The Toyota Land Cruiser has evolved from the basic four-wheel-drive utility vehicle designed 60 years ago to a luxurious SUV that can seat up to eight people and transport large amounts of cargo. As always, the Land Cruiser can handle any kind of road or primitive trail in any kind of weather. It can tow up to 8,500 pounds.
On the 2014 Land Cruiser, every conceivable luxury comes as standard equipment, as does every feature current technology can provide to enhance off-road capability. In other words, the Land Cruiser comes only as one fully loaded model. The luxuries include HDD navigation with Entune multi-media system, JBL audio, a rear-seat entertainment system, rear spoiler, rain-sensing wipers, center-console cooler, headlight washers. leather-trimmed steering wheel, multi-information display, voice controls, and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity.
Toyota updated Land Cruiser’s styling for 2013, with revisions to the grille, headlamps, taillamps, exterior moldings and mirrors. The changes were relatively subtle, calculated to maintain the Land Cruiser’s iconic look, which is the reason Land Cruisers never look dated or go out of style. There have been no further changes for 2014.
The Land Cruiser features all-terrain capability, with a brilliantly designed suspension that enhances performance on irregular terrain yet does not compromise cornering or braking on paved roads. Land Cruiser owners enjoy an exceptionally secure, comfortable SUV that can make extreme use seem routine. Land Cruiser's body-on-frame construction provides rugged durability for hard use off-highway.
Land Cruisers are high-quality vehicles built in small volumes in Japan alongside Lexus vehicles at Toyota's flagship manufacturing facilities. Used Land Cruisers are scarce and command high prices.
With its upright bodywork and wide, flat hood, the 2014 Land Cruiser is linked to the historic Land Cruiser line. The exterior design has the traditional distinct flare on the front fenders, horizontal four-slotted grille and rear liftgate. The horizontally shaped opening on the front bumper looks oddly unrefined.
As we mentioned earlier, the exterior styling of the Land Cruiser was freshened a bit for the 2013 model year, with an updated front grille and headlights that incorporated high-intensity-discharge low-beams. Other new features for 2013 included LED Daytime Running Lights, chrome side molding, redesigned outer side mirrors and new tail lamps. All of these changes have been carried over on the 2014 model.
The effect is to stay with the Land Cruiser lineage. There is no bling factor in the Land Cruiser design. Instead, it looks solid, stable and grounded in every sense of the word. It is designed to be impressive more for what it is, than how it looks. Overall, it has a modern appearance, yet it is unmistakably a Land Cruiser.
Underbody panels behind the front bumper and extending under the engine and behind the rear wheels are designed to protect the engine and transmission when traversing rocky terrain and to smooth the airflow on the highway.
One of the few choices available on the 2014 Land Cruiser is the interior color: Sandstone or Black. Either way, it comes with perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, high-gloss wood grain trim, bright silver instrument panel ornamentation, chrome-plated air registers, and meter-cluster lighting. Conveniences include a Multi-terrain Monitor with front, side or rear selectable views; a Multi-information Display; an Eco Driving Indicator light; a heated steering wheel; and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. There are 12-volt power outlets in the dash and at the rear of the center console; and a 120-volt AC outlet in the rear deck.
Land Cruiser seats up to eight people, with three-across seating in the second and third rows.
There is a modern, technical feel to the cabin, but the overall sense is of conservative design tastes, with all features smoothly integrated, prioritizing value and quality over style. Every aspect of the interior reinforces a sense of security. Much of this feeling exists on an unconscious level, generated by an unusually quiet cabin, a distinct lack of clutter, and the characteristic scent of leather. While the interior is not opulent in design, there is nothing cheap or garish about it. Attention to detail can be seen in the stitching on the leather and the tight seams between the components of the dash and console.
Front-row seats are medium-firm, supportive and highly adjustable. The driver's seat has 10-way adjustability with power lumbar support, and the steering wheel itself has power tilt and telescopic adjustments with generous range. The front cabin is spacious enough, with ample legroom and headroom for all but the tallest drivers. Between the seats is a roomy center console, which has two levels inside.
Chrome-accented Optitron style gauges with white illumination are mounted in a deeply shaded instrument pod. Beneath is a multi-information display with odometer, fuel-consumption data, shift-position indicator. The center console features a gate-type shifter with sequential-shift mode, parking brake, cooler box, USB port and cup holders.
