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Eric
09-12-2008, 10:36 AM
Toyota's Land Cruiser was there at the beginning - before there was such a thing as an "SUV" - and it will probably be with us years after SUVs, as a class, virtually disappear courtesy of doubled (or tripled) gas prices.

WHAT IT IS

The Land Cruiser is a full-size, eight passenger, premium SUV that comes standard with a real (truck-based) four-wheel-drive system and two-speed transfer case with 4WD Low gearing.

Base price is $64,100.

WHAT'S NEW

The works. Toyota redid the entire vehicle for the '08 model year - the first wheels-up revision of the Land Cruiser in ten years. Everything is new, including the underlying frame (still boxed and heavy-duty) exterior sheetmetal and interior, features and amenities - including a new (and much more powerful) 5.7 liter V-8 shared with the full-size Tundra pick-up and a brand-new four-zone climate control system. There is a rumor that in early 2009, Toyota may offer a diesel engine as an available option, too.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

Detroit SUVs generally ruled when it came to underhood bona fides. The previous Land Cruiser's 4.7 liter, 265 hp V-8 was smooth - but compared with the much larger V-8s offered in American-brand full-size primo SUVs like the Escalade, it was under-gunned and overmatched.

The LC's new 5.7 liter V-8 - with 381 hp and 400-plus ft.-lbs. of torque - closes the gap completely. Even better, you get that extra liter of displacement (and 116 hp more) without a gas mileage penalty. The new 5.7 V-8 is actually slightly more efficient than the former 4.7 V-8, with an EPA rating of 13 city and 18 highway.

It still costs a lot to feed a Land Cruiser, but now you're at least getting the hp and torque to justify it!

For comparison, the Range Rover HSE ($77,675) comes standard with a 4.4 liter, 300 hp V-8 that only makes 305 hp (and slurps gas to the tune of 12 mpg city, 18 highway). The Range Rover's also smaller - seating just 5 people.

Also standard in the new Land Cruiser is a new six-speed automatic, which is at least partially responsible for holding the line on gas consumption while allowing a more powerful engine. Its six ratios (and steep overdrive) maximize efficiency, keeping the big V-8 working at minimal capacity until its full energy is needed for passing or towing.

Speaking of which: The new Land Cruiser is a true 4x4 Clydesdale - able to lug around 8,500 pounds of trailer. That's as good or better than its immediate competitors, stronger than the $77k Range Rover HSE (7,716 lbs.) and 600 lbs. stronger than the Cadillac Escalade (7,900 lbs.).

The Caddy is less expensive to start at $59,805 - and its standard 6.2 liter V-8 is slightly stronger at 403 hp. But that's with RWD - and minimal off-road/HD capability. You can step up to a full-time AWD system in the Escalade ($62,355 to start) but it is a street-oriented system not really intended for serious off-road work. Ditto the Lincoln Navigator. It, too, is much less expensive - only $48,745 for the RWD version. But the 4WD-equipped version ($51,645) is street-oriented and the Nav's 5.4 liter, 300 hp V-8 is substantially less powerful than the LC's 381 hp V-8. (With one caveat: Despite being 81 hp weaker, the Nav has a max rated tow capacity of 9,000 lbs,. 500 lbs. more than either the LC or the Lexus LX570. The Lincoln feels doggy, but it can pull.)

RIDE & HANDLING

The original Land Cruisers of the '60s and '70s were (and still are) outstanding off-roaders - but also very hard to live with on the street. Their bodies were rigid and creaky; their handling tipsy. "Ride quality" was oxymoronic. Thirty years of development work later and the current Land Cruiser rides better than some luxury cars.

It can even be driven fairly fast in corners, too.

Body-on-frame construction does an excellent job of isolating the passenger cabin from the outside world. Large luxury sedans used to all be built this way until the pressure to chop down on weight (and simplify the manufacturing process) caused most automakers to switch over to the welded-together body and frame (unibody) design that's prevalent today. But with SUVs, body-on-frame construction is still common, in part because of the desirability of an inherently tough heavy-steel frame for off-road/towing/HD use. But the side benefit is that "big car" ride that's missing from most of today's not-so-big passenger cars.

The Land Cruiser can be ordered with a type of adjustable suspension called Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS). Off-roaders know that loosening (or even disconnecting) the vehicle's anti-sway bars allows greater suspension travel for really serious of-road work - but it's no easy thing to do this in other vehicles. You have to stop, get out, crawl underneath (maybe in the mud) with your tools - then repeat/undo what you did when you get back onto paved roads. With KDSS, it's all handled automatically. The anti-sway bars are loosened as necessary for off-road work and tightened up for cornering. A "crawl" mode - and center/rear locking diffs, skid plates and M/S tires - are also available.

