Driving the incredible Land Cruiser for a week is a major dream-come-true for any car reviewer.
So legendary! So rare!
Practically speaking, Land Cruiser is also a test of skills to describe – and do this unique machine justice. But all the while? A huge grin on my face and a major thrill to accept this challenge.
What makes Land Cruiser so special? For one, it sits proudly atop the Toyota hierarchy in terms of pricing. This is the most expensive Big T by far.
Continuous production since 1951 is evidence of enduring appeal.
And sure, Land Cruiser’s worldwide acclaim as the (de facto) official vehicle of NATO and the United Nations helps establish credibility too.
At its core, Land Cruiser includes much more capability than any normal owner will need.
But who ever turned down anyone for being overqualified?
The fact that Land Cruiser is an icon offroad in the toughest spots on the planet speaks volumes. It means that normal, posh life in the USA will barely toe the waters of its skills. Hauling eight people? Towing four tons? No trouble doing both at the same time.
We have three (!) videos of the big softie and a few dozen photos of the truck to accompany normal section headings of Exterior, Interior, Performance and Pricing.
Land Cruiser was refreshed for the 2016 modelyear with a new nose, new tail and fresh details for the wheels and all lighting.
Its core silhouette is still extremely familiar – and speaks to how gracefully the truck will mature. Land Cruiser will still look classy and posh in 2027. Can you say the same for Escalade or Range Rover? Not really.
The exterior refresh is superficial, yes, but also deeply functional. Of course. Halogen reflector headlamps are replaced by searingly-bright quad LED projector beams. LEDs take over for the foglamps too – while Auto Highbeams join a big upgrade on the safety front.
A tasteful and barely trendy LED accent of white light lives below the main lamps – but that outboard projector at 70-percent strength still forms the safety-minded daytime light. With nearly 6000 pounds of vehicle… it seems only fair to warn oncoming traffic, right?
The bodysides of Land Cruiser are clean but have some crisp, subtle fender flaring and accent lines. Mostly, you just see a familiar blackout of glass and dark pillars. Out back, the bumper and tailgate are fresh designs with integrated cameras, parking sensors and new LED optics for the brake lights.
Beyond what’s new, how does Land Cruiser look in 2017? Instead of one or two rivals, these days there are dozens of three-row SUVs out there. With more and more luxury-brand SUVs arriving to market rapidly.
We actually still love the big LC’s bluff, tall body and its clean lines. Yes, it is massive and imposing. But also non-aggressive and clearly expensive – regardless of the badge.
Its giant wheel wells and meaty, offroad tires speak to Land Cruiser’s capability offroad. As do its near-zero overhangs front or rear. A tall overall ride height helps the do-it-all machine be better offroad than 99-percent of the world’s trucks.
Are there areas where Land Cruiser is slightly less modern than rivals? Sure. As we’ll touch on elsewhere in this review… LC lacks power deployable running boards or auto-lowering air suspension.
There is wisdom in this, however: as these systems might be the first to fail in the harshest of environments. Land Cruiser is over-engineered from day one to go 300,000 miles with minimal maintenance. Any parts or goodies that cannot pass that reliability standard are chucked at inception. So there is some logic in sticking to proven mechanicals.
Nowhere is the unbelievable quality of Land Cruiser more on display than inside this cabin. Holy wow. You will be astounded at the Bentley-soft leathers with their Armani-ish aromas permeating every inch of the cabin. Every land Cruiser we’ve tried this generation has been intoxicatingly seductive with its aromatics inside.
Perhaps a detail thing. But details matter at all price points – and particularly so above $80k.
So does comfort, obviously. Here Land Cruiser scores a bullseye versus Escalade or Navigator, let alone Tahoe or Expedition. Land Cruiser is simply SILENT at all times. It is SMOOTH like a glassy lake even over big bumps. Save your adaptive/magnetic/airmagic suspensions…. Land Cruiser beats them all for instant, permanent coziness and comfort over bumps.
So Land Cruiser makes great first impressions with its plushness and hushed nature at all times.
