We wanted to get things straight from the first sentence: the Toyota Land Cruiser is as serious as an off-roader can be. Actually, it’s a bit more serious than that. One reason for the vehicle’s nature-defying capabilities lies in its bloodline, as the Land Cruiser first set wheel on Earth as a genuine off-road machine.
It was born for military reasons and thus the engineers had “rugged” and “capable” at the top of their list of priorities. Of course, the General Public was free to enjoy the benefits of a piece of army machinery, with the firepower and the shouting commanding officer being erased from the civilian optional extras list.
At that point, the vehicle was a rather compact Jeep-inspired creation using the “BJ” designation. Engineers acknowledged the fact that the four wheels of the vehicle not only had to allow it to fight with the most brutal driving conditions, but they also had to cater for at least the basic transportation needs of the human beings placed between them. Thus, the vehicle was transformed and became the “Land Cruiser”.
The following generations of the car also made it as much of a “cruiser” as it was a “land”, which meant that the place behind the wheel no longer had to be occupied only by an individual that used his knife as a shaving tool.
The maturation process not only made the vehicle more human-friendly, but also brought technical solutions that were aimed at fitting the vehicle with the proper hardcore off-roading hardware.
The Land Cruiser’s willingness to place the driving conditions on the list of “unimportant details” in its quest to reach the line of the horizon, together with the fact that it was as reliable as a hammer, brought the vehicle’s popularity to a sky high level.
In fact, in the early 80’s, Toyota replaced the “off-roader” label with the SUV
one. The latter didn’t replace the first, but was also present on the vehicle. By that time, the vehicle had already been offered in a wide variety of body configurations, having something to offer for every mortal that wanted to place “i” in front of his status while driving off-road.
Fast forwarding another decade, we find the Land Cruiser managing to hide its rubber boots under a white collar. Toyota learned that, on the market, you’ll need more than all-wheel-drive to be able to get anywhere. Believe it or not, certain Japanese tuners even released a few modification packages for the vehicle (of course, these kind of developments had “exaggeration” written all over them).
We could go on for a lot of pages, telling you how the Land Cruiser is an official United Nations car and how its travel photo album includes every surface on the Planet that is not hostile to human life, but it’s time to get to the point. Nowadays, the Land Cruiser is one of the few remaining “civilian” followers of the body-on-frame religion, but does this allow it to fulfill the luxury ambitions it had developed over the years?
We decided to answer this question by getting our hands on the top-spec version, going for the diesel engine of the range, event though this ment we had to choose the "regular" Land Cruiser and not the Land Cruiser V8, which is a separate vehicle. Put your rubber boots and your business suit on and follow us for a quite luxurious muddy adventure.
PS: for any questions about the Land Cruiser’s history, please contact the United Nations, as they’ve bought over 10,000 such models over the years.
Even though not quite as strikingly beefy as its V8 brother, the Land Cruiser is a hefty piece of machinery. Its size is not unusual for the contemporary automotive landscape, which, in many countries, is rather flooded with SUVs. However, due to the fact that it comes with a design that doesn’t try to hide the vehicle’s main purpose, it manages to stand out in the crowd.
You definitely notice it while scanning the city traffic, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be impressed. In fact, you might even find it odd. While other SUVs use posh clothing, as this is required by the cafes they are parked in front of, the Land Cruiser refuses to cover its muscular body with a fancy outfit.
The designers have played quite a bit, with the front and rear wheel arches being the perfect example, but all the styling tricks used by the exterior are aimed at letting others know that your vehicle comes with off-road abilities.
Take the Land Cruiser next to the most modern office building in your city, wait a few minutes and you’ll see managers lusting to leave their ties behind for an off-road adventure. Keep it inside the city boarders and its appearance will become rather inappropriate.
The unusual-meter’s scale reaches its highest point when measuring the front of the car. The front view camera, which we will discuss in a few chapters’ time, placed just below the shiny Toyota badge, actually made the meter go wild. However, as you point it at the side and the rear of the car, the values are dramatically reduced. As with any tested car, we’ll go for the personal opinion approach in the end: we appreciate the “I am not like you” appearance of the Land Cruiser.
