“Whatever happened to restraint?” is something big cars like the Toyota Land Cruiser must ask.
The 2016 Land Cruiser is an odd standard bearer for restraint, given its size and price and off-road abilities few will ever use. But as a luxury vehicle, it’s among the best for those who don’t like to shout about much.
It simply goes about doing what it does best, which is a machine that can get you and a number of people around fairly comfortably and fairly capably, but for a fairly hefty sticker price.
And it wonders why you haven’t been paying attention to it.
All Boxed up
The beauty of the Land Cruiser is that it doesn’t really have any styling.
Unusual for a modern luxury off-roader, very little of this box’s profile or detailing is outrageous and this is a good thing. Eighteen inches seems an appropriate size for modestly styled wheels, too, given this thing is made for off-roading.
In contrast, the more expensive, but pretty much the same, Lexus LX570, looks fussy with its grafted on corporate Lexus face and flashier wheels. You’ll get noticed, for sure, though.
These themes carry over inside, too. While you lord over traffic and peer out of tall windows, there’s very little to grab one’s attention. The seats are comfortable but flat. The materials are good, but nothing you wouldn’t find in any other nice Toyota or Lexus these days. The 8-inch touchscreen is nice, but nothing other automakers aren’t doing in a more ostentatious way these days.
At least the big-box styling leaves easy amounts of room for three across the second row, where they can play with the antiquated-looking rear entertainment system (just put some iPad mounts in, guys). It’s the third row that sucks, though. Kids and adults will be frustrated by the lack of room to get into the flip-up split bench back there. And it leaves such little cargo space that I kept them down and flipped to the side pretty much all of the time.
Doing that and opening the split tailgate, however, means you have lots of space to sit, eat lunch and figure out how you’re going to off-road this thing.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: driving the Land Cruiser in the city is like trying to navigate a 381-horsepower cathedral through traffic.
The lack of any form of suspension adjustment hurts things on pavement. The ride can get floaty on the highway which will likely make third-row passengers sick after a while. It also made underground parking garages more daunting than necessary.
Still, that 5.7-liter V8 moves the Land Cruiser with surprising ease and quiet. The penalty is fuel economy no better than 17 mpg ever, but at least it has a big tank so you won’t have to leap out at stations very often.
The reason the Land Cruiser is less than desirable on the road must have something to do with how freaking awesome it is after the road ends.
After you and your passenger pour over the owner’s manual to decipher the flood of cryptic abbreviations, setting up the off-road assists for the right condition is fairly straightforward. But it will make less-skilled drivers long for the simplicity of Land Rover Terrain Response.
And speaking of which, the Land Rover LR4 lacks the Land Cruiser’s overall bulk, which inspires a bit more confidence on narrow trails. I didn’t get the Toyota stuck, but thanked God regularly surround-view cameras are a thing in 2016 that moment I had to back up for a trio of Jeeps coming the opposite direction.
It’s actually off road where I longed for a turbodiesel for the Land Cruiser rather than the V8 with the sensitive throttle. Trying not to surge over crests was an issue at first, until I started to rely more and more on the hill ascent system to do the crawling up.
All of these technologies aren’t exactly the “driver assistance systems” we talk about in the wake of self-driving cars, but the ones in the Land Cruiser certainly added a layer of confidence.
In the background
Land Cruisers come only one way in the U.S. and for the not-low-at-all price of $84,000. That’s a tough hurdle for it considering a Range Rover Sport can be had for far less money. And if you must have a Lexus badge, an LX 570 is another $6,000 mountain to climb, modest when we’re talking about rigs of this caliber. Among this set, standing out because of a value proposition is a quick way to fall off of the right shopping lists.
The Toyota Land Cruiser, as brilliant as it is in the dirt, is far too much truck for most people’s everyday use. It’s hard to think how you’d be less well-served for pavement duties by something car-based. But as one of those vehicles that does pretty much everything with class and ease without looking like you’re showing off, the Land Cruiser is in a pretty small field.
And perhaps the 2,000-or-so U.S. buyers who take one home every year like that sort of thing. They clearly know something all of the flashy SUV buyers don’t.
Photos: Brad Kappel and Zac Estrada