The reddish caramel (“Terra” in Toyota-speak) leathers inside pair with dark floormats and black leather for the dash and door touchpoints. Soft barely does these justice. There are rougher baby’s cheeks. The semi-aniline finish of the leather is to thank – and makes the Nappa leather from some carmakers feel like vinyl.
The entire machine feels like it could fall off a cliff and be just as robustly assembled at the bottom.
Luxury abounds inside Land Cruiser – with lovely touches like the auto setting for the cooled and heated seats recalling your last setting when you get in. Or the new proximity handles that make blipping they keyfob a thing of the past. Just stick your paw around handle to unlock, and tap handle to lock on exit.
Not having to touch the keyfob much is actually a blessing. Why? Because this low-rent detail betrays the lowcost Toyota roots more than anything else. Just lock/unlock/panic buttons, without dedicated buttons for the optional remote start.
And without control of a power tailgate – let alone a handsfree one. LC has a two piece trunk access that is fully manual. Forgiveable, yes. But when this feature is on middling RAV4s… but missing on Land Cruiser at triple the price… it does make you wonder.
The remote start option is also clunky. It is confusing to operate, slow to actually start the machine, and kills the engine the moment you get inside. Curiously yestertech.
Luckily, these are about the only dated pieces of the cabin. The giant new nine-inch touchscreen nav and infotainment screen sits proud atop the center stack like it’s on the summit of Everest. It is high-res, close to hand and exceedingly simple to operate. The automatic traffic displays on the map are superior to some premium brands – and cost nothing as the signals come through a free HD radio broadcast signal.
The backup camera, surround view cams and parking sensors all make Land Cruiser a snap to park. Seriously! This is the easiest full-size SUV to park in tight lots. Mostly thanks to its amazingly tight turning circle. But big thanks to its great visibility too.
In back, the new Land Cruisers have standard twin infotainment screens to keep second row folks happy and occupied. These 11-inch monitors have the requisite HDMI inputs to play whatever video source, or sources, you prefer. Twin
standard optional wireless headsets can be expanded to four or five headsets, as needed.
Not mounting the screens on the roof saves the driver’s rear visibility but does make third row folks crane their necks. The second row is a bench with no captains chairs available, but serious comfort nonetheless. A huge armrest folds to keep kiddies apart, while these seats tumble to give access to the back row.
The four-zone climate and Sahara-powerful dual AC compressors are up to the brightest sunshine on Earth. Alternatively, the heaters also perform like a dream. Heated second row seats are a nice detail.
The wayback row of LC for 2017 still seats three, which is great versus two in many SUVs. Even big ones. And it is fairly huge back there. Not tons of knee or toe room thanks to the high floor. But more than ample hip, shoulder and headroom.
Moreover, all the seats are dreamy for their level of comfort. Soft yet overstuffed like fine furniture.
One of the back row seats might need to be tilted upward to fit luggage, however, and the 50/50 split means with one seat up you now have only one seatbelt in the wayback. These back seats are also manual (versus powered) in the operation. Gasp! It’s okay, they are still super easy to use.
16 cubic feet of storage with all the seats up is fairly limited – but seems about the same as the much-longer Sequoia can manage. Sequoia’s wayback seat is much better for adults… but that truck is much more unwieldy around town and less capable off-road.
A big part of the LC’s 2016 revamp centered on safety tech. The full suite of active safety solutions is standard: pre-collision warning/prevention, lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control and of course blind spot/rear cross traffic alert.
These are fast becoming must-haves for all family vehicles – and Land Cruiser is right up with the best of the best for active safety.
Passive safety of the ultra-strong frame + unibody construction, eight airbags and new knee airbags ensure your most precious occupants will be safe and sound. This is a truck that can sit upside down on its roof and still open the doors. You sense this intangible strength in the Land Cruiser – and it is a selling point.
We also noted the updated traction and stability control systems. These react faster and smoother than before thanks to hardware and software upgrades.
No vehicle as big as Land Cruiser should have this much hustle!
