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Buying Guide: The 1998-2007 Toyota Land Cruiser 100-Series


The 1998-2007 Toyota Land Cruiser is something of a legend among off-roaders looking for plenty of space, good V8 power, serious off-road ability, Lexus-level refinement, and, of course, a reputation for durability.

Toyota internally referred to this generation Land Cruiser as the 100-Series, and it was a big leap forward in most ways compared to its 80-Series predecessor that really catapulted these SUVs into daily-driver use. Its just-right proportions and usable interior space have helped boost resale values. It’s safe to say that the 100-Series hit rock bottom a few years ago; a well-kept version is likely to appreciate for the foreseeable future.

The 100-Series Land Cruiser was also sold as the Lexus LX 470, a model with a few more luxury features and a different suspension. We’ll discuss that one below, and most of the information provided here applies to both the Toyota and what’s colloquially referred to as the “Lexus Land Cruiser.”

What Body Styles, Trim Levels and Powertrains Were Available on the 100-Series Toyota Land Cruiser?

Though versions of the 100-Series were sold overseas with all sorts of powertrain and suspension setups, the Land Cruiser came to the U.S. in just one four-door configuration with a single engine choice. Officially, the Land Cruiser came standard with five seats, but nearly every 100-Series truck arrived in the U.S. with third-row jump seats that were a $1,100 option early on and standard later.

All Land Cruisers use a 4.7-liter V8 shared with the Lexus GX 470 as well as the Toyota  Tundra and Sequoia. This V8 started off with 230 horsepower and topped off at 275 hp thanks to the addition of variable valve timing in 2006. A four-speed automatic transmission was standard early on, while a five-speed automatic arrived for 2003.

Every Land Cruiser came standard with full-time four-wheel drive with a low range and a center differential lock activated by a button on the dash. Only 1998 and 1999 models could be had with a locking rear differential activated by a control knob to the left of the steering wheel. 2000-and-later Land Cruisers swapped the diff lock — which is for severe off-road use only — for traction control and stability control. The 100-Series Land Cruiser was one of the first SUVs with this tech.

The LX 470 shares the Land Cruiser’s V8 and transmissions, though it was never offered with the locking differential.

Underneath, the Land Cruiser rides on a separate ladder frame with a solid rear axle and an independent front suspension. The combination provides better handling than older Land Cruisers and a smoother ride at the expense of some off-road articulation. LX 470s came standard with a height-adjustable suspension and adaptive dampers. The height-adjustable suspension was added to the Land Cruiser’s options list for the 2006 model year, and it is common on later SUVs.

What Changes Were Made to the Toyota Land Cruiser Over the Years?

The Land Cruiser had four distinct updates, though it was not redesigned until 2008.

The first real update came in 2000 when traction and stability control systems were made standard, and the locking differential was dropped. Off-roaders groaned, but they were rewarded with a more robust four-pinion front differential. A navigation system was added to the options list for 2001, though it is comically outdated today.

Another update arrived for 2003 in the form of revised exterior styling and newly standard 17-inch alloy wheels as well as optional (and much more common) 18-inch alloy wheels. The aforementioned five-speed automatic transmission was newly standard, and it was accompanied by beefed-up driveshafts and various enhancements that helped cut emissions. Additionally, the dash was revised with new controls and finishes. Side-impact and side-curtain airbags were added to the options list.

It’s worth noting here that nearly every Land Cruiser imported to the U.S. was fitted with every available option, aside from the locking differential. For instance, it’s highly unusual to find an early Land Cruiser without a sunroof and with cloth seats, and nearly every 2003-and-newer truck has the extra airbags and the navigation system.

Bluetooth and navigation were newly paired with navigation for 2004.

The Land Cruiser’s last update came for 2006 when the exterior lights were revised, variable valve timing was added to the V8, and the height-adjustable suspension system previously exclusive to the LX 470 was made optional.