Second-row seating is comfortable and well appointed. The passenger-side second-row seat features a one-touch tumble mechanism for third-row ingress and egress. The second-row seats slide forward and aft four inches for more passenger comfort and cargo storage versatility. The second row also provides the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) child-seat attachment system.
Third-row legroom and headroom is at a premium, however, so the third-row seats are best occupied by smaller people. And we found access to the third row, via the tumble-forward passenger-side second-row seat, not easy for adults.
Most of the time, it's likely that the third-row seats will be folded sideways and stowed on their mounts to allow for cargo. It's an arrangement that looks makeshift, but works well in practice. The mounting setup holds the seats tightly, braced with straps so they don't vibrate, and with the seats stowed quite a bit of room becomes available. If you really need all the room back there, you can remove the rear row altogether. While the Land Cruiser is not as spacious as a Suburban, it is versatile enough to accommodate 81 cubic feet of cargo.
The air conditioning system supplies four climate-control zones with 28 vents located throughout the cabin. First- and second-row passengers have individual controls, so they can stay comfortable if one side of the vehicle is exposed to the sun. The fan has seven speeds.
The JBL audio system does not produce perfect surround sound but, with 14 speakers, it fills the cabin well. The head unit is a Pioneer item, and the system is MP3 and WMA compatible. The audio system is controlled via the eight-inch navigation touch screen. We found the navigation and climate controls on the touch-screen intuitive. Almost every menu is accessible with one or two touches and there are no joy-stick controls that require push-and-turn sequences. Toyota does not permit changing a route or any other input while the vehicle is being driven, so you have to pull over, bring it to a stop and put the gear selector in Park to work the navi. The nine-inch LCD rear-seat entertainment system plays DVDs and has audio/video jacks for video games.
Land Cruiser feels secure underway and it's relaxing to drive on long trips.
Press the start button and the gauges light up, needles bounce once, the steering wheel and mirrors return to previously-set positions, and the V8 quietly hums to life. A gentle but insistent chime prompts seat-belt use.
Find Reverse, and the back-up camera displays on the navigation screen what's behind you. It's a welcome feature, helping to make this SUV easier to park and safer for kids to play around.
In everyday driving, the Land Cruiser feels and behaves just like any other well appointed, full-size SUV. Civilized ride quality is achieved by use of coil-over spring-and-shock combinations in the front, and a four-link/coil spring setup in the rear. There is a fair amount of travel at the rear, which translates into decent ride quality for passengers closer to the rear axle.
Steering, a rack-and-pinion setup, feels light at low speeds, which aids in maneuvering and parking. Because it is a variable-ratio system, at higher speeds it feels solid and progressive, not twitchy in any sense, with a distinct return-to-center tendency. We found it tracked well at cruising speeds along the scenic two-lane highways heading into Yellowstone National Park.
The driver's seating is generous and relaxing. If you get tired of one position, as we did after a few hours, the seat and wheel adjustability allowed us to rotate through a variety of driving postures. Because of a 24.6-gallon fuel capacity, theoretical range is somewhere between 320 and 440 miles per tank.
On the highway, the Land Cruiser offers sharp handling (for an SUV) and a secure environment. More precise than bigger trucks, and immune to smaller traffic on sheer bulk alone, the Land Cruiser driver will rarely feel threatened no matter how competitive the morning commute may become.
Throttle response is quite good from the 5.7-liter V8. Rated at 381 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 401 pound-feet of torque at 3600 rpm, the 5.7-liter engine is shared with the Tundra full-size pickup. Toyota has incorporated the latest variable valve timing technology, cam lobe design, and intake manifold tuning to optimize the engine for power output, fuel economy and reduced emissions. Like any good truck engine, the 5.7-liter allows the Land Cruiser to loaf around at low rpm and still offer ready throttle response.
Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 13/18 mpg City/Highway. That's decent highway fuel economy for the vehicle's size and weight.
The 6-speed automatic transmission enhances drivability. The transmission offers a very low first gear for heavy loads, and two overdrive gears at the top, including a super overdrive top gear that accounts for the smooth, efficient highway cruise mode. As we drove on a variety of highways and mountain roads, the transmission always seemed to be in the right gear, and without hunting back and forth. The automatic is computer controlled, constantly cross-checking with the engine to determine a shift pattern based on driving conditions. We noticed that, when decelerating down a long highway incline in sixth gear, the transmission would automatically downshift to fifth or even fourth gear to supply engine braking. It felt secure and made it easier to drive.
