Toyota’s Rarest SUV Dwarfs the Land Cruiser
When Japan’s military decided that it needed a new general purpose vehicle with serious off-road chops in the mid-1990s, Toyota got the nod to build the BXD10, which looks suspiciously similar to another vehicle built in the U.S. by AM General: the Humvee.
And just like the Humvee, fans of the supersized Toyota military truck could buy their own street-legal version that was internally coded as the BXD20, but better known as the Mega Cruiser, which was a play on the name of the Land Cruiser.
Although the military vehicles had multiple body styles, the Mega Cruiser was only available as a wagon-ish four-door SUV, with the option for a “high roof” version that stepped up headroom over the rear seats and cargo area.
How big is the Toyota Mega Cruiser?
Lest you think the Mega Cruiser is a direct copy of the Hummer, it’s actually larger. How much larger? About 15 inches longer, up to 10 inches taller (depending on the roof configuration), and carrying a half-inch more ground clearance than its American cousin.
Compared to the J100 Land Cruiser that was in production at the time, the Mega Cruiser is about eight inches longer, but a full nine inches wider and approximately nine inches taller.
In spite of its considerable length, the Mega Cruiser has a surprisingly tight turning radius of just 18.4 feet, which is less than a modern Toyota Camry. This is accomplished through the miracle of four-wheel steering, which allows the rear wheels to turn up to 12 degrees in either direction.
Under the Mega Cruiser’s hood, we find a 4.1-liter turbocharged diesel that was woefully underpowered for the off-roader’s curb weight of more than 6,300 pounds. The four-cylinder diesel has just 153 horsepower and isn’t much better in the torque department, with 282 pound-feet.
According to Road and Track, the published zero to 60 time for this beast was a leisurely 20.6 seconds, but in the high-altitude Rocky Mountains where the vehicle was tested, it couldn’t even reach 60 MPH in any amount of time, topping out at around 50 MPH.
Things went better during the off-road portion of the test where the Mega Cruisers impressive approach and departure angles came into play, along with its 16.5 inches of ground clearance.
Like the Hummer H1, that ground clearance comes at the expense of the running gear being tucked up into the passenger compartment, with a huge transmission tunnel separating the front seat passengers. Also present are locking differentials front, rear, and center, as well as an optional onboard tire inflation/deflation system.
How many Toyota Mega Cruisers are there?
Only 149 Mega Cruisers were built for the civilian market between 1995 and 2002, some of which are now eligible for import into the United States under the 25-year rule. As if such a massive machine isn’t difficult enough to pilot around your downtown streets, remember that vehicles built for the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) are equipped with right hand drive, with the steering wheel and other controls on the right side of the vehicle.
When new, the Mega Cruiser started at 9,620,000 Yen, which was equal to about $85,000 at the time or a hefty $170,000 in today’s dollars. Besides having deep pockets for the initial purchase, buyers also had to pony up a princely sum every time they renewed their truck’s registration because Japan’s tax structure tends to penalize large vehicles.
This, at a time when the entire country was in its “lost decade”—a hangover period of slow (or negative) economic growth following the boom times of the ’80s.
How much does a Toyota Mega Cruiser cost today?
In 2022, one very special Toyota Mega Cruiser was imported into the U.S. after reportedly first spending some time in the United Arab Emirates, where it received a full conversion to left-hand drive, as well as luxury touches like heated leather seats, an in-cabin refrigerator, and an entertainment system with subwoofer and multiple display screens. In a recent sale, this one-of-a-kind riff on an already rare off-roader fetched a whopping $310,000 on the Cars & Bids auction site.
Later in 2022, a second already-imported Mega Cruiser—this one totally stock including its RHD configuration—hit Cars & Bids. That truck was bid up to $152,000 but ultimately failed to meet its reserve price.
If you’re yearning for your own Japanese Hummer, but funds are tight, the military BXD10 seems much more affordable, owing to its lack of creature comforts and higher production numbers. In fact, a pickup truck version was also featured on Cars & Bids last year, selling for a mere $36,000.