By Keith Burton
Rarely have I ever driven a vehicle that has such all-around capability both on and off road. The key defining word for the new Land Cruiser is “refined” with the emphasis on “purity.”
Now those words may be a but off-putting for some readers, but bare will me a bit. The 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser is not your average SUV, or the average truck you generally expect from Toyota. The Land Cruiser is a significant step up in the SUV ladder for Toyota, and even most other luxury SUVs. I found all this out in a journalists-only ride and drive that included a stint offroad in the mountains of Montana and a lengthy road trip to Yellowstone National Park.
You would be free to ponder why Toyota even builds the Land Cruiser as its other large SUV, the Sequoia is far more popular and is also getting a new version for 2008. But the Land Cruiser is among Toyota’s most popular SUVs in markets far from the U.S. such as the Middle East, and the vehicle has a long history of quiet success in the U.S.
The 2008 Land Cruiser is Toyota’s most expensive vehicle under the “Toyota” brand. Yes, the company has more expensive vehicles under their premium “Lexus” brand, but for a Toyota, the Land Cruiser is in rarified air, with a starting price in excess of $60,000. That’s a lotta dough for a Toyota. But Toyota says it doesn’t expect to sell more than 6,000 Land Cruisers in the U.S. for 2008. Most of the vehicle sales are outside the country where it is not equipped in super luxury form as it is in our country.
Super luxury and super capability is what the Land Cruiser is all about. Let me make something quite clear right off the bat. The 2008 Land Cruiser is a truck. It is not a modified something built off a car chassis. As a real truck, it is stoutly constructed with a heavy, stiff frame, rugged suspension pieces and excellent approach and departure angles for some real offroad challenges. The Land Cruiser is not a unitized body vehicle as are many SUVs today.
What comes unexpected is how well this “truck” works as a luxury vehicle with a smooth, compliant ride, terrific steering, excellent power, and near silent road manors. It is in those attributes that the Land Cruiser shows off its refined character.
Still, it is a truck, and there you see that it doesn’t quite compare to other premium SUVs in the price range it finds itself. The Land Cruiser is not about “bling” but refinement and capability. The exterior styling is tasteful, but very reserved. The interior is comfortable and has all the features of other luxury SUVs, but is not something you would shout home about. The Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator are much more flashy.
The 2008 Land Cruiser though is far more capable off road than the Caddy or Lincoln, and is more refined than the Volkswagen Touareg, and just as capable offroad as the Hummer H3. But we doubt that many of the U.S. purchasers will be driving their Land Cruiser off road.
But if you do, you will find Toyota’s engineers have made offroad driving almost a no-brainer. Put the truck in low and it will creep down, or up an hill and on a slippery slope without sliding or losing traction. A special creep feature controls the brakes, throttle and more to control the truck’s path and all you have to do is steer. A special suspension package, called KDSS by Toyota, provides a unique mixture of on-road stiffness and off road compliance. KDSS consists of a pair of hydraulic control cylinders that vary roll stiffness depending on road (on no road) conditions.,
Power is a big issue with the Land Cruiser, in a very good way. The standard, and only engine, is the 5.7 liter V8 that is also found in the Tundra pickup. This engine packs serious 381 horsepower at 5,600 rpm with a whopping 401 lb.-ft. of torque at a low 3,600 rpm. With this combination of power, the Land Cruiser, despite being a heavy vehicle, feels very light on its feet and wonderfully powerful on the highway at high speeds.
You also get a lot of power for towing. The stout frame and high power and torque give the Land Cruiser a maximum towing capacity of 8,500 pounds when properly equipped.
We really loved the way this truck performs on the road. It is smooth, nearly silent, and very comfortable for four passengers. There is a third row seat, but adults will find the space very confining. The Land Cruiser is also not that large a vehicle, especially when compared to the Caddy and Lincoln. But it does coddle very well. Excellent audio is on tap with its premium JBL audio system. A clear and bright DVD player is terrific at melting the miles away, and the voice recognition navigation and phone system is among the easiest to use.
There is virtually no wind noise from the A-pillars and road noise is also largely absent, very “Lexus-like.” Well, in fact, Toyota will be making a Lexus version of the same vehicle, though we auto journalists all wondered, “why?”
I do have a few quibbles. First has to do with the price. Why so expensive? This would be an excellent truck at about $15,000 less, but at over $60,000 it just doesn’t have enough style. Secondly, there is no power liftgate at the rear, which most all of its competitors feature. And considering the luxury this truck had, it didn’t have cooled seats as its competitors have at this price range. But then, perhaps that will be left for the Lexus version.
