Toyota Land Cruiser — Large and capable

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Toyota's iconic Land Cruiser SUV is a full-sized body-on-frame go-anywhere vehicle that hasn't undergone a full redesign since 2008, an anomaly in an industry that churns out all-new iterations every five or six years. That aside, if you are looking for a leather-ensconced sport utility with a big V-8 engine that can haul up to eight people with true off-road chops and the famous Toyota reliability, then perhaps this is your vehicle.

It has a powerful V-8 engine, a comfortable on-road ride along with its go-anywhere off-the-beaten-track capability, a full range of standard features, and three-row seating. And for 2020, Toyota has created a well-equipped Heritage Edition celebrating the Land Cruiser’s continuous place in Toyota’s U.S. lineup since 1958. On sale now, the Heritage Edition is limited to 1,200 units.

The special edition, which adds $2,615 to the cost of the standard Land Cruiser, is essentially an appearance package that deletes the third-row seats in favor of more cargo capacity while adding visual tweaks including Midnight Black Metallic or Blizzard Pearl exterior color styled with a black-accented grille and bronze-colored 18-inch forged aluminum wheels featuring a “TOYOTA” center cap. A vintage-style Land Cruiser exterior badge evokes the vehicle’s long history.

Note that the running boards and chrome lower body side moldings of the standard model are deleted. The absent running boards were a major problem for us — who need all the help we can get climbing into a high-riding truck.

All Land Cruisers are powered by the long-running 381-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8 that delivers 401 lb-ft of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. All that power is definitely needed to move the vehicle’s nearly three-ton curb weight, and we found it surprisingly quick reaching 60 mph from a standing start in about 6.5 seconds. Passing and merging performance was impressive with ample power from 50 to 70 mph. Full-time four-wheel drive is standard.

Unfortunately, the power needed to move the big guy in acceptable fashion, creates a large appetite for gas. We realized an average of 14.2 miles to the gallon in 300 miles of mixed city and highway driving. On the bright side, it does have a 24.6-gallon fuel tank, and uses 87 octane unleaded regular rather than the more expensive premium. The Land Cruiser is EPA-rated rated at 13 mpg city, 17 highway and 14 combined.

One of the trade-offs for cash-crazy gas station stops is the Land Cruiser's prodigious-for-an-SUV towing capacity of 8,100 pounds, a capability not possible in the legions of luxury car-based crossovers on the market today. and its serious off-roading skills are mimicked by very few others in the luxury segment.

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 in the standard edition is very small, however, and suitable only for children. The deleted third row in the Heritage Edition gives the Land Cruiser a permanent cargo capacity of 82.8 cubic feet.

The cabin build quality, switchgear, and premium leathers and materials mostly befit its high cost, but the Land Cruiser doesn’t have the look and feel nor innovation of its more upscale sibling, the Lexus LX 570, or other competitors in its price class including the Lincoln Navigator, Mercedes GLS or Land Rover Range Rover. When compared to the competition, the Land Cruiser looks startlingly dated.

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. Apple CarPlay or Android Auto are unavailable. Our test Land Cruiser included the 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, 10 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 liked the standard surround-view camera. It's perfect for such a large vehicle.

The Land Cruiser comes in only two well-equipped trims — Base and Heritage Edition — starting at $86,325 including a $1,295 destination charge. The Heritage Edition carries a bottom line of $88,940. Only a very few low-cost options are available, and our test vehicle added a glass breakage sensor for $299 raising the bottom line to $89,239.

Base price: $86,325; as driven, $89,239
Engine: 5.7-liter V-8
Horsepower: 381 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 401 foot-pounds @ 3,600 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: four-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
Length: 194.9 inches
Curb weight: 5,715 pounds
Turning circle: 38.7 feet
Towing capacity: 8,100 pounds
Cargo capacity: 82.8 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 24.6 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 14 city, 17 highway, 14 combined
0-60: 6.6 seconds (estimate)
Also consider: Mercedes GLS, Lincoln Navigator, BMW X7

The Good
• Comfortable ride
• Quiet interior
• Off-road capable

The Bad
• Cramped third-row seating

The Ugly
• Expensive, feels dated