THE ONE AND ONLY
Toyota has concluded that UK customers for its vast Land Cruiser V8 4x4 aren't interested in belt-tightening or compromise. So, as before, the most recently revised line-up is only one model wide, and we do mean wide. It has everything, including a price tag to match its size. David Vivian reports
Ten Second ReviewThe Toyota Land Cruiser V8 - words uttered with more reverence than 'Land Rover' in some parts of the world - is so far from being the most stylish large 4x4 ever made, you just know it has to be very, very good in other areas to have lasted this long. It is. Big, tough and ugly enough to take on everything from soaring sand dunes to jungle swamps yet remarkably roomy, refined and comfortable doing its 'Range Rover thing', it ticks all the boxes. Well, apart from 'pretty'.
BackgroundOf course, a Range Rover Sport is nicer to look at, faster, better-handling on Tarmac and more comfortable. It has a more lavishly appointed cabin and exudes a level of 'posh' Land Cruiser owners can only dream about. Except they don't. Surveys suggest that the truly well-heeled have a liking for the largest and most luxurious Land Cruiser (formerly known as the Amazon) when they want to go places ordinary limos can't, and want to do so without drawing too much attention to themselves.
Old as the design is, it remains remarkably effective and has proved receptive to timely updates over the years. The most recent revisions see the 4.5-litre diesel leviathan comply with Euro V emissions regs and the range shrink to a single got-it-all model with new-tech enhancements to off-road capabilities that were already formidable.
Driving ExperienceThe Land Cruiser's 4.5-litre turbodiesel V8 has never wanted for power and torque - currently 268bhp and 650 Nm respectively - but it did need cleaning up, so a diesel particulate filter has been fitted with several beneficial consequences. As it has allowed the main exhaust silencer to be smaller, there are gains in the areas of noise and vibration as well as fuel efficiency and emissions. But the way all that torque, available from just 1600rpm, and the slick-shifting six-speed auto make such light work of the Toyota's considerable bulk is still something to marvel at, not least the briskness of the step-off from rest. A 0-60mph time of 8.2s is impressive enough but the 130mph top speed, while largely academic, is fairly astounding for something with the aerodynamics of a barn door. Likewise, its excellent crosswind stability at motorway speeds and a 93-litre fuel tank means you can travel a long way without having to stop if you can ease back on the throttle for long enough.
As for handling, it's surprisingly nimble and tidy given the Land Cruiser's height and weight and its comfort-biased ride, and the ESP stability control makes a good fist of keeping things in check if you do need to hurry along.
Design and BuildThe current generation Land Cruiser is a sturdy thing, to say the least. Yes, its ladder frame chassis is stubbornly old-tech but it's an impressively more massive construction than its predecessor's, supporting a longer, wider and taller body. The most recent changes are largely cosmetic, comprising revised headlamps with LED daytime running lights, chrome side mouldings and restyled rear lights. And the front bumper has been re-shaped to further improve off-road approach angles.
The cabin, already given a much more up-market ambience with the switch to the larger body, boasts a new audio system layout, a colour multi-function display and some chrome-trimmed details. Further upgrades include cooling as well as heating for the front seats and the 40:20:40 rear seats can now slide fore and aft independently, while the centre seat, if not in use, can be folded forward to create an armrest. Otherwise, it's all much as before which means, somewhat disappointingly, that access to the second row of seats remains a little awkward and, once there, the high floor eats into the available legroom. The third row seats hold little appeal for adults but are fine for agile youngsters who'll happily squeeze past the slid-forward squabs of the second row to get there.
Build quality might ultimately not possess an Audi Q7-like precision and sheen but gives every impression it could shrug off mileages and abuse that would leave most of its rivals looking distinctly second hand.
Market and ModelWith just the one model priced in the heart of the £60,000-£65,000 bracket, the Land Cruiser V8 offers itself as an alternative to senior league 4x4s such as Mercedes' GL 420CDI, the Audi Q7 4.2 TDI or Range Rover's 3.6 TDV8 HSE. Each has a different take on the subject but, pound-for-pound, it's perhaps the Toyota's more glitzy, posh-brand rivals that have to look to their mud-spattered laurels. Needless to say, being a sole model rather than a range, equipment levels are necessarily lavish and include a four-zone climate control, adaptive suspension, a rear parking camera, stability control, downhill assist and hill start control. The optional premium entertainment package includes two eight-inch seatback-mounted monitors and can play a wide range of file formats, such as DVD, CD, USB and SD cards. The screens can even work independently to show different films or video games. And Toyota's Touch Pro multimedia system enables connection to Google Local Search and Google Maps via a compatible smartphone.
Cost of OwnershipAll things considered, a combined consumption of 27.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 270 g/km is excellent going for a 4.2-litre V8-powered 4x4 the size of a decent garden shed. By modern executive car standards, of course, it's pretty dire. Best face up to the fact - you're not going to run a V8 Land Cruiser on a shoestring. Think of the expense to replace the massive 20-inch tyres for starters. That said, residual values tend to hold up slightly better than for the equivalent Range Rover or Audi Q7; most industry experts reckon on it retaining 51 per cent of its value after three years.
Servicing comes in at sub-premium German brand pricing, too, and customers satisfaction surveys rate Toyota dealers more highly as well.
SummaryThere are some very good looking large 4x4 plying our highways these days. The Toyota Land Cruiser V8 isn't one of them, and the recent facelift has done nothing to change that. For such a big vehicle, rear space isn't so clever, either. So what's the appeal? Well, odd as it may seem, the combination of that rather low key, unshowy approach and a reputation for toughness and reliability earned in some of the harshest climates and terrains on the planet. Plus, and it's the thing people tend to forget, properly civilised, comfortable and refined on-road manners. It's as good on long motorway hauls as it is wading through a muddy swamp.
Thing is, its status is virtually unimpeachable among people around the world who know what a good luxury 4x4 is all about and something of a mystery to those who don't. And the people who buy them would probably like to keep it that way.