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2018 Toyota Land Cruiser Review

2018 Toyota Land Cruiser Review
The 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser is a conundrum: it’s way better on-road than its off-road credentials suggest it should be, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.

The 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser has undeniable charm and appeal for shoppers, evidenced by its sheer existence in the face of much more luxurious SUVs.

We’ve rated it a 6.4 out of 10 overall, but there’s more to the 2018 Land Cruiser’s six-decade heritage than just numbers.

It’s hugely capable off-road and has an enviable reputation for reliability even under the harshest conditions. Those attributes have long made Land Cruisers a staple in the most remote, war-torn regions of the world, but they don’t really come into play in suburbia.

This year, the Land Cruiser is largely unchanged after a hefty refresh in 2016. Its rear-seat entertainment system gets with the times and becomes a stand-alone option instead of standard (since most kids are attached to their tablets these days) and its exterior mirrors now fold inward when the SUV is locked.

Lexus dealers sell their own version of the Land Cruiser as the LX 570. Aside from some suspension changes, styling differences, and a predictably tonier interior, the LX 570 is essentially the same vehicle.

The Land Cruiser comes in just one flavor: four-wheel drive with a 5.7-liter V-8 engine rated at 381 horsepower. Underneath its bulbous body sits a positively old-school ladder frame with an independent front suspension and a coil-sprung solid rear axle. That big V-8 provides admirable thrust, but ultimately the 5,800-pound curb weight means that fuel economy is abysmal. Even down hill.

Befitting its name, the Land Cruiser is well-equipped for going well beyond where the pavement ends. Full-time four-wheel drive with a proper low range, a locking center differential, a multi-mode traction control system, and a crawl control knob that works like off-road cruise control are all standard affair. Land Cruisers employ Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, which combines extra-large sway bars that disconnect automatically to reduce body lean off-road but allow tremendous wheel articulation on-road.

The system doesn’t turn the Land Cruiser into a corner carver, but it does take winding roads with commendably limited body lean. Plenty of sidewall and soft springs mean that the Land Cruiser also takes bumps in stride no matter the road (or lack thereof).

Inside, the Land Cruiser pampers with luxurious leather and room for eight (in a pinch), but some chintzy plastics serve as reminders that it’s really a dressed-up work truck. That’s not to say that safety has taken a back seat. The Land Cruiser comes standard with a full complement of airbags, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.

The 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser looks like nothing else on the road.

With a few cues from the past, the 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser is an attractive big SUV that stands out from the crowd inside and out.

Its bulbous shape has stayed true to form for nearly three decades. Up front, a ribbon of chrome slices through the LED headlights, a look that echoes the now-classic 1991 model. Removable side steps give the Land Cruiser a lower look than its nearly 9.0-inches of running ground clearance provide. At the rear, there’s again no shortage of chrome, but the look is fairly tasteful and conservative.

Inside, the Land Cruiser’s upright dashboard is littered with big buttons and knobs for its myriad on- and off-road goodies. The dash itself is symmetrical and most controls are integrated into the infotainment screen. In the center console, you’ll find a conventional gear lever along with several knobs and switches for things like the low-range transfer case and multi-mode traction control system.

Look to the more polarizing Lexus LX 570 for more haute couture fashion since the Land Cruiser is as conservative as a Brooks Brothers suit—albeit one that may have a splash of mud on it.

The 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser rides well and is stellar off-road, but its handling is ponderous.

For vehicles like the 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser, performance is measured more in terms of boulder-scaling ability than just how quickly it’ll get down a drag strip.

We’ve given it extra points for its off-road tenacity and for its buttery smooth ride, but we’ve peeled one away for its underwhelming handling. That brings it to a 6 out of 10.

Toyota only fits one engine to its 2018 Land Cruiser: a tried-and-true 5.7-liter V-8 rated at 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. Devoid of high-tech turbochargers, the V-8 puts its power to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission and a two-speed transfer case. Unlike some of its car-like rivals, there’s no two-wheel-drive version available.
Despite a curb weight that easily tips 6,000 pounds with a couple of passengers on board, the Land Cruiser accelerates strongly. Its 8-speed automatic fires off quick, smooth shifts, but can occasionally feel confused when pressed hard. Thanks to its separate ladder frame, the Land Cruiser is rated to tow 8,100 pounds.

Underneath, the Land Cruiser’s reinforced frame and solid rear axle are definitely throwbacks to another era. The coil-sprung rear end allows for terrific wheel articulation off-road but can lead to some head toss on pavement. Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System consists of large anti-roll bars that automatically disconnect at low speeds when more wheel travel is needed. Poke your head under and you’ll see just how massive the anti-roll bars are: the front unit measures 1.68 inches in diameter. Thanks to that trick setup, the Land Cruiser corners remarkably flatly on a curvy road.

