by Jay Traugott
For the last six decades, Toyota's Land Cruiser has dominated the serious off-road SUV scene for those that like to blend their off-roader's credentials with on-road comfort. Although many advancements have been made in terms of comfort and convenience, the Land Cruiser retains its original strength, which is superior go-anywhere ability. Available in one model only, the 2018 Land Cruiser is powered by a 5.7-liter V8 gasoline engine, which drives all four wheels. Mechanically identical to the Lexus LX; the Toyota cuts back on the luxury a little for the sake of a friendlier price of entry. The Land Cruiser offers much more than most rivals when it comes to ability in technical off-road terrain and remains a brilliant choice for the adventurer. Although this large, luxury SUV does not offer the best in terms of fuel economy, it is fully-loaded with a host of safety features, a premium audio system and comfortable seating for seven. Robust off-road ability and long-standing reliability, can the genuine off-roader survive the onslaught of faux-by-four crossovers?
The Land Cruiser was previously updated in 2016, with Toyota adding a little more for 2018 to keep things current. The 2018 model year upgrades include an optional rear-seat entertainment system and some advanced off-road driver aids. Power folding exterior mirrors have also been included for the new year.
The Land Cruiser is characterized by an imposing, somewhat aging (or is it timeless?) boxy shape, with heavy-duty front and rear mudguards, color-coded rear spoiler, moonroof, and side-body chrome moldings. It also features projector-beam LED headlights, 18-inch split-spoke alloy wheels, power-folding exterior mirrors, automatic wipers, and roof rails. Solid underbody skid plates protect the front suspension, radiator, and fuel tank, while an integrated tow hitch receiver and wiring harness cater to the adventurous spirit present in every Land Cruiser buyer.
One thing is certain - the Land Cruiser is a large SUV. The body-on-frame chassis construction doesn't result in any severe weight penalty over rivals, with a curb weight of 5,815 lbs, less than both the Lincoln Navigator and Lexus LX. Although sharing many similarities with the Lexus, the Land Cruiser is a few inches shorter in height, standing 74 inches tall, and at 194.9 inches bumper-to-bumper, it's shorter than both the Lexus or Lincoln. It measures 78 inches wide, identical to its Lexus sibling, while also sharing a 112.2-inch wheelbase. Crucially, it offers 8.9 inches of ground clearance, matched with a 30-degree approach angle and a departure angle of 20 degrees. A 21-degree breakover angle for the Land Cruiser is above average and will ensure you do not get hung-up on tricky terrain.
The color palette for the Land Cruiser remains unchanged from 2018 and is limited to six colors, with five of these being no-cost hues. Standard options include Midnight Black Metallic, Blue Onyx Pearl, Brandywine Mica, Magnetic Gray Metallic, and Classic Silver Metallic. A sixth option, the exclusive Blizzard Pearl hue, is available for an additional $395. Although not a particularly extensive palette, the available exterior hues suit the elegant look of this large Japanese SUV, and Blizzard Pearl, in particular, is a popular choice, looking as good clean as it does when showing off your latest muddy excursion.
Available in only one powertrain option, the Land Cruiser is equipped with a 5.7-liter V8 engine that produces a hefty 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque. While this is almost identical to outputs from the Lexus, turbocharged offerings from Lincoln are more powerful. Still, the Land Cruiser is built for hard work, and with a durable large-capacity V8 under the hood, it has a towing capacity of 8,100 lbs, aided by the body-on-frame construction. Acceleration for the benchmark 0-60 mph sprint registers at 7.4 seconds, which is fair for a vehicle weighing almost 6,000 lbs, but the Land Cruiser's talents lie elsewhere, and with four-wheel-drive - as opposed to the typical soft-roader all-wheel-drive configuration - and a dual-range transfer case, the big Toyota was built to go off-road. This is where it excels, ably assisted by high ground clearance and lockable differentials, ensuring it goes where crossover can only dream.
The Land Cruiser's large naturally-aspirated 5.7-liter V8 engine is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and although noisy at start-up is surprisingly quiet and refined in regular use. With 381 hp and 401 lb-ft on tap, overtaking is effortless, with an abundance of torque carrying the heavy off-roader effortlessly. The transmission acts with an eagerness to get into top gear, an attempt to save fuel that belies every other aspect of the Land Cruiser, but it's a trait that proves frustrating, particularly at low speed where the Land Cruiser can't rely on momentum to carry it up hills.
However, once on the move, the Land Cruiser offers up a refined driving experience, with a hearty V8 thrum playing soundtrack to the whole experience. Off-road, the V8 engine's torque becomes truly apparent by engaging the low-range side of the transmission. It may be slow going, but the Land Cruiser seems capable of conquering anything before it, and the V8 is an integral part of that invincibility.
Surprisingly, this huge off-roader offers a smooth and comfortable drive. The Land Cruiser's suspension absorbs most surface imperfections with ease and its steering is precise and solid, allowing the driver to accurately place it, even on narrower roads. Equipped with Toyota's Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, the Land Cruiser proffers relatively low levels of body roll around corners and steers with confidence. Naturally, grip from the all-terrain tires isn't exceptional, but it's more than ample for on-road use. However, the body on frame construction is inescapable, and steering inputs are always met by a moment's hesitation as the chassis and body negotiate before responding.
The construction gives it a benefit off-road, though, where you're aided by the multi-info display indicating tire direction, to assist in negotiating blind rises and tricky terrain. When traversing rough terrain, the locking center differential and off-road appropriate drive modes make for confidence-inspiring progress. Toyota's crawl control operates as a low-speed cruise control, and the combination of multi-terrain select and full-time all-wheel drive provides ample grip and excellent traction.
It's no Wrangler, but the Land Cruiser is still capable of getting past just about anything, and with enough creature comforts to keep a family comfortable day to day and on long road trips for the annual family vacation.
A large and heavy SUV with poor aerodynamics, a big V8, and off-road aspirations is never going to return anything but heavy fuel consumption. Achieving 13/18/15 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles, the Land Cruiser's gas mileage estimates are heavier than most family SUVs, only matched by similarly off-road-focused machines. With a tank capacity of 24.6 gallons, the Land Cruiser has a prospective range of almost 370 miles on a full tank, although going off-road will obviously detract from this number. Only needing to use regular unleaded gasoline as opposed to costly premium fuel softens the blow, if only by a little.
Equipped with two full sets of LATCH child-seat restraints and three rows of seating, the Land Cruiser caters to families of all sizes, boasting enough space to seat eight occupants. Although not as large inside as the Lincoln Navigator, the Land Cruiser is nonetheless a generously spaced vehicle. Head- and leg-room is ample in the first and second row, while the third row is an ambitious fit for adults. The front and middle row seats are comfortable and can adjust extensively, with excellent support and lovely semi-aniline leather upholstery. Overall the cabin is luxurious and well-equipped with soft-touch materials and an ergonomically designed dashboard layout, grouping the most important controls and features in reach of the driver. Infotainment is standard comprehensive, tallying a nine-inch touchscreen and 14-speaker JBL audio system. But it's based on an aging architecture, and the newer crop of crossovers provide more comfortable accommodation that looks flashier and more tech-laden.
Eight passengers are catered for in the Land Cruiser, with three in the middle row and - optimistically - three in the third row. The driver and front passenger are both served with heated and ventilated seats with power adjustment. The second row offers similar comfort with some reclining adjustment, while the back row is tight and restrictive with poor legroom and difficult access, particularly for adult occupants. This last row also does not tuck away, instead operating on a fold-down/stow-up basis. Getting in and out of the Land Cruiser requires some energy with a high step up into the cabin, although easy-to-grab handles and running boards assist with this, and the doors open widely to help with ease of ingress. Extensively adjustable front seats and steering create the possibility to find an ideal driving position for both short and tall drivers. Although offering a beautiful, high-quality interior, rivals such as the Lexus feature much more luxury and opulence.
Although the Lexus LX is typically considered the luxurious sibling, the Land Cruiser doesn't give up that title willingly, slathering all seats in premium semi-aniline leather - perforated for easy breathability and ventilation on the front seats. Only two color options exist, Black and Terra, the latter being a chocolatey-brown leather that could also do a good job of hiding mud from weekend off-road trips. While the center console, armrest and some of the cabin trim are also leather-covered, there is an abundance of hard-touch plastic which does detract from the interior's overall ambiance. Rivals offer more sumptuous cabin finishes but seem less likely to stand the test of time.
While utility may be its middle name, that doesn't necessarily mean the Land Cruiser boasts trailer-like cargo volumes with all three rows of seating in place. Instead, it offers 16.1 cubic feet behind the third row, which expands to 43 cubic feet when flipping up the awkward split third-row seats. The maximum storage capacity of 81.7 cubic feet is achieved by folding the second-row seats away, giving the cabin an almost-flat load space to cater to all the camping gear two adventurers could need.
Small items can be stored easily in the cabin, with deep door pockets for slender items. There are cup holders in the front, but these would struggle to fit larger bottles or travel mugs - the lack of depth would result in spillage in any sort of emergency braking situation. There is an armrest with a tray beneath it, and a deep cold box in the center console. A spacious glove box offers a shelf for smartphones or purses, and front seats offer seatback pockets for second-row occupants to use. An overhead console with map lights and sunglass storage is also included as standard.
The Land Cruiser includes a host of standard features, such as multi-stage heated and ventilated front seats, a leather-trimmed and heated steering wheel with satellite controls, and four-zone automatic climate control. Adaptive cruise control, as well as a rearview camera, is present, and the full suite of Toyota Safety Sense features are included (comprised of lane departure alert, pedestrian detection, and automatic high beams). Front and rear parking assist and blind-spot warning help make the huge Toyota SUV less intimidating to switch lanes in – or park. The Land Cruiser also boasts an enhanced multi-terrain monitor with various camera views. Vehicle access is by means of keyless entry with push-button start to fire-up the V8 engine. A power tilt-and-slide moonroof is installed, and all windows are power-operable.
A large nine-inch touchscreen sits in the center of the dashboard and has split-screen capabilities and high-resolution graphics. Paired to a premium JBL audio system, characterized by fourteen speakers and a subwoofer, the infotainment system has satellite radio, CD, USB, and Bluetooth streaming capabilities and can be operated by means of advanced voice recognition. Hands-free phone usage and Siri Eyes Free can be incorporated and integrated navigation is available by means of the Entune Premium App Suite. Apple Car Play and Android Auto are unavailable, which is one debit of an otherwise comprehensive infotainment package. An optional rear-seat entertainment system is available to keep younger passengers occupied on longer journeys. A wireless charging pad for smartphones is also available, although it remains less efficient at recharging larger Smartphones.
One recall for the Land Cruiser was issued at the end of 2018 with regards to a sensor wire which potentially could deactivate the airbags in the vehicle. This affected the Lexus LX as well. Despite this issue, the Land Cruiser scores highly on the J.D. Power Predicted Reliability scale, earning a 4.5 out of 5, which is better than most and among the best. Supported by a three-year/36,000 mile full warranty, five-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty, five-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty, and two-year/25,000 mile maintenance warranty, the Land Cruiser remains one of the most reliable vehicles not just in this class but currently on sale in the USA.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has completed any crash tests or safety evaluations on the Land Cruiser, or the mechanically identical Lexus LX.
Ten airbags are incorporated into the Land Cruiser, as well as driver and front passenger active headrests and active seat belt pre-tensioning systems. The body of the vehicle itself includes side-impact door beams and a head-impact protection structure with energy-absorbing interior trim. Toyota's Safety Sense Pre-Collision System features pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, trailer sway mitigation and dynamic radar-guided cruise control. The Star Safety System incorporates vehicle stability control, traction control, multi-terrain anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.
