New Toyota Land Cruiser 2018 review
We try latest version of veteran Toyota Land Cruiser 4x4 in range-topping Invincible form
In the modern world, where SUVs are more about fashion than genuine off-road ability, the Land Cruiser seems a little outdated. If you’re away from asphalt a lot of the time then this is one of the best things to take you there. But if your motoring life is mostly on roads, then there are better ways to spend your money.
When you talk about companies with off-road heritage, you probably think of Land Rover and Jeep. But don’t forget Toyota. The company has more than 60 years of experience with four-wheel drive, and there’s been a Land Cruiser in its range for 65 years.
This year brings a host of revisions to Toyota’s biggest 4x4. They start with a new look for the exterior, but also include a revised dashboard, a more comfortable cabin and a new ‘workhorse’ entry-level model.
However, our first experience of the new Land Cruiser comes at the opposite end of the range: the Invincible, which costs well over £50,000.
This being a Land Cruiser, at least some of the changes are for purely practical reasons. So while the grille and headlights are new, they’re set higher to improve the car’s off-road ability, and there’s now a dip in the centre of the bonnet to give the driver better visibility.
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The changes inside are rather more extensive, with a new instrument binnacle and centre console, and it’s mostly good. The touchscreen has nice, big icons, and all the buttons on the centre console are delightfully chunky.
But the details let it down. Some of the plastics aren’t as classy as you’d want in a £50,000 car, and nor is the digital display for the air-con and clock.
On the plus side, this big car has plenty of space inside. The driver sits very high up, yet still enjoys loads of head and legroom. And despite the second row being set a little higher than the front seats, space isn’t a problem, at least for the outer two passengers. The centre seat is ridiculously narrow.
The Invincible version also comes with a third row of seats, and if the second-row seats are slid forwards, you’d get a couple of kids in there.
With all seven seats upright, the boot space is pretty tiny, but when you fold away the electrically operated third row you get an impressive amount of space.
On the road, it’s the size of the Land Cruiser that dominates your experience. This is most noticeable in town, where the sheer size of the thing means you have to plot a careful course.
The low-geared steering demands lots of turns of the wheel, while the self-centring effect isn’t strong, either, so you have to work hard to get the lock off once you’ve safely negotiated the turn. To make matters worse, in stop-start traffic you really notice the engine’s poor refinement. Even at idle, it causes the steering wheel to vibrate, and once you pull away, the gruff note of the 2.8-litre turbodiesel makes you fully aware of how hard it’s having to work.
The ride is firm at low speeds and, even on the motorway, it never settles down like a Land Rover or Volvo. There’s a lot of body roll in corners, and you can feel the nose rising and falling when you come on and off the throttle and brakes.
Still, go off road and the Land Cruiser comes into its own. Muddy banks and rocky outcrops are what it was made for. With its basic ability enhanced by all manner of electronic wizardry, it’s up there with Land Rovers as one of the very best off-roaders in the world.
Trouble is, most people will spend most of their time on tarmac. And that’s not playing to the car’s strengths.