Excellent off-road capability, legendary quality and durability.
by Mitch McCullough
Base Price $51,728
As Tested $57,226
Toyota Land Cruiser combines excellent off-road capability, luxurious appointments, refinement and quality.
Extensively redesigned for 1998, the Land Cruiser is propelled by the same 4.7-liter V8 engine that drives the Lexus LX 470. This twin-cam V8 replaced the Land Cruiser's old inline-6. The V8 and extensive chassis revisions makes the current Land Cruiser a much stronger performer both on the street and in tough terrain than the pre-1998 models.
For 2000, Toyota added electronic brake force distribution, active traction control and vehicle skid control as standard equipment. These sophisticated active safety measures make the Land Cruiser easier to control in emergency maneuvers; traction control also enhances its off-road capability.
Only one well-outfitted model is available, which retails for $51,728.
It comes with just about everything, including leather seating surfaces and a premium CD stereo. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake distribution, four-wheel drive, Active TRAC traction control and a vehicle skid control system are also standard. A few popular items, such as a third-row seat, running boards and a receiver tow hitch add to the bottom line, however.
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.
Leather seats come standard for 2000. They are firm, supportive, and nicely adjustable. The current Land Cruiser is bigger inside than pre-1998 models. This is most apparent in the second row of seats, where legroom has been expanded by almost an inch. The Land Cruiser doesn't offer the interior room of the full-size American sport-utilities, however. Full-size domestic competitors 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.
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 Chevy 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. For 2000, Land Cruiser receives a six-disc in-dash CD player and a power sunroof.
The third seat option isn't very useful. There's more third-seat legroom in a midsize Dodge Durango. 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, 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 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.
An independent front suspension has replaced the old solid axle, a big plus in the ride and handling department. The chassis has been extensively reinforced; nine crossmembers are used in the ladder-type frame, compared to six for the previous edition. Handling is predictable, though the steering could use more road feel. There's no question that this is a big, heavy vehicle, weighing more than 5115 pounds.
Ride quality is smooth on the road; this newest generation Land Cruiser is suppler than previously. 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 all the vulnerable mechanical elements were protected by the skid plates, which come standard. 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.
For 2000, Toyota has added several technologies as standard equipment that improve 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 anti-lock brakes (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 new 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.
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.
© New Car Test Drive, Inc.