This is the first all-new Land Cruiser in 14 years. It’s the vehicle that Toyota takes very seriously, the pinnacle of its off-road range, and something of a desire for those who want a capable, dependable SUV to go anywhere. However, we don’t get it in the US.
The recent iteration of the Land Cruiser hasn’t done well in US sales, selling roughly 3,200 units a year over the past decade, so it makes sense for Toyota to focus on markets where it’s still in high demand. And in Japan, it’s certainly high; Customers there face a year-long waiting list. This is because, as the official global version made clear a few months ago, the Land Cruiser LC300 series is mostly aimed at the Middle East, with about 60 percent of production going there. Russia and Australia come next, with a few select markets punctuated by small allotments.
Toyota kindly arranged to drive Tokyo for the GR Sport version of the Land Cruiser, the sporty version of the truck that comes with more convenient front grille handling, lock contrast, and a retuned suspension for the best possible off-road driving experience. We’ve made it clear over our past two days with the LC300, while a lot is on the curb, that Toyota has done an impressive job making this new Land Cruiser the best possible version of the model.
It starts at the level of the structure. This truck is still threaded onto the frame, but is now built using a new production technology that reduces metallic interference and uses more precise welding. This was followed by aluminum doors, roof, front fenders and hood, reducing weight by 440 pounds over the outgoing model but increasing torsional rigidity by 20 percent. Air suspension is gone, its complexity replaced by good old coils and regular gas struts in an all-new, modified geometry to improve handling as much as off-road potential.
As with the new Tundra, the Land Cruiser V-8 is gone, replaced by the same 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 and 10-speed automatic transmission found in the Lexus LS500. Toyota has adapted the powertrain to the demands of off-road driving, allowing the forged V-6 engine to handle the 27.5-inch molding capacity. This engine’s 409 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque don’t make you miss a V-8, except perhaps in the audio department. There’s also an all-new diesel option, a 305-hp 3.3-liter V-6 twin-turbo engine, which brings 516 pound-feet of torque to the table along with slightly better fuel economy and range.
All of this translates to a significantly improved Land Cruiser, before we get to its distinct road or way it is significantly better to drive. The sense of hyper-engineering that made these vehicles so desirable and dependable has been taken to new levels, and the driver is always aware of that. While we haven’t had a chance to sample the diesel, the V-6 allows for instant acceleration from any speed while improving fuel economy. Also, gears shift easily, something that was never the forte of a Land Cruiser. During our testing we managed 18 mpg. Improvements or not, it’s still a 5,600-pound truck with a solid rear axle.
If the US gets a Land Cruiser, it will likely arrive as a Lexus version of the truck, but nothing has been confirmed. We’d rather Toyota offer us a GR Sport version of the LC300. Although it’s nothing more than a trim level, the rugged front grille handling gives the Land Cruiser a killer look. So, Toyota, what about it?
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