The Toyota Land Cruiser has a peerless reputation for toughness and reliability. But is it refined enough to appeal to average UK buyers who use their 4x4s almost exclusively on-road? We recently put the Toyota Land Cruiser back onto the tarmac and point it towards a town centre to find out.
Read on for our test review of the Toyota Land Cruiser...
Toyota Land Cruiser: a proper 4x4 in a sea of crossovers
Run out of water in the Outback? Up to your neck in quicksand? No doubt you’ll be glad to see a Toyota Land Cruiser. When it comes to sticky situations, I can’t think of a 4x4 I’d rather chance across than the hardy Toyota – yes, Land Rover Discovery included.
The Land Cruiser’s long been dominant when the going gets really rough simply because Toyota targeted the markets – frequently in less developed, more rugged territories – that the opposition had ignored when it was launched almost 60 years ago.
So the Toyota's a bit of a brute, then?
The market spread’s bigger today, but the no-nonsense DNA persists – there’s a rigid rear axle, and body-on-frame construction that better resists the twisting forces experienced in extreme off-road situations than a unibody does – but Toyota has also aimed to bring on-road dynamics and comfort up a notch with this new generation.
The new Land Cruiser's technical spec and prices
New? Yes, 2008’s similar-looking V8 continues, but this entry-level variant (known as the Land Cruiser Prado in some markets) arrived in 2010. Other configurations are available elsewhere, but only five-door, 3.0-litre turbodiesel fours (yes, it’s a whopping big four-pot) with five-speed autos land here. The choice is between specs LC3, LC4, and LC5, the former a bare-bones, fabric-seats spec, the latter bringing leather, a rear-seat entertainment system, plus the most advanced 4x4 hardware including a locking rear diff. And, no, sadly you can’t special-order the extra off-road toys with the bare essentials spec.
Problem is, those prices sit about £2k below the Discovery 4’s, and it’s the Landie that better fulfils a UK buyer’s brief, with a premium, hushed feel inside and out that’d have the Toyota – generic outside, more Mitsubishi Outlander inside with its far cruder plastics and layout – laughed out of the public school gates.
So the Toyota Land Cruiser isn't for suburban posing. How does it drive?
On the road, too, the Discovery outpoints its Eastern rival, being smoother-riding and quieter too. Not that the Land Cruiser is particularly bad – it’s extremely quiet at light throttle loads, smooth-enough riding and the auto shifts smoothly too. And it’s very practical, providing three rows of seats in which six-footers can sit behind one another in comfort.
However, the Land Cruiser’s noisy and slow to build speed when you floor it out of 30mph zones, plus the steering’s lifeless, the handling rolly and the ride a bit thumpy in town – the latter two flaws improved with the LC5’s adaptive dampers.
When the Disco is so good on road, barely any more expensive and still provides more off-road capability than most kerb-climbing Brit owners will ever need, you have to question why you need to put up with the Land Cruiser’s drawbacks.
Sounds like time for the Toyota Land Cruiser to retreat to the wilderness...
When you go off-road you feel the benefit of that centre LSD; rely entirely on crawl control to creep – with feet off the pedals – down a muddy hillside you’d struggle to negotiate on foot; marvel at the clever Hansel and Gretel-style sat-nav that drops e-breadcrumbs so you can trace your route back to the road; and drive along a river, water lapping at the door handles, without a hint of drama or driver skill.
This is where the Land Cruiser excels, and that’s why Toyota’s sold five million of them so far.
It’s also why its abilities are largely irrelevant in the UK and why Toyota predicts just 1200 sales annually. Good car, wrong market.