Trucks & SUVs

Each Iconic Toyota Land Cruiser Generation Explained

The Toyota Land Cruiser is one of the most rugged and globally recognized SUVs in history. From the legendary Toyota Jeep BJ to the upcoming release of the 2022 Toyota Land Cruiser 300 series, this large and capable off-roader has seen decades of change. Here’s a quick explanation of each iconic Land Cruiser generation.

a 70 Series Land Cruiser generation SUV in a demo driving over an obstacle
Toyota Motor’s 30th anniversary model of “Land Cruiser 70 | YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP via Getty Images

The first Toyota Land Cruiser generation was called a Jeep

The first Toyota Land Cruiser was called the Toyota Jeep BJ. It debuted in 1951. At the time, the U.S. military went to Toyota due to the need of a capable vehicle for efforts in the Korean War, Car and Driver reports.

“The idea was thus: The U.S. could use such a locally sourced truck in conflicts throughout the region.”

Car and Driver

The first prototype ran Toyota’s B-type 6 cylinder engine. The aesthetic drew inspiration from the military Jeeps driven by U.S. military personal stationed in Japan. Unsurprisingly, the Willy’s legal team came after the Toyota Jeep BJ.

Ownership of the name Jeep belonged to the American manufacturer. So, in order to avoid stepping on the toes of such a trademark, Toyota renamed the new military truck. The first Toyota Land Cruiser sold with new badging in the mid-1950s. The FJ40 is a well-loved model even today, and restored builds are sought after and pricey.

When did we get the Land Cruiser in America?

The 20 Series Land Cruiser entered the market as the new “civilian version” of the military truck. According to Gear Patrol, this Land Cruiser generation made a more stylish appeal to consumers with a curvier body style and roomier cabin.

Toyota also improved on the suspension and shortened the wheelbase. This is also the first Toyota Land Cruiser that ever made it stateside. It came over with the Toyopet Crown sedan in 1958 as part of Toyota’s first year of U.S. sales.

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The 40 Series, 55 Series, and 60 Series

The next three generations continued to improve off-road capability. The Land Cruiser 40 Series was the first model to introduced low gear shifting for better obstacle maneuverability. This model was sold in the U.S. until 1983.

The Land Cruiser 55 Series wagon was a larger, more family-oriented version of the SUV. A little less rugged, but still just as iconic, the 55 Series came out in 1967. In 1975, both the 40 Series and the 55 Series switched to a larger 4.2-liter 6-cylinder engine. The three-speed transmission also saw an upgrade to a new four-speed version.

a press photo of the Toyota Land Cruiser 55 series wagon against a white backdrop
Toyota Land Cruiser 55 Series | Toyota Global

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In 1980, Toyota made the switch from the 55 to the 60 Series Toyota Land Cruiser generation. Although this model made massive improvements to on-road comfort, it held true to its rugged DNA. Live axles up front and in the rear plus standard power to all four wheels made this an epic family off-roader.

The 60 Series also saw an engine swap. Trading in the previous 4.2-liter for a 4.0-liter 3F-type 6-cylinder engine meant more power and torque. Despite decreased displacement, the Land Cruiser’s specs went from 125 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque to 155 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque.

The 70 Series replaces the Land Cruiser FJ40

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We didn’t get the 70 Series generation in the U.S. This model replaced the 40 Series or FJ40 Land Cruiser. The 70 Series was every bit an off-road truck. In fact, we drove a 70 Series for a month last year in Costa Rica and it served us well whether we were driving on a dirt road to the market or virtually straight up a cliff.

After some modern improvements in 1990, the 70 Series made way for the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado. In some parts of the world, you can still buy a brand new 70 Series. But in 1996 it was replaced elsewhere by the 90 Series Land Cruiser Prado.

The Prado is another great Land Cruiser model that blends space and comfort with down and dirty rugged capability. Incidentally, the 90 Series didn’t make it to the U.S. market either.

The 80 Series and the Lexus LX450

The 80 series released in 1990. The four-wheel-drive system saw massive upgrades, according to Car and Driver. Now a full-time system, it could drive on “dry pavement without binding.” In 1993, a new 6-cylinder engine added more power, and optional locking differentials in the front and rear meant this new Toyota Land Cruiser had even better capability off-road.

In 1995, Lexus took on the Land Cruiser and added it to its luxury lineup. Called the LX450, this model was sold alongside the Toyota Land Cruiser 80 Series. The two SUVs were virtually the same vehicle, apart from Lexus badging and appointments––and the price tag.

a 1991 Toyota Land Cruiser 80 series parked off-road in the mountains
1991 Toyota Land Cruiser | Toyota

The V8 engine debuts

A few years later, in 1998, Toyota replaced the 80 Series with an all-new Toyota Land Cruiser 100 Series. This was the first Land Cruiser generation to get the V8 engine. Toyota also made improvements to the structural rigidity and replaced the live front axle with an independent front suspension.

The Lexus LX470 shared a mechanical platform with the 100 Series. This model looked a little more different than its corporate cousin. Adaptive dampers and a height-adjustable suspension were seen on the Lexus LX470.

2003 Lexus LX470 | Lexus

The Toyota Land Cruiser 120 Series was sold overseas as the Land Cruiser Prado. However, it donned Lexus badging and sold in North America as the Lexus GX470.

The Toyota FJ Cruiser

In 2007, Toyota released the FJ Cruiser. This boxy SUV drew style inspiration from the original FJ40. After issues with blindspots and on-road manners, Toyota pulled the FJ Cruiser from production in 2014, Car and Driver reports.

Toyota Land Cruiser generations

The 150 Series Prado made its way to U.S. soil under Lexus badging as well. Sold in the states as the Lexus GX460, this is a luxury off-road SUV. After testing the 2021 Lexus GX460, I’ll say it certainly maintains the off-road roots. But handling on-road isn’t fantastic and there are other large luxury SUVs with a larger cargo hold and better passenger accommodations.

In 2008, the Toyota Land Cruiser 200 Series debuted. The 2021 model is also a 200 Series, which explains a lot of the negative critique this model receives for its aged features and styling. Still highly capable, however, this large off-road SUV successfully toes the line between a luxury family SUV and a backcountry beast.

The current (2008-2021) Toyota Land Cruiser generation driving off-road
2021 Toyota Land Cruiser | Toyota

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Lexus also produces a version of the 200 Series. We know it as the Lexus LX570. This model continues to veer away from the Toyota in style, but remains virtually the same underneath.

Recent leaked photos and information on the upcoming 2022 Toyota Land Cruiser 300 series have people hyped. That said, no one is clear on whether or not it will come to the states. There’s a pretty good chance we will only get it here as a new Lexus LX model. But at this point, no one really knows.