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2008 Toyota Land Cruiser Review - First Drive

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on November 1, 2007
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Photographers: Courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales USA

Fifty years ago, Toyota Motor Corporation started importing vehicles to North America. There were but two vehicles in its initial import product lineup, and though the Toyopet Crown is but a distant memory now, the other vehicle is still going strong after five decades. Can you guess it?

While the quinquagenarian Land Cruiser is still assembled at Toyota's Autobody plant in Hamara, Japan, and based off its own dedicated hydroformed chassis, it now shares its powertrain with the Texas-built Tundra pickup. The 381hp 5.7L V-8 and 60F six-speed automatic transmission are the only available underhood offerings on the new LC, and the full-time JF transfer case with 2.62:1 low-range is also a stand-alone gearbox. Suspension is independent up front with inboard coilover shocks and control arms (sayonara torsion bars: Hummer, are you listening?), while in the rear, a four-link/coil-spring/Panhard rod arrangement locates a 9 1/2-inch solid axle also sourced from the pickup truck. Also new for 2008, the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, which debuted on the 2004 Lexus GX, uses hydraulic cylinders and line pressure to adjust sway-bar rates on the fly according to tractive conditions and detected wheel travel. Alas, there are no lockers in the 3.91:1-geared diffs, but a driver-actuated Torsen center diff-lock can vary torque splits front to rear up to a 30/70 ratio. Wheels are 18x8 alloys, and three different 280/60-series tires are available, Dunlop Grandtreks being arguably the stoutest for trail work.

Understated, elegant yet refined and sophisticated, the Land Cruiser's interior is a symphony of high-quality woodgrains, leathers, and stainless accents. The Crawl Control switch is just to the right of the tranny shifter, but the traction control and diff-lock buttons are tucked away behind the steering wheel, not the easiest to find.

The new LC also sports Toyota's newest contribution to off-road technology: Crawl Control, which could alternately be described as Warp Drive Traction Control. The three-mode system modulates throttle and braking algorithms at ultra-slow speeds in low-range, a'la Land Rover's Terrain Response system, to tailor driveline operation to the demands of the most difficult slow-speed terrain.

We tested Crawl Control at a number of extreme angles, and while it indisputably works, it's also quite noisy as the traction control needs to cycle through the brakes at a rattle-fire pace, hundreds of pops and pulses per minute, as it strains to keep the 5,700-pound 'Cruiser from straying over 3 mph on steep and rocky descents. In addition, it's somewhat counterintuitive-you are supposed to stay off the throttle and brake-and tricky to engage: You need to be in Drive-not Neutral, Park, or First (though you need Neutral to engage the center diff-lock), with your foot on the brake and the vehicle stopped. Stability Control needs to be left on, but Transmission Snow Mode needs to be off. (You already do that at the trailhead, right? And don't forget to turn off the side-curtain airbags so they won't go off accidentally if you get too sideways.) Once engaged, you can toggle between crawl modes on the fly, but to disengage the system, you need to stop again. It was challenge enough for us to try to memorize all of this, and we began to wonder how much fun your typical Toyota dealer is going to have trying to explain this new system to potential buyers.

New for 2008, the 5,700-pound Land Cruiser receives a much-deserved power boost in the form of the iForce DOHC 5.7L V-8 sourced from the Tundra fullsize pickup. The long-stroke aluminum block, armed with three valves per cylinder and variable valve timing, produces a rated 381 peak hp and 401 lb-ft of max torque.

Then again, perhaps we are nitpicking-it could just as easily be argued that a vehicle as iconic as the Land Cruiser is one of those vehicles that pretty much sells itself, electronic nannies be damned. Fifty years of reliability have a way of winning over consumers, and in that regard, the Land Cruiser has been a longtime class leader. And if versatility is on your wish list, the new LC won't disappoint. We may be on the slow side of the learning curve when it comes to new technology, but the 'Cruiser made a fairly easy time of some steep, rocky, and unforgiving terrain while delivering a smooth and luxurious highway ride, with abundant passing power on tap, even at altitudes above 10,000 feet. There's seating for eight, an 8,500-pound tow rating, twin tow hooks up front, full skidplating underneath, leather and wood-grain everywhere inside, and it four-wheels just as well as-maybe better than-the previous incarnation.

The new Land Cruiser should be rolling into Toyota showrooms around the time this magazine hits the newsstand, and we'll have one in our test field at our 2008 Four Wheeler of the Year competition in the February '08 issue. Judging by our one-day testdrive, it should be a serious contender.

What's Hot:
Big-league V-8 power; great sightlines and plush leather seats; 8,500-pound tow rating; superlative braking; doesn't need premium fuel.

What's Not:
Too-clever Crawl Control; aluminum rear diff carrier; diff-lock and stability controls hard to find; squatty-looking front clip.

Our Take:
With a rear locker and a more aggressive tire, the new 'Cruiser would be the Undisputed King of Luxo-Rigs. As offered, it's still plenty trailable-and on the open road, an unalloyed delight.

Vehicle/model: 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser
Base price: N/A
Engine: 5.7L DOHC V-8
Max hp & torque (lb-ft): 381/401
Transmission(s): AB60F six-speed automatic
Transfer case(s): JF2A full-time two-speed
Low-range ratio: 2.62:1
Frame type: Boxed steel ladder
Suspension, f/r: IFS, double A-arms, coilover shocks, stabilizer bar/Solid axle, four-link, coil springs, control arms, Panhard rod
Ring and pinion: 3.91:1
Max crawl ratio: 34.1:1
Steering: Variable power rack-and-pinion
Brakes, f/r: 13.4x1.3-inch vented disc/13.6x.71 vented disc
Wheels (tested): 18x8 aluminum alloy
Tires (tested): 285/60R18 Dunlop Grandtreks
Wheelbase (in): 112.2
Length (in): 194.9
Height (in): 74.0
Base curb weight (lb): 5,690
Approach/departure angles (deg): 30/20
Minimum ground clearance (in): 8.9
GVWR (lb): 7,275
Max cargo volume (cu ft): 81.7
Max towing capacity (lb): 8,500
EPA mileage figures, city/hwy (mpg): 13/18
Fuel capacity (gal): 24.6

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