2016 Toyota Land Cruiser Quick Spin [w/video]
An Eight-Passenger Anachronism
Power381 HP / 401 LB-FT
Curb Weight5,815 LBS
Cargo81.7 CU-FT (max)
MPG13 City / 18 HWY
Best Deal Price$79,257
The evolution of the SUV came when more and more consumers fell in love with high-riding vehicles and companies realized they could make serious profits marketing and selling SUVs and car-based crossovers. With that, we got vehicles like the the Ford Explorer and Honda CR-V – products that delivered a high ride height and spacious interior, but offered limited off-road ability. Even the Land Rovers and Jeeps began to change, offering better driving dynamics, more cosseting rides, and improved fuel efficiency.
The Toyota Land Cruiser, however, kicks it old school. Even though it's been freshened for 2016, it's an uncompromising reminder of what SUVs used to be; it's a flawed but utterly capable piece of engineering that will take you anywhere you can dream.
- Toyota's 5.7-liter V8 remains underhood, thumping away with 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. It's an old lump – electronic fuel injection is still used (not DI, like most modern cars), and it's a big, naturally aspirated engine.
- At 5,815 pounds, there are over 1,000 pounds of Land Crusher for every liter of V8, but that's not totally noticeable off the line. The engine delivers strong power – there are no flat spots in the linear torque curve. Throttle response is precise and easy to modulate, which is great for off-roading, where small, delicate inputs can have a big impact on the position of your vehicle. Oh, and it's worth mentioning that the 5.7-liter sounds suitably brawny under load. There's no artificial sound enhancement here.
- While the engine is an old-school bruiser, the 2016 Land Cruiser's new eight-speed automatic transmission is a far more modern item. This is Toyota's first in-house trans to use eight gears and feels even better than the Aisin eight-speed auto fitted to the Lexus lineup. This transmission is sharp and eager to upshift, but it's not as willing to move in the other direction. Still, the Land Cruiser's new transmission is a standout that we can't wait to see applied to other large Toyotas. Bad news? The two additional cogs have no impact on the meager fuel economy economy numbers, which remain pegged at 13 miles per gallon in the city and 18 on the highway.
- Where Land Rover evolved its vehicles to the point that they deliver brilliant off-road performance and remarkable on-road poise and comfort, there's no such refinement in the Land Cruiser. It's brutish and clumsy when faced with a bend, and doesn't instill confidence at speed. It rolls too much too suddenly, and whether through the chassis or the light, numb steering, you're constantly aware of just how big and heavy a vehicle the LC is. Dig too hard into the throttle and the Toyota is set back on its haunches. Dive is an issue under even moderate braking.
- Part of the old school nature of the Land Cruiser can be blamed on its construction. Modern CUVs and SUVs are almost exclusively built using a unibody design, while the Toyota uses a body-on-frame design – you know, like a pickup truck. Large bumps and imperfections aren't bad – there's too much vertical motion, of course – but it's the secondary ride that is the biggest problem. The body shudders and shakes over high-frequency impacts. It's uncouth and unpleasant.
- That's not to say the interior isn't comfortable. While Lexus offers its own version of the Land Cruiser – the LX 570 – spend any amount of time in the Toyota and you'll wonder why people bother to pay more for that "L" badge. The standard leather seats look and feel outstanding, especially in the Terra seen here, one of just two color schemes. The wood trim, piano black plastic, and soft-touch dash all feel like quality items.
- There's seating for eight, but as you can see in the video below, Toyota's third row is seriously outdated. Where most other SUVs this size offer power seats that fold into the load floor, the Land Cruiser's chairs manually fold upward and off to the side.
- But here's the real kicker: The Land Cruiser starts at $84,820. There are no optional extras or special paints. That's just the price. It's almost $20,000 more than the base price of a Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, it's $11,850 more than a base Cadillac Escalade, and it's only $1,125 less than a base Range Rover. In other words, it's a lot of damn money for a product so generally antiquated.
But all our gripes go back to that old school formula. The engine is old fashioned and inefficient, but it's also bulletproof and easy to maintain. The handling lacks poise in city and freeway driving because this thing is designed more for jumping dunes at speed or climbing rocks at a crawl. There's shuddering over high-frequency bumps because a body-on-frame design is more durable and helps the LC haul 8,100 pounds (compared to 7,700 in a Range Rover). These faults are part of the charm and character of the Land Cruiser. If your daily commute involves a trip across the Darién Gap, the Empty Quarter, or the Rubicon Trail, you absolutely want a Land Cruiser. But if it doesn't, we can't blame you for looking elsewhere.
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