Toyota Land Cruiser SUV (2017 - ) review
The iconic Toyota Land Cruiser is one of the few authentic off-roaders left, but is it still a relevant choice in a world full of hi-tech, luxurious 4x4s?
Interested in buying a Toyota Land Cruiser?
How good does it look?
The Land Cruiser is one of the few large SUVs left that makes no attempts to hide its humble origins as a tough, military-grade off-roader.
The exterior design has been fiddled about with over the years, but it remains a seriously imposing on-road presence. While not as sleek or sophisticated as a Land Rover Discovery, the massive slatted grille, wide bumpers and sheer size of the Land Cruiser give it a character of its own. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying the sight of one of these coming down a narrow lane is enough to make other motorists politely wait for you to rumble past.
Every version gets LED running lights and foglamps, roof rails, aluminium scuff plates and colour-coded bumpers, but entry-level Utility versions (which are aimed at tradespeople rather than private customers) miss out on alloy wheels and colour-coded door handles and door mirrors. Active trim checks these boxes, while Icon trim adds a chrome grille, aluminium side steps, rear privacy glass and LED headlamps. Range-topping Invincible cars don’t look any different to the Icon.
What's the interior like?
Some people level criticism at the Land Cruiser for feeling ‘dated’ on the inside. While it is true that the button-heavy, upright centre console, wooden inlays and sturdy plastics that comprise the dash are not at the cutting-edge of interior design, they are all entirely fit for purpose. Forget the somewhat challenging aesthetics, and you find large, chunky controls that are easy to operate, even when wearing gloves, and a high, comfortable driving position.
In any car this size, decent visibility is essential, and the Land Cruiser provides a clear view front and back to help you accurately judge whether you can squeeze through gaps in traffic (or not). Rival seven-seat SUVs place more emphasis on premium materials and cabin ambience, and a Volvo XC90 or Audi Q7 feel light years ahead of this car for poshness. But, they also cost more, and while some of the plastics in the Toyota seems hard and shiny, there is no denying how robust they are. The infotainment system, which uses a 7.0-inch touch-screen with big shortcut buttons either side, is also slower and less intuitive than the slick devices you’ll find in those pricier cars.
How practical is it?
The Land Cruiser comes in two different body styles. The base ‘Active’ model can be had as a three-door with five seats, but otherwise you get five doors as standard, and either five- or seven seats. Most family buyers will be best served by the seven-seater. The third row of seats folds away easily enough for when you don’t need to carry the whole five-a-side team, and the middle seats slide forward and back to free up extra space for those sat right at the back. Whatever layout you go for, there’s plenty of space in the front and middle seats due to the length of the car, the tall roof and boxy shape. However, the heavy duty mechanicals underneath mean those in the third row will only really be comfortable on shorter journeys.
There is still a reasonable boot in seven-seat configuration, but if you switch to five you get an impressive 621 litres of luggage space, swelling to a van-like 1,934 litres in full two-seater mode. The cabin is also dotted with deep storage spaces and cubbies that will have you searching for that last boiled sweet for hours on end. However, the old-school side-hinged rear door needs a lot of space to open fully, so it’s lucky you can pop open the rear window separately to drop stuff in.
What's it like to drive?
Drive a Land Cruiser for any length of time and you quickly realise this is an SUV without any aspirations of being ‘sporty’ or ‘agile’. It drives exactly like what it is: a very tall, very heavy car. It needs coaxing around corners rather than throwing into them, and the body leans over in dramatic fashion if your entry-speed is a little too ambitious. The slow steering and soft ride contribute to its relaxed character – the Land Cruiser is not for hustling down a tiny B-road – and it does a pretty good line in comfort as well.
The high-end models we’ve driven come with an adaptive suspension that gives a cushioned, floaty motorway ride and soften out the majority of bumps. The way the Land Cruiser is constructed (it’s a body-on-frame vehicle, like most pick-up trucks) does mean sharp ridges will cause the odd jolt and judder to enter the cabin, but this is a small price to pay for the Land Cruiser’s superlative off-road abilities.
A low-range gearbox, huge ground clearance and locking differentials all make the Toyota close to unstoppable at hauling you through the untamed countryside, and its rough and ready exterior means you won’t think twice about taking it where few premium SUVs can go.
