What is it?
I think part of the appeal of a Toyota Land Cruiser is that you can take it anywhere. I don’t mean ‘anywhere’ as in ‘it can go anywhere’, although obviously it can. No, I mean ‘anywhere’ as in: to the shops, to a client meeting, to a shoot or building site or the theatre or a Pony Club rally, where at any of the above a Land Cruiser would say precisely the same thing about you: next to nothing.
Toyota’s biggest, baddest and most luxurious and expensive off-roader – for the UK, at least – is, then, the most curious of things, the classless car, capable of doing everything, but shouting ‘nowt while it does it, except that you bought it because you need it.
Anyway, now, this car, which was introduced in this form in 2009, and which has had a couple of minor changes since, has for 2018 been rather more heavily revised to try and keep pace with its rivals, nearly all of which have been entirely replaced, platform and all, since then: the Land Rover Discovery (the key rival even away from a JLR-centric UK market), the Nissan Patrol (absent from the UK), Jeep Grand Cherokee, plus other ‘luxury’ focused SUVs like the Volvo XC90, BMWs, Audis, Mercedes and, well, everyone who offers a big 4x4, which is pretty much everyone.
But notwithstanding all of the rivals, the basics of the Land Cruiser are what they still were. It has a body on frame construction, albeit 11% more torsionally rigid than it was, with a few minor tweaks the outside, to aid cooling, and higher wings to help you place the edges of the car.
There are 3dr and 5dr body styles, with five or seven seats, all of which can be had in the UK in trim levels stretching up to Invincible, which costs £52,295 as a 5dr, which is how they’re mostly bought in Britain. In an effort to get as much value as it can from the model, though – and perhaps spotting that the Land Rover Defender is no longer available (for now, at least) – Toyota is now introducing a more basic, workhorsey variant, too: the ‘Utility’ version can be had from £32,795 as a three-door manual. Whisper has it that the body-on-frame’s versatility, from a many-body-styles perspective, hasn’t gone entirely unnoticed at Toyota either.
Power comes from a 2.8-litre diesel engine (in Britain that’s all we get; other markets can have bigger petrols and so on), tweaked by a new, smaller, turbo, and urea exhaust solution combo, and it makes a steady 174bhp, driving all four wheels through either a six-speed manual or auto gearbox. The more important number is 331lb ft, which the big four-cylinder makes at just 1600rpm, but it remains a fact that acceleration is not this car’s theme: it weighs 2430kg and can tow a three-tonne trailer.
It’s also now even more capable off-road, says Toyota. There is a low range transfer box, naturally, while Toyota has cleaned up the Land Cruiser’s interior, in part to accommodate some additional 4x4 functions. The central screen is larger so you can see external camera views, as is a digital output between the dials, to aid control of a ‘multi-terrain select’ system that, effectively, allows more slip before the traction control intervenes, depending on what terrain you’re on: in Rock you want no slip at all, in Mud and Sand you want lots. There’s a crawl-speed cruise control called, er, crawl-control, imaginatively, which can tickle the Land Cruiser along at barely any speed, while a torque-sensing, and locking-centre differential is standard and a new rear-differential has become an option: previously the rear diff would be an open one or optionally a locking one, but now a torque-sensing Torsen limited-slipper has become a third way, and was fitted – as was air suspension, so the body could lift – to our test car.
Land Cruisers have independent front suspension, but the rear is a four-link setup holding a solid live rear axle. It’s reckoned that’s more rugged than an independent rear setup although, traditionally, that comes at the expense of road manners. Let’s see.