Ground clearance is 8.9 inches - slightly less than last year (and slightly less than the Escalade and some other competitors, too). But it doesn't appear to affect the LC's ability to bully its way through deep mud or up and down steep inclines.

STYLING & UTILITY

Visually, the Land Cruiser doesn't look as imposingly enormous as an Escalade or Navigator - even though it is roughly the same, dimensionally. This is a plus - or a minus - depending on what you want. Some SUV buyers want outsized presence in addition to outsized size. They want to make an impression - perhaps more so than they want or intend to ever go off-road. For them, an Escalade, Navigator - or Lexus LX 570, the LC tarted up (and priced $10k higher) - may be more appealing.

The Land Cruiser is less about bling; more about doing business.

Drop the third and second rows and the LC has about 82 cubic feet of cargo capacity - much more than the Range Rover HSE (74 cubic feet), about the same as the Lexus LX570 (83 cubic feet) but considerably less than the regular wheelbase Escalade (109 cubic feet) and Navigator (103 cubic feet).

As mentioned earlier, towing capability (8,500 lbs.) is top of the class. Only the Lincoln surpasses it. But let's face it, Lincoln - the brand and the vehicle - is barely even a contender anymore.

Probably the biggest LC weakness is that the third row only folds down - not flat. This can make using the thing to cart stuff a bit more awkward than in some competitor models that offer flat-folding seats that can be easily moved completely out of the way way without removing them from the vehicle.

But the LC's two-piece tailgate does split - and fold. That makes up for the rear seat issue some.

A center console beverage cooler is available, too.

QUALITY & SAFETY

The LC is a venerable institution - one of the longest continuously produced Toyota models, in fact. It has earned a loyal following dating back to the late 1960s. Only the equally iconic Range Rover can match that - but as nice (and capable) as the Range Rover is, its reputation for quality control has been nowhere near as solid as the LC's - or Toyota's. Despite its luxury liner array of leather, wood and electronics, this is still one tough mother. If past performance is any guide, the new LC should be as durable on road as it is tenacious off-road.

Just like all previous LCs going back 30-plus years.

A full complement of air bags - including knee bags for the driver - as well as active headrests, traction/stability control and ABS are standard equipment. A closed-circuit back-up camera system is bundled with the optional GPS navigation unit.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

This thing is a Kahuna - which means "king" in Hawaiian. It's big, it's strong - and feels big and strong. You feel ready to tackle anything, on or off-road. The Range Rover's as good or better off-road - and also feels like a tank (in a good way) on road, but it is small - and pricey. The G-wagen feels ready to make another go at subduing Russia - but it doesn't handle nearly as well on-road as off. The Escalade and Navigator are great street rollers - but not so great off road and have an image not everyone wants to partake of.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Like the Range Rover, Lexus LX570 and Mercedes Gelandewagen, the Land Cruiser occupies a niche at the very top of the SUV food chain - a happy land where no one cares about gas prices or MPGs. Like them, it is a gentleman's four-by-four, with all the amenities of a top-of-the-line luxury sedan that's still fully capable of rooster tailing its way through a muddy field or clawing its way up a rock-strewn backcountry fire road.

Unlike them, it is less expensive, roomier - or both.

Others - like the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator - have tried to join this elite club. But they are Johnny Come Latelys without the storied history or the loyal buyer base. They also don't have the off-road bona fides of the Land Cruiser. Given the way the market's going, I wouldn't be surprised to read that GM and Ford cancel them entirely before another three years go by.

I bet the LC's still being sold 20 years from now - even if gas costs $20 per gallon.

END

Disco Man
09-14-2008, 09:51 AM
Just posted on the main site with pictures:

http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/images/stories/automotive/toyota/landcruiser/09landcru-b.jpg


http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=601&Itemid=10918

swamprat
09-17-2008, 01:28 PM
What a stupid car for the times. Almost a stupid car for ANY time.

Eric
09-17-2008, 02:11 PM
What a stupid car for the times. Almost a stupid car for ANY time.


The original Landcruiser (like the old Ford Bronco and International Scout) were genuinely useful vehicles built for a real purpose for which they were actually used. I agree with you that these $60,000 (and up) latter day versions are basically poseur-mobiles....