2008 Toyota Land Cruiser Review

William C Montgomery
by William C Montgomery

In the movie “Out of Africa,” Denys Finch-Hatton’s 1923 International Harvester stalls on an open savannah amidst a herd of seriously cranky water buffalo. After a few nervous minutes tinkering with the engine, Denys tells Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) to manually crank the engine. It explodes to life, and they continue their illicit journey into cinematic history. Substitute a Canon DSLR for Blixen’s .416 Rigby, and in my mind, I’m there. As for the Harvester… what about an all-new 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser?

Sticking with the cinematic theme, the new Land Cruiser’s sheetmetal is still as tight and creaseless as a Hollywood actress’ Botox-pickled brow. Subtle fender bulges give way to doors as expansive and flat as the Serengeti itself. The big rig’s headlights and turn signals are integrated into massive light clusters, flanking a supersized grille, sporting the now familiar Schick shtick. The sidelights’ silhouette now tapers sportingly; a single failed attempt to ameliorate the off-roader’s overall blockishness.

In sum, the new Land Cruiser looks thoroughly modern and endlessly generic: a Rav4 writ large. Once again, the casual observer could be forgiven for confusing the pride of Aichi for any one of America’s current crop of increasingly milquetoast motorized Mastodons. Given the ongoing antipathy towards genuine body-on-frame SUVs in some quarters, it may be a welcome case of hiding in plain site.

Inside, plain is the word. While the Land Cruiser’s helm offers a suitably majestic view of the landscape, the dashboard geography is a Toyota parts’ bin job; a throw it against the wall and see what sticks farrago of cowled gauges, glove aversive buttons, shiny knobs, LCD displays and ugly vents. Buttons under and behind the steering wheel? A single knob stuck on the side of the center stack? The Land Cruiser’s cabin is more rock fall than rock garden.

Strange to say, there is comfort to be found in the stiff though not brittle plastic adorning nearly every surface. It serves notice that the obviously not a fashion icon Land Cruiser was designed for long-haul duty in harsh climes, where cleanliness is nowhere near godliness. Even minor features such as the second row seat flip-out cup holders feel ready for half a million miles of hardscrabble living. Still, a starter button in an SUV?

The new, slightly larger Land Cruiser has enough cargo capacity for a month in the veld. For supermarket safaris, the second row offers the go-along gang plenty of leg room– more than the Cruiser’s [in name only] 4Runner. As is the way of such things, the Cruiser’s third-row fold down jump seats are best reserved for “time outs” or rewarded as “time served.”

The Land Cruiser is powered by the same luscious 5.7-liter V8 introduced in the new Tundra full-size pickup. Mated to a quick-witted six-speed transmission, stumping-up 381hp and 401 ft. lbs. worth of “I’m an SUV, get me out of here” torque, it’s Cruiser by name, cruiser by nature. Thirteen mpg city fuel economy may leave the environmentally conscious gasping for breath, but the Cruiser’s mighty mill is never caught short of puff. Entering, exiting or overtaking on the highway is epically effortless.

Through the corners… forget it. Keeping the 74” tall 5690 lbs. SUV plumb is more than the stabilizer bar-equipped coil springs suspension configuration can manage. At least the motions are predictable and relatively free of bounce and rebound.

The Land Cruiser is newly bestowed with Lexus’ trick Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS). Interconnecting hydraulic cylinders attached to the front and rear stabilizer bars respond to unequal wheel loading to facilitate greater articulation, keeping the wheels in contact with an uneven surface. The 200 Series also gets Crawl Control; it applies throttle and brakes to maintain uniform low speed suitable for the roughest roads. Innovative, but isn’t that what a driver’s for?

The new Land Cruiser’s off-road electronic arsenal is awesome, but truly adventurous souls won’t be impressed. Toyota’s reliability rep aside, fixing software glitches in the kind of places where you would really need the off-road gizmos is an impossibility. (That Harvester was ratty, but mechanically malleable.) And if you’re not using the Land Cruiser off-road, why not opt for the cheaper, more luxurious Toyota Sequoia? All of which leaves the technologically triumphant Land Cruiser in the middle of nowhere.

And very expensive real estate it is too. My gas-guzzling test model rang-in at a whopping $79,143, including a $5K “market adjustment.” Demand outstripping supply? Not for long, Mr. Bond. There are only so many people willing to fork-out that kind of cash for capability they don’t need, from a brand (and an interior) with a decidedly downmarket demeanor. Economic conditions forced Karen Blixen to sell her coffee farm in British East Africa. Economics will take the wind out of the sales of Toyota’s bigger, better prairie schooner.

William C Montgomery
William C Montgomery

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  • Grinchsmate Grinchsmate on Feb 21, 2008

    silverkris is right although he gfoes a little too far. those moneyed elites include farmers and developing countries include australia. basicly if you crop a few thousand hectares and you dont go to europe as soon as harvest is over then you own one own these. playdrv4me, the only point to rangerovers is to out of keep wankers landcruisers, a real 4x4 can drive off road without the shitty air bag suspension collapsing

  • Silverkris Silverkris on Apr 09, 2008

    I thought farmers in Australia like utes, the locally manufactured Holdens and Fords. But I guess the ones with money can buy the 'Cruisers and Range Rovers. I was thinking of elite ruling class people in places like Pakistan and Haiti, where they like to drive Pajeros and Land Cruisers. In Pakistan I call em wadera-mobiles, a wadera is a landlord or "feudal" as they call 'em.

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.
  • Geozinger Up until recently this was on my short list of cars to replace my old car. However, it didn't pass the "knee test" with my wife as her bad knee makes it difficult for her to get in and out of a sedan. I saw a number of videos about the car and it seems like the real deal as a sporting sedan. In addition I like the low price, too, but it was bad luck/timing that we didn't get to pull the trigger on this one.
  • ToolGuy I agree with everyone here. Of course there are exceptions to what I just said, don't take everything so literally. The important thing is that I weighed in with my opinion, which is helping to move things forward. I believe we can all agree that I make an important contribution (some will differ, that is their prerogative). A stitch in time saves nine. Life isn't fair, you know. I have more to say but will continue at our next meeting. You can count on that, for I am a man of my word. We will make it happen. There might be challenges. I mean, it is what it is. This too shall pass. All we can do is all we can do. These meetings are never really long enough for me to completely express all the greatness within me, are they? Let's meet to discuss. All in a day's work. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. At the end of the day, I must say I agree with you. I think you will agree. When all is said and done, there is more said than done. But of course that is just one man's opinion. You are free to disagree. As I like to say...(I am working on my middle management skills -- how am I doing?)
  • Golden2husky Have to say he did an excellent job on the C7, especially considering the limited budget he was given. I am very happy with my purchase.
  • Marty The problem isn't range; it's lack of electricity in multi-unit building parking. All you need is level 1 - a standard 120v wall socket - and if you're plugged in 10 hours overnight you get 280 miles per week or more. That's enough for most folks but you can use public charging to supplement when needed. Installing conduit circuits and outlets is simple and cheap; no charge stations needed.