You pick: Iconic Toyota Land Cruiser or luxurious Lexus LX

By Jim Prueter

(February 14, 2019) The iconic Land Cruiser SUV is not only Toyota’s most expensive vehicle — starting at just over $86,000 — it’s also their longest running model, dating back to 1954. The current generation driven here has been in production since 2007, with only minor changes during that time.

It wasn’t until 1960 that the Land Cruiser gained popularity with a new look and  today it is a highly collectable classic. In 1990, the Land Cruiser known as the 80 series moved to luxury status, from its austere hardcore off-roader creds. However, it’s still known for its overachieving, go-anywhere capability.

The Land Cruiser is Toyota’s largest SUV and also their slowest selling vehicle in the lineup, with just 3,222 sold last year. That’s only 268 sold per month. Compare that to America’s best-selling vehicle, Ford F150, that averages over 75,000 per month. It’s an unfair comparison to be sure, but presented here for a perspective of sales volume.

Land Cruiser is the twinned sibling to Toyota’s up market brand the Lexus LX 570, which outsells the Land Cruiser by a 2:1 ratio. The LX has a starting price of just $1100 more than the Land Cruiser including a host of extras that such as a more upscale interior, a larger LCD infotainment screen, an adaptive height suspension system and more features. However the Lexus is a five passenger compared to eight for the Land Cruiser.

For shoppers interested in the Land Cruiser we think they would be wise to instead opt for the Lexus. Although the base LX doesn’t include a third row of seats and will cost an additional $5000 to get them. Still when considering all the upgrades the LX is well worth the price difference and we think the LX is a slightly more upscale in appearance and comes with a longer standard factory warranty.

For 2019, Land Cruiser comes as one, fully equipped trim level, and other than choosing the exterior and interior color the only option is the $2220 rear-seat entertainment system. However, arriving this summer is a special Heritage Edition Land Cruiser which is essentially an appearance package that deletes the third-row seats while adding visual and badging tweaks. Toyota says it will be limited to 1200 units. We expect pricing to be about $2500 or so over the starting price of the regular Land Cruiser.

Essentially unchanged over the past decade, Land Cruiser has actually aged quite well thanks to frequent minor appearance tweaks over the years, and it still looks good.

Land Cruiser is powered by an excellent 381-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8 that delivers 401 lb-ft of torque and is connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission. All that power is definitely needed to move the vehicle’s nearly three-ton curb weight and found it surprisingly quick reaching 60 mph from a standing start in 6.6 seconds. Passing performance was impressive with ample power from 50 to 70 mph. Full-time four-wheel drive is standard.

However, all the power comes at the expense of an insatiable thirst for fuel. We realized just over 11.4 mpg in city driving and 15.0 mpg total over our weeklong 400 test miles of driving of mixed urban, suburban and highway driving. On the bright side, it does have a 24.6 gallon fuel tank, and uses 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline rather than the more expensive premium unleaded.

On the road, Land Cruiser delivers a quiet comfortable ride, but its high center of gravity and soft suspension returns too much ample amounts of body roll on sharp curves and corners. Steering is light, and less-than-precise brakes are adequate but not spectacular, given its size.

We did some off-roading at Butcher Jones State Park in Arizona — known for its challenging boulder-strewn trails, steep and rutted mountain climbs and descents with impressive accolades for its capabilities. We appreciated its limited-slip differential, driver-operated terrain-selection mode system and low-speed crawl control that handled every challenge we threw at it. Our lone complaint was, given the massive size of the vehicle, we opted not to take the more narrow off-road trails to avoid scratching the Land Cruiser’s body sides and fenders with thick brush and cacti. You’re welcome, Toyota.

The Land Cruiser seats up to eight people, with the first two rows spacious and extremely comfortable thanks to numerous adjustments, including a sliding and reclining second row. The third row is very small. In fact, it’s smaller than the mid-sized Toyota Highlander’s third row. Front seats are heated and ventilated, second-row seats just heated.

The interior’s build quality, switchgear, premium leathers and materials mostly befit its high cost but doesn’t have the look and feel nor innovation of the more upscale LX or other competitors in its price class including the Lincoln Navigator, Mercedes GLS or Land Rover Range Rover. 

Standard technology features include a nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a 14-speaker JBL premium audio system, navigation, HD radio, SiriusXM, Siri Eyes Free and Toyota’s Entune suite of applications. There’s a USB port, Bluetooth, and wireless phone charging. But, no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto are unavailable. Our test Land Cruiser included the optional DVD entertainment system that was less than impressive. Screens located behind the front-seat headrests are big and clumsy with inferior resolution and modest-quality headphones.

Advanced safety features include front and rear-parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, ten airbags, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and a multi-view parking camera. The Land Cruiser also comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense, which includes lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, forward-collision warning, pedestrian detection, and automatic emergency braking. We like the standard surround-view camera that’s perfect for such a large vehicle and appreciated on our off-road venture.

Overall, Land Cruiser has a remarkable heritage with an iconic badge and admirable capabilities. It’s large, extremely quiet and comfortable however it’s expensive, but looks and feels dated when compared to its Lexus counterpart.  Further, given a similarly priced Range Rover or Mercedes GLS, the attraction to the Land Cruiser just isn’t there. Unless you’re a Land Cruiser loyalist we suggest opting for the Lexus or even the large Toyota Sequoia or Highlander and pocketing the difference in cost.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $86,080
Price as Tested: $88,280
Engine: 5.7-liter 381-hp V8 connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission
Fuel Economy: 13-mpg City – 18-mpg Highway – 15-mpg Combined
Seating: 8

Crash Test Safety Ratings: Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has crash tested the 2019 Land Cruiser.

Where Built: Aichi, Japan

Competes With:
Cadillac Escalade
Land Rover Range Rover
Lexus LX 570
Lincoln Navigator
Mercedes-Benz GLS

Fab Features:
Plus, comfortable ride, quiet cabin
Extremely capable off-roader
Generous amounts of standard equipment