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Fabled off-roader is rejuvenated with a cool retro design and mechanical updates targeting better on-road manners

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There can’t be many vehicle manufacturers with a wider breadth of model range than Toyota.

Sure, one could haul a Mercedes hatchback in a Mercedes artic, but they don’t live next to each other in showrooms, whereas you could drive away from a Toyota dealer in anything from a 65mpg hybrid supermini to a straight-six manual sports car – or an off-roader with a ladder chassis, a live rear axle and a 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel.

The Toyota Land Cruiser helped build the Japanese brand’s reputation for solid engineering, and although it has become a bit of a niche thing in Europe, elsewhere it’s still massive.

You can take that literally: in some markets, Land Cruiser is its own model range, including the 4.6-metre-long Land Cruiser 300 Series and the ultra-old-school Land Cruiser 70 Series. That comes with a 4.5-litre V8 diesel and a manual ’box. I’d love to try one.

Over here, we get just the 250 Series, also known as Prado, and it’s entering a new generation for 2024. It’s not electric, it’s not even a hybrid (not over here, anyway) and the mechanical specification hasn’t radically altered from the old one.

But although the new J250 Land Cruiser isn’t a radical departure from the J150 of before, there’s still plenty to talk about.



toyota land cruiser review 2024 02 off road

First, just look at it. The design seems universally liked, being quite retro-inspired but still modern. A square-edged form just makes a lot of sense for an off-roader anyway.

What’s quite unusual is that you can choose from two entirely different headlight designs. I’m partial to the square ones, because the 1980s are more my era for car design, but evidently our picture editor disagreed and went for a car with the more 1970s round ones.

Two headlight styles are available based on the trim level: the round ones in most of the photos, and a more square design. I actually prefer the latter, but mostly I like that you have the choice. Reminds me of the Jaguar XJ40.

It’s not all about style, though: there’s plenty of functionality in the design. A number of body panels are made to be deformable so that they can stand up to being bashed about, and if the bumper does need replacing, it can be done in sections (as on the new GR Yaris hot hatch).

The edges of the bonnet have been raised to make the car easier to place and the windscreen is more upright than before. The latter thing isn’t great for aerodynamics, but it also benefits visibility (and helps with the retro look). The side window line is also 30mm lower than before.

At the back, the option of a rear-mounted spare wheel has gone (the full-size spare is underslung) and the tailgate hinges have moved from the right to the top. In case you need to access the boot in a tight spot, it’s possible to open just the glass, which will please a few disgruntled BMW 5 Series Touring buyers.

The engine is the familiar 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel from the old Land Cruiser and the Toyota Hilux pick-up truck, although it has been updated for a broader spread of torque through a new, smaller turbocharger. A 48V mild-hybrid version will join the range next year.

It’s paired with a new eight-speed automatic gearbox. Toyota calls it Direct Shift, suggesting it’s a dual-clutch unit, but it’s actually a torque converter, just now with a lock-up clutch that closes at lower speeds than before. That should make it far less slushy than the old six-speeder.

A more utilitarian version with a six-speed manual was originally planned but won’t see the light of day, since that would be one version too many.

Engine efficiency is further boosted by it no longer having to drive a hydraulic pump. The old Land Cruiser was one of the last cars on sale with purely hydraulic power steering (even McLarens use an electrohydraulic pump).

Electric power steering is just one of the upgrades in improving the Land Cruiser’s road manners. That was one of the main goals with this new model – without compromising its off-road and towing capabilities, of course.

A ladder chassis is still present and correct, and torsional rigidity has been increased by 50%, thanks to 84 additional weld points and it being bonded as well. It contains 11.9m of structural adhesive.

A host of detail improvements to the suspension (still by double wishbones at the front and a live axle at the rear) and application of more sound-deadening and enhanced body sealing further boost refinement. There’s even an active noise-cancelling system.

Naturally, a number of off-road goodies feature as well: you can option in a rear Torsen differential (in addition to the standard centre one, also Torsen) and a disconnect system for the front anti-roll bar.


toyota land cruiser review 2024 09 dash

Climb up into the cabin – and yes, this is one of those SUVs that require a bit of a climb and make you thankful for the side steps – and things are a magnitude more modern than in the outgoing car. No wonder, since that could trace its roots back to 2009.

There’s a pair of 12.3in screens (cars in lower trims will get smaller versions) and generally a fresh feel. You wouldn’t call it luxurious, but nor does it feel cheap or unpleasant, just appropriately utilitarian.

The second-row bench has an adjustable backrest, and easily flips forward to allow access to the third row

Toyota says it was important to maintain buttons for all the essential functions, so that you can still operate them when wearing gloves or being jostled off road. There’s a proper ‘shove it backwards and forwards’ lever for the gearbox as well. That’s what we like to see.

