As legends go, the Toyota Land Cruiser is pretty much up there with the best of them, and for good reason.
It’s reputation for off-road ruggedness stretches back over six decades. Whenever I have watched film of people driving across expansive desert landscapes, they have invariably been seated in a Land Cruiser. Robust, durable and reliable the vehicle most certainly is. Cheap it is not, and for good reason.
Residing in Lincolnshire, I would have to trek an awfully long way to reach the Sahara or Namib deserts to accommodate a test drive, and sadly it is doubtful that Toyota would have allowed me such an indulgence, even though I have driven such wondrous landscapes in the past. So, the UK would have to play second fiddle for a week. What my part of the country does boast of is hills aplenty; pretty, hidden valleys and quiet, narrow, occasionally twisting B roads stretching northwards to the North York Moors across an outstandingly beautiful landscape. The nearest sands to my home village lie on the east coast at Skegness, forty miles from home as the crow flies, where the only vehicle I have seen on the beaches is a tractor which pulls the lifeboat out to the chilly North Sea. Not exactly off-roading territory, but then the Land Cruiser has other merits other than its rufty-tufty appeal.
Whilst they have their detractors, I am a fan of SUVs, so long as they are used for the purposes for which they have been built. They should be banned from blocking roads during school runs, the vehicles’ tyres never having had to tolerate a spec of mud, and as for being used as a bag carrier for the local supermarket run, I can just about tolerate that one, because we all have to go shopping.
There are plenty of heavyweight contenders in the market, and whilst you are more likely to see a Land Rover than a Land Cruiser on the roads in many parts of the country, the latter exists to align itself with this profitable market, and thereby lies the rub. Many Landy and other luxury-focused SUV owners that I know chose their vehicle because of its looks more than its actual practicality. Drive into a local hostelry’s car park of a weekend for Sunday lunch in a big, posh 4×4 probably says more about you than a Land Cruiser ever will, because it simply does not have the same kudos, which is a shame, because what you get for your money is every bit as good, even if it doesn’t have the catwalk charisma. What it can do, however, is flex its muscles when needed, in whatever circumstance it finds itself, and it will keep on giving, so reliable is it.
What my part of the country does possess is an over-abundance of pot-holes, and I managed to hit plenty of those, more by accident than design I hasten to add, before tracking across numerous rough Tarmac and gravel roads to test the vehicle’s metal. Not really a test at all, because the Land Cruiser hardly flexed its muscles, but it did show me what a smooth ride it was capable of delivering along the byways of the East Midlands.
Toyota clearly has been working hard to improve the overall body appearance and interior design. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but then neither is Marmite. In essence, whilst the exterior look is still one of robustness, Toyota has gone all modern, starting from the bonnet, which has been shaped to improve downward visibility at the centre and is sandwiched by the sides of the bumper to help protect the engine bay. The corners of the lower part of the bumper have integral fog lamps and kick upwards, while the centre section is shaped like a skid plate for easier manoeuvring off-road. The top section of the wings has been raised so that it’s easier for the driver to pinpoint the vehicle’s extremities.
Much thought has clearly, and understandably, gone into the rigours of off-road driving. The front grille and headlamps have been organised into single, powerful graphic form and set higher for better off-road functionality. The grille’s apertures also have been made as large as possible for optimum engine cooling, while the headlamp main beams are positioned inboard to avoid damage when driving off-road. The grille itself features broad vertical bars with slit-shaped cooling openings, finished in chrome. The headlamp clusters comprise high and low beams, front turn indicators and daytime running lights, contained in a distinctive housing.
The sharply trimmed lower section of the body reinforces the Land Cruiser’s broad stance and minimises the impact of the front overhang on the vehicle’s off-road approach angle. Ground clearance is an impressive 215mm, with 31-degree approach, 25-degree departure and 22-degree ramp break-over angles. In profile, the athletic and dynamic vehicle posture becomes clearly apparent, enhanced by 12-spoke 19-inch wheels with a machined finish.
For a predominantly off-road vehicle, the design team has clearly not skimped when it comes to interior sophistication, comfort and user-friendliness. The cabin boasts front seat ventilation, rear seat heating, and automatic climate control. Also introduced is an electric, heated windscreen, plus heated washer nozzles, reverse-tilting door mirrors and a new smart key design. The dash incorporates a large, eight-inch touchscreen for the Toyota Touch 2 with Go multimedia system and a 4.2-inch TFT colour multi-information display, which presents comprehensive vehicle and infotainment data, controlled using switches on the steering wheel.
Power comes courtesy of a 2.8-litre D-4D turbodiesel engine which develops 175bhp/130kW at 3,400rpm. Matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, it produces 370Nm of torque at just 1,200rpm, and a maximum 450Nm between 1,600 and 2,400rpm. For such a hefty lump, it will still accelerate from rest to 62mph in 12.7 seconds.
Whilst the Land Cruiser is more widely available than any current Toyota model, being sold in more than 190 countries worldwide and a segment sales leader in more than ten European markets, it continues to dominate on continents where more appropriate terrain can be found to showcase its ultimate strengths..
When splashing this much money on a predominantly off-road vehicle, reliability and durability are going to be on everyone’s tick list, and the Land Cruiser cannot be faulted in these areas, because this is the vehicle that will not only get you to your chosen destination, over whatever terrain you throw at it, but will also deliver you safely back again, thanks to its outstanding performance. Then there is the quality and safety features packed into that outer shell.
I still feel that if I was to splash out on an on- plus off-road vehicle, then the Discovery might win me over in terms of desirability and appeal, because principally it is better suited to on-road driving, and offers a better level of luxury. Having said that, I am conscious that having spent that amount of money, I would want to be sure of a reasonable return for my money as the years pass me by, when my priorities would depend on reliability not becoming an issue. It is then that the no-nonsense character and bulletproof nature of the Toyota Land Cruiser would win three gold stars every day. Because whilst I might not have been able to kick up a sandstorm in my wake, I would certainly be out to enjoy the ride. The name ‘Invincible’ seems entirely appropriate in this case.
Words | Michael Cowton
- Toyota Land Cruiser Invincible 5 door 7 seat
- Engine: 4 cylinder in-line D-4D
- 0-62mph: 12.7 secs
- Top speed: 108mph
- Displacement 2755cc
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic, full-time AWD
- Max power: 175/130@3,400rpm
- Fuel consumption: 38.1mpg combined; 30.7mpg urban; 44.8mpg extra urban
- OTR: £54,040
- Options: Towbar and Electrics – £1100; Metallic Paint – £700Total OTR: £55,840