Beauty Meets The Beast
In just a little over 6 months, we piled almost 15,000 hard miles on our Land Cruiser and we had no major issues. Since then, we sent our Black Garnet Pearl beauty to the belly of the beast-our Midwest Bureau in northern Illinois. Here, the 'Cruiser encountered a frigid winter punctuated by gobs of snow. During this time, we sure learned a lot about Toyota's flagship SUV.
First of all, we hate electronic nannies as much as you do, but we gotta swallow hard and say that the 'Cruiser's Star Safety System (VSC, TRAC, and ABS with EBD and Brake Assist) functions mind-bogglingly well. Traveling on snow-packed slippery roads is almost a no-brainer. The electronics help create one of the most stable, confidence-inspiring large SUVs we've ever driven in these conditions. The big LC is basically point-and-shoot. When we did do something stupid (sometimes on purpose, just to see what it would do), the electronics stepped in and, aside from steering inputs, took us out of the equation and helped regain control. This is a vehicle you can rest easy knowing that it's hauling your significant other and kids.
Further good news: VSC is canceled when the center differential lock is activated. This means you can regain full control of the Land Cruiser's power by simply pushing a button. It's a good thing too, because the same electronic bliss that makes the 'Cruiser a stable bad-weather machine on the paved road has a dark side off-highway. As is the case with most electronic systems, it can't decipher when you really need no electronic intervention, i.e., unadulterated full power going to the wheels. It's for this reason we spent a half hour digging our 'Cruiser from a snowed-over road after we attempted to power our way through with the center differential lock deactivated. We got stuck because when the electronics sensed wheelspin, it decreased engine power (causing us to lose momentum) and the brakes started, um, braking in an effort to help the tires cautiously grab for traction. With all these things happening lickety-split, we were quickly swallowed by the drifts. Lesson: Remember to push the button.
Our winter testing also indicated that the Land Cruiser seems impervious to frigid weather. Even after sitting outside all night when temperatures dipped to a snot-freezing minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit, the 'Cruiser's 4.7L V-8 engine fired right up and didn't rattle or otherwise generate any scary noises.
Even the last remaining cynical staffer among us has come to love the 'Cruiser. It's not often one finds an exceptionally built, premium luxury SUV with the rugged heart of a 'wheeler. With a few months left in our test, we'll see if the big LC continues to tame the beast.
Report: 3 Of 4
Previous report: Jan. '07; Apr. '07
Base price: $56,215
Price as tested: $63,459
Four-wheel-drive system: Lever- actuated, full-time two-speed
Miles to date: 26,378
Miles since last report: 15,443
Average mpg (this report): 14.1
Test best tank (mpg): 19.4
Test worst tank (mpg): 9.71 (towing)
15,000-mile service: Lube, oil and filter, tire rotation, front and rear differential lube service, transmission fluid change
19,000-mile service: Lube, oil and filter
23,000-mile service: Lube, oil nd filter, tire rotation
Problem areas: Cold-weather clunk in drivetrain (rear driveshaft lubed under warranty by Anderson Toyota in Rockford, Illinois)
What's Hot,What's Not
Hot: Rock-solid build quality, righteous vaultlike ride, outstanding forward visibility, great power-to-weight ratio, roll sensing of curtain-shield airbags off switch
Not: Weak interior lighting, barely usable lawyerized Bluetooth, complicated navigation system
* "What's up with the yellowy, weak interior lighting?"
* "Love the tailgate!"
* "The headlamps are bright and have a great pattern."