Author's Note: With 2013 coming to a close in a couple of weeks, we've decided to clear out the remaining 2013 vehicle reviews this week. Everyday a new review will appear on the front page. If you miss one day, don't worry, we'll have links to the previous reviews just below. -WM
Monday: Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV
Tuesday: Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD
Wednesday: Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD
Friday: Lexus LS 600h L
In this age of crossovers, the Toyota Land Cruiser is a bit of dinosaur. It rides on a ladder-frame and not a uni-body platform. Power comes from a big V8 engine and not a downsized V6 with turbochargers. It features a full-time four-wheel drive system with a load of off-road technologies but not an all-wheel drive system.
There has to be a reason why the Land Cruiser exists. After spending a week in one, I might have the reason.
Inside, the decision was made to have durability as the priority, followed by luxury. This is very clear when looking at the materials used as most can be classified as hard and plastic. The wood trim seen in the photos is described by Toyota as "wood-grain-style trim". Now for what the Land Cruiser costs ($79,728 as tested), I was expecting a bit more luxury. But after giving it some thought and taking into account what the Land Cruiser is built for (tackling the Amazon rainforest for example), I'm ok with the decisions since the materials will last a long time and are easy to clean up.
The seating arrangement in the Land Cruiser is for eight people which is somewhat surprising since it is smaller than the largest Toyota SUV, the Sequoia. Compared to the Sequoia, the Land Cruiser rides on a wheelbase that 9.8 inches shorter and overall length is 10.2 inches shorter. The front features two bucket seats with power adjustments and heat. I found the seats mostly comfortable, though I was wishing for more thigh support. The second row features seating for three people via a bench seat. Head and legroom is excellent and there is heat for the seats. The third row is a different story. To begin, the seats are folded up like jump seats that you might find in a military airplane. Once the seats are folded down and put yourself back there, you find out that legroom is non-existent and the seating position isn't comfortable at all.
One of the saving graces of the Land Cruiser has to be the amount of equipment that comes standard. There is four-zone climate control, six-inch touchscreen with Toyota's Entune infotainment system, navigation, 14-speaker JBL premium sound system, privacy glass, auto-dimming mirrors, and smart key access.
How do I get the seats down?
For impressions on the powertrain and ride, see the next page.
Under the hood is a 5.7L V8 engine that is also used in the Lexus LX 570 (sister SUV), Toyota Sequoia, and Tundra pickup. This engine produces 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic gets the power to all four wheels via full-time four-wheel drive system. To say I was bit concerned about how the engine would fare is a understatement. The Land Cruiser tips the scales at 5,730 pounds and I was thinking that the V8 wouldn't have the oomph to move it. I shouldn't have thought that as the V8 is more than capable of moving it. Acceleration is very brisk and I never had the feeling that more power was needed at all. As an added bonus, the 5.7L is muted when at idle and utters a murmured growled when climbing the rev range. The six-speed automatic is smooth going through the gears and didn't show any signs of gear hunting.
Now with a big V8 engine and a full-time four-wheel drive system, the Land Cruiser has no problem sucking down gas. The EPA rates the Land Cruiser at 13 City/18 Highway/15 Combined. My average for the week landed at 15 MPG.
For the suspension, Toyota employs a double-wishbone setup with gas shocks and a hollow stabilizer bar for the front, and a four-link, coil-spring with lateral-rod setup in the rear. Toyota also employs a system called Kinetic Dynamic Suspension which uses hydraulic cylinders to put pressure on the swaybars to increase or decrease the stiffness. On-road, the system increases pressure to help reduce body roll when cornering. Off-road, the system reduces pressure to increase wheel travel.
The Land Cruiser's on-road ride is better than I was expecting. On smooth and rough surfaces, the Land Cruise glides along effortlessly. Road noise is non-existent and wind noise is kept at a decent level. Show the Land Cruiser a corner and you'll have a feeling of motion sickness. There is noticeable body roll and lean when going around corners. All large SUVs exhibit this, but most competitors do a much better job of reducing roll.
The 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser is very old school in many ways, but there is a reason for it. The Land Cruiser has a reputation of being a vehicle that can take you anywhere. In that regard, it makes sense why Toyota made certain decisions for this model. If you are looking for a vehicle to get you across the Sahara desert or the Rocky Mountains, there is no better choice than the Land Cruiser. But if you're looking for a SUV to just drive around and not go off-road, the Land Cruiser is just too much 'SUV' for that.
Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Land Cruiser, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Model: Land Cruiser
Engine: 5.7L, 32-valve DOHC V8 with dual independent VVT-i
Driveline: Full-Time Four-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM: 381 @ 5,600
Torque @ RPM: 401 @ 3,600
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 13/18/15
Curb Weight: 5,730 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Toyota City, Japan
Base Price: $78,555.00
As Tested Price: $79,728.00 (Includes $845.00 Destination Charge)
All-Weather Floor & Cargo Mats - $250.00
Cargo Net - $49.00
First Aid Kit - $29.00