The unstoppable Land 'Bruiser' is both luxurious and tough.
by Mitch McCullough
Base Price (MSRP) $52,895
As Tested (MSRP) $58,308
The Land Cruiser is one of only a few truly elite off-road vehicles. And while this big, V8-powered SUV can transport up to eight passengers over the toughest terrain, it's also a comfortable long-distance cruiser. Inside, you'll find all of the features normally associated with top-level luxury sedans, including heated leather seats, power sunroof, automatic climate control, and every power accessory under the sun.
The Land Cruiser is also fitted with a long list of safety equipment. Standard features include full-time four-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution, active traction control and vehicle skid control. These sophisticated active safety measures make the Land Cruiser easier to control in emergency maneuvers; traction control also enhances its off-road capability.
Few vehicles offer the off-road capability of the Land Cruiser, and fewer still combine this with its level of luxury. The Land Cruiser comes with Toyota's impressive level of quality control. While the price is high, the Land Cruiser maintains its value over the long haul with very minimal depreciation.
Toyota now offers five sport-utility vehicles with the Land Cruiser sitting at the top of the heap in terms of price.
Only one well-outfitted model is available, which retails for $52,895. The Lexus LX 470 is similar since it's based on the same components, but adds more leather and wood interior trim and a few other features such as an adjustable suspension.
The Land Cruiser comes with just about everything, including leather seating surfaces, remote keyless entry, one-touch up/down power windows, and a CD stereo. A few popular items, such as a third-row seat, running boards and a receiver tow hitch add to the bottom line, however.
Major changes for 2001 include a standard seven-speaker JBL audio system with an in-dash six CD changer, automatic climate control for the third-row seats (part of the optional Third Rear Seat Package), and an optional Navigation system package. This system moves the CD changer to the center console and also plays DVDs on the navigation screen when the truck is in Park.
The Land Cruiser is readily identified with its square-shaped two-box design. It's an attractive SUV, but it is starting to look a bit dated.
The standard leather seats are firm, supportive, and nicely adjustable. The Land Cruiser is big inside, especially when it comes to supplying legroom for the second-row seats. However, it doesn't offer the interior room of the full-size American sport-utilities; look to the all-new Toyota Sequoia for that. Full-size SUVs offer more leg and knee room in the second row, but most buyers should find the Land Cruiser's second-row seats habitable by adults. The optional third-row seat continues to be quite cramped; it's mainly useful for children. You're better off without it if your family is five or fewer, or you aren't regularly in charge of carpool duties.
The front seats offer a commanding view of the road ahead. The fenders are easily visible, which is a benefit when picking your way along a narrow mountain trail. Getting up to that commanding view entails more of a climb than it does in a Ford Expedition or Chevrolet Tahoe. That's the price of a ground clearance of nearly 10 inches and well worth it when driving off road. Large door openings assist when getting in and out.
The interior looks contemporary with a dashboard design that closely resembles the one used in Toyota's smaller 4Runner. All controls are logically placed, well marked and easy to use.
The third seat option isn't very useful. There's more third-seat legroom in a midsize Dodge Durango. If you need seating for more than four or five, then check out the Sequoia. We'd pass on this option and use that space for cargo. You may need it. The Land Cruiser ranks near the bottom of its class in terms of cargo space.
Storage space abounds for odds and ends. Compartments include a big glove box, a cubby in the front console, and front and rear door pockets. An overhead console provides three storage boxes plus a compartment for sunglasses or a garage door opener. Separate compartments in back hold tools, a jack and a first aid kit.
Toyota's V8 engine is quiet. It also delivers good passing performance. There's real grunt under the hood. Moreover, it's high-tech grunt: The 4.7-liter V8 uses dual overhead-cams and four valves per cylinder to generate 230 horsepower and, even more significant, 320 foot-pounds of torque. Torque is the low-end thrust that gets you moving when the light turns green. This torque helps give the Land Cruiser a towing capacity of 6500 pounds; the full-sized domestic SUVs offer higher tow ratings, but that's a hefty trailer. The time it takes for the Land Cruiser to accelerate from 0-60 mph is less than 10 seconds. But there's no question that this is a big, heavy vehicle, weighing more than 5115 pounds.
An independent front suspension produces predictable handling, though the steering could use more road feel. The chassis is extensively reinforced with nine crossmembers in the ladder-type frame.
Ride quality is smooth and supple on the road. Interior noise is relatively low.
The Toyota Land Cruiser can go just about anywhere and it is designed to take a lot more punishment than most owners will ever dish out. Ground clearance continues to be tops in class at nearly 10 inches. The suspension is designed to provide plenty of travel and articulation to traverse rocky or stump-strewn terrain. Tender elements of the suspension are tucked above a massive skid plate. Skid plates also cover the transfer case and fuel tank.
Only Land Rovers and Jeeps can compete in terms of off-road capability. The front differential can no longer be locked, but our Land Cruiser clawed its way through deep sand and clambered over small boulders without hesitation. When something did scrape, we were confident that the skid plates, which come standard, protected all the vulnerable mechanical elements. In spite of its improved ride quality on pavement, the current Land Cruiser offers better off-road capability than the previous-generation (pre-1998) model.
The Land Cruiser uses a full-time four-wheel-drive system. The system is capable of splitting torque evenly front to rear, with the rear wheels turning in unison while the front wheels bias torque to the side with the best traction. To achieve this, simply turn the selector switch to full-lock mode and shift the two-speed transfer case into low-range four-wheel drive.
Land Cruiser's ABS senses the slope and roughness of the terrain and reduces the anti-lock influence over the brakes; this improves stopping performance off road and avoids early activation on steep slopes.
There are several technologies as standard equipment that improves the driver's ability to control the Land Cruiser in emergency maneuvers: electronic brake force distribution, active traction control, and vehicle skid control.
Electronic brake force distribution (EBD) evenly distributes the braking force to the front and rear wheels. This reduces stopping distances. A brake assist function has been developed to help drivers who may not be depressing the brake pedal hard enough in an emergency braking situation. The system can detect when you're trying to slam on the brakes to stop; it then uses full braking force even if you relax your foot on the brake pedal. The Land Cruiser comes standard with ABS, which allow the driver to maintain steering control of the vehicle in an emergency-braking situation. All that technology, along with the Land Cruiser's excellent braking performance, results in a vehicle that's prepared to handle an emergency-stopping crisis.
Toyota's active traction control (Active TRAC) improves control when a tire is spinning or slipping during acceleration. Active TRAC senses when a tire is spinning and directs that power to the other three wheels. A vehicle skid control (VSC) system orchestrates the ABS and Active TRAC sensors and electronics to help the driver maintain traction in skids caused by adverse driving conditions.
Few sport-utilities offer more off-road capability and none offer higher all-around quality than the Toyota Land Cruiser. On the downside, it ranks at the top in terms of price and at the bottom in terms of cargo space (especially with the optional third-row seats).
Overall, the Land Cruiser is one of the most desirable vehicles in its class. So, while you may pay a premium price, you'll get a premium vehicle.
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