Toyota Land Cruiser review (2009-2023)
"The Toyota Land Cruiser is mighty off-road and boasts bulletproof reliability. It's luxurious, but it’s expensive to buy and run"
- Affordable Utility version
- Impressive build quality
- Very good off-road
- Top-spec models are expensive
- Poor boot space with seven seats
- Not as comfortable as rivals
With its Tonka-toy looks and robust running gear, the Toyota Land Cruiser is a trusted and renowned go-anywhere off-roader. Regular development means the Land Cruiser is more like a luxury SUV than a utilitarian 4x4.
The Land Cruiser does feel a little like a dinosaur in today’s increasingly electrified car market. That’ll be part of its appeal for many buyers, who will want to enjoy cars like the Land Cruiser while they can. Of course, the tough Toyota has a set of skills that few other cars possess, from its huge towing capacity to its go-anywhere ability. An all-new Toyota Land Cruiser arrives in showrooms in 2024, finally replacing the model in this review which has been in production since 2009.
Inside, the plush interior has been given quite a few updates over its lifespan, but some of the plastics and the digital air-con and clock display look out of place in a model that can easily cost over £50,000. Still, there's plenty of kit to help with off-roading, as well as luxury equipment that wouldn't look out of place in a limousine.
There are three trim levels to choose from in the Land Cruiser, and the option of a manual or automatic gearbox. Utility is the cheapest variant, and it’s targeted at commercial buyers, with 17-inch steel wheels and a basic radio and Bluetooth - although it does include cruise control, air con and keyless entry/start. The Active model is more likely to attract private buyers, as it adds Toyota’s nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system, along with 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone air-con and a reversing camera. There’s also an Active commercial version, which features the same kit list but only two seats – like the Utility. Top-spec Invincible sees the kit count increase dramatically, adding lots of luxury, safety and off-roading technology to the mix.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
All Land Cruisers come with a 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, which officially returns up to 30.4mpg and emits well over 200g/km of CO2. A manual gearbox, only available on the entry-level Utility trim, slightly improves the figure to 31.7mpg. All models now cost over £40,000, so are liable for an additional surcharge in years two to six of ownership, bringing the annual road tax bill to over £500 during that period. The two-seat models are taxed differently as they’re classed as commercial vehicles. Company-car drivers should expect to pay the top brackets in Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rates.
Insurance will be expensive, but as this car is so reliable you can trust that servicing and maintenance costs will be reasonable. Just make sure you budget for extra wear and tear if you plan on frequent off-roading or towing. Both activities are sure to wear out parts like the tyres and clutch more quickly. Keep your Land Cruiser serviced at a Toyota main dealer and you’ll be rewarded with a warranty that covers you for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles.
Engines, drive & performance
If you've just come from the driving seat of a small car like the Ford Fiesta, the Toyota Land Cruiser will feel heavy, unwieldy and intimidating to drive. The slow steering is another disappointment, as you need to put in a lot of steering lock and there's precious little feedback or self-centring. Along winding roads, the car often feels as though it's lumbering from one corner to the next, where there’s plenty of body lean.
The addition of electronically controlled suspension in the Invincible trim reduces body lean slightly, while road and wind noise at motorway speeds is not as bad as you might imagine, given the blunt nose and chunky tyres. The Land Cruiser’s four-cylinder diesel engine isn't hugely smooth or fast, but it suits the car's workhorse character. Despite having 175bhp, the Land Cruiser is a very heavy car and this shows when you’re accelerating - 0-62mph takes a leisurely 12.7 seconds with the automatic gearbox, and the top speed is 108mph. The Utility’s manual gearbox (and its lower weight) reduces its acceleration time to 12.1 seconds.
Interior & comfort
The Toyota Land Cruiser's rattle-free cabin is a testament to its excellent build quality. However, the car is far from perfect. Despite a new adjustable Kinetic Dynamic Suspension system which is designed to react to – and smooth out – rough roads, the Toyota never seems totally settled. It offers a variety of driver settings but in comfort mode it wallows and floats, while in the dynamic setting its body fidgets over the smallest lumps and bumps. For a long while, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto were not offered as part of any Land Cruiser trim level, or even as an option; they are now, which helps the car feel more up-to-date.
The entry-level model has some creature comforts like air conditioning and cruise control but in terms of infotainment, it makes do with just a radio and Bluetooth connection, while Active adds Toyota's Touch 2 multimedia system with the aforementioned phone connectivity plus a DAB radio and a reversing camera. You also get two-zone air con and keyless entry/start. Now that the Icon trim has been withdrawn, you’ll need to splurge on the range-topping Invincible to benefit from LED headlights, sat nav, heated power-adjustable front seats, privacy glass and auto wipers.
Additionally, Invincible adds luxury in the form of its leather upholstery, adaptive suspension and memory function steering wheel, but also improves its off-road ability. Features like Crawl Control, a Multi-Terrain Monitor and body angle display are all designed to help negotiate the most difficult terrain. Wooden trim and steering wheel inserts are also included, but neither transforms how the Land Cruiser feels inside.
Practicality & boot space
On paper, the higher specification car's seven-seat cabin sounds extremely practical, but the Land Cruiser's large engine and suspension components intrude and make it feel small inside compared to rivals like the Land Rover Discovery or Mercedes GLS. The middle rear seat is very narrow and the third-row seats are only big enough for a couple of kids when the second row is slid forwards slightly. It's still a vast car, though, and with five seats in place the 640-litre boot should be large enough for almost everyone. This shrinks to 120 litres with the third row in place, which is less than half the space in a Skoda Citigo city car.
Commercial models have just the two seats and a vast loadbay. The passenger-carrying Active spec is not only available with three or five doors, but the latter configuration lets you pick five or seven seats. Invincible spec is only offered with five doors and seven seats.
Every version of the Land Cruiser can tow a braked trailer weighing up to 3,000kg, or an unbraked trailer of 750kg. Technology to help prevent a swaying trailer is also fitted as standard on every five-door.
Reliability & safety
Few cars are built to withstand the abuse you can throw at a Land Cruiser. Owners all seem to agree: there aren't many cars that'll prove so dependable and trouble-free. Perfectly suited to life in the extremes (anyone who travels a lot will tell you Land Cruisers are a familiar sight anywhere from the equator to the Arctic), the Land Cruiser has an unrivalled reputation for toughness.
The Land Cruiser has never been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, but safety should be reasonable, with all cars fitted with driver and passenger airbags, as well as traction and stability control. We’re glad to see all passenger versions of the Land Cruiser now feature autonomous emergency braking, plus road sign assist and blind-spot monitoring.