AUTOBLOG: 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser Drivers’ Notes Review | Sticker shock

October 30th, 2018 by
The 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser is a vehicle stuck in time, a pre-recession relic still wandering our streets in search of a mission. While the most popular SUVs today are all based on cars, the Land Cruiser still rides on a truck-based body-on-frame platform. Its 381-horsepower V8 gets comically poor fuel economy, and its four-wheel drive system (with a locking center diff) and Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System provide far more off-road capability than most owners will ever need. Still, Toyota sold more than 3,000 of them last year, and sales through September are up year-on-year.
That may come as a surprise when you look at the Land Cruiser’s price. This is most expensive non-Lexus product Toyota sells in the U.S. It’s nearly $30,000 more than the next most expensive product, the fuel-cell powered Mirai. For 2019, the base price difference between Lexus LX — mechanically the same vehicle — and the Land Cruiser is only about $1,700. That’s a lot to pay for something with a Toyota badge. Our tester did have a lot of features, including heated and cooled leather seats, a JBL audio system, a cooler in the center console and Toyota Safety Sense (pre-collision alert, lane-departure alerts, radar cruiser and blind-spot monitoring). All in, our car rang up for $85,185.

Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: I’m a big fan of the Land Cruiser. This is vehicle many consumers might want but few would need. It’s a fuel-guzzling, body-on-frame SUV with three rows that hasn’t been redesigned since 2008. There’s more efficient models that have smarter interiors with more contemporary infotainment, but everything in here is usable and generally elegant. It’s tough to beat the 5.7-liter V8, which really comes on strong and sounds like a true, red-meat truck V8 under acceleration (which it is). I like the Land Cruiser better than the smaller Lexus GX (the Land Cruiser Prado in other markets). If you want the Land Cruiser, you’re not worried about its age, and nothing else will do. Plus, the Land Cruiser name is one of Toyota’s strongest. May it live forever.

Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: I absolutely love the exterior styling of the Land Cruiser. It hasn’t changed much since I was riding in the back seat of my dad’s as a youngster. It’s kinda boxy, and an absolute behemoth. I love the proportions of the hood, tall cabin and big wheels. Getting inside, though, I found it hard to get comfortable. I liked the commanding view of the road, but the upright seating position left little headroom in an SUV that should have oodles.

The infotainment is a disaster. The touchscreen requires a hard press to recognize your touch, and it feels like the screen is going to break. Then, it lags in its response. It also kept displaying song info from iTunes for music I wasn’t listening to, when I was actually listening to an audiobook on the Audible app.

The driving is a mixed experience. I really did not like driving this in traffic. The brakes felt really touchy at slow speeds, a feeling amplified by the nosedive it too every time I slowed or stopped. That said, it soaked up all the interference from our cratered roads, giving a refined feeling when cruising. Aptly, cruising is what the Land Cruiser does well, keeping speed on the highway in the automotive equivalent of a cuddy boat. The only drawback there is this thing’s thirst for fuel. I think I averaged somewhere around 14.5 mpg.

Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale: I was not expecting to like the Land Cruiser as much as I did. It’s an old-school truck through and through, but in all the right ways, unlike the Tacoma. The first way you’ll notice is in the driving position, which is way up high, and with spectacular visibility. This is due also to the low dash and window sills, and enormous panes of glass. It makes it easy to find the corners of this grand bruiser.

Then there’s the driving experience. The old 5.7-liter V8 is impressively smooth, and provides a healthy V8 rumble, which helps make up for its relative lack of power or efficiency. As John mentioned, handling and braking aren’t brilliant, with plenty of body roll and nose dive. But on the upside, the chassis does communicate clearly what’s happening, and it isn’t nearly the mess of a handler as the Mercedes G-Class. The steering is excellent for a classical truck, too. It’s a bit vague, but it has quite a bit of feedback, letting you know just what the tires are up to, and it’s weighted well. The squishy suspension pays dividends with ride quality. It’s a seriously comfy vehicle, especially on the cratered roads near my house. It’s generally quiet, too.

The only major downside with the Land Cruiser, besides efficiency, is the interior. It is not the interior of an $85,000 SUV. It’s the interior of a $40,000 one, maybe. There are loads of entry-level plastics, and the aforementioned ancient and awkward infotainment system. It’s a tad tight in some areas, too.

Despite all this, I found myself enjoying and respecting the Land Cruiser. And despite its drawbacks, I think I would take it over its closest competitors, the Nissan Armada and Infiniti QX80, mainly for the driving experience. Although those two offer substantially better interiors.