Toyota officially pulls the plug on the Land Cruiser for the US market and I think it was time.
Toyota has spoken: The Land Cruiser is officially dead. Not to the world however, just for the United States’ market at the moment. Toyota says it will be officially discontinued in 2022, so it may be around internationally for a few more years in its current form. If you’re a Land Cruiser lover it’s the final curtain call get one while you still can. Truth be told while I’m sad to see an icon leave the space, it makes total sense to me. While I can’t speak for what Toyota plans to do with it, currently I can say this SUV is as stale as it gets, and honestly it does need to leave.
“This car is a monster off the road too. It’s the car of choice when it comes to cruising over sand dunes in the Arabian dessert or tracking safaris in the open lands of Africa and the Sahara. It was a 'go anywhere, do anything' machine with a long heritage.”
Before I get into why the Land Cruiser needs to leave, I want to let you know the Land Cruiser has a special space in my heart. When I was younger it was my aunt’s favorite car, and while we didn’t share too much in common it seemed like her driving and loving a Land Cruiser as her daily driver somehow connected us. When I got in the car, I fully understood why she fell in love with it. The posh high riding vehicle with plush leather and the way it cruised down the road with a dignified swagger made it not only a great on-road machine, but it gave you a sense of heightened stature and made you feel down right classy. It was the rich persons way of saying, if you know, you know. It was a way to be flashy without being flashy. It was a symbol that you could conquer anything. And that is entirely true to the fullest extent. This car is a monster off the road too. It’s the car of choice when it comes to cruising over sand dunes in the Arabian dessert or tracking safaris in the open lands of Africa and the Sahara. It was a “go anywhere, do anything” machine with a long heritage. I mean this is the longest running nameplate in Toyota's history. The first iteration was made in 1951, which puts the car at nearly 70 years old when they eventually discontinue it. That’s lineage for ya. The car also has reliability out the nose. In Toyota’s lifetime, they sold well over ten million units and I’m betting a few million are still in amazing condition today. With all that being said, the Land Cruiser falls short of keeping up with the times and that’s why I feel an exit is warranted.
Issue one: The Price
For starters there’s a problem with price. This machine costs nearly $90k. Yeah. That’s a lot of dough for something that has a Toyota badge on it. I wouldn’t mind paying that much it if was Lexus badged and came with more luxury…. oh, wait Toyota makes the LX470, which is basically a Land Cruiser in Lexus clothing. It makes sense to charge $90k for a Lexus to me, but even the Lexus version of the Land Cruiser falls short in some departments and as far as we know that will be sticking around for a little bit. Maybe they will carry the heritage thought the LX470, who knows. Anyway, back to the real Land Cruiser. After you get over the sticker shock of this SUV, you realize the interior falls way short of expectation when it comes to it direct competition: The Land Rover Range Rover and the Mercedes G Wagon. While the latter two may have 1 less row of seating, the interiors actually looks like it’s worth north of the $100k price tag they charge for it. There’s leather and quality materials everywhere, an enhanced design to match the times, technology to meet the changing demands of the consumer and the capability to match the Land Cruiser in an off-road battle. I’ll get into the Land Cruiser specs in a bit.
Issue Two: Dynamics
There are also very few improvements when it comes to driving dynamics. Just to give perspective, the Land Cruiser has remained fundamentally unchanged since 2007. There was a light refresh in 2016 but really no one noticed. The Land Cruiser has had the same 381HP 5.7 L V8 for a while now and it still sits on a body-on-frame type design. This is all while the industry has shifted to Turbo V6’s and V8’s to improve the efficiency and power, and redesigned the unibody to reduce weight and give SUV's a more car like feel. While the body-on-frame is not necessarily a deal breaker, it produces a harsher ride. The Land Rover, in comparison, uses a sophisticated air suspension system to make the car supremely comfortable on- and off-road, and switched to a unibody chassis to keep weight low while still keeping it strong.
Issue Three: Interior
The interior also comes in last place to most full-size SUV's. There is little to like now when you sit in a Land Cruiser. The technology is so old school, you would feel like you’d been taken back to 2001. The graphics are tired, the layout is ancient and the active safety tech looks like it was all tacked in last minute. It’s not a horrible place to be, but for $90k its totally unacceptable. Where is the large screen gauge cluster, the large central display with updated and intuitive graphics, where’s the choice in leather and wood, where’s the new design? These are left vaguely unanswered by Toyota. Also, the third-row seats are abysmal. It's the type of seats where you find your knees are actually up inside your chest. Yeah, I dislike those. Many full-size SUVs today offer much better third row seating with ample space and a normal seating style.
"I would even go as far to say, make a Toyota version with equivalent capabilities, keep it at two row seating, give it top level Toyota levels of refinement and drop the price by $20k."
Issue Four: Toyota has no "drive"
If Toyota had plans to upgrade the Land Cruiser, then I feel like they would have done it. Sucky thing is, I could see how an upgraded Land Cruiser could be a sure-fire winner in today’s market. Upgrade the exterior and interior design to compete with the big boys, retune the off-road abilities to keep it competitive against the Range Rover and G wagon in on- and off-road capabilities, give it an amazing third row seating, add a lot of tech and make it a Lexus. If you rebadge it as Lexus, then you can command a nearly $100k price, no sweat. I would even go as far to say, make a Toyota version with equivalent capabilities, keep it at two row seating, give it top level Toyota levels of refinement and drop the price by $20k. I know this is asking for a lot. Car companies would have to accomplish this over the course of several years but the way I see it, Toyota not only has the money but they have the resources to make it happen. The Land Cruiser could have been a great car today. However again, with Toyota not taking any action on this model for several crucial years now, it seems that they lost their drive. When you lose that drive to improve, you ultimately die. That is the world of cars for you.
Again, while I’m sad to see the Land Cruiser go, I think if the Land Cruiser can’t improve, it ultimately has to die. However, we never know. The Defender died a long time ago and it recently just came back, so this may not be the last of the Land Cruiser as we know it. I feel in a world so thirsty for SUVs, it would make sense for Toyota to put in the effort and make an amazing new Land Cruiser, even if it is a smaller two row, less expensive version like I mentioned, or maybe even a hybridized or electrified version. That would be really cool. Hey Toyota, if you’re reading this and ever want to bring the Land Cruiser back, I have some amazing ideas. Contact me. But if you've given up on the Land Cruiser concept, I guess I will have to also.