SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A blast of cool fall Utah air hit me as I stepped out of the hotel. Under the porte-cochère, a lineup of Toyota Land Cruisers was gathered. A few stood out, vintage varieties I would drive later that day, but for the 90-minute drive to the off-road trail that was our destination, I got behind the wheel of a 200 Series, a 2019 model.
In the dim morning light it wasn't easy to spot the differences between a stock 200 Series Land Cruiser and the Heritage Edition we flew out to test. The easiest way is by looking at the roof. On top of the rails of the Heritage Edition sits a Yakima MegaWarrior roof rack. The second standout is the vintage Land Cruiser badging on the D-pillar. Other exterior differences are more subtle. On the side, a chrome delete makes for a simpler look, the running board delete adds ground clearance, and the bronze BBS wheels, well, they just look good. The chrome surrounding the headlights and foglights has been darkened, as has the grille, and the side mirrors have black caps. It looks so much better, I started to wonder why Toyota offers the Land Cruiser any other way.
After climbing inside the Heritage Edition, the first difference you’ll notice is the bronze contrast stitching featured throughout the cabin. The cooler you’d find in the center console of a stock Cruiser has been removed, making room for more storage, the thought being that if you’re a true overlander, you’ll bring a cooler of your own that can hold more than a few water bottles. And a bigger cooler should fit more easily in the rear of the Heritage Edition thanks to the third row delete.
If you’ve driven a 200 Series Land Cruiser, you know what it is like to drive the Land Cruiser Heritage Edition. In the vehicle’s 60 years, it has matured from the brash military 4x4 that was the first vehicle to summit Mount Fuji, into a refined luxury SUV still capable of intense off-roading (the 200 Series took home first and second place at the Dakar Rally in 2014 in the production car category). But make no mistake, this body-on frame SUV is old-school, and drives like it. It floats above the road, its nose diving at every press of the brake pedal. The infotainment is a bit lacking for something with a price tag approaching $90K, and if you’ve never experienced body roll, turn the wheel slightly and you’ll get a prime example. The 5.7-liter V8 sounds great and, combined with the eight-speed transmission, delivers smooth acceleration that complements the pillow-like ride quality.
After a short highway jaunt, we arrived at our off-road trail, and after one go-round in our stock Cruiser I hopped into the Heritage Edition. Admittedly the trail was not difficult; it required no spotters nor prior off-road experience. Using Multi-Terrain Select, I placed the truck in “Loose Rock” mode and marched forward.
The Cruiser had no trouble clambering over the rocks littering the mile-high hillside, and this time, with no running boards to get in the way, there was hardly a sound. The steering, while somewhat vague, offers good feedback, which along with the incredible visibility proves essential off-road; on a tougher trail, more accurate placement of the wheels would surely be necessary.
The starting price of a 2020 Land Cruiser is $86,720 including destination, while the Heritage Edition, available at dealerships now, tops that at $88,970. To me, that is $2 grand well-spent. The roof rack alone costs $450 when purchased separately, while the Bronze BBS wheels, vintage badging, and running board/chrome side body molding delete more than make up the balance. That being said, vintage badging doesn’t make up for such a high price on an SUV that feels this old, regardless of its history.
After a few more rounds on the trail, I was happy to spend some seat time in five vintage cruisers, an FJ40, FJ55, FJ60, FJ80 and UZJ100, which then prompted me to spend the rest of the week on Craigslist trying to find the Land Cruiser that will be my next vehicle. At nearly $90K, it won't be a new Heritage Edition. But in 15-20 years? Definitely.