By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
When it comes to hard core off-road vehicles two or three names stand out, but one of the most popular worldwide is the Toyota Land Cruiser.
The Land Cruiser has been around the U.S. market since 1957 and has gone through a multitude of iterations before ending up as the impressive machine offered by Toyota Dealers today. The Land Cruiser originally started as a development project based on the design of the Willys Jeep but it has grown and matured to become Toyota?s flagship four-wheel drive vehicle.
We recently spent a week reacquainting ourselves with the 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser and discovered its luxurious appointments, state-of-the-art technologies, outstanding capabilities, and many creature comforts.
No ordinary off-road vehicle, the Land Cruiser has go-anywhere capabilities that rival or exceed the capabilities of any other luxury SUVs on the market. In standard dress, the Land Cruiser seats up to eight people in comfort. It also has one of the highest towing capabilities among the competitive set with a standard 8,100-pound towing capacity.
The Toyota Land Cruiser has a handsome SUV look with no pretensions of being the latest trendy design ? it?s rugged looking and extremely functional both on- and off-road. We?ve had several off-road driving experiences in the Land Cruiser and have experienced its extreme capabilities. One of Bill?s most memorable off-road experiences was driving the Land Cruiser down a steep shale slide area using the Downhill Assist Control ? all he had to do was steer. The system worked beautifully controlling the speed safely down what looked like an impossible hill.
A powerful 381-hp 5.7-liter V-8 with 401-lb.ft. of torque lurks under the hood attached to an eight-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. Buff magazines list the 0 to 60 mph acceleration time at a quick 6.7 seconds. The EPA rates fuel economy at 13 mpg city, 18 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined. We averaged 14.7 mpg during our week behind the wheel.
Adding to the driver confidence level are a whole portfolio of standard safety devices including Safety Sense-P with Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection function; Lane Departure Alert; Dynamic Radar Cruise Control; Automatic High Beams; Blind Spot Monitor; rain sensor wipers; Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
The Land Cruiser feels especially rigid thanks to the traditional body-on-frame construction enhanced by extensive use of high-strength streel. The Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) uses an independent double-wishbone with coil springs and stabilizer bar in the front and a four-link system in the back with coil springs and a stabilizer bar. The KDSS allows the driver to hydraulically adjust the lean resistance of the stabilizer bars to minimize wheel lift. On pavement, the KDSS enables the stabilizer bars to work conventionally to reduce body lean by as much as 50 percent. The steering is a power assist rack-and-pinion that turns the big SUV around in a tight 38.7 foot turning circle.
The full-time 4WD system uses a Torsen? limited-slip locking center differential to distribute torque 40:60 front-to-rear and it has a two-speed transfer case with low-range for more difficult trails. It works with a Multi-Terrain Select System to allow the driver to match wheel slip control to driving conditions.
Land Cruiser has a helpful off-road Multi-Terrain Monitor with selectable front, side, or rear views with near 360-degree visibility and five-second front undercarriage projected path video playback to help the driver analyze the driving route.
One of the other cool features is the CRAWL Control that works like cruise control for off-road, so the driver can concentrate on steering and not have to worry about using the throttle and brake pedals to control the vehicle speed.
Two more systems help on trails. The Downhill Assist Control 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 helps prevent nerve-wracking roll-back when stopping and then starting again on a steep incline or slippery surface.
The 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser comes in only one fully-equipped trim, so the only options available are few minor accessories and color choice. That means it has all the latest luxury and driver assistance features from heated and ventilated seats and steering wheel to four-zone climate control to a top line JBL audiophile sound system with 14 speakers to navigation with a nine-inch screen. It even has a rear seat DVD entertainment system with two 11.6-inch screens and wireless headphones.
The 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser is priced at $85,520, including the destination charge.
The Land Cruiser is a full-size SUV with all the amenities. Even weighing in three tons it feels quick and agile. The ride is solid and well-balanced for making it a very pleasant vehicle to drive and to ride in. It has some tough competitors, but the Land Cruiser is still one of the best.