Then and Now: Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota's Off-Road Legend Morphs from Spartan to Sumptuous
For long-running nameplates and brands, it's always interesting to look at the evolution of a model. In terms of longevity, there are few that can match the Toyota Land Cruiser, a model that has been in production continuously for more than 50 years. Like two other notable off-road legends -- the Land Rover Defender and Jeep Wrangler -- the Land Cruiser can trace its origins to World War II, though the revered "FJ" series that made a lasting impression on the American off-roading community did not debut until 1960.
Our staff archivist Thomas Voehringer dug up a road test on the 1964 Toyota Land Cruiser "Station Wagon," the largest of the Land Cruiser variants offered at the time. The closest modern-day equivalent we have test numbers on is the 2008 Lexus LX 570, a mechanical clone of the present-day Toyota Land Cruiser, and the last substantial mechanical update was when Toyota fitted the Land Cruiser and LX with its 381-hp, 401-lb-ft 5.7-liter i-Force V-8.
To call the differences between the 1964 model and the current model dramatic would be an understatement. In 1964, we said that "it doesn't give many concessions to luxury." By contrast, the 2013 Land Cruiser comes only one way: Fully loaded. By that we mean standard hard-drive based navigation with an 8-inch touchscreen display, 14-speaker sound system with HD and satellite radio, iTunes connectivity, Bluetooth wireless streaming, Toyota's Entune multimedia system which includes Bing search, iHeartRadio music streaming, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable restaurant search and reservation service, a rear-seat entertainment system with 9-inch DVD screen with wireless headphones, 10-way adjustable driver's seat with memory settings (which also includes the setting for the power-adjustable tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel). That's in addition to four-zone automatic climate control with dust and pollen filtration and separate controls for the driver, front passenger, and rear passengers.
Of course, all the plushness of the new model comes at a price, both in dollars, and in weight. The 1964 model rang up at a modest $3546.50, including tax & destination. Adjusted for inflation, that would come to $26,322.47, but even doubling that wouldn't be enough to pay for the 2013 model. In fact, you'd need to nearly triple that sum to pay for the latest Land Cruiser, which rings in at an eye-watering $78,765 including $810 destination charge. Some would argue a more appropriate modern-day equivalent to the original Land Cruiser would be the 4Runner-based FJ Cruiser, which comes to a much more reasonable $26,925 - incidentally, close to that inflation-adjusted figure. Interestingly, the FJ Cruiser's weight of 4343 lb comes within a little over 100 lb of the original's weight of 4190 lb. By comparison, the luxo-yacht Land Cruiser waddles on to the scales at 5765 lb.
While the new model can legitimately be called fat, it can't be called slow, especially in comparison to the 1964 model. Our 2008 Lexus LX 570 tester wafted from 0-60 in a brisk 6.5 seconds and dispatched the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds at 92.5 mph. By comparison, the 1964 and its 135-hp, 217-lb-ft 3.9-liter I-6 took a glacial 22.3 seconds to reach 60 and took the entire quarter mile to reach that speed, giving it the unique distinction of being one of the few vehicles to have the same 0-60 and quarter-mile times. Top speed, if you were patient enough, was 74 mph. Ironically enough, the much heavier and more powerful 2008 model had less of an appetite than its ancestor, achieving a combined 13.2 mpg, which we called "thirsty." But the '64 returned a combined 12.3 mpg.
To nobody's surprise, braking performance on the new model is much-improved over its predecessor, with the 2008 taking only 133 ft. The four-wheel-drum equipped '64 hauled down from 60 in 164.5 ft.
Although the new Land Cruiser is still considered to be one of the more capable off-road models sold today, it is no longer the bare-bones bargain it once was. That role is now being filled by the aforementioned FJ Cruiser. Although persistent rumors of the FJ's discontinuation have been floating around for the last several years, it's still around, and looks like it will continue into 2013, though nothing official has been released on the '13 model.
Either way, if you're looking for Range Rover-rivaling luxury or value and simplicity, Toyota has you covered with the new Land Cruiser and FJ Cruiser. The original Land Cruiser's transformation over the last five decades is nothing short of drastic, and although it is vastly more powerful and luxurious today, the tripling of its price tag in real dollars seems as if value has been tossed out of the equation in the process. Do you think the Land Cruiser's change over the decades has been for the better? Does the introduction and availability of the retro-inspired FJ Cruiser make up for it? Share your thoughts below.