If the traditional Audi customer were to sit inside of a new Toyota Land Cruiser, they’re probably roll their eyes. After they saw the price tag, their eyes would roll so hard they’d touch their brain. That’s because the Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition I recently had the chance to test wears an as-tested sticker price of $89,3500. For that money, the cabin of a Land Cruiser seems woefully, painfully ill-equipped to take on something like an Audi Q8. But none of that matters once you actually set off in the big Japanese brute because you soon realize that true luxury lies in effortless utility.
As Tough As It Looks
From the outside, the Toyota Land Cruiser wastes no time telling you what it is. It’s big, square-jawed and butch, looking as if no Earthly thing can stop it because, well, nothing actually can. Few cars in history have been as durable or as capable as the Land Cruiser has been throughout the decades and its looks broadcast that loud and clear.
The Heritage Edition car looks even more butch, even more ready to tackle anything that comes its way. The Heritage Edition brings gorgeous gold wheels, a killer Yakima roof rack and deletes the running boards, the latter of which is for better ground clearance. The deletion of the running boards is also a signal to all who see it; this car doesn’t care how difficult it is to get in, nothing will get in the way of its rugged durability, even if you have to struggle to get in. And struggle I did often, as I’m only 5’9″ and am used to sitting down low in my B6 Audi A4 USP.
That doesn’t matter, though, because the Land Cruiser Heritage Edition is as cool looking as Indiana Jones punching Nazis. It’s just pure, rugged good looks. If the Land Cruiser could grow a beard, it’d have permanent five o’clock shadow.
Decent Cabin, Doesn’t Matter
For essentially $90,000, you’d expect the Land Cruiser to have a gorgeously appointed cabin. It does not. Sure, it’s nice enough; it has comfy leather seats which are heated and air-conditioned, touchscreen infotainment and even some wood trim on the steering wheel.
However, there are cheap plastics on the lower part of the door panels, the infotainment system would seem dated ten years ago and the center stack is an ergonomic mess of plasticky buttons. Also, the sort of faux-Alcantara headliner felt like a mousepad from the ’90s. An Audi Q7 is lightyears ahead, in terms of interior tech, quality and luxury, for less money.
None of that matters, though, because once you thumb that starter button, hear its invincible V8 roar to life and set off, you soon realize you’re in something very special.
Luxury is Secondary
The Toyota Land Cruiser is a truly old-school premium off-roader. It’s one of the very most capable off-roading machines you can buy, with a Torsen-based all-wheel drive system, two-speed transfer case and massive ride height. So the fact that it even has the luxuries that it does is just a nice little extra. You don’t buy a Land Cruiser to be luxurious, it’s just nice enough on the inside to make it livable on a daily basis.
Instead, you buy a Land Cruiser for two reasons; its incredible utility and its feeling of invincibility. Driving the Land Cruiser feels like you’re in a bullet-proof, apocalypse-ready behemoth. Sometimes I’d forget that my test car didn’t have zombie-killing spikes fixed the front.
Driving around on public roads, even lifted Chevy Silverados seem puny. You just know that no matter what anyone else has, your truck is more badass. Because it is. As much as trucks are not my thing, and I’d prefer a small sports car to any truck on any day, I’m totally in love with driving the new Land Cruiser.
Thankfully, I had the chance to drive the Toyota Land Cruiser both on the road and off it. On the road, it’s a surprisingly good luxury car. Its suspension is a bit bouncy but it’s never harsh and it rounds out bumps nicely. Your passengers might get jostled around a bit but it’s never obnoxious and it’s always forgiven, due to its truck-like nature.
What surprised me just how good it is to drive. The steering isn’t sports car-accurate but it’s far better than any other truck I’ve ever driven. Its front end is remarkably accurate for such a big truck and it’s actually (dare I say?) fun to drive. Typically, I just don’t like driving trucks, as they usually bore me, but I genuinely enjoyed piloting the Land Cruiser. Every drive, no matter how far or short, seems like an occasion in it.
It has great visibility outward, with a very high seating position, so you never feel like its size is an issue. Plus, when parking, it actually has a surprisingly decent surround-view camera, which helps place the monster in relatively small spaces.
I was also really impressed with its brakes. The Toyota Land Cruiser is not a light vehicle. It’s very, very heavy. Yet its brakes were surprisingly very strong, with better pedal feel than I imagined such a car would have.
If I were to have had the a $90,000 off-roading Land Cruiser dropped off at my door step and only kept it on dry pavement, I may have had my car enthusiasts license revoked. It needed to see some mud during my time with it and it did. The big Toyota arrived at my house with its Blizzard Pearl paint sparkling and clean. When it left, it was covered in dried mud. The best part about that is the fact that it looked better on its way back.
I was able to take the Land Cruiser through some decently rough terrain. Nothing as crazy as some of the off-roading trails you’ll find out in Utah or Colorado but, for South New Jersey, it wasn’t too shabby. There were some decent hills to climb, heavy undulations which really tested the merit of the suspension and even deep sand that would have all-wheel drive Jeeps struggling. Yet none of it phased the Land Cruiser.
That’s really the best part. My Land Cruiser saw some pretty decent terrain, terrain that would worry most normal SUVs, and it didn’t even blink. The entire time off-road, it felt as if the Land Cruiser was yawning, like I wasn’t even scratching the surface of its capabilities because I wasn’t. It’s an astonishing machine.
There’s also a luxury in that. When Rolls-Royce first debuted the Cullinan, its tagline was “Effortless, Everywhere”. The idea behind that was the fact that the ability to go anywhere, completely undisturbed by terrain, is just another luxury the Cullinan offered.
The same can be said about the Land Cruiser. Because it can go anywhere, do anything, fit whatever you want either in it or on top of it (with the Heritage Edition’s roof box) and will never break down because it’s a Toyota makes the Land Cruiser extremely luxurious. It offers peace of mind, which is the ultimate luxury.
Dependability Can Be Endearing, Too
Whenever car journalists wax poetic about the charms of an Italian sports car, there’s always some sort of “but”, typically attributed to poor reliability, that’s excused for the car’s character. Often times that character comes with some pitfalls but those pitfalls are often looked at as part of the car’s character. Like humans, the best cars aren’t perfect, right?
The Toyota Camry is the typical whipping boy in these discussions, as its bulletproof reliability and longevity is also attributed to it being about as fun as a monochromatic puzzle. However, the Land Cruiser is the exception to the fun rule.
It’s not exotic in any way. Inside, there are numerous Toyota parts-bin bits, its engine sounds like it powers a tractor and its interior has as much flash and pomp as a German tax accountant’s office. Yet, there’s something incredibly soulful about the Land Cruiser. It absolutely has character and it’s one that’s incredible endearing. It may not have the quirky, dangerous excitement of an Italian sports car but its rugged dependability lends a personality of its own.
Exotic sports cars are fun because they’re like that crazy friend that everyone has, the one that wants to drag you to a club in the shady part of town at 2AM because he thinks the bartender is cute but you end up having the best time anyway.
The Land Cruiser has character but it’s the opposite kind. The Land Cruiser is the dependable friend who’s going to lend you a hand no matter what’s going on in your life, what time it is or how difficult the task. It pats you on the back and says, “I got this, don’t worry about it”, regardless of what lies ahead.