We'll be kicking it old school today. So old school, in fact, that this Toyota Land Cruiser I just drove is a 2010 model year SUV-emoth. What? Is that going to be a problem?
The 200 Series hasn't changed much since its debut as 2008 model. Senor Land Cruiser is one of the biggest, baddest vehicles in the Toyota lineup. It was last seen stampeding its way through our 2008 Sport/Utility of the Year roundup, where its off-road chops and surprising straight-line speed (0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds) left a fine impression on the editors, although it didn't have quite enough overall to take home the golden calipers.
When this Salsa Red Land Cruiser showed up for a brief visit, I just had to have it. This was my first Land Cruiser drive, so I wanted to do more than push it up and down the freeways. There was still snow on the ground in southern California's mountain regions, so I loaded up the snowboard gear for a day's romp in the waning white stuff. The drive wasn't short -- the entire roundtrip took close to 300 miles and called for about 18.5 gallons of 87-octane gas. I averaged roughly 16 mpg through a combination of freeway and mountain driving with some wasteful idling periods thrown in, which is in line with the EPA fuel economy estimates of 13 city/18 highway mpg.
The drive up and down the mountain was terrible, but that wasn't the Land Cruiser's fault. Horrific visibility kept drivers honest and slow, and the road was slick, especially during the early 30-degree Fahrenheit morning commute. Despite of the low speeds, one bend loosened the SUV's Bridgestone Dueler tires from their original path of travel. Yet it only took a brief moment for the vehicle stability control system to intervene, beeping at me in a chastising manner as it corrected the trajectory. I had only begun to realize the entire vehicle was starting to rotate a little too much when the safety systems had already stepped in. Potential crisis averted.
At my snowy destination, it didn't take long to realize the Land Cruiser's rugged heritage and character didn't extend to the interior. It's a rich array of luxury and opulence, with very nice, soft leather swathing the cabin. Woodgrain-style trim pieces offer just the right shade of brown, while soft carpeting and plush floormats line the footwells and cargo area. Personally, my favorite touch was the hand-operated parking brake, an honest-to-goodness reminder of a bygone era when levers were the norm. There's something romantic about being able to pull a parking brake in a big sport/utility.