The third-row seats in this eight-passenger hauler lift up to the sides and easily lock into place to open up the cargo hold, and redeploying the seats is just as simple. With the third row stowed, there's room for three adult-size snowboards and more, though I'd suggest bringing a tarp or sheet to avoid dirtying the mats.
The same apprehensions about keeping the interior clean resurface from the driver and passenger seats. The light-colored floormats and carpeting will easily show dirt, and it almost feels wrong to drag nature into the cabin of this $70,000 SUV. Could this really be a Land Cruiser?
To get some extra perspective, I called upon the evaluation services of executive editor/authentic Land Cruiser owner Edward Loh. His Land Cruiser is a little (okay, a lot) older, and possibly a little wiser, but Edward's views probably echo the sentiments of fellow aficionados who are disenchanted with the 200 Series.
"The thing looks soft, with rounded edges and curves too reminiscent of the Highlander," he said. "It needs to be more chunky and trucky; more Tonka, less Lexus (leave the smooth lines for that one). Get back some of that FJ55 pig-ugly in the mix."
After all, the Land Cruiser undeniably relies on its name as much as its features list and spec sheet for sales. It has split into three distinct lineages in its history, but the U.S. only receives the 200 Series descended from the primordial BJ Series some 60 years ago. And in its past as a simplistic off-roader, it has mostly been sharp and jutted. Now, how did it drive, Edward?
"Smoothes out the road as good as a massively capable, body-on-frame truck can," continues Loh. "You feel some juddering comeback through the seat and wheels, but that tells me more that the body is rigid and unyielding, and that this one can be bashed pretty hard. It corners fairly flat for such a high rider and the powertrain response is good, but not great."
The body-on-frame is a solid building point for any good off-roader, and the Land Cruiser's suspension and steering has been properly tuned straight from the factory. The double A-arm suspension does a swell job holding up the front. Steering feel is direct, linear, and, most importantly, natural at low and high speeds. Riding at the back is a multilink live axle assisted by a Panhard rod. The fore and aft anti-roll bars are managed by Toyota's Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, which automatically adapts to the driving surface. Planning on crawling over some boulders? KDSS will, in essence, loosen up the bars to allow for greater wheel articulation. In more sedate driving, the bars will be left untouched to reduce body roll. Overall, there's no question that this is one level ride.