When viewing an African safari movie or documentary from that area, you’re most likely see a Toyota Land Cruiser SUV as it’s the vehicle of choice among the country’s visitors. And it stands to reason as the Land Cruiser is one tough SUV with superior off-road traction abilities and has been for over 60 years.
The full-size 3-row, 8-passenger Land Cruiser offers full-time 4WD, terrain select, disconnecting sway bar and crawl control, all features to get you into and out of off-road trouble.
For deep snow, there’s 8.9 inches of undercarriage clearance. If you encounter a flooded off-road area, the Cruiser can ford 27.55 inches of water. Skid plates protect the vehicle’s undercarriage. And with the disconnecting sway bar, it allows the left and right front tires to move up and down independently from one another in the event you encounter rocks or uneven washouts in a backcountry road.
The 4WD lock feature performs as a real 4WD system when all wheels lock for better traction. Other SUVs may claim 4WD, but Land Cruiser (and Jeep’s Wrangler Rubicon for example) actually performs in true 4WD mode.
Now most folks will probably never need these excellent features, but they’re nice to have when you may need them. Just like auto insurance.
But off-road prowess is not the Land Cruiser’s entire story. It uses premium materials with perforated and heated/cooled leather front seats and heated second row seats. But what grabs the eyes is the large 9-inch touchscreen offering a host of apps, rear/front view cameras, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, Entune App Suite, traffic incidents, weather and more.
Below the touchscreen and at almost eye-level, HVAC controls are large and easy to use. Beneath them is a console that resembles that in a Learjet. One of the two large dials on the console is for 4WD Low (L4) and 4WD High (H4) gearing. The dial below it is the five-speed Crawl Mode used when traversing up and downhill terrain. A good read of the owners’ manual is required to understand the modes.
Above it is the 4WD Turn Assist Function switch that assists cornering performance when driving through a tight corner. It maintains vehicle speed while driving and reduces the number of turns needed to navigate a corner that requires turning the wheel in the opposite direction.
Step-in into the back seat is 22.5 inches with assist from narrow running boards. Once in three passengers are treated to heavily padded heated seats and if kids are in tow, there’s a pair of 11.5-inch video screens behind the front seats to keep their attention on long trips.
Back seats flip and slide forward to ease third seat ingress/egress. There’s a surprisingly good amount of legroom for even two small statured adults or three tweens back there.
The cargo area still has Cruisers’ split tailgate whereas the top portion flips up and the bottom flips down to form a 17-inch seat for tailgating or to serve as a table. Problem with that is the lower gate requires a stretch to load items, especially if the third row is flipped sideways and second row flipped forward. With the third row down, cargo space is a mere 16.1 cubic feet that measures 13 inches deep, 51.5 wide and 38 wide.
Unlike most SUVs wherein third row seats fold forward, Cruiser’s flips up against the sides of the cargo area to open up 43 cubic feet of space for 42 inches of cargo depth.
Flip the second row and capacity expands to 81.7 cubic feet for 64.5 inches of cargo loading depth. There’s also a shallow bin beneath the cargo floor that houses a jack and a space for some small item storage.
Land Cruiser’s powerplant comes compliments of a potent 5.7-liter, 381-hp V8 that churns out 401 lb/ft of torque at 3,600 rpm. Coupled to a standard 8-speed automatic transmission, the big V8 moves this 5,815-pound vehicle without haste. But its heft can be felt under hard acceleration. The combination earns EPA mileage ratings of 13 city, 18-highway mpg. A fuel miser it’s not. To its credit, Land Cruiser carries a hefty 8,100-pound tow rating that includes trailer sway control.
Shod with Dunlop 18-inch tires, Land Cruiser provides a quiet, taut yet pleasing ride. And with Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension system, it keeps this full-size SUV planted especially when off-roading. It gives a sense of safety and security with its size and weight.
Adding to safe driving is Toyota’s Safety Sense suite featuring forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, land departure warning, blind spot warning with rear cross traffic alert and more.
Now all this off-road prowess and rugged ability doesn’t come without a price. A rather high price. With the only extra cost items being the rear seat entertainment system and leather interior ($2,220) the bottom line reflects $88,280 with delivery after a base of $84,765.
If that’s beyond your budget but you like the power and space, Toyota’s Sequoia or smaller Highlander SUV could be alternatives. But if you can swing it, the Land Cruiser has few competitors in its class when considering its capabilities.
Land Cruiser comes with a 3-year/36K mile comprehensive; 5/60K powertrain and 5/unlimited corrosion perforation warranties.