Our '06 Four Wheeler Of The Year Winner Arrives
At our 2006 Four Wheeler of the Year competition, Toyota's old-school Land Cruiser walked away from the newer-tech entries with an under-the-radar approach and exceptional trailability, causing a surprising upset. We all knew we liked the Cruiser, but it wasn't until the testing was complete and the points were tallied that we discovered just how much.
As with all OTY winners, Toyota provided to us a Land Cruiser for a one-year evaluation. Toyota only exports a handful of these desirable SUVs from Japan every year and sells every one that comes over, so it was no shock that our custom-ordered Black Garnet Pearl Cruiser took a little longer to get than most of our long-term vehicles.
For 2006, the Land Cruiser has a base price of $56,512 and comes standard with a full-time four-wheel-drive system with center locking differential and enough leather to make a herd of cows nervous. To this we added enough options, including curtain airbags, Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) with Automatic Height Control (AHC) and load leveling, navigation, and towing to inflate the price to $63,459. What you get for that money is one of the most luxurious and capable fullsize eight-passenger SUVs on the market.
Part of what made the Land Cruiser eligible for last year's test were the newly upgraded 4.7L DOHC V-8 and the AVS suspension system. The V-8 horsepower rating grows to 275 hp on premium-grade fuel and is mated to a smooth-shifting five-speed automatic transmission, while the suspension gets a new adjustable system, with a definite difference that can be felt between the softest comfort and firmest sport selections.
Over the first 4,000 miles with us, the Land Cruiser was put straight to work exploring new trails, towing project vehicles around, and commuting. Most of the comments have been great, but a few testers have noted that the platform is starting to show its age a bit. The navigation screen that looks like it came straight from an eight-bit Nintendo console and switchgear is classic '90s Toyota. However, its upright design still looks elegant and has aged well, providing immense cargocarrying capacity and passenger room. The Land Cruiser also offers excellent outward visibility for the driver and passengers alike.
One old-school feature we wish more manufacturers would include is the clamshell rear hatch with a downward folding tailgate. Yes kids, the Land Cruiser has a real honest-to-goodness tailgate. Unless you own a pickup, you may have forgotten how many uses a tailgate has, but we wish more SUVs had them.
As we continue to rack up the miles on our TLC, we'll report back to you how it is over the course of the next year and we might even throw Brubaker a bone and send it out to the Midwest for snow duty this winter. In any event, we'll be riding in style in Toyota's legendary wheeler.
Report: 1 of 4
Previous report: None
Base price: $56,215
Price as tested: $63,459
Four-wheel-drive system: Lever actuated, full-time two-speed
Miles to date: 4,129
Miles since last report: First report
Average mpg (this report): 13.24
Test best tank (mpg): 18.14
Test worst tank (mpg): 9.71 (all towing)
Problem areas: None
What's Hot,What's Not
Hot: Classic styling, excellent visibility, great off-road capability, luxuriously appointed workhorse, great for hauling people
Not: Navigation system interface is a few generations behind the competition, has an appetite for premium dead-dino juice
* "Great cruising vehicle-comfortable and quiet."
* "Very noticeable difference between comfort and sport."
* "Good rear-seat passenger comfort."
* "Chassis motions aren't as tight as newer competitors, but the overall design has aged well."