Land Cruiser is a full-time four-wheel-drive truck, with a nominal torque bias of 40/60 front/rear. However, it drives and feels more like a rear-wheel-drive vehicle in normal conditions, with stable tracking and light, easy steering with no apparent torque steer. Should front wheels begin to slip, up to 70 percent of engine torque can be instantly biased to the rear. On the other hand, should the rear wheels begin to slip, the torque ratio changes to a maximum of 50/50, for ideal stability and balance.
Brakes are stout four-wheel discs, as they need to be with a vehicle of this size and weight. Pedal travel allows for a slight squish before the brakes begin to grip, at which point large calipers progressively haul down the Land Cruiser's nearly three tons with minimal effort. The four-wheel-multi-terrain anti-lock braking system automatic selects the optimal ABS profile to provide the most suitable brake force for on- and off-road driving. The brakes are enhanced by Electronic Brake-force Distribution (to equalize braking forces between front and rear wheels) and Brake Assist (which can assist the driver in panic stops).
And for those moments when push does come to shove, the Land Cruiser lives up to the capability requirements of a traditional, authentic four-wheel-drive truck.
The Multi-terrain Select system dials in wheel slip control to match the terrain. In loose terrain such as mud and sand, more than normal wheel spin is allowed. On solid rock, wheel slip is minimized and the system acts more like a limited-slip differential.
Crawl Control acts like ABS on steep downhills when driving off-highway in Low range, preventing the vehicle from rolling too fast, allowing the driver to select from five settings, depending on the surface condition and steepness of the hill. No braking is needed; the driver simply steers the vehicle. In extremely rugged terrain, we found we could select from the Crawl Control settings on the fly, using the system to maintain a comfortable speed as steepness varied. The system does make a disconcerting noise as the brakes are selectively modulated, wheel-to-wheel, but we can vouch for the fact that it holds the vehicle to safe speeds even on the steepest downhills.
Other reasons why a Land Cruiser excels in rough terrain are more fundamental. It is proportioned with a wide track and very little body overhang, so it can climb slopes up to 45 degrees, sidehill up to 43 degrees without rolling over, and drive in and out of a 30-degree ditch, head-on. There are skid plates under the engine, transfer case and fuel tank, and two stout tow hooks in the front. The spare tire is a full-size tire, not a temporary spare. Frame strength, a fundamental requirement for durability, is prodigious, reflecting Toyota’s 60 years of experience in off-road motoring.
An example of build quality can be found in the exhaust system. It's stainless steel (expensive) to resist mud and water without rusting. It is hung using two additional ball joints located just forward of the main muffler that reduce vibration in the exhaust system, so it will be a long time before the exhaust will crack, fatigue or rattle.
The Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System includes robust stabilizer bars that enhance handling on smooth, paved surfaces. Yet, under variable wheel movement, such as driving on deeply rutted surfaces, both front and rear stabilizers permit enhanced suspension articulation, allowing the rear wheels to move as much as 27 inches to stay on the ground. The system is not electronic, but hydro/mechanical, and requires no power source. The significance is that the benefits of a taut suspension can be available for everyday driving, without sacrificing the need for a very flexible suspension off road.
In Low range, there is the firm throttle response of torque on demand, but the throttle is not touchy at low speeds. This is the result of electronic throttle control that accounts for the lower gearing, so accelerator tip-in is more progressive. Power gets to the ground through stout axles with large ring gears and double-row bearings. The full-time 4WD system has a generous low-range ratio of 2.618:1, and a locking center differential that can be engaged in high range or low range. Between the low gearing, the Torsen center differential, the variable-roll-stiffness suspension and large tires, the Land Cruiser's design envelope offers the ability to get to any rational destination, regardless of conditions.
Trailer Sway Control uses the Land Cruiser's VSC Vehicle Stability Control to help minimize trailer sway.
The Toyota Land Cruiser is distinguished by a rare mix of effortless highway performance, everyday comfort, and authentic, industrial-strength four-wheel-drive capability. And it comes with all the amenities, standard.
NewCarTestDrive.com editor Mitch McCullough contributed to this report.