Review: 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser Shrugs Off Pretension

“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.

Going places

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

 QUICK FACTS                                                         

Model: 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser
Base MSRP: $83,825 + $1,095 Delivery Fee
Engine: 5.7-liter gasoline V8
Output: 381hp @ 5,600rpm | 401 lb-ft (543Nm) @ 3,600rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-60mph (96km/h): 6.5 seconds
Fuel Economy (EPA): 13 mpg (18.1 l/100km) city | 18 mpg (13.1 l/100km) highway
Curb Weight: 5,815 lbs (2,638kg)

Photo Gallery

  • Obsequious Lickspittle

    The leather on those rears seats looks as though it will mark easily.

  • Craig

    Getting to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds is amazing – I think – for a vehicle that weight 3 TON!

  • ME

    You guys already scuffed the glovebox cover, good going.

  • An Existing Person

    I could not justify paying $84k+ for the Toyota, when the Lexus costs only $6k+ more, and says more as a vehicle as a whole.

    • Liam

      Couldnt agree more! Lexus also doesnt look like a weird rhino!!!!

    • Vyurr

      Except all lexus vehicles look horrible now with that stupid x shape front end

    • Kash

      Really and truly that $6k is worth the better customer service and just nicer store, but the price is more like fully loaded Land Cruiser vs. entry LX. the Cruiser has the dual rear seat screens where it’s a $2k extra on the LX.

    • Gary Millican

      Lexus 3rd row seats are not removable (electric), rear suspension is air, and the 20″ rims are not good off-road.

  • Liam

    Is it me or the last generation Land Cruiser was a better looking car than this weird thing?

  • shhh

    best selling vehicle in Qatar. BY far. We prefer it over the Nissan Patrol.

    • Bash

      and here in UAE,,,, this thing is really the king of the road.

  • Enter Ranting

    It’s shockingly restrained for a Toyota.

  • TheBelltower

    I suppose it’s a good choice for someone who is sick of the endless tarted-up luxury boats, and wants an expensive anti-status SUV.

  • Erzhik

    That third row is utter *******. I don’t know why Toyota insists on making the third row as flip-up design. It’s taking up so much space, that the boot of this probably has less open space than an Audi Q7. Or any other SUV for that matter. Make it fold flat design like everyone else. Or make it completely removable.

  • Erzhik

    That third row is utter *******. I don’t know why Toyota insists on
    making the third row as flip-up design. It’s taking up so much space,
    that the boot of this probably has less open space than an Audi Q7. Or
    any other SUV for that matter. Make it fold flat design like everyone
    else. Or make it completely removable.

  • Vyurr

    I’d own a Land Cruiser if Toyota would bother selling the lower tier models in the US without all the useless luxury bells and whistles. Base model in japan is a $38k vehicle.

  • Ary Wisesa

    My dream car. Yeah, definitely. I once drove one on off road track, and boy it was awesome! It inspires confidence and felt safe, and the fact that it almost can’t break down only give more and more confidence to take it literally anywhere. You only have to worry about the availability of gas station, because if it run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, then it become real headache. LOL. Otherwise, it’s an excellent vehicle. Well, maybe it doesn’t look as luxurious as other expensive SUV on the market, but I don’t think you will ever need “luxurious look” in the jungle. In the jungle, you need its toughness and legendary reliability. And that what counts most.

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