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:
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 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 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.
The most popular competitors of 2021 Toyota Land Cruiser: