DETROIT – The Toyota Land Cruiser is a throwback. It is one of the few sport utilities still around that is body-on-frame constructed. And it is also one of the few truck-based three-rowed vehicles that can carry eight people and everybody has a seat —no sharing.
I sometimes think this type of vehicle might be on the verge of extinction but some consumers still need the ruggedness that it provides. For 2019, the Land Cruiser had added some finesse.
Oomph was provided by a 381 horsepower V8 that made 401 pound-feet of torque at a respectably low 3,600 rpm. It could reach 90 percent of its torque at an even lower 2,200 rpm. Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the Land Cruiser could tow 8,100 lbs. It could carry 1,320 lbs. in the cargo area.
Take the third-row seats out and fold the second-row seats and you’d have 81.7 cubic feet of space. Leave the third row in place but fold and swing to the side and you’ve got 43 cubic feet of space and you can get 16.1 cubic feet of stuff behind the third row.
I didn’t have a couple of steel beam and no bricks or bags of cement lying around the cargo area. It was just me and I noticed a couple of things about the 2019 Toyota Land Cruiser.
A smooth ride was delivered by its suspension which Toyota has branded kinetic dynamic suspension system or KDSS. It was all about the independent double wishbone setup in the front and a four-link suspension with coil springs and stabilizer bar in the rear. It effectively took away the truck-like feel. Steering was good, cornering went well and this full-size sport utility was quiet. There wasn’t much road noise and wind noise was negligible. And the brakes were pretty good.
The Land Cruiser’s interior was really comfortable. It had heated and cooled front seats and there was a heated steering wheel. The second-row seats were also heated. There were 360-degree instruments; it was pretty easy to drive.
It had Toyota’s full set of safety equipment that included blind spot alert, rear view camera with cross traffic alert, lane departure alert, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, automatic high beans and adaptive cruise control and trailer sway control. There was also a 360 degree camera view.
Stylists rounded off the design a little. The big block look was gone. The 2019 Land Cruiser appeared smaller than past models. But inside it still felt big – in a good way. It was really spacious. About the only thing I could quibble about was that it didn’t have a lane change signal, I had to fully engage the turn signal to let other drivers know that I was changing lanes.
Off road is where the Land Cruiser earned its global reputation as a road warrior. It had a full-time four-wheel-drive system that could be set on high for on-road driving and low for sloshing through the woods or whatever.
It was equipped with crawl control and multi-terrain select. It used a TORSEN limited-slip locking center differential to distribute torque in a 40:60 front-to-rear split. Should wheel slippage occur the differential can direct more torque to the wheels with the best grip.
Active Traction Control employed both brake and throttle intervention to help control wheel spin. Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) helps maintain directional control during cornering.
The two-speed transfer case with low-range doesn’t work alone to handle steep inclines and difficult trails, as the Land Cruiser’s Multi-terrain Select system allows the driver to match wheel slip control to the surface and driving conditions. On loose terrains, such as mud and sand, Multi-terrain Select allows more-than-normal wheel slip to help the Land Cruiser keep moving without digging itself in.
A Mogul setting is effective for traversing extremely uneven terrain, such as V-ditches, slopes, and ridges; wheel slip is minimized and the system acts more like a limited slip differential. The driver can even see potential hazards with the Multi-Terrain Monitor with selectable front, side or rear views. The system provides near 360-degree visibility and 5-second front undercarriage projected path video playback.
With the transfer case shifted into low range, the Land Cruiser’s CRAWL Control regulates engine speed and output, along with braking force, to propel the vehicle forward or reverse at one of five driver-selectable low-speed settings.
Two more systems provide additional assistance on the trails. Downhill Assist Control (DAC) can augment the low-range ratio’s low-speed descending ability by helping to hold the vehicle to a target speed with minimal driver intervention.
Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) helps prevent nerve-wracking roll-back when stopping and then starting again on steeper inclines. On narrow trails, the Land Cruiser can even make itself “smaller” with Off-Road Turn Assist, which tightens the turning radius by applying slight brake pressure to the inside rear wheel, creating a pivot effect.
Big P285/60R18 mud-and-snow tires on 18 x 8.0-inch aluminum alloy wheels help give the Land Cruiser good grip in all conditions. A full-size spare comes standard, and you’ll always know it’s ready for use because the direct individual tire pressure monitor system also monitors the spare.
Of course, all of the Land Cruiser’s impressive 4WD hardware and chassis control technology also help take the slip out of slippery weather in everyday driving.
All of that comes from the press material on Toyota’s media site. I think a lot of people look at a Land Cruiser and don’t realize what they are seeing. It is a world-class off-road vehicle with some on-road credibility.
But that versatility comes with a price. The 2019 Land Cruiser had a fuel efficiency rating of 13 mpg in the city, 18 mpg on the highway and 15 mpg combined. The readout in my test vehicle said I was averaging 11.6 mpg. That’s the price of full-time four-wheel-drive in a vehicle that weighs almost three tons.
The price of my 2019 Toyota Land Cruiser was $84,765. That might make you gulp but follow the maintenance schedule and you’ll probably never have to replace it.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.