62 and not ready for retirement
BY MARK MAYNARD
The Toyota Land Cruiser is an institution of overlanding authority. It has been a global expedition vehicle since its launch in Japan in 1951 as the Toyota Jeep BJ, a small 4WD military vehicle. The name was changed by 1954 to Land Cruiser to avoid legal entanglements with the Willys brand and to tread lightly around the Land Rover.
The prototype BJ was not chosen for production, according to Toyota, but it went on to become the first motor vehicle to reach the sixth station on the trail to the top of Mt. Fuji.
In 1958, the updated 20-Series was one of the first Toyota exports to the United States. The next Land Cruiser iteration, the 40-Series (FJ-40), arrived in 1960 and became an all-terrain icon (and now a collector’s item). A larger station wagon model followed in the late-1960s, putting the Land Cruiser on a path toward family adventures.
By 1991, the 80-Series Land Cruiser was becoming a full premium model. A V-8 engine and an array of advanced chassis systems and luxury amenities were added in the late-1990s. And the current Land Cruiser, known internally as the 200-Series, is the most advanced and luxurious in the model’s history, Toyota says.
The Land Cruiser is not a station-wagon SUV. It is built expedition tough to get you out and back. Its protective armor includes full-time four-wheel drive, frame-mounted tow hooks front and rear and underbody skid plates (at the front suspension, radiator, fuel tank, transfer case).
The Heritage Edition
To honor the Land Cruiser’s 60-plus years as an SUV icon, Toyota created the 2020 Land Cruiser Heritage Edition. The limited-edition model has a starting price of $89,070 and is only available in a five-seat, two-row configuration to maximize cargo space. (Its MSRP is about $2,330 more than the standard eight-seat Land Cruiser). Pricing includes the $1,325 freight charge from Toyota City, Japan. The tester was $89,369 with one option for a glass-breakage sensor, $299.
It is available in two paint colors, Midnight Black Metallic or Blizzard Pearl, both with a black-accented grille and bronze-colored BBS 18-inch forged aluminum wheels featuring a “TOYOTA” center cap. The vintage-style Land Cruiser badge is tribute to its accomplished history.
With its mission of off-roading, the Heritage Edition has no running boards to interfere with high-centering and the usual chrome lower body side moldings were deleted to avoid trail rash. Other unique features include darkened headlight housings, fog lights with dark chrome surrounds and side mirrors with darkened chrome.
The interior is luxurious but durable. The cabin is outfitted with black leather-trimmed upholstery and bronze contrast stitching, which is carried onto the steering wheel, door trim, center stack, console and seats. With standard all-weather floor mats and cargo liner, it’s ready for the trail, or the commute to work.
Other Heritage Edition equipment includes heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, power moonroof, four-zone automatic climate control with 28 air vents throughout the cabin, and smart-key locking with push-button start. For deeper center console storage, the cool box has been deleted.
The 9-inch touch screen infotainment system has split-screen capability, advanced voice recognition and a 14-speaker JBL audio system with navigation and Bluetooth phone and music. There’s also Qi wireless phone charging.
Toyota Safety Connect (with three years of free subscription service) uses onboard cellular technology, independent of the driver’s phone, to provide such services as Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Assistance Button (SOS) and GPS-enhanced roadside assistance.
All Land Cruiser models come standard with 10 air bags and Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P), which uses radar and a camera sensor to detect a preceding pedestrian or a vehicle. The system is intended to automatically apply the brakes as needed to help mitigate or avoid collisions in certain conditions. The system includes Lane Departure Alert with Sway Warning, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Automatic High Beams. Also standard are blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
Enduring body style
After an all-new seventh generation model debuted in 2008, the last major “refresh” was in 2016. That update would add a new front end (for Euro pedestrian crash standards), an eight-speed automatic transmission and a full suite of advanced safety technologies, such as low-speed frontal collision avoidance, lane departure alert and dynamic radar cruise control.
Off-roading armor includes a multiterrain camera with front, side or rear views, a full-size spare tire, roof rack, frame-mounted tow hooks front and rear with underbody skid plates at the front suspension, radiator, fuel tank and transfer case. Window seat occupants have overhead and pillar-mounted grab handles. The HVAC system includes a pollen and dust filter.
With its body-on-frame truck chassis, the Cruiser feels as tough as a railroad spike. But the ride quality is quite composed on all road surfaces I tested and without head toss in turns.