Just kidding, of course. A surplus of power from LC’s 5.7-liter V8 is part of the whole machine’s appeal. More than any mortal might need – so that what you do ask of the truck is barely scratching the surface of its abilities.
Extra power certainly helps the MANY ballistic armored Land Cruisers around the world stay fast with 2000-pounds of armor. But it also helps in that eight-person, eight-thousand-pound trailer scenario from above.
The new eight-speed automatic was big news on the 2016 revamp and it is a gem. This gearbox ensures Land Cruiser is always in the meat of its powerband. It helps the truck scoot off the line for 6.8-second sprints to 60-mph.
It also improves highway mileage in a big way versus the six-speed autos of many rivals. Granted, Land Cruiser’s fulltime 4×4 design and blocky shape means the big stud does like a drink at the pumps. 13/18 are its EPA numbers, with 15 a realworld average. A match for Escalade, and with a 26 gallon tank to make stop infrequent – albeit expensive.
Fulltime 4×4 seems worth it to avoid that grraunch when parking in 4-High in other big SUVs or trucks.
And of course the simplicity of perfect grip without any modes or knobs to fiddle with.
LC does have a locking center diff for the toughest situations. Crawl control and A-TRAC bring terrain selections and crawl control – demonstrated on video here.
We threw some intense mudpits and sandy trails at the Land Cruiser in the below videos to see how the truck did. And it blew all expectations away! So flawless offroad.
Offroading is usually stressful and taxing on the man and machine. Not so in LC. Just point and go! If facing a big obstacle, just pop to neutral, shift to 4Low and the KDSS suspension automatically does its thing. KDSS hydraulically unhooks the anti-roll bars of the four-wheel independent suspension to give it frankly incredible wheel articulation angles. Land Rovers be damned – the Land Cruiser is better.
No gimmicks like a jacked-up air suspension are necessary to make Land Cruiser unstoppable offroad. It just goes. With very nearly the same poise and silence that it would tackle a suburban road.
What looks impossible for many trucks is barely a sneeze for the LC. More than anyone needs. For what purpose? So that your family’s demands are nowhere near the vehicle’s limits.
While this all sounds rosy, there are some places where the 300k-mile durability of all Land Cruiser parts puts it at a disadvantage versus more modern rivals. Yes, Escalade rides like a bronco versus LC. But it also has much less body roll, and suffers much less squat and dive on gas and brake.
Once you start to trust the body roll is normal around corners, you can genuinely hustle the big LC around twisty roads. But it never quite feels like it loves the irony. Its LX570 sibling from Lexus, alternatively, does love the challenge. Its air springs and adjustable drive modes make it much more suited to fast road driving than LC.
The LX570 also has that adjustable ride height to sink low for easy ingress/egress or pop to the sky for insane ground clearance.
But where LX and Land Cruiser were once priced within a few grand of each other, the Lexus is now significantly pricier. With options, it is kissing $100k while Land Cruiser stays around $85k.
$84,325 is the sticker price for the Land Cruiser. Our tester added $499 for the remote start, $80 for a pair of the remote headsets for rear entertainment, and $304 for the cargo mat/net combo.
Out the door, the Land Cruiser tallies $86,303 and has nearly no factory options. Everything is standard.
While this is a steep cost of entry for a Toyota, the Land Cruiser does feel worth it. Its strong resale values and clearly invincible nature is the reason these trucks are still running – somewhere – even after their first four USA owners have moved on.
The Land Cruiser has the appeal and equipment of its lux-brand rivals. And a price to match.
Luckily its comfort, luxury and quality are at parity with the world’s best too.
What Land Cruiser avoids is the snobbishness of a fancy badge. This is part of the whole safety mission of the truck: LC is not a target like most flashy, $100k SUVs are. Nice for a lack of pretension at the golf course, sure. But seriously helpful when in a scary city center, or, heaven forbid, a war zone.
It is this sense of well-being and protection from ANYTHING that makes Land Cruiser so unique even in 2017.
Land Cruisers will take you to the toughest places on Earth – and get you back safely. This immense strength makes any school run seem like a true doddle.
Long live the iconic Toyota Land Cruiser!
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.