Compare the driving environment of the Toyota Land Cruiser with those of the Land Rovers, Audis and BMWs available for similar money and it’s hard to stifle a gasp at Toyota’s audacity. Where you might expect a smartly designed, fully integrated and clearly laid-out dashboard, you’ll find an approach that, by comparison, seems agricultural. We’d quibble less if this were merely form making way for function, but much of the switchgear is scattered, sited apparently anywhere it can fit. The instruments are ugly and the blend of wood, leather and plastic is rather uncomfortable.
Aft of the dash, however, things improve markedly. The driving position is first class and all-round visibility is exceptional. Better still, it’s a cabin that really works; the reclining middle-row seats offer excellent head and legroom and fold flat, although they don’t disappear into the floor.
More impressive still are third-row seats that emerge from and return to the boot floor at the press of a button (standard on all but the LC3). Anyone who has broken fingernails or drawn blood trying to raise the rearmost seats of any seven-seater will immediately see the sense in it. And there’s reasonable boot space, even when all the seats are in place.
Toyota has thought hard not simply about how to fit people into the Land Cruiser, but also how they will use it thereafter. It has huge stowage areas from the glovebox to the doorbins, and a cavernous cooler between the seats. There’s a cupholder for every occupant and luggage rails in the boot (although the boot cover is needlessly fiddly). Top-spec cars even have a drop-down DVD screen to keep those in the back amused.