Its hydraulic Kinetic Dynamic Suspension works through the stabilizer bars to steady the on-road ride or to reduce resistance for more wheel travel off road to keep rubber in contact with the trail. (It is not an air suspension and there is no ability to change the ride height, whether for loading people or cargo or raising it for off-road clearance.)
The full-time 4WD system has high- and low-range gearing and a Torsen limited-slip locking center differential. Active Traction Control works the brake and throttle to help control wheel spin. And the electronic multiterrain select system will fine-tune throttle and traction for a variety of surfaces, including a mogul mode. Crawl Control takes over the accelerator and braking to wallow along at one of five low-speed settings (1 to 5 mph). It even works in reverse.
Four-wheel vented disc brakes have large 13.9-inch rotors front, 13.6-inch rear.
Endearing features include a manual hand brake and the power liftgate and manual fold-down tailgate (with storage panels) and a soft-close feature.
With a curb weight of 5,715 pounds, there is good power from the 381-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8 and a trail churning 401 foot-pounds of torque for forceful but not quick acceleration. The eight-speed automatic doles out easy shifts to stay in the power band. Fuel-economy ratings are 13 mpg city, 17 highway and 14 mpg combined on 87 octane. I was averaging a consistent 15.7 mpg, with much highway driving. The 24.6-gallon tank allows a decent cruising range.
The upright cabin, one of Toyota’s highest-quality interiors, is a vertical environment with a short dashboard, which simplifies sightlines over the hood. It is a traffic-calmed space that leaves the commotion outside and you comfortably seated with a clear view down the road. It is an empowering message that not all SUVs provide. My only gripe was sun glare on the touch screen.
The second row has a flat floor and adult-class support to the seats, which also recline.
Why Land Cruiser?
Big and heavy off-roading SUVs are getting more scrutiny by manufacturers seeking improved fuel-economy and greenhouse-gas ratings. And while the Land Cruiser typically sells fewer than 350 models a year, the Toyota dealers want to keep it, or at least the nameplate. As of now, the Land Cruiser is slated for a redesign in 2023, which might bring a fresh new concept. Toyota isn’t saying which direction it might take, but a return to its more compact FJ roots would introduce fresh new competition for Jeep and the new Ford Bronco.
You will like the Land Cruiser if you are seeking a vehicle that feels vault-secure and safe. For those not sensitive to pricing and fuel costs, the Land Cruiser provides a feeling of calm invincibility on the road.
The Land Cruiser community
• Toyota Land Cruiser Association
• The Land Cruiser Heritage Museum, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
• Restorations in Los Angeles: tlc4x4.com
2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition
Body style: large, 5-passenger SUV with full-time 4WD
Engine: 381-hp, 32-valve 5.7-liter V-8; 401 lb.-ft. torque at 3,600 rpm
Transmission: 8-spd automatic
Fuel economy: 13/17/14 mpg city/hwy/ combined; 87 octane
Fuel tank: 24.6 gal.
Cargo space: 41.4 cu. ft.
Front head/leg room: 38.3/42.9 in.
Rear head/leg room: 38.9/34.4 in.
Length/wheelbase: 194.9/112.2 in.
Curb weight: 5,715 lbs.
Turning circle: 38.7 ft.
Fording depth: 27.5 inches
Max. towing: 8,100 lbs.
Standard equipment includes: smart key entry with push-button ignition, power moonroof with sunshade, multiterrain camera with front, side or rear views, 4-zone climate control with pollen-dust filter, semi-aniline perforated black leather-trimmed upholstery, 14-speaker JBL audio system with Entune app suite and 9-inch touch screen, navigation, bi-level covered center console, leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, 10-way power driver’s seat, 8-way power front passenger seat, heated and ventilated front seats, 18-inch BBS alloy wheels with P285/60 tires, full-size spare, LED low and high-beam headlights, LED fog and running lights, folding side mirrors, power liftgate and manual tailgate with electric release, roof rack, frame-mounted tow hooks front and rear, underbody skid plates (front suspension, radiator, fuel tank, transfer case), 40/20/40 second row seating (with slide, recline, tumble), heated second-row seats, 2 12-volt power plugs, 1 120-volt household plug in cargo area, front and rear parking alerts
Safety features include: include: 10 air bags, active traction control, multi-terrain ABS, trailer sway control, hill-start assist, crawl control with off-road turn assist
Base price: $89,070, including $1,325 freight charge; price as tested $89,369
Options on test vehicle: Glass breakage sensor $299
Where assembled: Toyota City, Japan
Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper; 2 years/24,000 miles free scheduled maintenance; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain