► We test Toyota's old-school off-roader
► Now more powerful after a 2021 facelift
► Up to 10 years warranty cover - you probably won't need it
We don’t need to wax lyrical about the Toyota Land Cruiser’s reputation, so we won’t bother. Do note, though that the model you’ll more often see saving lives with the UN or tirelessly trekking across the outback is the larger, global Land Cruiser.
In the UK, we get the Land Cruiser Prado – still an incredibly capable 4x4 but smaller and more suited to life on narrow UK roads. The current model has evolved from the fourth-generation car – launched over a decade ago but kept up-to-date with numerous extensive facelifts.
The latest boosts the power of its 2.8-litre diesel engine up to 201bhp and upgrades the interior with some much-needed new tech, especially Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But can light touch facelifts keep the Land Cruiser relevant when the reborn Land Rover Defender is such an impressive piece of equipment?
Who’s the Toyota Land Cruiser for?
It’s certainly an outlier in Toyota’s car range – with the exception of the van-based Proace Verso, the Land Cruiser is the only model with a diesel engine.
It boasts CO2 emissions of more than double Toyota’s other seven-seat SUV, the Highlander, and its separate chassis and full-time 4WD make it obvious that its loyalties lie off the tarmac.
So it’s for people who want or need serious off-road capability, and who would prefer an SUV to a pickup truck. Those people can choose a short- or long-wheelbase model, and five or seven seats.
If they need it, there’s also a Commercial van model that still looks like an SUV but does without rear seats, instead getting a large, flat load area and a mesh bulkhead separating it from the driver compartment. The rear doors stay in place, but the rear side windows are blanked out.
Any good as a family car?
Seven adult-sized seats put the Land Cruiser on a par with the Defender and Discovery, though as with most big SUVs clambering into the third row requires a degree of athleticism.
Land Rover Defender review
Unlike the Defender, you can’t opt for a third seat up front – though the cabin feels wide enough for one. What you get instead are big, comfortable seats with a wide armrest – on top-spec Invincible models, this conceals a fridge for keeping cans and bottles cool on the move.
The boot’s similarly competitive, but like the Defender it’s accessed through a gargantuan side-hinged door instead of a conventional tailgate. Park nose-in at the supermarket or you won’t be able to get your shopping in. The rear glass is separately hinged and works if you just want to throw one or two items in, but those less vertically blessed will find it far too high to be practical.
If your passengers are usually adult-sized, fine – it’s either this, one of its full-sized SUV brethren or a van. But if you want a third-row as more of a ‘just-in-case’ feature, smaller models are easier to live with. Think Kia Sorento or SEAT Tarraco.
Bet it’s amazing off-road
You’d bet right. The CAR Magazine office is in Cambridgeshire – not exactly known for its rocky vistas or heroic mountains itching to be climbed – but we did our best in the boggy fens and couldn’t find anything to trouble the Land Cruiser.
Past experience with pre-facelift models gives us every confidence that the Toyota is a match for anything Land Rover, Jeep or Mercedes can come up with in any of the off-road scenarios anybody in the UK is ever likely to come across.
Full-time four-wheel drive and a low-range gearbox are standard, of course, but Invincible models do their best to prove worthy of the name. They come with Multi-Terrain Select, which is similar to Land Rover’s Terrain Response – select the type of surface you’re on and the car will choose the correct suspension and drivetrain settings for you.
Invincible cars also come with height-adjustable air suspension, a locking rear differential, a body angle display, all-round off-roading cameras (they also help with parking) and crawl control.
All this is accessed through a big panel below the infotainment, full of chunky switches that are reassuring to operate.
So is it hopeless on tarmac?
Step in and fire up the 2.8-litre diesel (now the biggest-capacity four-pot on sale, since the demise of the 3.2-litre Mitsubishi Shogun) and the Land Cruiser’s staunchly old-school character is obvious.
It’s certainly true that the engine feels rough at idle and its 201bhp output is hardly stellar – nor its 0-62mph sprint of just barely under 10 seconds. Torque is of course ample, though, and with the six-speed automatic – the only gearbox option unless you opt for a Commercial – well-tuned to make the most of it, swift progress is easier than you might expect.
The engine even settles down to a well-insulated rumble at speed and apart from a bit of wind noise the Land Cruiser is a surprisingly accomplished motorway cruiser.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though – it’s in no way good to drive on tarmac, with lots of body roll and slow, ponderous steering. The question should really be whether your priorities lie on or off the road, but there’s no ignoring the fact that the two Land Rovers really feel better suited to the former.
Anything else I need to know?
There’s a price leap worthy of Greg Rutherford between Active and Invincible models – around £14k. Some of the equipment you can live without – a darkened chrome grille, for example, or a JBL sound system – but other, more essential kit is reserved for the top-spec cars. That includes off-road specific additions as well as safety equipment that it’s increasingly difficult to do without, such as autonomous emergency braking and full LED headlights.
If you’re opting for a Commercial model, the range starts with an even more Spartan Utility trim with a manual gearbox, steel wheels and a standard radio. Commercials are also available in Active trim, but not Invincible.
It’d be remiss to review a Land Cruiser and not mention its incredible longevity. You’ll regularly see models crop up in the classifieds wearing half a million miles with ease and there’s no reason to suggest the latest car won’t do that just as easily. Toyota certainly seems confident, and offers the best warranty in the business – up to ten years of cover.
If you’re just looking for a seven-seat family SUV, go elsewhere. Cheaper, less agricultural models are plentiful.
If you’re looking for supremacy off-road, however, the Land Cruiser’s list of rivals becomes much shorter. With the Mercedes G-Class starting at six figures and the Jeep Wrangler offering perhaps one compromise too many, it really comes down to Cruiser vs Rover – the Toyota, or Land Rover’s Discovery or Defender.
The latter two cars are undoubtedly better to drive and feel more modern, but the Land Cruiser hits back with its solidity and dependability that entire countries have come to rely on. We’d therefore put it a very close second, but personal taste may tip your scales in one way or the other.
If you do opt for the Land Cruiser, you’ll be investing in a car that will probably outlast you – and provide stellar service while doing so.