When viewing an African safari movie or documentary or been hunting big game over there, the top mode of transportation is most likely a Toyota Land Cruiser SUV. It has been the vehicle of choice for the rugged Serengeti country that’s inhabited by lions, tigers and other dangers. It stands to reason why it excels over there as the Land Cruiser is one tough SUV with superior off-road traction abilities, and has been for over 60 years. It’s truly a legend.
The Land Cruiser can be configured for 5 or 8-passengers and we were privileged to test the two-row version.
If you’re truly an off-road fan, the Land Cruiser offers full-time 4WD with center lock differential, Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control, all features to get you into and out of off-road trouble.
The 4WD lock feature performs as a real 4WD system when all wheel’s lock for better traction. Other SUVs may claim 4WD, but Land Cruiser (and Jeep’s Wrangler Rubicon for example) actually performs in true 4WD mode.
Cruiser’s sophisticated Multi-Terrain Select system allows the driver to match wheel slip control to the surface and driving conditions. In mud, for example, the system allows more than normal wheel slip to help digging out of trouble.
A four position Crawl Control mode, says Toyota, allows the driver to focus on steering without having to modulate the throttle or brake pedal.
Then there’s Downhill Assist that augments the low-range low-speed descending ability that holds the Cruiser at a target speed.
Off-Road Assist helps on narrow trails as it tightens the turning radius by applying slight brake pressure to the inside rear wheel which creates a pivot effect.
For deep snow, there’s 8.9 inches of undercarriage clearance. If you encounter a flooded off-road area, the Cruiser can ford 27.55 inches of water.
Shod with 9-inch wide, 18-inch Dunlop tires, completes the formidable off-road systems along with skid plates to protect the vehicle’s undercarriage.
Most folks will probably never need these excellent features, but they’re nice to have when you may need them. Just like auto insurance.
Step-in into Land Cruiser’s interior is a 25-inch stretch that once in, affords a good road view. Upon slipping onto the heated/cooled perforated leather (Heritage Edition) front seats (plus heated steering wheel), they have ample padding to absorb nasty off-roads. The second-row seats are equally as comfy, heated and heavily padded.
Land Cruiser’s vertical stack features a 9-inch infotainment touchscreen with split-screen view that serves the rearview camera, Bluetooth, JBL audio, Entune App Suite with weather app, Siri Eyes Free, satellite radio and navigation with some voice recognition. Screen selections can also be touched, dragged and flicked.
HVAC controls are simple to use and easy to view with selections displayed on the touchscreen. And below them a burly shifter controls the 8-speed auto transmission. To its right is the 4WD mode selector for 2WD, 4WD high and 4WD low modes, and below it the Crawl mode dial. There’s also a switch to lock the axles for true 4WD mode.
Land Cruiser’s tailgate maintains its traditional two-pieces with the top flipping up and the bottom section dropping down for a 33.5-inch liftover. The lower portion protrudes out 18 inches that requires sliding gear over it and onto the cargo floor.
Toyota designers did make good use of the lower gate as it has two enclosed bins within it, one for the jack and jack tools.
The advantage to the two-piece gate is that extra-long items can be carried with the hatch window open, while the lower section remains closed.
As for cargo space and with the rear seats upright, there’s 41.4 cubic feet of cargo space measuring 45 inches deep, 51 wide and 37 high. Flip the entire 40/20/40 hinged seats forward and space increases to 82.2 cubic feet for 66 inches of cargo depth. If you need more space, the Heritage Edition comes with a Yakima roof rack that can hold loads of gear or luggage.
Land Cruiser comes with but one engine. A thirsty 5.7-liter V8 develops 381-hp and a potent 401 lb/ft of torque. Coupled to the standard 8-speed automatic transmission, Land Cruiser gets EPA estimated fuel economy ratings of 13 city and 17-higway mpg. So powered, Land Cruiser can tow up to 8,100 pounds and moves this 5,815-pound hunk with ease.
Driving it gives a commanding view and a feel of safety with its truck-based, coil spring suspension and rugged build. It remains planted in sharp turns and on interstates. Strong cross winds have negligible effect on this SUV. It’s smooth rider as well. And despite its size, Cruiser has a relatively tight 38.7 foot turning radius.
With an extremely long list of standard safety and operational features such as Toyota’s Safety Sense with pre-collision system w/pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert, blind spot monitoring w/rear cross traffic alert, rain sensing wipers, front/rear parking assist and more, the only extra cost option was $425 for special paint and delivery of $1,365. That took the bottom line to $89,635. A lot of money but a lot of SUV.
With winter oncoming and the Farmer’s Almanac predicting several snowy days ahead, a Land Cruiser would get you to work, doctors’ appointments or play (skiing). But there’s one problem. The Land Cruiser is being discontinued after this model year, although it can still be found in Lexus stores as an LX 570 with added luxury, but at a premium price.
Interestingly, Toyota recently unveiled the 300 series Land Cruiser which is 400 pounds lighter and powered by a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 with 409-hp and 479 lb/ft of torque. Unfortunately, it won’t be sold in the U.S., only abroad.