Despite its faults, the Land Cruiser offers an experience unlike almost any other both on-road and off.
Toyota's Land Cruiser has remained mostly unchanged in the US since the 200-series was introduced back in 2007. That kind of longevity in the automotive industry is rare and for most vehicles, it would be a death sentence. But for the Land Cruiser, that's just how the owners like it and the 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition is maybe the ultimate expression of that if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it loyalty.
All of the Land Cruiser's bones are old, from its body-on-frame construction to its large, naturally aspirated V8. While Toyota's 3UR-FB engine isn't what anyone would call the picture of efficiency, it's got other qualities that make it the perfect gasoline engine for the Land Cruiser.
To start, the 5.7-liter dual-overhead-cam V8 produces reasonable amounts of power and torque -- 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet -- so the Land Cruiser doesn't feel slow or ponderous on the road. That in and of itself is an achievement when you consider the Cruiser's approximately 6,000-pound curb weight. It's also a very smooth-operating V8, which adds to the Land Cruiser's overwhelming feeling of solidity.
Unfortunately, the engine drinks fuel like OPEC sponsors it, despite Toyota upgrading the transmission to an eight-speed unit in 2016. Don't expect to do better than 17 miles per gallon on the highway and 13 mpg in town, or even less if you retain the Heritage Edition's roof rack.
The Land Cruiser's full-time four-wheel-drive system also eats into its fuel economy numbers, but again, the tradeoff is worth it. Not only does the big SUV feel perfectly pleasant, that system also makes the Land Cruiser almost godlike in the dirt. This Toyota will get you surprisingly far into the wilderness before you even need to consider engaging low range or turning on the differential lock. Part of that has to do with the Cruiser's off-road geometry. It's got an approach angle of 32 degrees, which is 2 degrees better than the Mercedes-Benz G-Class . The departure angle is 24 degrees (the Cruiser has a big butt) and the breakover angle is 21 degrees. Not bad for a full-size SUV, right?
The Land Cruiser's suspension is very soft, which isn't surprising considering the model's off-road mandate, but it's also surprisingly good on-road. It has no problem smoothing out even the worst of Los Angeles' notoriously bad roads and it can do so without feeling wallowy or disconnected. It's still a very tall and very heavy SUV, so it's not exactly what I'd call sporty, but even if you never take it into the dirt (which would be a crime), you won't find yourself regretting your purchase.
The Land Cruiser's brakes are fairly serious pieces of kit, which is good because they work hard for a living; stopping something as heavy as the Land Cruiser isn't easy. They also play a part in two important pieces of off-road tech: Crawl Control and Hill-Descent Control. These both basically act as a kind of off-road cruise control, allowing the vehicle to manage itself on steep declines by pulsing the brakes as well as maintaining speed on level ground and on hill ascents. The noise the system makes while going downhill is horrific, but the overall effect is epic and takes a big bite out of the off-roading learning curve.
The Land Cruiser is comfortable, too. There is nothing even remotely approaching the term "latest and greatest" inside the Land Cruiser, yet everything feels right at home. The seats and steering wheel are wrapped in surprisingly supple leather and all of the other finishes that you touch feel great. The gauge cluster is old-school too, but I never found myself wanting a digital dash, it would just feel weird in an SUV like this.
The seating position is excellent and provides a commanding view down the Land Cruiser's massive hood, though at around 6-feet, 4-inches tall and with a lot of that height in my torso, I would love it if the driver's seat dropped another inch or two. This isn't just a Land Cruiser issue either; I find this is the case in most Toyotas. My Heritage Edition tester lacks running boards, so shorter drivers might need to buy some or get a running start to hop inside this thing.
The rear seats are also perfectly nice. There is plenty of room, even for full-size adults. Sitting behind the driver's seat is totally fine, even with it set to my normal seating position. The rear seats in the Land Cruiser are also relatively easy to fold up, adding to the already sizable cargo space in the back. That cargo area is a plus when it comes time to haul things, but I'd love to see more standard cargo nets or grocery bag hooks to keep things from rolling around.
One of the highlights of the Land Cruiser is its split tailgate. Much like the Land Rover Range Rover , the Cruiser gives you the option to open only the top half of the rear (which is powered, a semi-recent development) or fold down the sturdy little tailgate. It's a great place to sit and hang out and I wish more SUVs had this. The Heritage Edition is only available with two rows of seating, but the standard Land Cruiser can be had with a pair of side-folding, third-row seats. The cargo dimensions are 82.8 cubic-feet behind the first row regardless of model. If you opt for the Heritage Edition, there's 53.5 cubic-feet of space behind the second row, shrinking to 41.4 in the standard model with the folding chairs and just 16.1 cubic-feet behind said third row.
When it comes to infotainment, it's hard to call Toyota a leader in any respect. The company's systems often feel outdated even in cars with much newer architecture than the Land Cruiser. So, except for screen size -- which is average at 9 inches -- and that fact that it's a touchscreen, things are pretty dismal. Apple CarPlay or Android Auto? Nope. But hey, it does have a decent-sounding JBL stereo system and offers Qi wireless charging, but those don't exactly bridge the gap with other premium SUVs.
Safety tech is also not precisely bleeding-edge, but there's plenty of it and it all works well. Toyota's Safety Sense driver assistance suite is standard and includes lane-departure warning, pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control. In fact, everything on the Land Cruiser Heritage Edition is standard. There are no options, which is helpful given the hefty price tag.
Speaking of which, the 2020 Land Cruiser Heritage Edition -- which includes bronze wheels, a Yakima roof rack that wouldn't fit in my parking structure and unique badging -- retails for $89,070 including $1,325 for destination and that's before you add accessories like rubber floor mats ($215) and the like. If you opt for the slightly less-expensive standard Land Cruiser ($86,740), you get the option of adding a rear-seat entertainment system for an additional $2,220. You also get other color options beyond the Heritage Edition's black or white.
I understand that spending $90,000 for an SUV that doesn't even have CarPlay is kind of a lot to ask, especially when you consider the luxury and convenience features that you can get on the off-road-capable Range Rover, which starts just under $91,000. But here's the thing: For most buyers, the Land Cruiser is a long-term purchase and with the model's history of proven reliability, you know you're not likely to have to pour a lot of money into it (well, aside from fuel) throughout its life. That doesn't even begin to get into the subject of used car values, which skew heavily in favor of the Land Cruiser.
Plus, what else out there truly competes with the Land Cruiser? The Mercedes-Benz G550 is at least as capable off-road, but it has a starting price $40,000 higher than the Cruiser and that's before adding options. The Nissan Armada is also big, old and uses body-on-frame architecture, but it lacks the Land Cruiser's off-road chops. There's even competition from within the Toyota family in the form of the Lexus LX 570 , which costs approximately the same and looks twice as ugly. The LX's standard adaptive air suspension is a nice feature and can't be had on the Cruiser, but the off-road geometry isn't as good, so it's a wash.
The Land Cruiser isn't for everyone and sales certainly reflect that, which is ultimately the reason why Toyota is discontinuing the SUV soon. But in the meantime, there's nothing else quite like it and for that reason alone, if you're considering picking one up, I can't imagine you'll regret that choice.