If you can’t remember the U.S. in 1957, try – please – to imagine it. Eisenhower has begun his second term, we know Nixon is thinking of the Big House, and Detroit is – for the most part – celebrating the aircraft-inspired fin across most model lines. Elvis is hot, Sinatra still has a pulse while James Dean doesn’t. And twelve years after we drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Toyota quietly invades our shores with its offroad-ready Land Cruiser. It was, at least metaphorically, Toyota’s moonshot. Sixty years later, the Japanese Eagle has landed not in the Sea of Tranquility, but in Plano, Texas. And if cruising Texas, few better vehicles are equipped for the journey than today’s Toyota Land Cruiser.
This isn’t, to be sure, the Land Cruiser of 1957. That, and the later iterations thru – we’re guessing here – 1987, had a distinctly agrarian feel, in the same way that Jeep’s 1st-gen Cherokee offered its rural bonafides, while its front-wheel drive/all-wheel drive successor does not. But the 2017 Land Cruiser platform has been around the block a time or two, and within its big footprint and versatile interior there is an Old World feel combined with a Third World sensibility. Here, then, are some details:
EXTERIOR: Did we mention it was big? Stretching 195 inches, and sitting on a wheelbase of 112 inches, the Land Cruiser is – admittedly – smaller than the neighbor’s Suburban, but in all other respects (like when comparing it to the other neighbor’s RAV4) the Land Cruiser looks immense, dwarfing the ’06 Grand Cherokee it’s been parked next to over the last week. But unlike its contemporary brethren, whose sheetmetal is all-encompassing and glass area is reduced to almost nothing, the Land Cruiser has a nice balance between resolute strength and comfortable accessibility, plus, if you ever have a problem with this type of glass, you can easily take it to an auto glass repair shop. There’s a vertical aspect to the Land Cruiser, something the Queen might be seen in if – of course – Great Britain had colonized Japan.
INTERIOR: Open wide? It does. Four big doors are augmented by a big hatch, while the third row seats fold up into the sides rather than down into the floor. It’s not Stow ‘n Go, but you didn’t want a minivan anyway, did you? Old World speaks to you via the aforementioned glass area – and commensurate visibility – while the leather-covered seats remind you of something Tom Selleck would grab if ever given a choice beyond his NYPD-issue Suburban. Gauges are big, the ventilation and audio systems reasonably intuitive, and from your high-mounted seat and largish wheel you can see EVERYTHING! On first blush we didn’t want to like it, but learned to love it – and even more so after a trip to the storage unit, where the upholstered chair we were grabbing slid into the rear hatch way easily.
POWERTRAIN: You have but one choice, but thankfully it’s the right one. Under the Land Cruiser’s sculpted hood Toyota slips in exactly what you’d expect to find…its 5.7 liter DOHC V8 with (are you ready?) dual independent VVT-I and EFI, all sitting atop an aluminum block and aluminum alloy head. The deliverable is 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, the torque coming it at a low 3,600 rpm. It runs on regular unleaded, and that’s a good thing; with an EPA estimate of 13 City/18 Highway, you’ll not want to spend the extra 60 cents/gallon on the good stuff.
The power is sent to all four wheels via Toyota 8-speed (again, are you ready?) Electronically Controlled Automatic Transmission with intelligence – or ECT-i. We had no issues in starting smoothly or passing heroically. Of course, this isn’t your platform of choice for track days, but with a maximum tow rating of 8,100 pounds it should be your platform for truck days.
THE TAB: In a quick visit to a DC area Toyota dealer, we were told the dealer had no brochures and d*mn few Land Cruisers. It seems that if a Toyota prospect is thinking spending upwards of $80 Large he or she is probably headed to a Lexus showroom, where the reps are better dressed and the coffee tastes like something you bought rather than something you were given.
At an as-tested window of $85K the Land Cruiser has everything you need and nothing you don’t. At one time $85K would have bought you a Third World country. But when you’re ready to downsize you can give it to your kid. And a generation later he can give it to his kid. In short, on a cost-per-year basis $85K is chump change.
Going places? Toyota’s Land Cruiser can go anywhere. And, of course, get you back.