Toyota's Land Cruiser brings a touch of luxury to the wilderness

PEOPLE going to the furthest reaches of the world on epic expeditions usually find one of two things: themselves...and a Toyota Land Cruiser.

Whether in the depths of the Australian Bush, the mountain roads of Pakistan or the sand dunes of Morocco, the tough sevenseater seems to be universally trusted with the task of transporting people through all manner of terrains.

Now 4.7 metres long and nearly 1.9 metres tall, the Land Cruiser was developed—rather like Land Rover’s projects—from a pretty basic, military-based vehicle which started life more than 50 years ago, and has morphed into a go-anywhere people carrier.

Tested here is the latest, 2010 iteration, and it’s a car that looks to do battle with the Land Rover Discovery 4 featured here a couple of weeks ago.

Cover any terrain in luxurious comfort

Prices for the Land Cruiser start at £32,995 and top out with a £58,110 V8 diesel-engined range topper and the top spec three-litre diesel tested here is most closely matched to the Discovery 4 HSE I tested recently.

Three specifications of Land Cruiser (LS3, LS4 and LS5) make up the range but the LS5 is especially well equipped.

Leather trim throughout, Sat-Nav, three-zone climate control, a nine-inch LCD screen in the rear which can be hooked to a games console or DVD player, an array of cameras giving a 360 degree view around the vehicle and a 605 watt surround sound stereo system are all premium spec items in the spacious interior.

Touches of wood-effect trim immediately stand out as being somewhat naff in the otherwise nononsense interior which comes across as more purposeful than plush.

In sheer design terms the Land Cruiser’s interior lacks the outright style of the Discovery 4 but is, nevertheless, very comfortable.

A practicality advantage comes in the form of a glass hatch addition to the side-hinged boot which can be a real bonus when loading things in a tight car park.

Inside the gaping boot a pair of electrically folding seats can be individually raised from the floor at the press of a button, saving the (admittedly simple) strain of the Land Rover’s manual system.

No shake and rattle...but a bit of roll

My test was admittedly restricted to the road and, though not the Land Cruiser’s favoured environment, refinement stands out as one of its top assets.  

In handling and performance terms, however, it is slightly less impressive.

The three-litre D-4D engine loses out to the Disco in terms of power and torque, with 170bhp and 302lb.ft. on offer, and that limits its ability to throw nearly two-and-a-half tonnes of off-road behemoth down the road with any conviction.

Toyota claim an 11.7 second sprint to 62mph and 109mph top speed.

The 2010 Land Cruiser’s green credentials are more impressive with average fuel consumption of 34.9mpg and 214g/km CO2 emissions.

An eco driving indicator which illuminates appreciatively when you drive economically, intelligent gear-shift system which tailors shifts to your driving style, and aerodynamic improvements have all been employed to keep the giant Toyota’s thirst for fuel in check...and they seem to have worked.

But will supple suspension and an overriding sense of scale, mean that the Land Cruiser is never going to challenge the new breed of sports SUVs  in the dynamic stakes.

Active anti-roll bars and air-damped rear suspension have been introduced to the LC5-spec Land Cruisers to sharpen up their on-road act but it still lags behind the best in its class.

Bullet-proof build quality as standard

Durability and sheer usefulness are where the Land Cruiser wins honour, though.

A towing capacity of three tonnes (braked) and the ability to cross rivers to a depth of 700mm are among its talents.

An unassuming series of dash-mounted dials give access to all manner of off-road aids.

A locking differential, active traction control and Toyota’s Multi-terrain select—which adapts the drivetrain for optimum traction while travelling on Mud and Sand, Loose Rock, Mogul and Rock—make seemingly anywhere accessible at the turn of a rotary dial.

There is no doubt that the Land Cruiser is a rugged off-road device.

Test mules covered more than 130,000km of off-road testing to ensure it durability, afterall.

In LS5 form it also has a top grade-specification and refinement that would be befitting any premium SUV.

It may lack the slick interior design and extra layer of on-road ability that Land Rover have recently introduced to the Discovery but the Land Cruiser is still a big hitter in every sense of the word.

Find one in a wilderness nowhere near you.

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