Words like “Icon” and “Legend” get thrown around a lot in the automotive marketplace. Along with terms like “inspired by” and “an homage to” also thrown in. But there are a few deserving the title of greatness, and in SUV’s, you’d have to include Toyota’s Land Cruiser.
First of all, it’s been around a long time, 60+ years. And while we’ve been through many iterations of the Cruiser, despite growing larger, more powerful and more luxurious along the way, it has always maintained its ruggedness, its off-road capability, and unbreakable nature.
And it’s a world-wide favorite – from the Sahara to Siberia, Antarctica to Australia,…you get the idea. Land Cruiser’s been there and done that. Got the t-shirt (or coffee mug) and came back.
So, heck yeah, let’s celebrate.
The first thing we love about the Heritage Edition – it’s subtle. You have a choice of two colors – Blizzard Pearl, or our tester’s Midnight Black Metallic. Adding a touch of sinister are a black accented grille, and darkened headlight housings, fog lights with dark chrome surrounds and darkened side mirrors. Sitting atop bronze-colored 18-inch BBS alloy wheels (which actually look kind of small on such a big beast) and featuring a “Toyota” center cap – no “Snappy Tom” brand logo here – this is old school at its best.
Speaking of which, we absolutely love the script-style, vintage-look Land Cruiser badges on the D-pillars. Tasteful and very, very, cool.
To enhance its overlanding focus, the running boards and chrome lower body side moldings have been deleted. While that is a neat, functional look, it also means you’ll need to use the grab handle and pull yourself up to the seat. It’s a ways up there.
Big on the outside, huge on the inside, the Cruiser’s spacious cabin is a wonderful blend of function and premium. You sit high in comfortable chairs, made all the nicer by the Heritage’s black trimmed leather with bronze contrasting stitching throughout the cabin. It is a beautifully curated interior – the rugged, no-nonsense approach to switchgear location feels truck-smart, while the softness of the leathers and high-quality trims throughout make it feels as upscale as any model from snooty sister-brand Lexus.
The big, round analogue tach and speedo fit the vibe perfectly, with a digital driver assist display in between serving up helpful info. There’s a massive 9-inch touchscreen, with a great-sounding Premium JBL Audio with 14-speakers and integrated Navigation, split-screen capability, Siri Eyes Free, Qi wireless charging, SiriusXM and Bluetooth. All great, but the lack of Apple CarPlay is a big-surprise in Toyota’s flagship SUV.
Those in back are well looked after – rear seat room is excellent, especially since it is exclusively a 5-seater with no 3rd row. That lack of a back row makes for a huge cargo hold that becomes gargantuan with the second row folded, tilted, or even removed.
One area where the Land Cruiser has never strayed is its commitment to rugged all-terrain capability. Under the hood is 5.7-liters of DOHC V8 muscle, punching out 381 horsepower and a 401 lb.-ft tsunami of torque. Teamed to a responsive 8-speed automatic, the Cruiser can pick up its hiking boots and storm off towards the horizon better than something that big, blocky and heavy out to have a right to.
Take advantage of the power and you’ll be looking at 14 mpg like we did, but we doubt that a ‘Cruiser buyer is concerned about Prius-like efficiency. You’ll also be able to bring along the toys, as the big Toy features an 8,100 lb. towing capacity.
While it’s powerful, it’s also impressively refined – no surprise as the Land Cruiser competes around the world with the best Luxury SUV’s on the planet. The ride is supple too, with a long-travel suspension and relatively high-profile tires.
A nice surprise – it’s whisper quiet, except for the roof-rack carrier box on our tester that loved to whistle in the wind. We’d ditch that box for the day-to-day anyway, as it simply makes the LC too tall to park in just about any garage you can find.
The Land Cruiser is a lovely long-distance machine, and with its wonderful visibility and tall seating position, you could happily drive one as your daily luxury vehicle without ever tipping your toes into a trail.
If you should decide to go off-roading, it is hard to imagine another vehicle so capable. The full-time 4WD system features a TORSEN limited slip locking center diff and 2-speed transfer case with selectable low range.
That’s great hardware, but the Cruiser also brings loads of software, including Downhill Assist Control, Hill Start Assist, CRAWL Control, and Off-Road Turn Assist.
You’ve also got a Multi-Terrain Select system, which lets the driver select wheel slip control to the surface and driving conditions. There’s even a Multi-Terrain Monitor that provides nearly 360-degree visibility – great on tight trails and also tight parking spots! Get into the rough, and you’ll go with confidence, with skid plates for the front suspension, radiator, fuel tank, and transfer case.
Depends who you compare to. There are two trim levels of Land Cruiser – the base model starts at $85,415. Our Heritage Edition was $87,745. With no available packages, and $1,325 Delivery, our tester was out the door at $89,070.
The value player in this segment would be the Nissan Armada, which comes in at a comparatively cheap $69,875. It’s a great vehicle, and also a capable off-roader, probably the thing it lacks most is the cache of the Land Cruiser name, but still worth considering. The closest would be the Lexus LX 570 which shares all the Toyota’s mechanical components, but adds an additional layer of luxury, and styling that’s not to all tastes, and comes in at $94,175.
Pricier Competition would be the Range Rover, which would also be ultra-capable off-road and loaded with luxury but getting something comparable would be at least $111,000. Gulp.
The Land Cruiser continues to appeal though. It’s premium without shouting “look at me”, incredibly capable in all conditions, and enjoys a rich history few competitors can match. And the Heritage Edition’s small touches make you smile even more.
Icon. Legend. Ultimate luxury off-roader. Whatever you want to call it, we love the 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.