First Look: 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser
Rock of Ages: Toyota's Icon Gets a Dose of TLC
For 50 years, the Land Cruiser has been Toyota's icon, the rock-solid off-roader leading its SUV lineup. But what is Toyota going to do with it now? The Land Cruiser is seen as being behind the curve in an ever-changing market and continues to face strong competition within its own company: It's smaller and older than the Sequoia, yet more expensive. This has been a problem ever since the Sequoia went on sale in fall 2000, and it's only going to get worse when the all-new larger Sequoia is introduced late next year. But Toyota can't discontinue its classic SUV, even if it only sold 3700 of them in 2006. Toyota's response all along has been that the Land Cruiser is a different beast, one that focuses more on capability and understated luxury. And for 2008, the new Land Cruiser adds refinement, comfort, and enough horsepower to make it the most powerful sport/utility in the lineup-at least until the new Sequoia comes out, anyway.
Unlike Land Cruisers of the past, the 2008 isn't an FJ-a designation based on the engine used in the vehicle. Since the new model now features the Tundra's 3UR-FE 5.7-liter V-8, the 2008 Land Cruiser is labeled URJ200. With that engine upgrade comes 110 more horsepower (now 381), 91 pound-feet more torque (401), and a huge towing capacity improvement. The stronger engine is supported with a new six-speed automatic that gets a rather heavy sport/utility up to speed quickly, making the Land Cruiser feel like a lighter vehicle, even though it weighs nearly 300 pounds more than the outgoing model. We haven't taken the Land Cruiser to the track yet, but you can expect this full-size will hustle to 60 mph much faster than the previous-generation (a sluggish 9.4 seconds).
Although the physical size of the vehicle didn't change much, the frame is now fully boxed, with two of the rear hydroformed cross-members now thicker and stronger. Additionally, the frame rail cross-sections are larger. The result: Torsional rigidity increased by 40 percent. The overall body length is 2.4 inches longer, which means there's slightly more front and rear overhang. (We don't expect this to be a deal-breaker for any Land Cruiser buyers.) Towing capacity increased by 2000 pounds to 8500, due in large part to the strengthened frame and bigger engine. GCWR is now 15,775 pounds. To its credit, Toyota includes a prewired connector for a brake controller, just like the Tundra's.
The 2007's torsion-bar front suspension has been replaced by a double-A-arm coilover setup for improved control and wheel travel. The rear suspension layout is essentially the same, but now uses a version of the Tundra's rear axle to handle heavier loads and torque outputs. These improvements, combined with larger body mounts, result in a noticeably more comfortable ride and better handling; however, on the highway, the suspension delivers an odd mix of feedbacks. For example, on our drive route, we found the Land Cruiser offers a soft, compliant ride, yet also makes the driver aware of various road irregularities and expansion joints. At the heart of the Land Cruiser suspension is the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension, a system new to this vehicle but already seen on the 4Runner/GX 470. In a nutshell, the active stabilizer bars react to hydraulic pressure changes, adjusting softness and stiffness when needed, creating better handling at higher speeds and improved articulation off-road at lower speeds.
Inside the vehicle, traditionalists may not like what they see. Not only does the Land Cruiser use a pushbutton start, but the floor-mounted 4WD lever has been replaced with a dash-mounted knob located just below the ignition's start/stop button. The new full-time system uses a Torsen limited-slip in the center differential, which under normal conditions sends 41 percent of power to the front and can be "shifted" on the fly up to 62 mph, but the separate Lock button can only be engaged when stopped and in neutral. Also of note, the Land Cruiser has hill-start assist and downhill assist control, both of which are welcome additions when you find yourself in a difficult off-road situation. However, the most impressive feature of the four-wheel-drive system is what Toyota calls Crawl Control, a feature that allows the driver to focus on steering while computers control throttle and brake inputs (see sidebar). It might not be as impressive as the Lexus LS self-parking feature, but this is a close second.
The Land Cruiser still looks like a Land Cruiser, but Toyota has freshened the styling. The headlights and front grille are much crisper and cleaner, as are the side profile's lines. The eight-passenger cabin also is completely redesigned, using a new layout that conveys luxury, and includes some Tundra details, such as the oversize interior door handles. Strangely, although the vehicle is longer than the 2007, headroom, shoulder room, and cargo volume are down. Not so strange, you can expect Land Cruisers to start well above $50,000-but the navigation system is optional.
Safety systems are a bowl of alphabet soup: The Land Cruiser comes with the Standard Star Safety System, with ABS with BA, EBD, and VSC plus A-TRAC. Brakes are much larger than on the 2007 model with front-disc diameters 1.2 inches bigger. The 2008s also have 10 airbags as standard equipment (dual front, front side, knee bags for front passengers, side bags for the second row, and curtain bags for all three rows)-the most for any Toyota. A tire-pressure-monitoring system is standard as well.Toyota caters to a small, yet passionate group of Land Cruiser fans in the U.S. and does a good job retaining the feel and spirit of the previous Land Cruiser. It continues to be a terrific balance of on-road luxury and off-road capability, but now has the power it sorely lacked. This Land Cruiser should do well in the Middle East, where Toyota sells more than 10 times as many Land Cruisers as it does in the U.S. It's been tested to endure the blistering heat of that region and is equipped to handle just about anything thrown its way.
Smartest 4x4 Ever?
New to the Toyota lineup, Crawl Control is a feature that makes driving off-road a breeze for experienced drivers and much less anxiety-riddled for novices. It was introduced on the upcoming Lexus LX 570 at the New York auto show earlier this year, but the first vehicle on the market with it is the Land Cruiser.
The system reacts to trail conditions (faster than any person could) and modulates throttle and brakes at each wheel accordingly. All the driver need worry about is steering-but we wouldn't recommend sticking your feet out the window while trying. It can be used only when in low range and offers a choice of three speeds: 1.0, 2.0, or 3.2 mph. The system is noisy while it works-you can hear the rhythmic samba as throttle and brake inputs change as the trail becomes rockier or ruttier-but it's an excellent feature. We tested through ruts, downhill over glacier-cut rock, and down loose-dirt hills, and it's awesome. Once ready to travel at speeds faster than 3.2 mph, the driver only needs to stop, turn off Crawl Control, and get back on his way.-A.H.
|2008 Toyota Land Cruiser|
|Location of final assembly||Tokyo, Japan|
|Body style||4-door SUV|
|EPA size class||Special purpose|
|Drivetrain layout||Front engine, 4WD|
|Airbags||Front, front side, front dual knee, second-row side, side curtain|
|Engine type||90 V-8, alum block/heads|
|Bore x stroke, in||3.70 x 4.02|
|Valve gear||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl, dual VVT-i|
|SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm||381 @ 5600|
|SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm||401 @ 3600|
|Transmission type||AB60F 6-speed automatic|
|Final drive ratio||2.31:1|
|Crawl ratio (1st x axle gears x low range)||34.1:1|
|Recommended fuel||Regular unleaded|
|Track, f/r, in||64.6/64.4|
|Headroom, f/m/r, in||38.3/38.9/35.8|
|Legroom, f/m/r, in||42.3/36.0/28.4|
|Shoulder room, f/m/r, in||61.0/61.1/62.3|
|Cargo volume behind 1st/2nd/3rd row, cu ft||81.7/43.0/16.1|
|Ground clearance, in||8.9|
|Approach/departure angle, deg||30.0/20.0|
|Base curb weight, lb||5690|
|Max payload capacity, lb||1585|
|Max towing capacity, lb||8500|
|Fuel capacity, gal||24.6|
|Construction||Fully boxed ladder frame|
|Suspension, front/rear||Independent, double A-arm, coilover/solid axle, four-link, coil spring|
|Turns, lock to lock||3.1|
|Turning circle, ft||38.7|
|Brakes, front/rear||13.4-in vented disc/13.6-in vented disc, ABS|
|Tires||P285/60R18 Dunlop Grandtrek AT23|
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy, mpg||13/18|
|CO2 emissions, lb/mile||1.31|
|Base price||$55,000 (est)|
|Price as tested||$61,000 (est)|