Well, almost. There are more than a few blank switches, and I wish they had been put to use for turning off the assorted nagging safety systems. They didn’t bother me too much on my drive, but then Toyota’s lane keeping assistance is better than most, I drove on mostly clearly signed national speed limit roads and I don’t think the driver monitoring was working on these pre-production cars. Turning them off requires some menu-diving.

Otherwise, the multimedia is Toyota’s usual unit, which is okay, although switching between smartphone mirroring and the native interface is too clunky.

The digital gauge cluster, too, is familiar from other Toyotas, and is nicely clear and configurable, if a bit fiddly to adjust.

Having grown slightly in length, the Land Cruiser offers even more generous rear seat space and an optional third row. The latter is the usual fare: useful for kids or a trip to the pub but no more, and boot space is minimal with those two seats up.


toyota land cruiser review 2024 17b road driving rain

Toyota put on an off-road course in a muddy forest to demonstrate the car’s capabilities. With four-wheel-drive low-range engaged and the systems in Mud mode, you can turn on Crawl Control. The latter is effectively off-road cruise control that tries to maintain a set speed, which you can vary in 1kph increments up to 6kph by twisting the drive mode switch.

So configured, the Land Cruiser dragged itself up and down slopes and through water troughs while I just had to steer. The hardcore off-road enthusiast may enjoy the lever-pulling in an old Defender, but for everyone else this is mighty convenient.

There are shift paddles on the steering wheel, which seems a little optimistic, but they're not in the way.

It wasn’t the most challenging course (neither the rear diff nor the front anti-roll-bar disconnect were ever called into action), but you still wouldn’t want to attempt it in a BMW X3. The Land Cruiser is capable, all right, but we will have to find out some other day where exactly it stands compared with the Land Rover Defender and Discovery and the Ineos Grenadier.

Whether the Land Cruiser is good on the road depends on your perspective. With its chugging, large-capacity four-cylinder diesel and body-on-frame construction, it’s no match for the Defender or Discovery, let alone more road-bound 4x4s like the BMW X5.

The Land Rovers won’t tow any less (3500kg) and are unlikely to be much less capable off road, though, so the ultimate reliability must be a major factor if you are to choose the Toyota.

The Land Cruiser is perfectly pleasant and usefully upgraded. While the ’box is a little slushier than some modern autos, that’s not such a bad thing, and it’s nicely smooth and responsive. But while the engine is quieter, it’s still a bit of a truck lump; you feel some vibrations under acceleration. The 0-62mph time hasn’t yet been told, but I’ll be surprised if it’s sub-10sec.


toyota land cruiser review 2024 18 front panning

It steers lightly, more directly and precisely than before, and without the disconcertingly disconnected feel of the Grenadier. That, plus the commanding view out and the boxy body, makes it easy to place.

Even on all-terrain tyres, grip on the road is decent. In short, it’s no sports SUV, but if you’re ever held up by a Land Cruiser on a twisty road, don’t blame the car.

Toyota hasn’t released a full set of off-roading numbers yet, but the approach and departure angles and ground clearance are 31deg, 23deg and 215mm. The Grenadier touts 36deg, 22.5deg and 264mm, and a coil-sprung Defender 110 31.5deg, 37.5deg and 226mm.

That said, you won’t mistake it for a monocoque, independently suspended SUV from behind the wheel. Although it’s softly sprung and has tall tyre sidewalls, it still crashes and shimmies over poorly surfaced roads.

Things do smooth out at speed and the seats are comfy, so it won’t be taxing on long journeys. I didn’t get anywhere near a motorway, but it was fine at 60mph, with a bit of wind whipping around the sunroof.


toyota land cruiser review 2024 01 watersplash

This was an early pre-production drive, but it took me on and off road, and the cars felt close to production spec. Still, some of the spec is unconfirmed, most notably economy and price. Our 2022 long-term test car did 29mpg, so expect a little but not dramatically better.

The old five-door Land Cruiser cost from £49k when sales ended. The new one is unlikely to be any cheaper, but a comparable Ford Ranger pick-up will be similar and a Defender, Discovery or Grenadier will be a good deal more still.


toyota land cruiser review 2024 25 watersplash

Few cars offer quite the same duality of ability to go to Waitrose or on a desert expedition. Being a Toyota, it can be expected to return from both, too.

Realistically, few people in Europe need a Land Cruiser. Most would be better off with, say, a Skoda Kodiaq. But those who do are getting an excellent update on an already very fit-for-purpose car.

Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester

As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. 

Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.