It’s not hard, it’s impossible to describe the Land Cruiser’s interior in one word. We actually need a graph, as we encountered both cold and hot zones. No, we didn't play with the three-zone climate control system fitted to our car, we just found an interior that is much like that of a human, with a lot of assets and flaws.
The interior of the Land Cruiser starts in the... exterior, as the vehicle is fitted with generously-sized, illuminated door steps.
So, we got in and were instantly able to find a comfortable driving position. The electric power made the driver’s seat and steering wheel adjustments more of a premium experience, but the point is that the vehicle is ready to make you feel good behind the wheel even before you set off. It all starts with some of the buttons, which, due to the use of recycled plastic, offer the typical impression of a car belonging to this segment... and coming from the ‘90s.
We moved to the rear and the smile stayed on our faces, with the back seat offering a nice feeling. Now that we had our back covered, we also asked our legs and heads about their state, receiving one “thumbs up” after another. Not even the third row of seats of our test car, which were electrically erected and were pretty easy to access, managed to create discomfort.
Being very pleased, we jumped back into the driver’s seat and were ready to hit the (off-)road. However, as we were climbing into the seat, we had a short intimate moment with the leather on the seats. And the big smile on our faces started to fade away. It’s such a shame that the otherwise decent leather was combined with the “ecological leather” on the sides, which ruins the entire tactile experience.
The word “agricultural” came to our minds when we discovered another downside of the Land Cruiser’s interior, the ergonomics, as some of the buttons come with a position and a look that make you think about farming-destined vehicles. The illumination of certain buttons doesn't help either and neither does the lack of clarity when it comes to the layout.
At this point, the lower corners of our mouths were in a pretty low position, but things entered the happy zone again when we discovered that the storage spaces in the doors, and especially the one in the front central armrest, which also came with a coolbox function, were nothing short of cavernous. We opened the coolbox and discovered a chill... remote control, for the rear roof-mounted 9-inch DVD screen. But we’ll talk about that later.
The list of interior goodies is much longer, also including cup holders for both the front and the rear passengers, a small army of handles that allowed ALL the passengers to stay in their places during rough terrain escapades, as well as luggage rails in the boot.
The driver is further spoiled from the moment he enters the vehicle, as the power-retractable steering wheel allows him (not too much need for a “/her” in this case, but who knows?) to easily climb inside, with the keyless engine start system also contributing to it.
It’s 7 AM in the morning and the autoevolution control tower operator’s voice fills the cabin: ladder chassis construction? Check. Locking differentials? Check. 220 mm ground clearance? Check. OK, all set, initiating drive-away in 10, 9... nein! nein! this is city driving, abort mission immediately!
We shut off all communications and decided to take off anyway, but we feared that the next time we turn on the system, it will be us who will do the talking, shouting “autoevolution we have a problem!”
Maneuvering all 4.8x1.9x1.9 meters of the car through the urban mayhem wasn’t actually a problem, as our test vehicle was fitted with four exterior cameras that really multiply your standard crowded environment driving skills. The front and rear parking sensors also brought their contribution to this.
It was hard to avoid the usual feeling offered by any vehicle of this kind. You know, that impression that you are unstoppable and could use other cars to test your suspension and so on and so forth. Actually, a part of the all-terrain abilities do come in handy sometimes, especially when you want to negotiate a kerb or an overgrown pothole.
As the reciprocator under the hood was an oil burner, our credit cards weren’t frightened by the beast. Ask Toyota about this part of the game and the answer will be 9.7 liters per 100 km (24.2 US mpg). The real world answer would be situated somewhere in the 11-12 l/100 km (19.5-21 US mpg) area, providing that the equation relies on rush hour data.
We didn’t have the chance to mention this before and now would be a good time to do so: the Land Cruiser 150 3.0 D-4D is underpowered. The 3-liter four cylinder engine struggles if asked serious questions, even in the city, and the five-speed auto tranny doesn’t help either.
However, if you’re the kind of guy that manages to relax on the way to the office/school run, etc., the rev band for the 410 Nm (302 lb-ft) of the maximum torque (1,600 rpm to 2,500 rpm), as well as the suspension, interior space and armchair nature of the seats will allow you to do that.
