The Toyota Land Cruiser is a dinosaur living in modern times. It roams the roads and off-road trails with zero regard for time marching on, and yet it retains its legendary status in the automotive landscape.
For those who aren’t intimately familiar with the Land Cruiser, it can be confounding as to why automotive enthusiasts continue to be infatuated with this relic.
After spending a week with a 2017 example, I have come up with eight things you need to know about this aging SUV with a cult-like following.
It’s like the ’90s today
If you miss cars from the 1990s, the Land Cruiser should be on your shopping list. It feels like a time capsule with some modern tech thrown in for good measure. Sure, it has a large 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, LED headlights, and modern active safety tech such as automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and rear cross-traffic alerts, but it certainly doesn’t feel new. Inside, it’s packaging is limited by its body-on-frame structure. Its interior layout simply can’t match larger crossovers, or even newer body-on-frame SUVs in terms of flexibility and storage. The pinnacle of these packaging issues is the third-row seat, but more on that later.
For Toyota Land Cruiser enthusiasts that feel the FJ80 was the pinnacle of the Land Cruiser series, good news: The current FJ200’s front end makes the vehicle look like the FJ80’s great grandson.
If you miss the old days, the Land Cruiser is happy to appease you, but if you want a vehicle that feels like it was designed in 2018, the Land Cruiser isn’t it.
The driving experience is also old-school, and that’s our next topic.
The Land Cruiser weighs in at a hefty 5,815 pounds, but with 401 pound-feet of torque and 4-wheel drive on tap, it offers strong acceleration when needed. This isn’t a sporty vehicle, though, so it feels most at home when cruising down the road in a relaxed manner. In fact, it feels somewhat unnatural to try to hustle it, either in a straight line or around a corner. The ride is surprisingly comfortable given its ladder frame construction, but this beast wants to lean over in turns. Toyota does its best to remedy this issue with active roll bars that are part of its standard Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System. The front bar is a massive 1.68 inches in diameter, and these bars can disconnect to allow for wheel articulation when off-roading. While the 8-speed automatic delivers smooth shifts in general, the 1-2 and 2-3 shifts can sometimes be sloppy, and this transmission can occasional get confused when pressed hard.
With a large 5.7-liter V-8 producing 381 horsepower and the aforementioned 401 lb-ft of torque, the Land Cruiser has the power to climb whatever it is you need to climb. Couple this to a full-time 4-wheel-drive system, a chunky solid rear axle, enormous sway bars with a hydraulic disconnect system, big brakes, and a stability control program that is deeply integrated into its off-road package, and the Land Cruiser can pretty much go anywhere. Clearance? Not an issue with an approach angle of 30 degrees, and 9.5-inches of travel in the rear to help articulate the wheels over whatever you need. There’s low-range for the 4-wheel-drive system, and the locking center differential can shift from 50 to 70 percent of the available torque to the rear wheels.