A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser
Name the world's greatest SUV?
The first thing that comes to mind here in America is a Jeep. The Wrangler will do anything it wants. This is why their owners are one of the most loyal and deepest group of enthusiasts in this country. No ATV-rated off road trail is safe from a heavily modified Wrangler or CJ.
The next response would be from the genteel crowd, who has embraced the Land Rover and Range Rover as their own. While the Defender kept the original formula working until 2016, it is the top of the line Range Rover that astounds even the poshest people of its ability to laugh at green lanes and steep downhill grades. A wash-up would bring it back to country club status.
Jeep and Land Rover may have kicked off a tradition of rugged, go anywhere transportation that began at the end of World War II. But, how can we exclude the one is seen in more places around the world in this conversation?
Back in 1951, Toyota came up with their answer to the Jeep CJ and Land Rover. It was the one vehicle that would climb up Mount Fuji's sixth stage to prove its capability. It is seen in more remote places on the globe from the Australia Outback to the savannas of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Luckily for us, it is still being made. But, we Americans seem to not buy as many of this world-conquering SUV as its rivals from Jeep and Land Rover. A shame really…
The Toyota Land Cruiser still exists. Perhaps we North Americans have forgotten about it. Maybe I should reacquaint you with one of the most reliable SUVs on this planet.
Reliable? That's a heck of a claim! But, if you travel the globe and look at what safari operators, outback farmers and governments use daily, most likely you will see a Land Cruiser of some sort.
For our purpose, we get the top of the line of the Land Cruiser family. Many parts of the world call this the 200 series. The aim of this model is to carry the prized name in a highly sophisticated, state-of-the-art luxury SUV. In other words, this is a far cry from the troop carriers and pickups seen in places such as Australia, Tanzania, Malaysia, Bolivia, Jordan, Japan and so forth.
At the top of the line, the Land Cruiser would be considered maybe a bit too posh for the Toyota badge. Yet, it has all of the goods that make it competitive with the likes of the Nissan Armada, Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Ford Expedition. But does it continue to have a place in this market?
For one, it has presence. You cannot conquer the world without looking the part. The same reason the Range Rover has conquered the airport-to-safari camp-to-country club market, the Land Cruiser offers a mix of absolute capability with luxury. One looks tells you that it has a charm of its own. The front end is not meant for beauty or elegance, but of presence. It says "move over" without saying "please." The ride height speaks of the Land Cruiser's purpose of ignoring country clubs and making tracks to cabins and ski slopes.
The doors are big for everyone to climb in, The split tailgate makes things more practical for access the cargo hold and offers security for easy access to items with the lower gate up. In all, it is has a no nonsense approach to the luxury SUV by informing us that it has its roots in places where today's Range Rover has since left behind.
For 2016, the Land Cruiser received an update, adding a more distinctive trim up front and all around. It looks better than before, but it also serves as a reminder that it is a far cry a 70 Series Troop Carrier. Like we Americans would take our kids to ballet lessons or hockey practice in a Troop Carrier…well, maybe…
This is where we step inside of those big doors. It is quite nice with brushed satin chrome accents, some tastefully placed wood trimmings and a mix of soft and hard surfaces all around. Our tester is adorned with black leather across all three rows and a whole host of standard equipment that elevates its purpose. The front and second row are large and very comfortable. The third row can be made for three. Note that the second and third row seats wear an abrasion-resistant hide. Carpeting and rugs are also very nice. So far, it makes for a very upscale SUV.
One thing one must remember is of the Land Cruiser's roots, While you have a large 9-inch screen for the Entune system on top of the center stack, the comprehensive instrument binnacle is made for practical matters. It reads very well without any embellishments. It is also button happy, but for good reason. For the four-wheel drive and off-road systems, they are simple to understand and use. Though some switches are tucked away below the beltline on the left, others are found within sight and touch from the steering wheel and the center console. Plus, there is a standard Cool Box underneath the center armrest to keep your food and/or drinks cool.
Space for the first two rows are massive. This is truly an adult vehicle for five. The third row is specifically designed for children, with not enough leg room for tall adults. The cargo hold is expandable, starting from 16.1 cubic feet with all three rows up to 81.7 cubic feet with the rear two rows down. The third row folds away up to the sides of the cabin in a 50/50 split.
