Toyota Land Cruiser Overview

toyota land cruiser grillFew trucks or SUVs are as well-known around the globe as the Toyota Land Cruiser. For decades, this vehicle's rugged and durable nature has allowed it to be used in the world's most extreme environments. Early Land Cruisers were designed mainly for utilitarian use, but models since the 1980s have become much more suited for the general consumer. The history of the Toyota Land Cruiser dates back to the early 1950s. At that time, Toyota was interested in building a four-wheel-drive vehicle similar to the U.S. military's Jeep, for use by Japan's police services. The result was the four-cylinder BJ20 and the six-cylinder FJ20. Soon after, Toyota gave this original "20 Series" vehicle the Land Cruiser name.

Though Toyota introduced the FJ20 to the U.S. market in 1958, it is that vehicle's replacement -- the FJ40 Land Cruiser that debuted a few years later -- that most people recognize as being the classic Land Cruiser. This FJ40 and its four-door SUV variant, the 55 Series, were well known for their rugged and durable nature and recently served as inspiration for Toyota's introduction of the retro-themed FJ Cruiser SUV. Modern Toyota Land Cruisers still maintain their forebears' focus on off-road ability but are now much more upscale, comfortable and accommodating. This is particularly true of the current, fifth-generation Land Cruiser, which is packed to the gills with luxurious features yet retains the off-road prowess buyers have come to expect.

toyota land cruiser tail lightsAs ever, the Toyota Land Cruiser is a large SUV on a traditional body-on-frame design, though it's admirably difficult to discern this from the cabin's coddling confines. Motivation comes exclusively from a 5.7-liter V8 that churns out 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, rectifying the relative power shortage that plagued the new Cruiser's predecessor and more than offsetting the SUV's hefty weight A six-speed automatic channels this output to all four 26 gfg wheels via the Land Cruiser's full-time 4WD system with selectable low-range gearing. "Crawl Control" further enhances the drivetrain's capability by maintaining a fixed ultra-slow velocity for hard-core trail-busting.

A Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) is available, enabling the front and rear antiroll bars to stiffen or relax automatically as conditions change; the theoretical payoff is both flatter cornering and superior wheel articulation for off-road applications. The only sour note here is that ground clearance and approach, departure and break-over angles have been reduced slightly from the last Land Cruiser. We're guessing most Land Cruiser buyers won't mind, since this SUV still offers superior off-road capability while raising the level of luxury to new heights. The Cruiser's decadent interior comes standard with leather upholstery, a four-zone climate control system, a 14-speaker audio system, three rows of seating for up to eight people and parking sensors all around.

toyota land cruiser headlightsOnly one trim level is available, so if you want more than that, you'll have to resort to the options list. Notable Toyota Land Cruiser Accessories include a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a navigation system and wood trim. In our reviews, we've expressed admiration for the greatly improved on-road performance and composure of the current Toyota Land Cruiser, as well as its slightly improved fuel economy and sumptuous accommodations. (The third-row seat is still only for kids, though.) However, we're not convinced that Toyota did the right thing by lowering the default ground clearance without offering a height-adjustable suspension.

A vehicle that has staked its reputation on superior off-road performance deserves class-leading ground clearance -- even if you have to press a button to achieve it. We also have our reservations about the Land Cruiser's lofty price, especially with desirable options. The current Toyota Land Cruiser represents the fifth generation, which was introduced for 2008. Compared to its predecessors, the wheelbase dimensions didn't change, but the big Toyota added 2.4 inches of length and an extra inch of width and height. More power, more luxury features and more space were all welcome for the new model. There have been no major changes since, though 2007-'09 models lacked the current model's advanced telematics system (Toyota Safety Connect) and expanded audio connectivity.