This vehicle is one large SUV that lives within its own colossal shadow. Beginning as a no-frills unity vehicle with proven off-road credentials in Asia, Toyota brought their 1957 Land Cruiser to the US market. People were in love with the Jeep, Land Rover, and 4x4 trucks during the post-World War II automotive recovery era. Bigger was better, and gasoline was cheap; the living was easy in a big SUV. In 1957, General Motors was building a Suburban while Ford was developing a Bronco, but no one was making a Japanese 4x4 like the Land Cruiser. Today, the classic Land Cruisers are more popular than ever, and even unrestored versions are getting high dollars.
Not unlike other SUV’s that start with very austere interiors and few options, the Land Cruiser has become the flagship for Toyota. It has become a luxury SUV with a high price tag that still climbs over mountains and through rivers, just like the bear-bones version which has crossed the world’s continents for 60+ years. Consider that the Suburban has become a Cadillac Escalade and the Bronco has become many SUV’s and now a Lincoln Navigator- primarily because all these heavy-weights can carry all the luxury amenities customers are willing to pay for in a vehicle. Also, the profit margin is huge on these behemoths of machines.
Case in point, the 2018 Land Cruiser comes with every amenity Toyota has in the parts bin, except for the infotainment software from Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™. This software will make their way from the new Avalon into Toyota’s lineup eventually, but the Land Cruiser is not a high volume seller so Toyota’s Entune will continue to drive the JBL audio system with amplifier, 14 deluxe speakers, and subwoofer this year. The one option available is a DVD rear-seat entertainment system with 11.5” screens.
As for comfort, I found the older-style seats covered with Lexus-quality perforated leather trim (black or brown) very supportive, heated, ventilated and ready for longer trips. Many of the interior materials are updated, and things like heated steering wheels, memory settings, and auto-everything continue to coddle all eight occupants. With reclining 40/20/20 split 2nd-row seats, there is still easy access to the 3rd-row with the pull of a single handle. The middle row also slides to adjust for people or cargo as needed in this SUV with 81.7 cubic feet of cargo space.
The 3rd row can split the 50/50 fold-down leather seats or merely fold down the headrests for better visibility out the back. Toyota has added an abrasion-resistant seatback to keep all this leather from getting scuffed, although, not many people will be throwing a moose or plywood in the backend of this luxurious SUV even with the middle and third rows folded flat.
The wood trim appearance is a nice touch, but the interior is still more about go-anywhere function. Toyota has upgraded the four-zone automatic climate control system with heated or cooled air coming from 28 air vents. There is even a standard auxiliary “Positive Temperature Coefficient” system which uses electric ceramic heaters to blow warm air almost immediately.
The Land Cruiser is very capable of getting to sub-zero climates around the world with arguably the industry’s most reliable full-time, four-wheel drive system. Toyota continues to use a TORSEN limited-slip locking center differential which can move traction front-to-rear with a 40:60 ratio. Toyota Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) uses the ABS brakes and engine throttle to monitor all four tires. If any wheel begins to lose traction, the differential can redistribute torque instantly.
I have driven Toyota’s 2-speed transfer case and their Multi-terrain Select system in the Land Cruiser and the 4-Runner all over California and Colorado. I have found it flawless on all kinds of snow, mud, and sand. Now they have added a “Mogul” setting for extreme terrain. Toyota claims their computer and the Land Cruiser’s adjustable suspension can handle “V-ditches, slopes, and ridges; (where) wheel slip is minimized, and the system acts more like a limited slip differential.” There is even a 360-degree camera system with a 5-second front undercarriage projected path video playback to help drivers see the ground without getting cold or dirty. The driver can even see through the “Multi-Terrain Monitor” with selectable front side or rear views.
One thing is for sure; the Land Cruiser is a brute with body-on-frame construction and high-strength steel all over the chassis and frame so it can cruise down the highway or crawl over a boulder with indestructible rigidity. The modern Land Cruiser is also massive with an overall length of 194.9 inches, a gross vehicle weight of 7385 lbs., and a payload of over 1,300 lbs. This SUV can also tow up to 8,100 pounds with computer-assisted sway control, braking, and stability control.
Unfortunately, with all of this glorious luxury, weight, and strength, the Land Cruiser drives and turns without the precision of other modern SUV’s. Toyota uses a Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) which consistently adjusts for body lean (up to 50% reduction) using hydraulically-operated stabilizer bars for on and off-road travel. This system cannot change all the physics at work here with the wheelbase still being only 112 inches wheel-to-wheel.
This new technology is ideal for maneuverability in off-road situations, but the Land Cruiser struggles to provide agile handling at highway speeds. Considering the city/highway/combined MPG is only 13/18/15 respectively, even the 27-gallon fuel tank won’t encourage the average family to take a cross-country road trip. The big P285/60R18 mud-and-snow tires on 18 x 8.0-inch aluminum alloy wheels are well-suited for off-road grip but add to the challenge of controlled on-road handling. Even so, the 2018 Land Cruiser never feels out of control and brakes well.
Power is provided by Toyota’s bulletproof 5.7-liter V8 engine with 381 horsepower and 401 lbs.-ft. torque. This Toyota Direct Ignition (TDI) fuel delivery does not require premium fuel, so there are some savings on gasoline with 87-octane regular unleaded. The revised 8-speed transmission is smooth as silk and motivates the full-time 4x4 drivetrain with just the right gear at three mph, as well as when driving at 83 mph.
Toyota continues to use their proven Multi-terrain Select including Crawl Control to handle off-road crawling, while it uses a host of on-road safety features, all displayed on a digital display.
Standard features include radar and monocular camera sensors for the stuff you don’t want to hit (i.e., pedestrians, animals, and vehicles). There is automatic braking connected to the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection function and even a Sway Warning System. To help avoid hitting anything at night, Toyota also includes automatic high beams.
I have always loved the legendary prowess of the Toyota Land Cruiser and the feeling that one can go anywhere behind the wheel of this land bruiser. If money were no object, it would still be at the top of my SUV short-list. With a starting price of $84,515, the 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser can only be considered if the budget is considered. Fully restored classic Land Cruisers are going for six-figures, so the love for this mountain-climbing machines is growing- even if most owners will never even get mud on the tires.