Mountain Wheels: Audacious, capable luxury in Toyota’s legendary Land Cruiser (review) | SummitDaily.com

Mountain Wheels: Audacious, capable luxury in Toyota’s legendary Land Cruiser (review)

Andy Stonehouse
Mountain Wheels

Those given to iconoclasm in their vehicle choices might be the go-to market for the very large, very capable and very expensive Toyota Land Cruiser, which celebrates its 60th year in the U.S. market with its 2017 edition — the vehicle was given a substantial facelift last year.

This is a car that's a magnet for button freaks, especially those who felt that Japanese interior design circa 1985 epitomized the high point in motoring.

Whatever your pleasure, for buyers of gargantuan, eight-passenger SUVs who are committed not only to technology and truly accomplished off-road prowess but aren't quite seeking the Lexus image, Land Cruiser is the closest answer, one still proudly wearing the Toyota badge.

The (as tested) almost $87,000 Land Cruiser, a shade less audacious than the $90,000-plus Lexus LX with which it shares most of its mechanical attributes, is certainly a vehicle that is not to be taken lightly. Based on its heritage and its complicated, full-time 4WD setup, I also reckon it will crawl, climb and scoot up the most challenging of Colorado's mid-duty trails in a fashion far exceeding that of the similarly priced Cadillac Escalade or the Yukon Denali I will review in the next few weeks.

And even though it's more mechanically reliable, its design is much classier and it can still comfortably seat eight — two in the most fetishized Japanese mechanical jump seats in the world (though of course those in the Lexus are even more so) — I doubt any Escalade/Yukon buyers would ever cross-shop the Land Cruiser. That's too bad.

It's a very solid looking vehicle that will have other drivers confused in wondering just what Toyota you might actually be driving; new chrome on the hood and flanks gives the Land Cruiser even more presence.

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It also drives like a Japanese-built bank vault. Steering at low speeds takes a lot of effort (those are chunky 18-inch wheels and tires below), and the throttle mapping is a bit abrupt at times, as the eight-speed automatic contends with all that mass.

Power is never an issue, however, as the rock-solid 5.7-liter V-8 shared by the Tundra provides a helpful 381 horsepower and 401 lb.-ft. of torque, the latter especially helpful in providing the Land Cruiser with up to 8,100 pounds of towing capacity.

Highway speeds are no problem. Just for giggles, a custom car crew chopped their 2016 and turbocharged it to 2,000 horsepower, rendering it into the most ridiculous, 220-MPH-capable vehicle ever created. The stock machine will serve any purpose you have for it; do not come to Land Cruiser looking for fuel efficiency, however. A mere 13 MPG in the city is pretty accurate.

Those aforementioned button fiends will instead have a field day in the Land Cruiser, with a spaceship-worthy array of controls between the seats (plus a built-in, large-volume refrigerated cooler). The vehicle's odd retro-futuristic blend also produces an old-fashioned manual handbrake, but supplements the vehicle's awesome off-road prowess with 4×4 backing controls, differential locks and a knob controlling the speed of its crawl mode function (set it, and keep your eyes peeled to make sure your 5,815-pound, 194.9-inch-long, 74-inch-high box will actually fit through where you aim it).

There's also a two-speed transfer case and the automatic multi-terrain selection system, optimizing the mechanics for various surfaces — mogul setting sadly not for ski slopes, but for similarly sized mud and rock obstacles.

Actually parking the behemoth in an urban setting might seem like a challenge, but I nailed a parallel parking spot on my first try; Land Cruiser is however pretty massive for urban use, in a particularly tall way.

Interior details are quite stunning, and the updates include a silvery central stack that also features and E-Z-Bake Oven-sized cubby with Toyota's now ubiquitous cordless cell phone charger tray, and an awkwardly square navigation screen above, outlined in piano black.

Of course there are also real wood inserts, burnished platinum door pulls and stitched leather everywhere, because Land Cruiser.

Getting into the vehicle is a genuine challenge and running boards and A-pillar hand-holds help considerably. Once planted, seating is very comfortable and even those robot-styled jump seats in the back are preferable to seats in most regular SUVs. Second-row riders also get seatback TV screens and an HVAC system more complicated than most cars, for goodness' sake.

Total cargo capacity behind the front seats is 81.7 cubic feet, or 43 cubic feet with the second row flattened; an aftermarket ladder to help you reach your inevitable safari goodies on the roof rack might be a nice add-on. The split-level tailgate flops down and offers a carpeted deck for your pheasant hunting outings, I gather.

2017 Toyota Land Cruiser

MSRP: $84,325; as tested, $86,722

Powertrain: 381-HP 5.7-liter V-8 with eight-speed automatic transmission

EPA figures: 15 combined (13 city, 18 highway)