As for the visibility, this is situated within the segment’s average, excluding the exterior mirrors, which are so generous and well engineered that we’d understand if anybody would try to steal them (ask Lou Cheeka about the details).
City driving is the weak link in the Land Cruiser’s chain, but you just can’t ask a vehicle like this to excel at the urban game. Providing that you say yes to a series of “ifs”, you’ll get along fine with what the Land Cruiser has to offer inside the city.
You have to put your off-roading glasses on before you judge this car. Thus, we’ll focus on the “Open” part rather than on the “Road” one for this test. Of course, you usually need to cover a number of open road miles to get from the city to the rough terrain location that really allows you to play this instrument like you should, so it makes sense for us to tell what this experience is like.
Regardless of the type of road chosen (highway, A or B road), you’ll have to push the pedal harder than a cyclist during the Tour de France to convince the 4,751 lbs (2,155 kg) of the vehicle to pull stunts such as overtaking.
Here’s the chain of events: you push the pedal, wait for a while, the five-speed automatic gearbox does its job at its own pace (can you guess what this is?) and then a certain acceleration is felt. OK, so it’s no good at gaining speed, but can it at least lose it properly?
No. It takes you a while to become acquainted with the accentuated brake dive, so this is not an issue, but the value of the braking distances is. If the city speeds don’t necessarily allow this to show, once the needle goes past a three-digit number, you won’t feel too confident when stepping on the brakes.
However, all this vanishes the second you get off the road - Ladies and Gentlemen, we are inviting you to enjoy the core of this test drive.
Off-Roading (Oh Joy!)
A quick look at the “Tech Facts” chapter of our test drive will reveal that the Land Cruiser is a rugged monster by definition. The official off-road performance specs highlight that. Bare with us for a few moments - ground clearance: 220 mm (8.66 inches), approach angle: 32°, ramp breakover angle: 22°, departure angle:24°, maximum wading depth: 700 mm (27.55 inches).
We read the data and felt an uncontrollable urge to see how it translated into the rough reality. Actually, we’re lying, as our intentions to get down and dirty with the car had been developed far earlier.
From the moment we talked about testing this car, we filled our heads and phones with off-roading locations. When we met Landie, the first thing we did was to invite it over for a coffee, to discuss about this. The dialog was shorter than the coffee: it instantly agreed to let us take it there.
The Crawl Control is just phenomenal, combining the engineer and the driver sides in every man’s personality. You select the low gear ratio, activate it, tell the car to climb and it asks you “how high?”. Once you reach the desired top, it will be more than happy to offer you the same benefits on the way down.
At a certain moment during the off-roading part of our test, we decided it was time for a pause. Wait, you can keep on reading, you’ll see what we mean by “pause”. AS you know, we need turn offs to get turned on. All said and done. We deactivated every single electronic control system on the car (apart from the suspension goodies of course), found a flat gravel road, apologized to the four-banger and started enjoying 4WD
The vehicle proved surprisingly good at this game, regardless of the speed, even though its construction and size mean that you’ll have to concentrate hard keep it on the road during such maneuvers. Ouch! we get tail-happy, fail to countersteer before things go past the recovery point and are thrown off the road. No problem! the vehicle is so rugged that the word damage isn’t included in its vocabulary, all we need to do is to drive it back on the road and reposition our organs.
We returned to the slopes, rocks, inclines, mud and down right scary pathways, with the Land Cruiser refusing to be bothered by any of these. Eventually, we forgot that we were running on standard tires and that the car had no winch (this is all it would need to enter a proper off-road challenge) and decided to have a cocktail of clay and water.
The result can be seen in the gallery bellow - we got stuck. This was an opportunity to make new friends and we ended up being pulled out of the situation by an old VW Transporter Synco, which was driven by our new friends - a few blokes which might have had “constabulary” written on their uniforms. We managed not to get any of them splashed with clay and had a big laugh together after we freed Landie.
The EUR68,000 price tag of the Land Cruiser (the entry level model starts at EUR51,200) might stop you from turning the car into a real off-roading fairy tale character, but it would be such a shame to refuse such an immense pleasure. Just make sure to know the limit of the standard tires and follow the “step before you drive” golden rule. If you don’t, you might end up making new friends!