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2008 Toyota Land Cruiser Review - First Drive

Posted in Project Vehicles on January 1, 2008 Comment (0)
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2008 Toyota Land Cruiser Review - First Drive

Attention to detail is nothing new to Toyota. And when the engineering team took on the task of redesigning an already top-end product, their flagship 100 Series Land Cruiser, they identified asmall laundry list of "wants" from Cruiser owners and aficionados, then took it a step further. Due to demanding driving conditions in Africa and the Middle East, Land Cruiser's largest market, focus on the new 200 Series Land Cruiser was threefold: boost performance and enhance resilience to abuse without compromising its position as a world-class SUV.

It was only a matter of time before the Land Cruiser received a V-8. Borrowed from the Tundra, the 3UR-FE 5.7L aluminum-block/aluminum-head DOHC V-8 lays down an impressive 381 hp and a stump-twisting 401 lb-ft torque (see "First Drive: 2007 Tundra," Mar. '07, for full specs). Variable valve timing and improved cooling enhance power and economy and the new mill received a more reliable timing chain rather that its predecessor's belt. Also borrowed from Tundra is the AB60F six-speed slushbox tranny. Sporting a 3.33:1 First gear and two overdrive gears (5th/6th: .728:1/.588:1), it is mated to Toyota's JF2A transfer case equipped with a Torsen Limited Slip center diff-lock. Despite an extra 100 ponies under the hood, the heavy Cruiser felt somewhat anemic on steep slippery gravel roads. Ahhh, electro-gizmos again! The VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) and A-TRAC (four-wheel traction control), which limit all wheel spin, were engaged and overriding our foot-on-the-pedal input. At the press of a button, the systems were disengaged to unleash all 381 hp to the tires.

When it came to trail performance (that's what we really came to see), getting the new lux-cruiser out of a pickle became pure fun. Sure, there is a ton of sheetmetal, and you'll probably never shoehorn a 200 through the Hammers. But that aside, the new Cruiser brings plenty of moxie to the off-road table. New for 2008...ya ready? The Crawl Button. Yep, you may call it high-tech gimmickry (we did), but Toyota obviously did some homework on this one. A three-position dial allows the driver to crawl at 3, 2, or 1 kph. We got the Cruiser crossed up on a steep incline of whoop-de-doos with full manual controls. No go! We clicked on the Traction Control and the Torsen diff-lock, and it aaaalmost made it. We then succumbed to Crawl mode in position 1, lifted feet from the pedals, and turned the brain to Off. A one-eyed monkey could drive it. The diff-lock equalized power fore and aft, Traction Control worked its game at each corner, and Crawl controlled wheel speed. Wahoooaa, the 200 walked right out! Not bad for an eight-passenger SUV. (We still like getting out of our own pickles).

Providing a solid platform for the new drivetrain and carrying on a 57-year body-on-frame heritage, the 200 also received beefier framerails and a 40 percent increase in torsional rigidity. Assisting in articulation is the new KDSS (Kinetic Dynamic Stability System), a fore/aft interconnected hydraulic system that releases tension to the sway bar when front and rear wheels are on different planes, allowing independent and unrestricted droop of all tires. The 200 also shed its predecessor's torsion bar for front coilovers, and increased front wheel travel by 15 percent. (We are told that a solid axle and a diesel mill will be available in some non-U.S. markets.)

Styling: While everything's delivered in a refined new package, a sharp eye will note the FJ60 look of the four-slat grille, horizontal headlights, and insignia/license-plate depression in the rear drop gate. We liked that the roof rack can still hold a couple spare tires and a few jerrycans (450 pounds). And even with 10.2:1 compression pistons under the heads, recommended fuel is light-on-the-wallet 87-octane unleaded. If you can look beyond the electronic bells and whistles, DVDs, 10 airbags, and 28 A/C vents, the 4x4 beast within makes up for the bling.

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Are electronic gizmos eliminating the need for driving skill? The 200 Series sports a Crawl feature, a three-position dial that limits vehicle speed to 3, 2, or 1 kph. Coupled with the Torsen center diff-lock, Traction Control, and A-TRAC, the system will help less skilled drivers get through a sticky spot. But don't get cocky, you still need to drive. Are electronic gizmos eliminating the need for driving skill? The 200 Series sports a Crawl feature, a three-position dial that limits vehicle speed to 3, 2, or 1 kph. Coupled with the Torsen center diff-lock, Traction Control, and A-TRAC, the system will help less skilled drivers get through a sticky spot. But don't get cocky, you still need to drive.
Vehicle 2008 200 Series
Land Cruiser
Base Price NA
Engine 5.7L aluminum V-8
Horsepower 381
Torque (lb-ft) 401
Transmission AB60F six-speed auto
Transfer Case JF2A two-speed, 2.618:1 low with Torsen limited-slip center diff-lock
Curb Weight (lb) 5,690
EPA Mileage (city/hwy mpg) 13/18
Fuel 87-octane unleaded
Wheelbase (in) 112.2
Length (in) 194.9
Width (in) 77.6
Height (in) 74.0
Seating Capacity 8
Head Room (in, front/middle/rear) 38.3/38.9/35.8
Leg Room (in, front/middle/rear) 42.3/36.0/28.4
Max. Cargo Vol. (cu. ft.) 81.7
Approach Angle (deg) 30
Breakover Angle (deg) 21
Departure Angle (deg) 20
Ground Clearance (in) 8.9

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