Trucks & SUVs

What’s so Special About the Toyota Land Cruiser?

There are few vehicles as beloved as the Toyota Land Cruiser. Over the years, the Toyota SUV has gone from the bare-bones FJ40 to a luxurious Range Rover rival. But it hasn’t lost its ability to overland, off-road, and just keep on trudging. And yet, there are rumors that the next-gen model may not even come to the US. Despite its reliability and high customer satisfaction, the SUV doesn’t sell well. Perhaps that’s due to it being the most expensive vehicle in Toyota dealerships, with an $85,415 starting price. Does the Toyota Land Cruiser really justify that?

Toyota Land Cruiser specs and features

2020 Toyota Land Cruiser
2020 Toyota Land Cruiser | Toyota

The 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser is available in two trims: base and Heritage Edition. If you want a 3rd-row of seats, the base model’s the one to get.

Both models come with a 5.7-liter V8, which develops 381 hp and 401 lb-ft. That’s linked to an 8-speed automatic, and a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a two-speed transfer case. Other off-road hardware includes a locking center limited-slip differential, multiple skid plates, a body-on-frame design, adjustable suspension with electronically-adjusting sway bars

2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition with FJ40
2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition with FJ40 | Toyota

The Toyota Land Cruiser also offers some electronic off-road tech. There are multiple selectable driving modes, which modify traction control, throttle, and 4WD system based on the terrain. The Land Cruiser also comes with off-road cruise control and several cameras that feed into the infotainment screen to help the driver spot obstacles. Toyota’s advanced driver-assistance suite comes standard, with adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keeping assist.

2020 Toyota Land Cruiser interior front
2020 Toyota Land Cruiser interior front | Toyota

But the Land Cruiser is also a luxury SUV. There’s leather upholstery, built-in navigation, LED headlights, and a 14-speaker JBL audio system. The steering wheel and 2nd-row seats are heated, while the front seats are heated and ventilated. You can also order the SUV with a 2nd-row DVD entertainment system and a center-console-mounted cooler box.

The $87,745 Heritage Edition, as a throwback to the original Land Cruiser, doesn’t get the cooler box or 3rd-row seats. Removing that last row, though, does increase rear cargo space appreciably, Roadshow reports. The Heritage Edition does get, though, bronze BBS alloy wheels, a Yakima roof-mounted basket, and darkened chrome grille surrounds. Also, the Heritage Edition does away with the running boards and lower body moldings, which can catch on rocks and other obstacles.

Where the SUV falls flat

The Toyota Land Cruiser isn’t perfect. For one, the 5.7-liter V8 isn’t particularly fuel-efficient. Car and Driver saw 17 mpg on the highway, matching the EPA’s rating.

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro | Toyota

But the biggest issue is the high asking price. For about $35,000 less, you could buy the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro instead. That, too, has 4WD with transfer case, locking differentials, and skid plates. It can keep up with the Jeep Wrangler on the trail, which means it’s essentially all the off-road SUV most owners will ever need. And it’s just as reliable and long-lasting (apart from some past-gen engine problems).

2020 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro
2020 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro | Toyota

And, if you need a 3rd-row, there’s the Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro. It doesn’t have the 4Runner’s multiple driving modes, but it also gets BBS wheels, Fox shocks, and all the other off-road features the 4Runner has. And it’s still about $20,000 cheaper than the Land Cruiser.

$85,000 is also roughly BMW X7 and Mercedes GLS money. And both those SUVs have better on-road handling while offering more luxurious features and more modern-feeling interiors. Roadshow reports the Toyota Land Cruiser’s 9” touchscreen infotainment is rather dated. In addition, this is a high-end SUV in 2020 that has only 1 USB port, and no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Admittedly, it does come standard with wireless charging.

However, it’s precisely that old-school design that makes the Toyota Land Cruiser special.

Where the Toyota Land Cruiser shines

The Toyota Land Cruiser’s interior may be dated, but it is significantly better than the 4Runner’s. And, arguably, the Land Cruiser’s material quality is worth the upcharge.

2020 Toyota 4Runner interior
2020 Toyota 4Runner interior | Toyota

As rugged as the 4Runner is, many reviews critique it for how cheap and outdated that SUV feels inside. In contrast, The Drive reports everything in the Land Cruiser feels weighty, robust. It feels solid like it’s meant to last for years.

Which, of course, is the case. The Toyota Land Cruiser is highly-recommended on Consumer Reports in part due to that reliability. In fact, overall, the Land Cruiser out-scored both the GLS and X7 in CR’s rankings, due in part because of the latter two’s poorer reliability. It’s not unheard-of for Land Cruisers to last for 200,000 or 300,000 miles.

2020 Land Rover Range Rover
2020 Land Rover Range Rover | Land Rover

A Range Rover may be more luxurious than a Land Cruiser, Autotrader reports, but it doesn’t have anywhere close to the same reputation for reliability. To quote Gear Patrol, “if you buy a new Land Cruiser in 2020, there’s a decent chance emissions legislation will force it off the road before it dies on you.”

The Toyota Land Cruiser can also tow more than the 4Runner or Sequoia TRD Pro. The Land Cruiser can tow up to 8100 pounds, besting the 4Runner TRD Pro’s 5000 lbs and the Sequoia TRD Pro’s 7100 pounds. And the Land Cruiser isn’t just for off-roading. Despite its tall height and suspension, Autotrader reports the ride is comfortable, with not too much body roll.

The conundrum

Then again, the Land Cruiser does make less sense if you’re not off-roading. Which is, unfortunately, the Toyota SUV’s biggest strength and greatest weakness.

2020 Porsche Cayenne
2020 Porsche Cayenne | Porsche

This is a robust, old-school luxurious SUV that can work in urban environments, but there are other SUVs that can do that for less, or with more luxury. And for the vast majority of SUV buyers, who don’t venture terribly-far off-road, a Land Cruiser is probably overkill. Very well-built overkill, yes, but a Porsche Cayenne would likely suffice.

What makes the Toyota Land Cruiser special, then, is exactly what holds it back.

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