I drove an $86,000 Toyota Land Cruiser to see if the off-road legend could live up to its incredible reputation

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  • The Toyota Land Cruiser dates back to the 1950s. Once a pure offroader, the full-size SUV became popular with suburbanites in the 1990s.
  • The 2018 Land Cruiser I tested hasn’t been redesigned since 2007. But you have to ask yourself, “Does it need to be?”
  • It doesn’t. This classic three-row beast might not be the fanciest SUV in the land, and Toyota is charging a lot for it. But if you can afford the sticker and the fuel, the Land Cruiser won’t let you down.
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The Toyota Land Cruiser is something of a dinosaur — even when compared with other hulking SUVs, such as the Cadillac Escalade and the Lincoln Navigator. It’s been around since the 1950s, although the earliest examples were built and used for hardcore expeditions.

Much later, Toyota domesticated the truck a bit, without sacrificing its heritage. The timing was excellent, as the Land Cruiser was able to catch the 1990s SUV wave, appealing to suburban families and Explorers Club members alike. It’s still around, and it’s still perhaps the most rugged full-size, proper four-wheel-drive vehicle you can find to make soccer-practice runs.

It tends to be the SUV that pops to mind and Join the financial binary options when we discuss what we’d drive to face down the apocalypse. We don’t much care that the current generation has been in production since 2007. Why fix — or revamp — what ain’t broke?

Toyota loaned us a 2018 Land Cruiser that, at $86,000, was very well-equipped. Yes, that sounds like a lot of money. But read on to find out why it’s probably worth it.

Photos by Hollis Johnson.

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The 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser landed in the rugged terrain of Manhattan island wearing a “Magnetic Gray” paint job.

The color scheme mitigated the SUVs considerable bulk. It weighs 6,000 lbs. and is 16-feet long.

You fear nothing in the Toyota Land Cruiser. It fills space and then fills it some more.

The overall design isn’t as brutalistic as some serious 4x4s, but the Land Cruiser has only been slightly domesticated. It’s a great big, no-frills box with a giant motor up front.

The 18-inch alloy wheels came standard, part of a base price of $84,000. A few extras and a handling charge brought the as-tested sticker up to $86,000.

Up front, we’ve got LED headlights and an imposing yet not entirely intimidating chrome grille bearing the Toyota badge.

From the rear, you can see that the Land Cruiser rides tall. The version that Toyota has been building, with a few facelifts, for 12 years is the so-called “200 Series.”

Time to get down to business. As with many three-row SUVs, even on this large one, the Land Cruiser has relatively modest cargo capacity with all three rows deployed: 16 cubic feet.

Drop the third row and fold the seats up sideways, however …

… And capacity is greatly expanded. Max out the cargo area and you’re talking about 82 cubic feet.

Let’s pop the hood and see what powers this legend.

It’s a 5.7-liter V8, making 381 horsepower with 401 pound-feet of torque. Towing capacity is just over 8,000 pounds, and the drive system is a true four-wheeler. Fuel is predictably dreadful: 13 mpg city/18 highway/15 combined.

The “Terra” interior combined mellow, earthy tones with dark, stately hues.

There’s plenty of room in here. The Land Cruiser is a far cry from the Jeep-like vehicle that originated the line. Our tester was quite luxurious — and for almost $90,000, it should have been.

The appointments in the cabin are a bit more premium that what you’d see on, say, a Chevy Suburban and on par with a GMC Yukon Denali.

The instrument cluster has old-school analog gauges. And check out that lovely wood-trimmed steering wheel!

The Land Cruiser’s power is routed to the 4×4 system via an eight-speed transmission. This control center is also where you can tweak the off-road setup.

The front seats are heated and cooled.

Our tester came with a cool box between the seats.

It’s large enough to hold a few cans of soda.

The second-row bench seats provide ample legroom and headroom.

They’re also heated. Second-row passengers can control their own climate.

The third-row is modest, but compared to some smaller crossovers, this space is adequate for adults.

The infotainment system runs on a nine-inch central touchscreen. It works fine, but it isn’t as up-to-date as some competitors.

The navigation rendering is sort of crude. It handled direction perfectly well, however.

The system has a small suite of apps. Bluetooth pairing is easy, and there are USB ports for device connectivity. The 14-speaker JBL audio system also sounded quite good.

And if you actually want to investigate your scary MPGs, there’s a screen for that.

With a truck this large, the overhead-view camera setup is a welcome feature.

So what’s the verdict?

The Toyota Land Cruiser is one of the few SUVs that can genuinely perform double-duty as a semi-luxury suburb-mobile and a serious offroading chariot. You have to look at Land Rovers and Range Rovers, as well as some Jeeps and Mercedes, to achieve a similar package — and even then, the Land Cruiser is arguably the best combination of capability and comfort.

I mean, the Land Cruiser can go from dropping kids off at school to surviving a war zone. It’s a very special vehicle.

Obviously, I could complain about the age of the platform. But Toyota is a conservative company and isn’t going to mess with products that don’t need to be messed with. The Land Cruiser’s heyday for US sales was the 1990s, when there weren’t that many large SUVs in the landscape. Nowadays, Toyota sells about a thousand a year, and they aren’t cheap. So the company makes what I’m guessing is a nice profit margin with essentially zero new investment.

The Land Cruiser doesn’t suffer, either. It literally gets the job done, no matter what. Even the infotainment system is acceptable (in the equivalent Lexus, the LX 570, it isn’t). The main challenge with the vehicle is its physical size. It’s a driveway filler, and if you don’t have a huge garage, the fit could be tight. But if you’re in the market for a full-size SUV, you’ve already come to grips with this.

In terms of a comparison, I tend to think of the Land Cruiser as being both more robust and more high-end than the Chevy Suburban, and about on par with the GMC Yukon Denali. The Land Cruiser is considerably more expensive than the Suburban, and as far as distinctions go, you’re paying for the Toyota’s reputation. On a day-to-day basis, the Chevy is competitive.

I wasn’t able to test the Land Cruiser on anything other than paved roads. But to be honest, this SUV doesn’t need testing. It’s the best big offroader you can find that isn’t specifically outfitted for the backcountry.

For normal-life operations, this Toyota shouldn’t disappoint. Perhaps the key consideration is cost of ownership. It’s fun to have a powerful V8 under the hood, but the pain at the gas pump could get to you after a while. I don’t think anyone necessarily needs the Land Cruiser, as they might have a few decades ago, before crossovers were an option.

But if you want a large SUV that can tow plenty, haul anything you could think of, and that’s nicely accessorized with some premium touches, the Land Cruiser is a fine choice. And if the apocalypse hits, you’ll be covered.

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