How powerful is it?
All Land Cruisers are powered by a four-cylinder 2.8-litre diesel engine with 177 horsepower. It has a decent amount of pulling power, so it doesn’t take too much effort to get this enormous car rolling at a meaningful rate, but it’s also true that it feels pretty slow when compared with the six-cylinder versions of rivals like the Land Rover Discovery and Mercedes GLE. The top speed is pegged at a fairly modest 108mph, but you’re unlikely to get anywhere near that, because if you try to accelerate a bit too hard, the engine soon becomes noisy and intrusive, so it’s better to just sit back and relax. The six-speed automatic does a good job of slushing between the gears, but it can take quite a long time to react when you need a sudden burst of speed. We haven’t yet tried the manual version.
How much will it cost me?
The laws of physics mean that a big, heavy car will always be less efficient than a smaller one, and as the Land Cruiser is about as big and heavy as cars get, it’s no surprise running costs are pretty expensive.
If you go for an automatic version (which the vast majority of buyers will), you’ll be looking at CO2 emissions of 194g/km, which is way behind rivals like the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 (both of which have considerably more power), meaning higher tax bills.
Meanwhile, the official fuel economy figure of 44.8mpg mean you’ll also spend a lot more at the pumps with the Toyota. What’s more, that figure is likely to be closer to 25mpg in the real world. Insurance is also on the steep side, despite the relatively modest output from the engine, but no worse than what you’d pay in many rivals. There is a silver lining, though, because the famed reliability of this model means resale values for Land Cruisers are very high, especially if you stick with the seven-seat automatic versions, as the entry-level three-door and manual models will lose their value a bit quicker.
How reliable is it?
Range Rovers receive heaps of plaudits for their fancy cabins and stately driving dynamics, but they tend to languish right at the bottom of almost every reliability survey you’ll be likely to read. Enter the Land Cruiser, the complete polar opposite. This is a big SUV that has an unimpeachable record when it comes to reliability, so you can place total faith in its ability to take you anywhere, and get you home. It uses a set of mechanical components that have been tried and tested in some of the harshest environments on the planet, and always come back fighting.
The interior feels as durable and as solid as stonemasonry, and will look the same as it did when it left the dealership, even after years of abuse. Toyota’s confidence in this area shows in the standard five-year warranty, which is good for up to 100,000 miles, and two years longer than anything you’ll get from Volvo, Audi, or Mercedes without paying. Our owner reviews thoroughly support this hard-earned reputation, with glowing reports about years of faultless service and hassle-free motoring for every generation since 2002.
How safe is it?
The Land Cruiser has not received the full crash test treatment from safety body Euro NCAP, but its tough body and standard haul of seven airbags (bear in mind that five-seat models only have five) should provide ample protection in the event of a crash. High-end models also come with an extra suite of more advanced safety kit that includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane departure. The Land Cruiser also has the basics covered, with traction and stability controls, Isofix points for child seats, child safety locks and a system to keep the whole car stable when you’re towing a big trailer.
How much equipment do I get?
Not many (probably only tradespeople) will buy their Land Cruiser in its most basic form, because it comes without many of the luxuries you might expect from a large SUV. It has cloth seats, manual air-conditioning, cruise control, remote-locking and Bluetooth, but misses out on the touch-screen infotainment system, climate control, rear parking sensors and reversing camera you get with Active trim. And on a car this size, you’ll definitely be wanting those last two items.
You’ll probably still want to upgrade to Icon trim for its extra luxuries, including leather upholstery, automatic lights and wipers, front parking sensors, heated and ventilated front seats and sat-nav. Range-topping Invincible trim comes with even more luxury gear, including heated rear seats and an upgraded stereo, but you pay handsomely for the pleasure.
Truly rugged off-roaders are an endangered species, and the Land Cruiser is a fine example of this dying breed. Superb reliability, strong equipment levels and brilliant all-terrain capability give it a strong niche appeal. Treat it like a normal car and it would be easy to criticise the fairly weedy and inefficient engine and wallowy handling, but if you want a 4x4 to use and abuse for a decade, this is the one for you.