The longest-running nameplate in Toyota’s history, the Land Cruiser, still to this day is one of the best off-road SUVs on the planet. We took the legendary vehicle on a camping trip and did some wheeling to see if it is still as good as we recall.
Introduced way back in 1955, the Land Cruiser was originally meant to be a Willys Jeep competitor with a design and name so closely aligned to its competitor that Willys sued Toyota. Nowadays, the Land Cruiser is nothing like a small Jeep. With a 112.2-inch wheelbase, a 5.7L V-8 engine, and a new eight-speed transmission, it can hold eight passengers while crawling on gnarly trails.
Still equipped with a two-speed transfer case and featuring body-on-frame construction, the Land Cruiser is filled with interior comforts and nearly everything Toyota offers in off-road equipment. The Land Cruiser comes standard with a full-time 4WD system and a Torsen limited-slip locking center differential distributing torque 40/60 front-to-rear. If wheel slippage still occurs, the active traction control (A-TRAC) system uses the throttle and brakes to reduce the spin. If that still isn’t enough to get unstuck, the Crawl Control system can be employed after shifting the transfer case to low range. With five driver-selectable low-speed settings, Crawl Control regulates the engine speed and brakes to literally crawl forward or backward.
Toyota also equipped the SUV with a Multi-Terrain Select system with a Mogul setting. This Mogul setting is for extreme terrain and basically acts like a limited-slip differential. The driver can then focus on driving with the center console screen showing front or rear side views with near 360-degree visibility and a 5-second front undercarriage projected path video playback.
Plus, the Land Cruiser has Downhill Assist Control for low-speed descending control and what Toyota calls “Off-Road Turn Assist,” which tightens the turning radius by applying slight brake pressure to the inside rear wheel to improve off-road driving feel. It creates a literal pivot effect.
Riding on P285/60R18 all-terrain tires, the SUV has plenty of grip off-road while providing a good on-road feel devoid of hum.
Putting this equipment into use, we hit The Cliffs Insane Terrain off-road park in Marseilles, Illinois. Carved out of 300 acres of what was a forest, this off-road park has dozens of trails running through the property. Most of these trails were in use by ATVs, Jeeps, and motorcycles due to the tight-turning lines through the trees.
Flipping the switches to engage various off-road equipment, we climbed to the top of a hill near the entrance and began to play in the mud. Up and down the muddy hills and through the trees we used all the mirrors, cameras, and equipment to keep the 5,815-pound SUV on the right path. Most of the drive, the SUV gave us a confident off-road control with only one spot of deep mud causing the tires to load with goo and lose traction. Fortunately, the 381hp 5.7L V-8 engine helped get us out of the mud and back on the dirt path. After a few hours of playing around, we got back on the paved road and continued our journey.
Inside, the Land Cruiser’s cabin is filled to the brim with soft-touch material, wood trim, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. This was particularly handy for our camping trip with the kids. There is nothing better than driving down the road without screaming kids. All of that equipment comes standard since the Land Cruiser doesn’t come in any trim levels. It has one—fully loaded.
In the very rear are the side-mounted seats, which fold down to create room for an additional three (small) passengers. This design is really a throwback to how the vehicle used to be built and also allows for more rear ground clearance, with the alternative being storing the seat below the floor. We are glad Toyota designed the Land Cruiser this way for off-road use, though it isn’t ideal for carrying cargo.
Our trip included one night of camping in Des Moines, Iowa, and our Land Cruiser was filled with our luggage and our camping gear too. The awkward rear-seat positioning challenged our packing skills.
Also, the Land Cruiser is a rather tall vehicle at 74 inches, and while the vehicle has steps for easier entrance and exit, the rear doesn’t. The rear also offers a half-fold-down trunk, which is handy for sorting items, but gets in the way packing items in.
Back on the road, Toyota’s full suite of safety features came in handy on our 1,200-mile trek. For example, the adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor, and rear cross traffic alert (for backing out of parking spots) all proved themselves.
About the only thing we didn’t care for was the fuel economy of 13 city/18 highway (we averaged 15.2 mpg), yet it is a small compromise to make with such a capable off-road vehicle that also has the ability to tow up to 8,100 pounds. Besides, if you are in the market for an SUV that starts at $84,775, you probably can afford to buy some gas.
At a GlanceSpecs (as tested)
Vehicle/model: ’17 Toyota Land Cruiser
Base price: $83,665
As tested: $83,665
Engine: 5.7L V-8
Rated hp/torque (lb-ft): 381/401
Transmission: Aisin AE80F 8-spd
Transfer case: Aisin JF2A 2-spd
4WD system(s): Full-time
Low-range ratio: 2.62:1
Frame type: 10-member high-tensile-steel ladder
Suspension: f/r—Independent double-wishbone, coil springs, shocks, stabilizer bar, KDSS/four-link, coil springs, shocks, KDSS
Axle ratio: 3.31:1
Max crawl ratio: 41.6:1
Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Brakes: f/r—13.97-in disc/13.58-in disc
Wheels (in): 18
Wheelbase (in): 112.2
Length (in): 194.9
Height (in): 74.0
Width (in): 77.95
Base curb weight (lb): 5,815
Approach/departure angles (deg): 30/20
Minimum ground clearance (in): 8.9
Payload (lb): 1,570
Max towing capacity (lb): 8,100
Fuel capacity (gal): 24.6
Fuel economy (mpg, combined city/hwy/trail): 15.2