For the most part, the LX 470’s mechanical updates mirrored the Land Cruiser. A night vision system that projects a view of the road ahead onto the windshield became a costly option in 2003: at $2,200 when new, it was rarely selected.

What Toyota Land Cruiser Options, Features or Combinations Should I Get?

Toyota never sold many 100-Series Land Cruisers in the U.S., so for the most part, you’ll be deciding between model year changes and, frankly, what color you like the most. Of course, you’ll want to pay attention most carefully to condition and service history.

Off-roaders will want to look for the locking rear differential offered on 1998 and 1999 Land Cruisers; the feature definitely adds value to some shoppers. Most drivers will find the traction and stability control systems made standard in 2000 to be perfectly acceptable, especially in rainy or snowy conditions. Toyota’s traction control system is loud in its operation, but it is more effective off-road than most.

A Land Cruiser without the clumsy navigation system is especially appealing since the tech is outdated and cumbersome to operate compared to newer systems. Anecdotally, nearly all 2003-and-newer Land Cruisers without navigation would have been originally sold in Alaska, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico because Toyota didn’t include maps for those areas in its original rollout. Realistically, you could shop unsuccessfully for years to find one without navigation.

Like most options, running boards were fitted to nearly every Land Cruiser. They are easy enough to remove with a basic socket set, and a few hundred dollars buys a set of Toyota plastic mud flaps that protect the truck’s paint and give it a polished look.

Notably, Toyota uses independent distributors in some markets in the south central and southeast to sell its cars. Those distributors added numerous accessories of dubious value at the port of entry, including tape stripes, automatic-dimming rearview mirrors, special wheels, and more. These features were remarkably expensive when new (sometimes adding $4,000 or more to the list price) but make little difference on a used truck.

Toyota’s variable valve timing system is generally considered durable, so most Land Cruiser fans find the 2006 and 2007 models the most appealing. The height-adjustable suspension that was optional those years (about $1,600 when new) delivers a smoother ride and offers the convenience of higher ground clearance (for off-roading) and a lower step-in height at the tap of a button. The system requires a special fluid and its shocks are relatively expensive to replace, though it is largely considered a reliable system.

What Are Some of the Toyota Land Cruiser’s Common Problems?

The Land Cruiser is a pretty robust SUV overall, though it is a fairly complex vehicle that requires maintenance. Not all previous owners will be good about following Toyota’s maintenance schedule, so be prepared to rectify some deferred services.

The V8 requires a timing belt change every 90,000 miles, at which time it’s prudent to replace the water pump. If you don’t have a repair record or an underhood sticker indicating a recent replacement, plan to do this service immediately.

Beyond that, the Land Cruiser needs routine fluid services. Most enthusiasts will “baseline” their trucks by changing out everything from the gearbox to the coolant, the latter of which is especially important as these trucks can sometimes run hot.

Otherwise, Land Cruisers have few needs atypical to 20-year-old vehicles. Suspension bushings will probably need replacement, shocks can wear out, and the driveshaft can produce a clunk unless it is regularly lubricated.

For its go-anywhere reputation, the Land Cruiser is remarkably rust-prone. The body is fairly stout, though corrosion can develop on the tailgate panels and the rockers. Underneath, inspect the frame closely. Many dealers and sellers will simply slap some black paint on to make things look fresher than they are. When in doubt, have a pre-purchase inspection performed — and definitely don’t buy a 100-Series Land Cruiser without having someone tap the frame lightly with a hammer to check for rust.

Interior trim generally holds up well, though the silver plastics used beginning in 2003 tend to scratch easily. Also, the leather Toyota specified is of subpar quality compared to that in the Lexus LX 470. Still, even the LX’s hides need to be regularly conditioned to prevent cracks and splits. Seat reupholstering is common and relatively inexpensive. Find a Toyota Land Cruiser for sale

 

Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz is an author specializing in helping in-market consumers get the most bang for their buck -- and the best car, while they're at it. When not virtually shopping for new and used cars, Andrew can probably be found under the hood of a vintage classic that's rapidly losing fluids.

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