Toyota started its Land Cruiser way back in 1951 with their version of a Willys Jeep; they retained its boxy, hard, utilitarian look until the 1990s and the release of the 80 series. They then created a softer, more family-orientated look for the Land Cruiser and released a completely revolutionised vehicle. The 80 series had a more rounded body shell that exhibited less of a commercial feel while retaining its sturdy, durable image.
The ultimate generation, the 200 series, was first driven off the car yard in 2007. Sharing the Lexus LX 570 platform, it had a radically different shape than its predecessors. The latest Land Cruiser is shorter and stronger, with harder-working front breaks and suspension and a better-protected underside. The 200 series' vast array of gadgets and features means that it is the perfect vehicle for operating in harsh, dusty, and hot environments like the outback, where traditionally Toyota have always brought their 4x4s for test drives.
Land Cruiser 200s are available in four trims: GXL, VX, the Sahara, and the GX, offering differing levels of comfort, connectivity, and refinement but always providing a reliable yet stylish workhorse-like vehicle. Although there has been a price rise in the latest models, Toyota has also increased the available standard features. The GX comes with 5 seats and a barn door construction boot while the Sahara has 4 external cameras and a memory setting for the driver's seat, self-dimming mirrors, and a rear-seat DVD screen.
Toyota powers the Land Cruiser 200s with the 3.0L D-D4 diesel engine with 410Nm of torque and 214kW of energy into the road or the bigger 4.6L V8 petrol engine for added power. The power is controlled through a 5-speed or the newer 6-speed automatic gearbox that can be fitted for extra efficiency. In CRAWL mode, the cruise control gives the car 5 available gear settings at below 25km/h for steady, contour-hugging control.
The 3.0L can reach a top speed of 109km/h and has an acceleration rate from 0 to100 km/h in 11.7 seconds. The 4.6L is more fuel-efficient, using 13.2L/100km and producing 313g/km of CO2, compared to the 3.0L carbon footprint of 213g/km levels of emissions.
Driving the Land Cruiser over the roughest of terrain is a breeze with the responsive KDSS suspension system. Its construction allows for massive amounts of adjustment through the wheels, and the automatic sway bar gives passengers one of the most comfortable off-road rides around.
The Land Cruise features a cockpit of a dashboard, brimming with controls, button, and dials. Even on the entry-level Land Cruiser, you get Dual Zone Climate Controls, 50/50 split third row seats, smart entry/start system, and a 6-speaker CD/MP3 Bluetooth-connected entertainment system.
Stepping up to the higher options, you can also enjoy Triple Zone Climate controls, leather interior, plush heated seats, and a sophisticated on-screen satnav system. The top level is fitted out with luscious wood panelling and a superior 9-inch infotainment screen.
At the highest end of the range, the Land Cruiser comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, parking sensors, dusk sensing headlights, rain sensors, active height control, monitoring cameras, and a sunroof. It features incredible safety with 7 SRS airbags, vehicle stability control, active traction control, hill start assist, and central differential lock.
Land Rover Discovery, Audi Q5, Mitsubishi Montero, Nissan Pathfinder, BMW X5, Volkswagen Touareg, and Jeep Grand Cherokee are all seen as viable rivals to the Toyota Land Cruiser. However, with the endorsement of NATO, the Toyota Land Cruiser has been put through some of the toughest tests a car can experience, often under fire. If nothing else, its use as a military transporter proves its usefulness and reliability under pressure.
The Land Cruiser is, as its name implies, designed for gliding over the world's most hostile terrains, not eating up the road at an electric pace or touring the confines of the urban environment. Traversing rough off-road territory, it provides a comfortable seat, but the 3.0L engine is not designed for speed; the new 4.6L engine is better suited if you need that extra power.
As with all Toyota 4x4s, Land Cruisers are built to a high quality and have a long history of supplying the market, so those looking out for a second-hand Land Cruiser will discover there is a lot of variety from which to choose. The latest models, especially with the 4.6L engines, come well-powered and equipped, safety assured, and nicely refined. This is a reliable car for getting out and about and exploring the great outdoors.