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First Drive: Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.

First Drive: Toyota Land Cruiser
If Land Rover has the luxury end of the proper 4x4 market wrapped up, the Land cruiser has the butch, no-nonsense alternative.

   



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| First Drive | Wycombe, England | 2010 Toyota Land Cruiser |

The Toyota Land Cruiser has maintained its reputation as the consummate off-road monolith since 1951 - well before the upwardly mobile middle classes adopted the SUV as their premium hatchback of choice. Through countless iterations Toyota's 4x4 has towered over most others because of its function-over-form utility, Stonehenge-rivalling build endurance, and ability to dismiss the type of terrain that would make a Mountain Goat think twice.

Unfortunately, most drivers aren't Mountain Goats, and nor do they need to negotiate...y ou can see where this is going. The bottom line is, the Land Cruiser might have all the hill climbing, sand dancing, slope dismissing ability in the world (it does), but if it's not spacious, high quality and comfortable on the way to the kebab shop it's won't be heading to a cul-de-sac near you.

In the Metal

It's a beast of a thing, but the Land Cruiser is penned with a pleasing sense of proportion that makes it less offensive than plenty of bulky 4x4s. The flared rear arches are a particularly nice touch, and although it has the appearance of a beefed-up Toyota Urban Cruiser from some angles (which might put some off), it's a tidier, more handsome take on sports utility than its predecessor.

Inside is less successful, however, with Toyota's penchant for button-heavy design present and correct. It's not just that there are buttons strewn around the cabin in a stereotypically Japanese 'more stuff equals more luxury' fashion, but that the whole interior is a plastic paradise. Some of it is soft touch, but there's none of the tactility of the Land Rover Discovery, say, or of plenty of other cars in its 30-45k price range.

What you get for your Money

It's not cheap, but there's plenty here for the dosh. 30,000 will land you a basic LC3 spec car, which has pretty much the standard issue inventory you'd expect of a big SUV: alloys, climate control, front fogs, Bluetooth - that sort of thing. Spec up to mid-level, as most probably will, and it looks very well equipped indeed. There you'll find trick suspension (called KDSS, for Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System), triple zone climate control, a third row of seats in the boot (optional on the LC3), leather seats, auto wipers and lights, satnav, parking sensors, a rear view monitor and a mega 17-speaker stereo. It's ten grand more, but buyers will nonetheless tell all their friends that their new LC4 has "the kitchen sink, innit."

LC5 level - another five grand - brings Crawl Control (which we'll go into), even fancier suspension with active height control, a camera that shows you where the wheels are pointing in the dirt (which is clever, functional and easy to use), a multi-terrain select system (like Land Rover's), a TV screen for the back seat passengers and a sunroof.

Driving it

It perfunctorily cuts through any kind of ground. Well, we didn't try it in snow or sand, but the Land Cruiser feels impervious to thick mud, deep water, steep inclines and treacherous descents - all of which we did try. However, the caveat is that we only drove top-spec LC5 cars (one on the road and another on the dirt), which, as we've just explained, come with all kinds of off-road assisting kit that you don't get in lesser models. Crawl Control is one such item, which makes the ups and downs of proper off-roading much easier by allowing you to take your feet off all the pedals and let the car guide itself - and it works on terrain of any angle. It's a lovely system, and one that will perhaps give Toyota's car the edge over Land Rover's in terms of outright off-piste ability. In a nutshell, the Land Cruiser is like Roni Size: quite phenomenal at the jungle thing.

In the urban jungle, however, it doesn't make as much sense. We've already spoken of its interior deficiencies - it's aeons behind the feel-good new Disco in the cabin - but the drive isn't great either. Where the Land Rover is supple yet body-roll resistant, the Land Cruiser betrays its off-road greatness by lolloping about under cornering, braking and passing over anything other than freshly rolled tarmac. Its brakes are difficult to modulate because they bite so hard so quick and the steering is as communicative as a Goth teenager. The 171bhp 3.0-litre four-pot diesel engine has 302lb.ft of torque, which is plenty enough to yank the near 2.5-tonne car along, and it's quiet, but it still feels like a slightly dated drivetrain because the five-speed auto is slow to kick down.

All in all, it sinks below the level of luxury and composure you might expect of a car costing this much, although it is well equipped and it will undoubtedly last well beyond the call of duty.

Worth Noting

Despite clear efforts to make the Land Cruiser a more appealing all rounder to the average buyer, Toyota hasn't strayed too far from the car the Land Cruiser always was. That's a quite deliberate move to avoid alienating its faithful clientele - repeat customers that will snap up the 1,200 or so new Land Cruisers destined for UK drives and fields. If its increased refinement adds a few hundred more, so be it, but with over five million sold across eight generations - and a well-established reputation for creating a Land Rover beater off-road - the last thing the maker wants is to ruin the car's core competencies.

Summary

The new Toyota Land Cruiser confidently retains its status as a brutally efficient mover across horrendous territory, which will please the faithful - but a car for the masses this is not. Land Rover product planners needn't worry about this car straying into the consciousness of well-healed urbanites, because the Toyota has neither its prestige, tactility or on-road composure - though it might have a problem in Farmersville. Ultimately, if you dug the last car, this is more of the same, only better.

Mark Nichol - 11 Nov 2009



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2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.

2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.



2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.
 

2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.
 

2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.
 

2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.
 

2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.
 

2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.
 

2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.
 

2010 Toyota Land Cruiser. Image by Toyota.
 






 

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