A week spent driving the 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser hardly scratches the surface of its capability. You need years, or perhaps a lifetime, to understand why it’s so enjoyable.
I grew up riding in the way-back (aka third row) of a succession of family Land Cruisers, which I loved for everything they stood for and for what they taught me. I learned to drive on our maroon 2000 J100, making use of it for any errand I could drum up. It was using the Land Cruiser for my first summer job as a delivery boy for a local Middle Eastern cafe that taught me that you can actually lose money (filling up the tank) while still making a living — some sage advice that was. The Land Cruiser was my lucky charm on my first date. It was the truck that I used to move myself from Brooklyn to Ann Arbor for my first adult job. It’s still kicking at my parents’ place today, with just under 200,000 miles on the odometer. Every time I return home and take it for a drive, I’m reminded of the simplicity provided by a burly V-8, durable craftsmanship, and acres of space.
Land Cruiser replacements come as frequently as Rolls-Royce evolutions do, which is to say every decade or so, making it a stalwart in a sea of trend chasers. There are many differences between the family heirloom and the model you see here, but the philosophy is the same: three rows, comfort, and capability above all. The control layout was precise and mostly analog; the view out the windshield was high-up and commanding; the seats were as wide and flat as I remembered them; and the cargo area was capacious but still constrained by the fold-up rear seats.
The only Land Cruiser you can buy in the United States comes fully loaded at 85 grand, no options offered, elevating it to the echelon of Range Rovers and Escalades. If you want a refined, go-anywhere SUV that seats eight and has some (but not too many) frills, the Nissan Armada has you covered. The Land Cruiser — and its even pricier sibling, the Lexus LX570 — now exists to carry on a reputation for the people who want to pay for it, filling another unnecessary lacuna in the SUV market.
Given its mission, the sumptuous Land Cruiser is a prime candidate for long road trips. The first thing I did with this one was embark on a brisk, 500-mile road trip up the coast of Connecticut and Rhode Island. It felt like cheating, a bit, with only two occupants inside. On the roads leading out of Brooklyn, the Land Cruiser asserted itself as a steamroller over some nasty potholes. Despite its oversized wheels, vibration and harshness were isolated from the cabin. Its presence on the road was impressive, both from my standpoint as driver and the reactions it received. Yellow cabs and black car drivers gave way to the stately Land Cruiser, as if a dignitary was present inside the big Toyota SUV.
On the serpentine Merritt Parkway, my favorite public testing route, the Land Cruiser defies the stereotype of a lumbering SUV, instead acting sharply and with poise. You want to make a quick passing maneuver? The Land Cruiser always obliges. Thanks to the 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque put out by its 5.7-liter V-8 and the 8-speed automatic its mated to, cruising is a blissful experience, what with luxury-car insulation, a commanding driving position, and few distractions from the driver’s perch. The Land Cruiser is neither a technological powerhouse like an Audi Q7 nor an artfully stitched-together design statement like a Range Rover. Its sound system is OK, its telematics aren’t the state of the art, and it won’t drive itself. Its conservative but well-mannered disposition pleases its conservative demographic.
I spent several days running around the Ocean State, and it was a pleasure to drive the Land Cruiser around — whether fetching dry cleaning or a bicycle to toss in the back. I resisted the urge to take the Land Cruiser off-roading, proving two maxims: Only a handful of Land Cruiser owners will take their vehicles near mud or rocks if they’re part of the local topography, and it’s just as good on-road as off. Acceleration was always smooth off the line, just like in a fine luxury car, and there’s weight to the steering without feeling artificial or wooden. (Try saying that about the Sequoia, a Toyota no one is talking about.) No matter if you pin the throttle on the highway or drive the Land Cruiser gingerly around town, the Land Cruiser hits its EPA numbers (13 city/18 highway mpg) every single time. Hypermilers need not apply. A substantial, 24.6-gallon fuel tank does much to conceal the big Toyota’s drinking habit.
I departed Rhode Island at dawn to return the Land Cruiser in New York City ahead of a product presentation inconveniently scheduled in the Bermuda Triangle of midtown Manhattan. That meant slicing my way through the city’s busiest thoroughfares like a pygmy Smart Fortwo, and the dynamic Land Cruiser shrunk to half its actual size. Just because it’s big doesn’t mean the Land Cruiser wasn’t light on its feet.
Fewer customers than ever are choosing to own Land Cruisers, with just about 3000 sold last year, interest in historic models notwithstanding. This year’s harvest of about the same number isn’t an encouraging sign for the Land Cruiser nameplate in the United States. You owe it to yourself to understand why Land Cruisers aren’t loved, but beloved. I hear rental car agencies in remote areas occasionally stock Land Cruisers among the run-of-the-mill Yukons and Tahoes because they understand longevity. Go spend a week with one. You’ll feel it right away.
2016 Toyota Land Cruiser Specifications
5.7L DOHC 32-valve V-8/381 hp @ 5600 rpm, 401 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm
4-door, 8-passenger, front-engine 4WD SUV
13/18 mpg city/highway
L x W x H:
194.9 x 77.9 x 74.0 in
source: Automobile MagazineTags: auto automobile car