Toyota Land Cruiser: As comfortable, capable as it gets

WASHINGTON — Want to drive an exclusive SUV? The Toyota Land Cruiser will take you just about anywhere.

You might already be an owner of a Toyota SUV or crossover. There are many models that sell very well but you might not know about the legendary Land Cruiser.

This large SUV is a bit of a throwback to a time when SUVs could go anywhere and pamper the people riding inside. You won’t see many on the road. The Land Cruiser is not a big-seller for Toyota, selling fewer than 5,000 in the U.S. each year.

Part of the issue could be the $85,000 price tag, but Toyota continues to update this large ride to bring into the 21st century.

If you want an SUV that can take eight people on or off-road in comfort, the Land Cruiser is hard to beat. And that price tag is considerably less than, say, the more popular Range Rover.

The ample ground clearance, full-time 4WD and the Multi-Terrain Select allows you to crawl over some serious off-road obstacles. There is even an off-road turn assist with a knob on the center console for tight situations off road. I didn’t really make it sweat with the small off-road course I used.

The on-road ride is usually smooth and there is a bit of lean in curves; this more of an old school ride when compared to a crossover.

Power is from the 5.7L, V8 Toyota engine, making 381 horsepower, and the updated 8-speed automatic is a smooth customer.

Fuel economy isn’t a strong suit with a V8, and this heavy luxury SUV managed just 12.9 mpg over 375 miles of mixed driving.

Inside the Land Cruiser is large, comfortable and ready for long drives with serenity. The driver and front seat passenger have seats that are large and accommodating. Heat and ventilation work well. My wife had to turn the seat heater to a lower setting after a short period of time because it was hotter than most.

Back seat riders are also treated to a nice bench seat with good padding and also have seat heat for those passengers sitting next to the windows.

The third row is usable but not as easy to get in and out as some other large, three-row SUVs. The space is good once you get back there.

The Land Cruiser has compromised rear cargo area as the rear seats fold up and fold against the rear windows instead of fold into the floor. Wider items can be hard to load which can be a drawback.

There is an updated large 9-inch touch-screen that’s very easy to use. NAV and other commands can be handled by voice, and it works really well. Large knobs and buttons are a pleasant and easy-to-use departure from our digital world.

The Toyota Land Cruiser isn’t going to be missed in a parking lot. The Land Cruiser has a certain presence about it but it now seems updated and fresh without losing its identity.

The front end looks a bit more rounded around the headlights and the front grill has grown without sacrificing the rugged look.

Large beefy wheels and wide-flared fenders with a mix of chrome and blacked out trim pieces play well. The lines are simple and time tested with no dramatic angles or exaggerated lines. The Land Cruiser doesn’t need that to get the point across.

The integrated running boards are necessary to get in out of this tall SUV. The two-piece tailgate has the bottom half opening down while the glass flips up. That tailgate design gives you an easier way to load the back end and not get your pants dirty since you’re farther away from the bumper.

Owning a Toyota Land Cruiser is part of an exclusive club, one that’s comfortable and as capable as it gets. With some modern updates, this throwback is an easier-to-live-with large SUV; one that’s happy cruising the highway or tackling an off-road expedition, and doing each easily and in ultimate comfort.

Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI, FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.

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