But don’t go thinking it’s a sports car. Soft 18-inch tires with plenty of sidewall deliver a composed, comfortable ride, but they communicate little of the road to the light steering. The Land Cruiser doesn’t struggle to maintain a straight line across the prairie on the way to a mountain trail, but it’s not ready for an afternoon of corner carving, either.

Toyota Land Cruiser off-road

Where the Land Cruiser excels is away from the pavement. When activated at the press of a button, Toyota’s Crawl Control system uses the traction control and ABS to keep it moving at a slow pace over any kind of terrain. A separate knob dials in specific traction control parameters for any kind of terrain.

The Land Cruiser’s biggest off-road deficit is its girth. It’s nearly 78 inches wide, which means you’ll have to pick your trail carefully. Aiding things slightly is another switch that uses the ABS to give the Cruiser an especially tight turning radius by braking the inside wheel to allow the vehicle to “pivot” around.

Finally, the Land Cruiser’s center differential is a Torson limited-slip that can be locked for severe off-road use at the press of a button.

Where this big SUV feels most magical is bashing through sand dunes. With tire pressures lowered, the Cruiser belies its heft with a nimble, tossable feel and ample power up high in the rev-range where it’s needed.

To those handful of Land Cruiser buyers who will experience all this in action, we tip our hats.

Comfort & Quality
The 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser nearly impersonates a full-on luxury car inside, even if its third row is only for kids.

There’s plenty of room aboard the 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser, but not everyone is treated to first-class accommodations. We’ve rated it an 8 out of 10, giving it extra points for its front and second rows, its solid feel, and its cargo capacity, but we’ve dialed back one for a third row best suited to children.

Front seat passengers in the 2018 Land Cruiser are afforded a stellar view out and power-adjustable thrones that are wide and nicely padded. Row two’s not so shabby, either, with enough room for three abreast, as long as they’re not all linebackers.

The Land Cruiser’s truck-based design means that its third row can’t tuck away like some rivals. Instead, it consists of two halves that flop flat and fold upward when not needed. They’re removable at the tug of a lever if you’re only going to carry five passengers. But the third row is actually fitted with three seatbelts, which is highly ambitious.

The Land Cruiser has 16.1 cubic feet of space behind the third row. Fold those seats up and out of the way and that figure balloons to 43 cubes. With the third row removed and the second row folded flat, there’s room for nearly 82 cubic feet of whatever you want to toss back there. We’ve used a Land Cruiser to go camping and have found its cargo area an acceptable place for two adults to sleep side-by-side.

Nice semi-aniline leather upholstery feels up-to-snuff, but we’re disappointed in the Land Cruiser’s hard plastic trim that seems at odds with a base price in the $80,000 range. 

The 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser has a full complement of safety features, but it hasn’t been crash-tested in the U.S.

Though no crash-tests have been performed on the 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser, this big bruiser has mass—and some high-tech collision-avoidance—on its side.

Given the lack of testing scores, we can’t assign it a value here.

All Land Cruisers have 10 airbags, including side airbags integrated into the second row and knee airbags up front. Parking sensors, active headrests designed to reduce the risk of whiplash, a rearview camera, LED headlights, and automatic high beams are all standard.

Though there’s no active lane control to nudge a drifting Land Cruiser back into its lane, virtually everything else high-tech is standard here: automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts.

Though there’s little way to personalize your 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser, it is well-equipped for on- and off-road use.

If you’re buying a 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser, you have one more choice to make this year aside from exterior color. In other words, don’t expect a high level of customizations like you’ll find in a Range Rover.

In the features category, we’ve awarded this big SUV with points for its healthy standard fare, its large infotainment screen and its off-road goodies, but we’ve pulled one off for the lack of individual options expected from high-end SUVs. 

That’s not to say that the Land Cruiser lacks features. Every Cruiser boasts four-zone automatic climate control, semi-aniline leather seats, power-adjustable, heated, and cooled front seats, a mini fridge in the center console, keyless ignition, and a 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system mated to a 14-speaker JBL audio system.

A rear-seat entertainment system with two 11.6-inch screens and a DVD player is now optional after being standard last year. That’s a rare move from Toyota and one that we can get behind thanks to the proliferation of tablet computers.

Otherwise, the only choice to make is what interior upholstery and exterior paint color combination you’d like from the dozen offered.

Fuel Economy
If sipping less gas is your goal, the 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser isn’t right for you.
The 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser’s stomping grounds aren’t just in the wilds. They’re also at gas stations.

This is one of the least efficient new vehicles available today, although the fact that the Land Cruiser is rated to run on 87 octane instead of the pricey stuff does slightly soften the blow.

According to the EPA’s test, the Land Cruiser checks in at a miserable 13 mpg city, 18 highway, 15 combined. Frankly, that’s not so bad for something that weighs upward of 5,800 pounds before passengers and their gear are loaded aboard.

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