Pros-Extremely rugged. Fairly fast. Comfortable. Good handling. Nice ride. Four-wheel drive. Great resale.
Cons-Costly. Low fuel economy. High step-up. Touchy brake pedal. Not for everyone.
Bottom Line-Legendary SUV for those who know exactly what they want.
So what would you say about a big 2021 SUV without a prestigious nameplate that costs nearly $90,000 and only gets an estimated 13 miles per gallon in town and 17 on highways?
That's the 2021 Toyota Land Cruiser
Heritage Edition, which cost $87,845, or $89,210 with a freight charge. Only 3,147 Land Cruisers were sold in the United States last year to folks who knew exactly what they were getting. They bypassed other decent, far more affordable Toyota SUVs such as the RAV4, which found 430,387 buyers and got the big, rather blocky looking Land Cruiser. The Heritage Edition debuted last year as essentially just a more upscale trim model.
The huge, capable SUV has attained legendary status as a go-anywhere vehicle that was one of the first Toyotas to be sold in America in 1958. (It actually arrived as a Jeep-style vehicle in 1951 but got the Land Cruiser name in 1954.) Older versions are collector's items, and they aren't cheap. This made-in-Japan vehicle is said to last at least 25 years, which is why some owners won't sell one they bought.
This is the last year for the current Land Cruiser generation. Toyota won't say when or if a newly designed model will arrive.
From the start, Land Cruisers got a rugged reputation for tacking seemingly impossible terrain and just got better and more civilized as the years passed. You want to tackle the Sahara desert, jungles or places such as the no-man's-land Australian outback? The Land Rover will do just fine. And then some. It will go through water 27 inches deep and tow 8,100 pounds.
The Land Cruiser hasn't been changed much since 2016, when it got revised exterior styling and an 8-speed automatic transmission replaced a 6-speed unit. It still has old-school but solid body-on-frame construction and a rather outdated infotainment system.
You can't get Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, but there's plenty of good stuff. It includes a 14 speaker JBL sound system, wireless charging pad and a 360-degree camera view. And there's a starter button and switch or knob for every function. There's also a generally informative 9-inch touch screen infotainment system.
The 2021 Land Cruiser is the last of its series. It is celebrated by the Heritage Edition, which doesn't have the running boards of other Land Rover models, as a tribute to the original, smaller FJ-40 Land Cruiser. However, the step-up to the interior of the 74-inch-high Heritage Edition suggests that running boards would be appreciated. Other special Heritage items include a black-accented grille, 18-inch copper-color forged aluminum BBS wheels and bronze-color interior contrast stitching.
Powering the Land Cruiser is a brawny 5.7-liter V-8 with 381 horsepower. The 401 pound-feet of torque is delivered at only 2,000 r.p.m. The 0-60 m.p.h. time is an estimated 7 seconds, with power delivered through a smooth 8-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted. A driver can choose economy mode-or power mode for faster acceleration. I found economy mode works fine most of the time. Top speed is said to be 123 mils per hour.
Estimated fuel economy is very low-at 13 miles per gallon in the city and 17 on highways. I got just 7-8 miles per gallon during an even mix of city and highway driving in the congested Chicago area. However, only 87-octane fuel is called for despite the engine's rather high 10.2:1 compassion ratios. Still, an owner might wish that the gas tank is larger. It can swallow 24.6-gallons.
Such fuel economy shouldn't be all that surprising because the Land Cruiser Heritage edition weighs 5,715 pounds. It's fairly easy to maneuver, even though it is 194.9 inches long. It's also 78 inches wide and has 8.9 inches of ground clearance. You get an easily removed roof rack, but it causes some wind noise despite the quiet interior and can create problems in parking garages.
The Land Cruiser seats four adults comfortably, or five if they don't mind the stiff rear-seat middle section. An optional third-row seat can seat three others, but only children fit comfortably back there.
Cargo room is decent and goes to an impressive 82.8 cubic feet with the second- and third-row seats folded. My test Land Cruiser had only two-row seats and it looked like getting to a third-row seat would be a hassle..
The interior is upscale in a no-nonsense way, with good materials, bronze stitching throughout, comfortable black perforated leather seats, pushbutton start, a four-zone automatic climate control, heated steering wheel, power sunroof and so on.
Toyota's upscale Lexus division sells a version based on the Land Cruiser called the LX if you want a little more luxury pizzaz. Lexus sold 4,512 LXs last year.
My test Land Cruiser's steering was quick but rather heavy. The ride was smooth on most regular roads, although some sharp bumps could be moderately felt. There was no opportunity to take it off road. That was a shame because the Land Rover has an impressive bunch of off-road equipment. It includes a Torsen limited slip locking center differential, sway bars that connect and disconnect automatically, downhill assist control, two-speed transfer case, skid plates, hill-descent control, multi-terrain select system and an off-road crawl mode.
Handling is surprisingly good for such a high, heavy vehicle, thanks to such items as stability and traction controls-not to mention the sophisticated full-time four-wheel drive system. There was some body lean while streaking through freeway on- and off ramps, but it wasn't very noticeable. Handling off road is said to be just as composed.
Safety features include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, besides lots of air bags, even those for the third-row seat.
Besides the newly available third-row seat, other new items for the 2021 Heritage Edition are Classic Silver snd Magnetic Gray metallic paint. My test vehicle had standard Midnight Blue Metallic paint, although also standard is Blizzard Pearl.
No matter what the color, the Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition seems destined to be a collector's item, long after years of adventuresome use.