In the market for a well-equipped, off-road capable SUV? Don't forget the 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser.
You didn't know Toyota still makes the legendary Land Cruiser? That's not surprising. Toyota doesn't advertise it much. The retro FJ Cruiser got a lot more attention before the company dropped it in 2015.
But the Land Cruiser is still around after 60 years in production. And, just like its predecessors, the current generation is a serious off-road machine, even though it now comes disguised as conservatively styled luxury SUV.
Shopping for a Land Cruiser is incredibly easy. There's only one version — a full-size, fully-loaded seven-passenger SUV with a 5.7-liter V8, eight-speed automatic transmission, and an all-wheel-drive system that can be easily adjusted for a variety of terrains. Standard features include 18-inch cast aluminum wheels, a leather interior, underbody skid plates, a four-zone automatic climate control system, a 9-inch touchscreen, a surround-view camera system, a 14-speaker JBL audio system, adaptive cruise control , a rear seat entertainment system, and more.
That's a long way from the original Land Cruisers, which were very simple but rugged vehicles that sacrificed creature comforts for off-road performance. But times change and the current generation is intended to compete against offerings from such luxury manufacturers as Land Rover, Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz.
In addition to its off-road capabilities, just about the only direct nod to the early Land Cruiser models are the jump seats that comprise the third row. They fold up against the sides of the cargo bay, like those in the past. Although nostalgic, they also encroach on the space, which is one of the new version's few drawbacks. A bigger one is mileage. The 5.7-liter V8 only average 15 miles per gallon. A diesel option would be nice.
But none of that bothered us in a week of mixed driving that included traveling through some of the heaviest rainstorms of the winter. Our Land Cruiser never wavered, thanks in part to its hefty 5,815 pound curb weight and the AWD system that kept us glued to the road. And it always remained as quiet inside as the most expensive European luxury SUVs.
Given its weight, even the 401 foot pounds of torque under the hood couldn't turn the Land Cruiser into high performance vehicle. Unless we really mashed the pedal, the acceleration was best described as "assured," even though getting up to freeways speeds was no problem. And although its tall design contributed to some body roll in the corners, the semi-firm suspension kept everything under control.
Of course, the Toyota name lacks the cache of those companies, which probably hinders the Land Cruiser's appeal to a certain demographic. Fortunately for them, there's an even more upscale version sold by Toyota's premium brand Lexus as the LX570. While it may be even more refined, the mechanics are essentially the same.
But if you appreciate tradition, you should be glad to know the Land Cruiser is still around. Even though it has changed a lot from the early days, its identity as a go-anywhere machine remains intact.
2017 Toyota Land Cruiser
Base price: $84,775
Price as tested: $86,663
Type: Full-size, 7-passenger SUV
Engine: 5.7 V8 (381 hp, 401 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 13/18
Overall length: 194.9 inches
Curb weight: 5,815 pounds
Final assembly: Aichi, Japan