This may be the perfect Wisconsin vehicle. It’s big, heavy, old-fashioned, can handle any weather, and is capable of hauling lots of Spotted Cow to your family reunion in Poynette.
The 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser is a throwback. Classic body-on-frame construction, a beefy naturally-aspirated V8 engine, heavy-duty steel bodywork, and a center of gravity that appears to be somewhere equal to that of a grain silo. This ain’t no crossover. This is a truck that will go anywhere (and I do mean anywhere) and tow just about any boat or trailer you’re interested in hauling while carrying eight people – five very comfortably, the three in the way back, lets just hope they’re under 6-feet tall and not cooped up very long.
That’s what makes this truck so interesting. It’s downright luxurious. Although it should be because the sticker price on this 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser I spent the week tooling around Southern Wisconsin in is $85,520. There are people who gasp at this price, and rightly so. After all, it’s a Toyota. But the Land Cruiser isn’t the only vehicle born to conquer jungles that’s become a sanctuary for those with deep pockets. If it makes you feel any better you can think of it as a Japanese Range Rover, epically capable, eminently comfortable, but not easily attainable.
The good news is at that price the Land Cruiser comes equipped with everything you can imagine. Outside you get all LED lighting, power moonroof, roof rack, running boards, and since they really do want you to be able to take this truck way, way, way off road, there are skid plates protecting the front suspension, radiator, fuel tank, and transfer case.
Inside the list of standard features is long and impressive: I won’t bore you with a recitation of features as you can see everything that’s included here. Saying this thing is loaded, however, is like saying Warren Buffett has a few bucks in his bank account. You get to pick your color both outside and in, and there is but one extra cost option available on this vehicle – an entertainment system in the second row that’ll set you back $2,200. That’s it. A couple things worthy of note are the heated and cooled leather-clad captains chairs up front which are grand. I couldn’t spend enough time in the driver’s seat. Another is the comprehensive infotainment system. Interestingly Toyota gets right what Lexus gets wrong here. The Land Cruiser uses a combination of buttons on the console and steering wheel along with the touchscreen for a simple and intuitive interface, where big brother still insists on providing us with its awkward joystick control. Whether you’re traveling on the highway at 65 mph or grinding on a mountain trail, simple is better when it comes to things that could provide a potential distraction.
Mechanicals are both proven and predictable. The 5.7-liter V8 delivers 381 horsepower and 401 lb.-ft. of torque and runs on regular unleaded because you never know what kind of gas you’re going to find deep in The Congo. Power is supplied to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission connected to a Torsen limited-slip locking differential and full-time 4WD system with Active Traction Control. The multi-terrain select feature on the center console allows you to fine tune the four-wheel drive system depending on conditions. It also has hill-descent, crawl control, and off-road turn assist. Let me be clear. This is a very capable vehicle, one that’s as much in its element crossing an African desert, slogging waist deep through a muddy rainforest, plowing through fresh snow, or hauling kids to soccer practice on a suburban side street.
While it was refreshed in 2016 with new front-end styling, infotainment upgrades, and the aforementioned automatic transmission, very little else about the Land Cruiser has changed since 2007. That means they’ve had 10 years to perfect it, and that’s just what they’ve done. What surprised me most about it was just how composed it is driving down the road. This may be a truck and it may be able to scale mountains, but it drives like a Rolls-Royce without the “waftability.” It is so smooth, so quiet, and so comfortable, you will forget you’re driving a truck, that is until you open the door and step down to the curb. Enabling this is what Toyota calls a “Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System.” The translation for this marketing speak is that it uses a hydraulic control system to adjust the amount of pressure on the sway bars depending on the terrain. If you’re off road and need a lot of independent travel, it loosens up to keep the wheels on the ground as much as possible. If you’re cruising through a corner on a back road, it tightens up, minimizing body roll and maximizing comfort.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to test the limits of the Land Cruiser’s capabilities while I had it. The weather was too nice and they’re aren’t any good off-road parks or public trails in my neck of woods. What I did get to do was see how well it worked as a transport vehicle for my musical equipment to a recent gig at the Capital Brewery and Biergarten. With the third row out of the way, there was plenty of room for my amp, guitars, stands, and other gear. I could easily have picked up the drummer and all his gear had I laid the second row seats flat, but I’m not that nice a guy. After all, if he’s not smart enough to know not to become a drummer, he can schlep his own gear.
The gig went off without a hitch and as I was standing by the truck after the show with one of my bandmates, we talked about the Land Cruiser (he drives a new CR-V) and the fact that it’s kind of nice to drive a luxury car that a) can transport you to safety in the event of an apocalypse, and b) doesn’t scream to the world how much money you’re willing to drop on transportation. And in the grand scheme of things how much is $85,000 really? I mean that will barely cover the cost of a good used guitar…
2017 Toyota Land Cruiser
Four-door, eight-passenger Sport Utility Vehicle with full-time four-wheel drive
Base price: $84,325
Price as tested: $85,520 (includes $1,195 destination and delivery)
Optional features: none
Engine: 5.7L 32-valve DOHC V8 with aluminum block with aluminum alloy head
Transmission: 8-speed Electronically Controlled Automatic Transmission
Curb Weight: 5,815 lbs.
Towing capacity: 8,100 lbs.
EPA Est. MPG: 13 city, 18 highway, 15 combined (14 observed)