SAN FRANCISCO, December 22, 2016 — The opportunity to drive the latest model of the Toyota Land Cruiser is a bit of a personal one for me. Having owned a 1991 model and having a personal interest in this vehicle, it was exciting to hop into the driver’s seat of this legendary SUV.
Unlike most SUVs on the market, which are actually just “pavement princesses”, the Land Cruiser has a similar pedigree to the British-made Land Rover. Both are designed for extreme off-road conditions while keeping its occupants surrounded in comfort and luxury. While we won’t get into the differences between the brands here, just know that the Land Cruiser is still one of the most sought-after vehicles in some of the most difficult terrain areas of the world.
This 2016 model uses Toyota’s potent 5.7-liter V8 engine that churns out 381 horsepower with 401 lb-ft of torque. Even though it’s mated to an eight-speed transmission and uses Toyota’s latest in dual, independent variable valve timing, it still only gets 18 mpg on the highway and 12 around the city for a combined fuel economy of 15 miles per gallon. Appalling? Perhaps.. But when you consider that the power is fed into a full-time all-wheel-drive system and is hauling around a 5815 pound vehicle, it starts to make more sense.
Toyota’s full-time all-wheel-drive system features A-Trac (active traction control) and a Torsen limited-slip differential which have factor lockers in them. Coil springs are on all four corners to offer good wheel control on and off-road. There’s also semi-floating axles with stabilizer bars, a kinetic dynamic suspension and variable gear ratio steering. All of these things help add-up to what is perhaps the most capable Land Cruiser to ever roll off the assembly line..
We tested some of its off-road handling around the greater Napa Valley area and can attest, first-hand, that there wasn’t anything we could throw at it which it couldn’t handle. It has crawl-control for helping navigate those tough trails and its traction control system will actually lock the outside wheels when taking tight, off-road corners – making it move like a tank – to aid in its mobility while off the beaten path.
If it had better off-road tires, there’s little terrain out there you couldn’t navigate with its multitude of off-road drivability options – the likes of which may require a doctorate degree to fully understand.
There’s no question that Toyota borrows quite heavily from the Lexus version of the Land Cruiser on the interior – save some of the higher-end surfaces. The plush leather seats, leather-trimmed steering wheel and other interior enhancements make it feel as if it’s spoiling the driver and other occupants.
The JBL-powered infotainment system cranks-up rather well with not a ton of distortion and does an ample of job of providing a top-notch audio experience.. On-board navigation is good but not superb and the touch-screen response time is quick..Audio sources include, AM/FM/XM radio, Bluetooth audio, CD/MP3 optinos and an external audio jack. Additionally, there’s an on-board DVD-based entertainment system with wireless headphones for rear passengers to enjoy their favorite movie without disrupting the other passengers. Other on-screen options include real-time fuel consumption analysis, review camera,
Middle row seating is very comfortable, even for adults, however, the third-row is best reserved for kids under the age of 12. Overall cargo space (with the seats tucked away) is a total of 81.7 cubic feet, so there’s ample room for hauling things or those family shopping trips to Costco.
Clearly, the Land Cruiser’s greatest strength is its off-road prowess which makes us a bit confused as to why it comes with all-season tires on it. There should at least be all-terrain off-road tires available as an option, from the dealer. The stock tires are its single-greatest impedance of what it can do off-road – once you slap on the right set, there’s not much out there in the wild you can’t conquer.
Does this 2016 Land Cruiser live up to and propel forward the pedigree of its moniker? You bet. And with that comes the poor fuel economy and large price tag of $85,000. So who is the customer for a vehicle like this? It’s those who often go off-road and don’t want a “pavement princess” to limit what they can do. They’re the kind of customer who’ll likely swap the tires out right away and see about putting a snorkel on it so they can traverse through deep water.
You see, what makes the Land Cruiser so special is that with a bit of the proper preparedness with tires and engine breathing, fans of this platform know that there’s few vehicles out there that can do what it does with the legendary Toyota reliability.