It’s almost 60 years old, five million have been sold throughout the world. You’re unlikely to see one over here, then, so take a good look at the all-new Toyota Land Cruiser while you can.
It looks familiar…
Evolution’s certainly the name of the game here, the new car looking much like the one that’s been around since 2003. Headline changes for spotters include a bigger front bumper with integral fog lamps, a new grille with vertical bars, revised headlights and rear LED taillights, plus more aggressively flared wheelarches.
The dimensions remain much the same, partly because there was always plenty of interior room, partly because Toyota didn’t want to swell the exterior dimensions for fear of reducing off-road manoeuvrability. So, it’s 45mm longer and 10mm wider than its predecessor while maintaining the same wheelbase and rear overhang. If you’re serious about your off-roading, you might be interested to know that the approach angle is 32 degrees, the ramp breakover angle 22 degrees, the departure angle 25 degrees.
The V8 Land Cruiser (introduced in 2008) continues to be offered here, but Britain will only take this bodystyle in five door, 3.0-litre TD trim – a seriously big four cylinder.
If it’s so similar, what’s the point?
Toyota’s aim has been to build on the Land Cruiser’s rugged, go-anywhere DNA, while also making it a far nicer drive on the road.
So, body-on-frame construction remains – it’s tougher, and, says Toyota, the separate body better resists the twisting forces exerted by serious off-roading than a monocoque does – and there’s all manner of acronyms to bail you out when the going gets tough: an LSD for the centre diff, A-TRC (Acitve traction control) MTS (Multi-terrain select), multi-terrain ABS.
However, there’s also extra sound insulation in the A, B, C and D pillars, plus the door sill and roof. There’s extra sound deadening inside too, an acoustic windscreen (a layer of film between the glass helps refinement) and extra attention has been paid to keep wind noise down. And it works. Once you’re up to speed and making only small adjustments to the throttle you’ll notice precious little wind-, tyre- or road noise.
I sense a ‘but’ coming on…
I prefer the word caveat, but yes. Accelerate hard and the engine becomes far more vocal, and it’s not particularly quick off the mark either. The Land Cruiser also rides with a lolloping gait, has very light and slow-witted steering and, while it’s generally composed, there’s too much thumping about over ripples and pockmarks for our liking.
However, the standard five-speed automatic shifts smoothly and, if you spec the top LC5 trim level, you’ll get three-way adjustable dampers that help to quell the roll and better absorb the bumps – although the sub-30mph ride still fails to impress.
What’s this business about specs?
You can choose from LC3, LC4 and LC5, the former being the bare bones poverty spec, the latter offering both the most luxurious interior appointments –rear seat entertainment system, sunroof, electric seat memory – and the really serious off-road kit – multi-terrain select, crawl control, locking rear diff, steering angle display and active height control for the rear suspension. You can’t, sadly, spec the most basic car with the best off-road kit.
Whatever the spec, it’s more Mitsubishi Outlander in here than Land Rover Discovery. The plastics and controls are pretty cheap and everything just looks a bit dated, even if it is comfortable (another caveat – the Lexus RX seats are far more comfortable) and easy to see out of and place on the road thanks to its chunky square corners.
And what the big Toyota lacks in quality it makes up for in practicality. It has seven seats, and six-feet-tall adults can easily sit one-behind-the-other in rows one, two and three. Yes, the third row is a bit more compromised – you sit higher so your view out of the windscreen is marginal and headroom is much tighter – but it’s not a squash for full-sizers.
You can also lay all of rows two and three flat in all sorts of different configurations for when you’re lugging big loads around. Got something long and narrow plus four passengers? Drop one seat in row two and another in row three and away you go. And with all the seats up there’s still room out back for a couple of suitcases.
What’s it like off-road?
Absolutely amazing. Truth be told, this writer hasn’t much in the way of off-road experience, but I drove down a river, up steep, chalky hills clogged with mud and bordered by trees, and teetered down hillsides I probably couldn’t have walked down, and all without incident. The Hansel and Gretel sat-nav that keeps track of where you’ve gone even when you’re off-road, and the central screen that shows what you see through the windscreen plus the trajectory of your front wheels (LC5 only) – it’s so easy to lose track of where you’re pointing in really slippery conditions – deserve particular praise.
In an hour I reckon I did more than what 99% of 4×4 owners would do in a lifetime, and did it all while relying entirely on Toyota’s technology, not my skill.
We were impressed by the Land Cruiser, – the Land Rover Discovery is just the better bet. We can’t really verify which car is better off-road, but we have driven the Landie and Toyota on off-road courses and both 4x4s simply shrugged everything off, and so will be equally adept at dealing with everything a UK owner will throw at them – even those who do regularly stray off-road.
What you’re left with is a 4×4 that doesn’t look or feel as plumply, premiumly, safely special as the Discovery either inside or out, isn’t as nice to drive and costs similar money.