More of the same rugged qualities should please Land Cruiser fans

What is it?

This is the new shape Toyota Land Cruiser, that'll be on sale in UK from 1 December with a 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine and a big five/seven seater body.

We're looking here however at the Japan spec version that's already on sale. It gets the Prado badge and different range of 4.0-litre V6 and 2.7-litre four cylinder petrol engines but in the grand scheme of things, Japan and UK versions are not so hugely different, Toyota says.

This is another evolutionary 'Cruiser with traditional body-on-frame construction, rugged looks and massively capable 4x4 system, now further upgraded to make it even more indomitable off-road.

In the UK, there will be three model grades but it's the flagship LC5 that gets the smartest tech including Adaptive (AVS) suspension with variable damping, switchable height control and auto self-leveling.

Off road, an elaborate new Multi-Terrain Select system helps you cope with an array of different adverse surfaces. There are cameras providing real-time images of what's going on around the car and a useful Steering Angle Display showing the position of the front wheels.

An uphill/down hill Crawl Control feature with five-speed settings also features on the top new 'Cruiser.

So all in all, more than adequately equipped for the school run, then...

What's it like?

More of the same, in a nutshell. This is another big and blocky Land Cruiser, a warrior that really means business.

Despite big blister arches, looks are not so different. Yes, the Toyota's a little bigger and heavier now, but also more rigid and refined, while economy and C02 for the UK diesel model improve by 5.1 and 4.5 per cent, respectively, which is worth having.

On the road, Japan's 163 bhp 2.7 feels sluggish but steers really well. Its chassis is impressively sharp, well balanced and taut and it's only when braking hard from speed that you detect some old-school 4x4 vagueness and instability.

The more uppercrust V6 feels softer and more Lexus like. Its V6 has as much as 276 bhp but the engine is gruff and you miss the steering precision of the 2.7.

Dynamically, maybe the coming UK 3.0-litre diesel with 171 bhp will fall somewhere between Japan's new 'Cruiser duo and will be the pick of the bunch.

Inside, the three-row Land Cruiser is once again big on comfort, space and equipment but some aspects of the cabin design already look old-fashioned.

Off-road, we had a full demo of the power and versatility of the Land Cruiser's Multi Terrain and Crawl Control systems on a steep, difficult, stomach churning course. Suffice to say, it would it give Land Rover a pretty good run for its money...

Should I buy one?

For Land Cruiser and 4x4 fans, the answer should be yes. Toyota has improved the package, all-round, and the big Toyota looks and feels as tough as ever.

On the other hand, it's hard to see Toyota luring in too many new buyers, certainly not from the M-Class, X5 and Q7 crossover class, as some of its marketeers hope. The Land Cruiser's too trad and rugged for that.

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We'll have to wait a month of so to see what the UK-spec 3.0-litre diesel will be like but if it steers as deftly as Japan's 2.7 'Cruiser that will definitely be a good thing, as Toyota's mighty 4x4 icon enters yet another decade of production.

Peter Nunn

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