2012 Toyota Land Cruiser

Adventure Without Sacrifice

2012 Toyota Land Cruiser. Photo (c) Toyota

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There are a few vehicles that inspire my imagination, and set my mind to wandering. Just say “Land Cruiser” in my vicinity, and I’m off to the desert, or the jungle, or anywhere a million miles away from civilization – at least in my mind. Hardly the stripped down adventure vehicle of the past, the 2012 Toyota Land Cruiser brings a base price of $65,970 ($74,210 as tested), a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty and EPA fuel economy estimates of 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway.

Let’s drive.

First Glance

Land Cruiser hasn’t changed much since its last makeover for the 2008 model year. In fact, the press vehicle that Toyota provided from their fleet was a 2010 model with over 15,000 miles on the clock. Toyota assured me that the 2012 model, would be a carryover again, with no changes from 2011 (or 2010, apparently). It takes a lot of confidence for a manufacturer to let a journalist review a vehicle that has been around the block so many times – in the hands of journalists. But other than a few nicks and scuffs, my Salsa Red Pearl Land Cruiser looked and felt like brand new.

Back in its early days, Land Cruiser was a boxy, crude tool. Its design definitely owed a debt to the Willys Jeep. Land Cruiser tracked closely with the Land Rover Defender series of vehicles, and competed quite effectively in the same markets as the British vehicle. Over seven generations of evolution, Land Cruiser has become a much more conventional SUV.

There's a definite family resemblance between the 189.9" 4Runner, the 194.9" Land Cruiser and the 205.1" Sequoia.

In the Driver’s Seat

One thing that Land Cruiser has definitely retained over the generations is a command seating position. I was able to adjust my standard 8-way power seat and power tilt and telescope steering wheel so that I could see all four corners of the vehicle, an essential position for off-roading.

Land Cruiser is also the most luxurious of all Toyota vehicles, with high-end standard features like power leather seats, 4-zone climate control, keyless entry and pushbutton start. My test vehicle was hooked up with a $7,120 Upgrade Package of options, which included DVD-based navigation, a center console cooler box, rear-seat entertainment and second-row heated seats, among other features. Slap a Lexus badge on the Land Cruiser, and it would fit right in to the lineup.

Land Cruiser's third row is a bit of a compromise in terms of function and comfort. In order to maximize cargo space and ground clearance, the seat doesn't disappear into the floor like it does on many other big SUVs. Land Cruiser's third row folds up against the vehicle's side walls when not deployed -- not the most elegant of solutions.

On the Road

Land Cruiser's roots are in off-roading, but it has definitely adapted to life on the pavement. Still, the SUV retains strong chops, including 8.9" of ground clearance, a 4-link rear suspension with a rigid axle and a locking Torsen limited-slip center differential. With Land Cruiser's robust body-on-frame construction, I wouldn't hesitate to explore the terrain. On road, Land Cruiser soaks up the bumps and potholes with ease, and remains supremely composed during cornering thanks to stabilizer bars front and rear.

There's just one engine and transmission choice with Land Cruiser, the proven 5.7-liter V8 hooked up to a six-speed automatic with full-time four-wheel drive. The V8 is tuned to produce 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque when running on 87-octane pump gas. Peak torque comes on at low engine speeds, so Land Cruiser feels even more powerful than the figures indicate. This is a big SUV, weighing in at close to three tons (5,765 lbs), and the momentum it generates is compelling. Luckily, big powerful brakes haul things down to a stop, but it's important to stay aware of just how much SUV you're piloting when you're behind the wheel.

Journey's End

If I took over the Sahara Times' or the North Pole Journal's automotive desk, I'd definitely request a Land Cruiser as my company car. Land Cruiser is well-suited to extreme conditions, and has proven to be easy to maintain and repair all over the world.

Most of us don't need a vehicle as capable or rugged as Land Cruiser. It's nice to get a healthy dose of luxury with the capability.

Land Cruiser has to go head-to-head with Land Rover's LR4 in the real world and in the marketplace. Mercedes-Benz's GL-Class also joins the fray, as does Jeep's Grand Cherokee. GMC's Yukon Denali, Infiniti's QX56 and Land Cruiser's stablemate Lexus LX earn due consideration as well.

When I close my eyes and dream of an SUV adventure, I'm often picturing a Toyota Land Cruiser as my ride. Yes, that's what I'm dreaming about when I close my eyes at my desk. I am an SUV geek, through and through.


Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.