Overall, the 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser impresses on many levels. It has an amazing ability to handle offroad situations that would halt many competitors, and it is highly refined on the road. It is easy to forget your are driving a truck and are sitting in a luxury sedan.
Toyota expects to sell most of its Land Cruisers to fans of the vehicle and not too many to new customers. Still, this is a refined and capable luxury SUV that everyone needs to take a hard look at.
Type 5.7-liter, 8-cylinder, 32-valve V-type DOHC with dual VVT-i, EFI, aluminum block with aluminum
Bore and Stroke 3.70 x 4.02 inches
Displacement 5,663 cc
Compression Ratio 10.2:1
Valve Train 4-valve/cylinder
Horsepower (SAE Net) 381 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque 401 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm
Ignition System Distributorless Toyota Direct Ignition (TDI)
Fuel System EFI
Recommended Fuel 87-octane regular unleaded
Emission Control ULEV II Tier II (Bin 5)
Drive System Type Full-time four-wheel drive
6-speed ECT automatic with sequential shift mode
Differential Ratio 3.909:1
Transfer Case 1.000/2.618 (high/low)
Front Independent double-wishbone suspension with coil springs and stabilizer bar
Rear 4-link suspension with coil springs, stabilizer bar and rigid axle with control arms
Diameter (front/rear) 1.68/0.98 inchesRUISER PRELIMINARY
Front Ventilated disc
Front Diameter 13.4 inches
Front Swept Area 287 square inches
Rear Ventilated disc
Rear Diameter 13.6 inches
Rear Swept Area 228 square inches
Parking Center hand brake
Type Power-assisted variable gear rack-and-pinion
Turns (lock to lock) 3.1 turns
Turning circle, curb to curb (ft) 38.7 feet
TIRES AND WHEELS
Wheel size 18 x 8.0 inches
Type and Material Aluminum alloy – high gloss finish
Tire Size P285/60 R18
Tire Type Mud-and-snow-rated steel-belted radial blackwall
ANGLE OF APPROACH/DEPARTURE BREAKOVER ANGLE
30/20 degrees 21 degrees
EPA ESTIMATED FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway mpg) (Based on new EPA calculations)
Engine Oil 7.0 quarts (with filter)
Fuel Tank 24.6 gallons
Cooling System 17.7 quarts
EXTERIOR DIMENSIONS (inches)
Overall Length 194.9
Overall Width 77.6
Overall Height 74.0
Tread Width Front: 64.6
Minimum Ground Clearance 8.9
Coefficient of Drag 0.35
INTERIOR DIMENSIONS (inches)
EPA Cargo Volume
With middle row folded and rear row removed: 81.7 cubic feet
With third row folded: 43.0 cubic feet
Behind third row: 16.1 cubic feet
Seating Capacity 8AR
TOWING AND VEHICLE MASS (lbs.)
Curb Weight 5,690
Maximum Trailer Weight 8,500
Maximum Tongue Weight 850
Gross Combined Weight Rating 15,775
Driver and front passenger dual stage advanced airbags; driver and front passenger seat-mounted
side airbags; second row seat-mounted side airbags; three-row roll-sensing side curtain airbags
with roll-sensing cutoff switch; and driver and front passenger knee airbags
1st and 2nd row seat belts equipped with pretensioners and force limiters
Three-point ALR/ELR seatbelts in all outboard, second-row and third-row center seating positions
(driver’s belt ELR only)
Adjustable front- and second-row outboard seatbelt anchors
STAR SAFETY SYSTEM™ - includes Active-Traction Control (A-TRAC) plus Vehicle Stability
Control (VSC) with cut-off switch, four-wheel "Multi-terrain" Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with
Brake Assist (BA) and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD)
Highly rigid body structure with side-impact door beams
Driver and front passenger active headrests
Hill Start Assist Control (HAC)
CRAWL Control with Downhill Assist Control (DAC)
Direct Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS)
Intuitive Parking Assist - clearance back up sonar
Daytime running lights (DRL)
Child-protector rear hatch and door locks
CRS lower anchorage located on the left and right outboard seating positions of 2nd row. CRS
anchor brackets located on the back of the rear seats
BASIC LIMITED WARRANTY COVERAGE
5-year/unlimited-mileage Corrosion Perforation