Going Anywhere in High Style
Steve Schaefer, Fri, 29 Jun 2007 08:00:00 PDT
The Land Cruiser sits atop Toyota's lineup of cars and trucks in the United States. Used around the world for generations as the vehicle of choice where paved roads are scarce, it has transformed over time to a highly luxurious unit that is equally at home on American interstates. It's so nice today that you would hate to subject it to the off-road adventures that it is actually capable of providing.
The Land Cruiser is big-it can carry eight passengers in comfort, and if you fold down the second seat and take out the third row, you can stuff more than 90 cubic feet of junk in there with you.
To pull this 5,300-pound machine down the road, Toyota employs a 4.7-liter V8 engine, which puts out 235 horsepower. Its 320 lb.-ft. of torque distinguishes this truck from many others, and allows it to tow up to 6,500 pounds. The V8 sips premium fuel prodigiously, yet it is rated as a Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV). Official EPA mileage ratings are 13 City, 17 Highway, but I earned 14.1 over my test week.
The Land Cruiser's four-wheel drive is a full-time system, which splits the power between the front and rear wheels equally. You can lock the center differential for serious climbing chores, and there's an old-fashioned lever to switch into low gear when you want to creep carefully over rocks. True offroading is aided by a substantial 9.8 inches of ground clearance and generous approach, departure, and ramp break-over angles.
The Land Cruiser's Safety Star system comprises Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), traction control (TRAC), and antilock brakes (ABS) with Brake Assist. The VSC system automatically keeps the car going where you want it to go by changing the amount of engine torque and braking individual wheels. Traction control keeps the tires from slipping during acceleration, and ABS is well known today for helping you stop straight in the shortest distance possible. Brake Assist uses electronic sensors to detect a panic stop and applies extra brake pressure if it decides the driver isn't pushing hard enough to get maximum braking.
The Land Cruiser is mighty quiet within. On my morning commute, the other cars were like images projected onto the panoramic view windows, eerily soundless. Despite a durable and stiff chassis, the dual wishbone independent front suspension and four-link rear axle with coil springs do a great job of making the road part of the scenery and not the soundtrack, too. The excellent seven-speaker stereo system had a chance to shine, especially in a concert hall sized vehicle like the Land Cruiser.
Befitting its luxury market niche, pretty much everything you could want is standard equipment. There's leather on the seats, steering wheel, and shifter. Windows, mirrors, and locks are power. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes electrically. There is a keyless remote with an engine-immobilizing anti-theft system. Front and rear passengers have their own air conditioners and the folks in back can also control their own audio selections. There's a moonroof overhead.
The heated seats are magnificently high-set, and provide hours of comfort, thanks to firm, but not too firm, cushions. The interior materials look and feel substantial. Oddly, the interior door levers are unadorned plastic, just like the ones in the lowly Echo. I liked the remote opening rear vent windows.
My Black Garnet Pearl test unit had the optional multi-featured navigation system ($3,350). The Land Cruiser served as the shuttle vehicle when a group of my fellow employees and I went out to lunch. I quickly keyed in the address to our destination restaurant, and my friends were fascinated at the nav system's split screen, its accentless guidance, and the rearview camera that presented a view of what was behind whenever I slipped the five-speed automatic transmission into Reverse. My friend Matt discovered that there was a "return to starting point" button that instantly set up navigation back to our office, a time-saving feature that I had never noticed before.
My test car was dressed up with an optional running board and roof rack package ($565), and its safety system was enhanced with optional side airbags up front and side curtain airbags front and rear ($650). The latter are meant to protect passengers from head injuries in a crash, and are activated when the system detects a rollover.
The final price, with destination charges, came to $60,327. For that, you have excellent Toyota quality and durability, the ability to drive anywhere you are willing to take the car, and sumptuous accommodations for eight. It's probably more than you need, but it could be everything you want.