It would be badge engineering at its finest.
The Toyota Land Cruiser might return to the US as a rebadged and slightly redesigned Lexus GX. Lexus' new luxury off-roader has made its global debut, and keen observers will note that the exterior has more Toyota DNA than expected. There are some key Lexus design elements, but it basically looks like the Toyota Sequoia's cousin that went to a private school.
There may be a good reason for this. According to Automotive News, Toyota is considering bringing the Land Cruiser Prado to the USA, which will be the GX's Toyota contemporary when it arrives next year. A person familiar with the matter said Toyota may drop the Prado part of the nomenclature and simply sell it as the Land Cruiser.
In doing so, Toyota will bring the beloved badge back to America without treading on the Lexus LX's toes.
The Land Cruiser hasn't been available in the USA for more than two years, though there have been various reports about its return. Late last year, Toyota's executive vice president for sales said that the Land Cruiser's return is likely, but that fans shouldn't get excited just yet. A Land Cruiser with manufacturer's plates was spotted in the USA earlier this year, which is also a good sign.
Still, the current Land Cruiser doesn't fix Toyota's problem with the old model. At the end of its life, the previous-generation Land Cruiser cost $90,000, and consumers couldn't stomach that price. The LX eventually outsold the Land Cruiser, if only because it had a more prestigious badge on its nose.
The same would likely happen if Toyota launched the full-size Land Cruiser in the USA. The Japanese automaker would pick up a few sales from hardcore fans, and that's about it.
That's why it would make sense to badge engineer the new Lexus GX and call it a Land Cruiser. It can slot in above the Sequoia but below the Lexus LX. There's a lot of wiggle room to exploit, as the most expensive Sequoia (the Capstone) retails for roughly $77,000, while the most expensive LX costs around $107,000. (We opted against the four-seat LX 600 Ultra Luxury because it's a niche product.)
There might be some overlap, but the SUV market continues to grow. The market is arguably already saturated with options, so Toyota might as well add another.
We now know that a 3.4-liter twin-turbocharged V6 powers the GX and that a hybrid will become available later. This might be the mild-hybrid version of the V6, but rumors of a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-pot hybrid have been making the rounds for months. This particular model could be for the Japanese market, but it might as well be a unique selling point for the Land Cruiser (formerly known as Prado) in the United States.
Toyota has used its TNGA-F platform brilliantly, now covering multiple segments and body styles. Toyota has the midsize truck segment covered with the new Tacoma, while the Tundra is trying to find traction in the big leagues. Lexus has the upper echelons covered, and the Sequoia is doing great things in the three-row off-road segment. We also think the new GX offers enough over and above the latter to justify its existence. Not to mention the all-new TX, which is a three-row SUV for those who don't need hardcore off-road ability.
A rebadged and restyled GX called a Land Cruiser would end up in the same segment as the Sequoia. We're not sure people would pay more for a "Land Cruiser" badge because loyal fans would know it's not the real deal.
Or it's a smart move that we're not seeing. Either way, your money will end up going to the same headquarters.