To have luxury aspirations, you must have a top notch infotainment system. Toyota's Entune system is solid, offering an app-driven option for more playback of music and information. Yet, you do get music file playback via Bluetooth or a USB connection, along with SiriusXM satellite radio and HD Radio multicasting. The Land Cruiser uses the 14-speaker JBL's Dimension audio system emitting a beautiful sound throughout the cabin. Second row passengers get two 11.6-inch screens to watch their favorite DVDs or play their game console – RCA and HDMI ports are available in the back of the center console. To keep things quiet, there are two wireless headphones for the rear screen system. They can play Mario Brothers, watch their favorite Pixar or Marvel movies without bugging the driver. There is standard QI wireless phone charging in the center console, as well.
Vision is excellent all around. It also helps to have a Multi-Terrain monitor that offers rear, front and side camera views when selected.
One thing that won't bug the driver is the beast underneath the Land Cruiser's hood. For North American purposes, Toyota dropped their powerful 5.7 liter i-Force V8 to motivate this 5,815-pound SUV. With 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, it is capable of towing up to 8,100 pounds. As part of the 2016 revision, Toyota introduced an eight-speed automatic transmission to send power through a two-speed, full-time four-wheel drive system. This system adds an Active Traction Control, a Torsen limited-slip differential, Multi-Terrain select, 5-speed Crawl Control and Off-Road Turn Assist. The last feature is going to be helpful as a lot of four0wheel drive systems retard tight maneuvers by letting the front axle “buck” as you make a tight turn. The Off-Road Turn Assist eliminates that problem.
In all, this driveline is quite powerful. It does the job very nicely. It will not be the fastest SUV on and off the road, but it will do the job of making sure you get there. The eight-speed automatic is a huge help in terms of turning in improved fuel economy figures. I averaged 16.0 MPG in this vehicle – better than every Toyota and Lexus vehicle equipped with this engine tested by me…period!
The ride quality is good. The suspension is soft, as expected in a true SUV. The shock and spring travel enables superb absorption of surface imperfections. To speak only of on-road experiences is to take away the primary purpose of the Land Cruiser. With that said, one must be careful of cornering in this vehicle. Being that it is 74 inches high with an 8.9-inch ground clearance, it has a very low limit in the corners. However, having higher profile tires on 18-inch wheels will help in terms of off-road traction and on-road security.
It does maneuver very well overall, with a good steering system. It offers solid feel to the road and a good turning radius. On-center feel is solid, also. However, the Land Cruiser will "dive" when the brakes are applied in panic situations. A longer braking response helps eliminate this. Otherwise, the system is good with superb pedal action and feel. The Land Cruiser also comes with the standard Toyota Safety Sense-P active safety system, which includes Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, Pre-Collision System and Automatic High Beams.
The base price for all of this is $84,775. The sticker on this tester is $85,520.
This brings up an interesting subject. Some people have said that this is simply too expensive for a Toyota. While over 80,000-plus units are sold monthly are priced under $40,000, no one would think that this brand would sell something of a price tag of a Lexus. Some people even point out that one could get the Land Cruiser-based Lexus LX 570 to justify having a large SUV with a premium badge befitting of that price.
But, what is the difference between the Land Cruiser and the LX 570? The difference in base price is the Lexus costs $5,000 more. What do you get for that extra $5,000? There's two more horsepower in the V8, a different front clip, rear end treatment, D-pillar treatment, a longer basic warranty, a more fabulous cabin, a wider screen, height control, a choice of wood trims…and so forth. However, the Lexus LX 570 has larger wheels, lower profile tires, a lower maximum towing capacity and that wide screen is not touch capacitive. Oh, and the dual screen DVD entertainment system, QI wireless phone charging and the Cool Box are optional on the LX 570! When you option out the Lexus, you have already sent the sticker price upwards to $100,000.
That $85,520 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser looks like a great value, doesn't it?
Somehow, consumers do not see it that way. Based on April, 2017 sales, the Lexus LX 570 outsold the Land Cruiser. While they are both low volume products, a 167 unit gap between the two SUVs during April, 2017 is simply puzzling.
While there are not a lot of new Toyota Land Cruisers, there is an opportunity to actually stand out in a crowd. For that purpose alone, a Land Cruiser might be a great luxury – and, yes, I said "luxury" – SUV to get right here in America. Think about it – you get to own a global trekker with a reputation of owning the distant and remote lands it surveys.
Now, who wouldn't want the greatest SUV on this planet?
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Toyota Motor Sales USA
All photos by Randy Stern