These seats can be removed, but it sort of defeats the purpose of having them there in the first place. They're most commonly used on odd occasions where extra kids tag along, so they should ideally be out of sight and mind but easily reachable when necessary. For the record, with all three rows in place, the Land Cruiser still offers a usable 16.1 cube trunk.
Interior storage consists of a large cooled storage space underneath the front center armrest, a separate tray above that, an overhead console for a pair of sunglasses, and slim door pockets. Toyota also provides up to twelve cupholders depending on the seat configurations.
Toyota includes many features as standard, with minimal options and accessories left to add to it. While it may be an aging SUV, it comes with most of the modern amenities you'd expect. Highlights include four-zone climate control, remote keyless entry with push-button start, and perforated leather seats that are both heated and ventilated in the front. The driver's seat features ten-way power adjustment and comes with a memory function. Some of the more modern technology includes wireless charging, a surround-view camera system, radar-guided cruise control, and blind-spot monitoring, to name just a few. We applaud Toyota for offering most of the modern driver assistance features as standard on such an old bus.
This is where the Land Cruiser stutters, given its price point. Bluetooth connectivity is standard, but there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which is odd for a vehicle coming standard with wireless charging and a premium JBL audio system with no less than 14 speakers. It's one of the few major criticisms we can name in this Toyota Land Cruiser review. Navigation is also standard, but Toyota's own connectivity software, Entune, is fiddly, and the nine-inch touchscreen's resolution is out of date. Both HD Radio and SiriusXM satellite radio are also standard, as is a CD player for those who are stuck in the 1990s. A rear-seat entertainment system with dual 11.6-inch screens is available optionally.
With the Land Cruiser being on sale for so long, using more or less the same engine and platform, it's little surprise that only three recalls were issued in recent years. In 2018, it was for a sensor wire that could break and deactivate the airbags and a fuel pump that could fail. The 2019 recalls concerned a load capacity label becoming unreadable over time and the same two recalls that afflicted the 2018 model. No recalls have yet been issued for the 2020 or 2021 Land Cruisers. Notably, there have also been very few complaints. In 2018, two people complained. The highest number of complaints ever received was way back in the year 2000, and the number was 24. To put that in perspective, it's not odd for a manufacturer to receive triple-digit complaints. If you've ever wondered why Toyota continues to sell obviously outdated vehicles, that's your answer.
The Land Cruiser is covered by a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Toyota also sweetens the deal by including a maintenance plan for two years or 25,000 miles. For the first five years, you are covered for corrosion perforation.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has had a Land Cruiser around for their usual crash reviews. This shouldn't put prospective customers off, however. The Land Cruiser comes with many traditional and advanced safety systems.
The Land Cruiser has been kept updated through the years in terms of its safety specification. It has ten airbags (including curtain airbags for all rows), traction and stability control, a hill-start assist, and a rearview camera. The Toyota Safety Sense-P safety suite consists of a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, auto high beams, radar-guided cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure alert. Images of the vehicle's surroundings are projected onto the central screen via the handy surround-view camera system.
The 2021 Toyota Land Cruiser is a pricey proposition, but nothing comes close to it in terms of sheer rugged performance. People do buy it as a luxury road cruiser, but they would be better served by a large luxury crossover. For those that rely on the off-road ability and are willing to pay for the Land Cruiser's reputation for reliability and the luxury trappings, it's best in class. However, dwindling sales in the US means it is scheduled for retirement. The rest of the world will get a new generation, but this is the final model year for the US. We suggest that if you've been sitting on the fence, now is the time to grab one. Just don't expect to pick up a discount as sales are already strong based on the news.
The price of the Land Cruiser begins at an MSRP of $85,665 for the base model. By upgrading to the Heritage model, the Toyota Land Cruiser will cost $87,995. These prices exclude the destination charge of $1,365 in the US.
The Land Cruiser lineup consists of the standard model and the Heritage Edition. Both models are powered by a naturally-aspirated 5.7-liter V8 mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It sends the power to a permanent 4x4 system with a low-range transfer case.
At the base price, the feature count includes LED exterior lights, a power tailgate, and a sunroof. Both models get 18-inch alloy wheels.
On the inside, it has powered front seats with ventilation and heating, four-zone climate control, semi-aniline perforated leather seats, and a nine-inch split-screen infotainment system with built-in navigation and Bluetooth connectivity. The standard sound system is a 14-speaker JBL setup. Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren't available.
The Heritage Edition, which celebrates 60 years of Land Cruiser, is carried over from last year. It was initially supposed to be sold in limited quantities but is now part of the model range until it's eventually discontinued. It comes with the same standard specification as the base Land Cruiser but adds bronze BBS aluminum alloys, dark exterior accents on the grille and headlights, and a Megawarrior roof rack. On the inside, the black leather seats are finished off with bronze contrast stitching.
With the Land Cruiser being so handsomely specced to begin with, there isn't much you can add to it. The only package is a rear-seat entertainment system ($2,220), which adds two individual 11.6-inch displays and wireless headphones. Media can be played via DVD or an HDMI input. There are a bunch of practical standalone accessories as well. Examples include a Four Season Floor Mat Package for $487 and an all-weather cargo mat for $100.
With just two trim levels available, and considering it's in its final year in the US, we would simply go for the Heritage Edition for an extra $2,330 dollars. The gold BBS wheels and interior trimmings are worth the price alone and likely won't hurt the resale price later when it becomes an outright classic. We typically shy away from buying extras like floor mats from a dealership as the aftermarket is excellent for that kind of thing, but we would add the Four Season Floor Mat Package here as well as the rear cargo mat. If we knew kids would be in the backseat regularly for long journeys or camping trips, we would also bite the bullet and get the rear entertainment screens.
The Sequoia is the Land Cruiser's smaller, less expensive brother. It also offers seating for up to eight people and is also an off-road icon. There are other similarities as well. Both use the same naturally-aspirated V8 engine and have a hefty appetite for fuel. In the Sequoia, the V8 is mated to the older six-speed automatic transmission. It's also available in rear-wheel drive or with a part-time 4WD system. The main reasons the Sequoia is so much cheaper than the Land Cruiser are the former's lack of a full-time four-wheel-drive, terrain response, the fancy crawl feature, and a general downgrade in materials. Choosing between the two will depend on how much you have to spend. They essentially do the same job, with the Sequoia being less refined. Its interior, for example, is an ergonomic nightmare. Still, if you want a dependable eight-seat off-roader, both of these vehicles will do the job.
The 4Runner is a step down in size and by comparison, it can only fit seven people. In addition to that, it's not nearly as spacious or luxurious as the Land Cruiser, but it does have the same solid reputation for reliability and off-road prowess. In its segment, the 4Runner is the towing champion thanks to an old-school 4.0-liter V6 with 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque. It may not be a match for the Land Cruiser when it comes to luxury and on-road presence but it does have the same sort of character and the same no-nonsense approach. The 4Runner is by far the best off-roader in its segment, which otherwise consists of cars like the Ford Edge and Hyundai Santa Fe. If you can live without the luxury and space, the 4Runner represents excellent value. It's around $50,000 less than the Land Cruiser.
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