In this segment, the Land Cruiser has remained an excellent choice over the years - despite the fact that many rivals offer more refined cabins with luxurious trimming. The Land Cruiser performs consistently well as an adventure SUV, due to its powerful V8 engine, superior off-roading capabilities, and robust go-anywhere-without-dying attitude. Although less spacious than some competitors, it has an above-average towing capacity and impressive cargo capacity. With a full suite of safety features, an uncomplicated infotainment system and comfortable cabin, the Land Cruiser is an entirely accomplished large luxury SUV. It also has a proven track record of providing predictable service over the years. It's no crossover, and as such, there's a fair bit of compromise in the ride, handling, and fuel economy. But the Land Cruiser appeals to a very different audience to the typical crossover buyer, and those who want a land Cruiser will appreciate its timelessness.
With only one model available, the Land Cruiser has an MSRP of $84,565, with an added destination charge of $1,295. If the premium Blizzard Pearl exterior paint tickles your fancy, you will need to add a further $395 to your total bill. At this price, the Land Cruiser costs quite a bit more than the Lincoln Navigator (with the base model Navigator priced at $72,055), but remains a cheaper option than the mechanically similar Lexus LX 570, by more than $5,500. Although considered pricey, the Land Cruiser remains a viable option as a large luxury SUV and is definitely a value offering for those buyers who will use its commendable off-road capabilities.
The range is fantastically simple, comprising of only one fully-loaded model. It is powered by Toyota's impressively durable 5.7-liter V8 engine and only runs through a sole gearbox option, the brand's eight-speed automatic transmission. Your only real exterior option is color choice.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, perforated leather upholstery, power seat adjustment, four-zone automatic climate control, three-row seating, and a fully comprehensive suite of safety and assistance features, while infotainment is taken care of by a nine-inch touchscreen and 14-speaker JBL sound system.
5.7-liter V8 Gas
Only one optional package is available for this age-old off-roader, which seems like Toyota's attempt at incorporating more luxurious - and technologically-advanced - options to the range: a rear-seat DVD entertainment system that adds two separate 11.6-inch display monitors with HDMI input, RCA jacks, a remote and two wireless headphones. This optional package is priced at $2,200. There are some accessories that can be added from the Land Cruiser catalog, such as all-weather floor liners and cargo mats, which should appeal to those buyers intending to use their Land Cruisers in winter, off-road, or in muddy tropical conditions.
With only one option available, the only question to ask is, should you buy the Toyota Land Cruiser? The answer is a simple yes. If you desire a competent daily driving large SUV, with outstanding true off-road ability, the Land Cruiser is a compelling choice. It presents as an excellent family carrier too, although fuel costs can be significant. The rear-seat entertainment package is a great addition if you have occupants riding in the back on long journeys, but otherwise, we'd simply opt for the premium white paint option for the glitz and glam it adds.
Lincoln's Navigator is a cheaper full-size SUV option, with prices ranging between $72,055 and $96,905. The Navigator is available in four trim levels, all powered by the same 3.5-liter V6 engine. Although equipped with a smaller powertrain, the Navigator produces significantly more power, whilst providing much better fuel consumption, thanks to its turbocharged configuration. However, the Land Cruiser has the superior towing capacity and outperforms the Navigator off-road, with the Navigator being more of a crossover than all-out SUV. This gives it better road-manners and makes it easier to live with day to day, while it's level of onboard features, especially when fully loaded, are exceptional and outgun the dated offering on the big Toyota. But which to buy? Well if you need to take the family off-road, the Land Cruiser can't be beaten, but if you just need a high-riding family hauler for day to day school runs, the Navigator is the better family SUV.
Virtually identical in terms of mechanical specification, Land Cruiser and Lexus LX offer two slightly different areas of excellence. The Lexus undoubtedly excels in terms of cabin opulence and luxury features, whilst the Land Cruiser provides sterling off-road ability and towing capacity, without the need to worry about scratching the paint on your Lexus badge. With similar cargo volumes, seating options and fuel economy, the difference between these two relates to buyer priorities: comfort and luxury, or utility and practicality? Truth told, the Lexus doesn't offer substantially more than what the Toyota does, and we'd recommend the Land Cruiser for the ultimate bang for your buck luxury off-roader.