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New Toyota Land Cruiser 2024 review: an icon reborn and reinvigorated

The new Toyota Land Cruiser is more sophisticated, tech laden and stylish than ever, but gives up none of the last car’s capability or dependability

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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Verdict

The Toyota Land Cruiser has long been a legend of toughness and reliability, and this all-new generation is no different. But what has changed are its levels of sophistication and tech, which only add a new dimension to its all-round capability. It’s not quite as refined as a Land Rover Defender, but counters with Toyota’s ace card – an unstoppable sense of strength and reliability. 

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Few modern cars have quite the reputation of the Toyota Land Cruiser. Whether peacekeeping in international war zones, crossing the Nullarbor Desert or driving over endless Arctic tundra, a Land Cruiser has long been chosen as the vehicle of choice to get you there, and crucially get you back. Now in the slightly less dangerous, but no less dramatic Scottish Highlands, we’re driving a near-production ready prototype of its all-new Land Cruiser 250, a car that has over 70 years of heritage to live up to. 

All Land Cruisers in the UK will be fitted with a 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. This is shared with the Hilux pick-up and some of its other commercial relatives in overseas markets, but Toyota has done a comprehensive job of improving both its power delivery and refinement. 

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Power is rated at 200bhp and 500Nm of torque, those figures being available across a very wide rev range, with peak torque coming in at just 1,600rpm. Being a late prototype, there’s no homologated 0-62mph time as yet, but rough estimates put this somewhere around nine seconds, with a top speed of up to 102mph, or 105mph with the larger 20-inch wheels. Official efficiency figures have yet to be confirmed, but we averaged around 25mpg on test, including some fuel-sapping off-road driving. 

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Fans of the Defender will note these are some way off the figures of that car’s six-cylinder diesel, which can be had with a near-50bhp or even 100bhp advantage, but the difference in performance on the road isn’t quite so stark. The Land Cruiser has impressive responsiveness at low revs and very little turbo lag. The transmission does its part to keep the engine on the boil, and itself makes quick decisive gearchanges. 

Drive is then sent to a permanent four-wheel drive system, and there’s both a central and rear-differential lock, plus a dual-range transfer box with both high and low ratios for the gearbox. This is not a small vehicle, despite being seen as the more compact global Land Cruiser model (there’s an even larger Land Cruiser 300 available in other markets like Japan, Australia and the Middle East), at nearly five metres in length and more than 2,300kg.

The overall powertrain is also much more refined than its application in the Hilux, with some distant four-cylinder rattle at low speeds quickly dying down to a gentle hum when moving at more pace. Toyota will also be offering a 48V mild-hybrid variant in the early part of 2025, but the full-hybrid powertrain you’ll find in other markets like the USA will not be offered here in the short term. 

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This supposed lack of on-paper sophistication could also be applied when considering the chassis, but once again the differences feel less stark on the road. The chassis itself is a traditional ladder frame with a body mounted on top, but both have been fundamentally redesigned compared with the previous model. The torsional rigidity of the frame and body have been increased by 50 and 30 per cent respectively, and thanks to a new electric power steering system, there’s now little to no kickback through the steering rack, even over extremely tough terrain. 

The suspension system is a coil-spring set-up, with a double-wishbone design up front and a tough four-link rigid rear axle. Overseas models will have the option of adaptive dampers, but all UK cars will be fitted with a passive option. New for Toyota is the option to decouple the anti-roll bars, improving the overall wheel articulation by 10 per cent compared with models fitted without.

How does all of this feel on the road? There’s no hiding the fact this off-roader has been designed to conquer off-road situations. The steering has a slow rack, and even on the smaller 18-inch wheels there’s a patter to the ride at low speeds it can’t quite fully isolate. You won’t, for instance, feel this in a Defender with its optional air springs, and even at higher speeds, where the Toyota does improve significantly. It just can’t quite match a Defender’s near luxury-car levels of passenger comfort. 

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Driving on smaller roads isn’t a problem, thanks to excellent visibility, and when working through the on-road drive modes the Land Cruiser cuts a fine balance between response and refinement. Sport mode isn’t actually as defunct as it might seem, either, as the more aggressive engine and transmission mapping helps the whole car feel more responsive and generally nicer to drive. The brakes are a particular highlight, with excellent feel, and they make short work of slowing the car’s considerable mass. 

Factor in its more isolated powertrain and suppression of road and wind noise – a very surprising factor given the flat-faced windscreen – and the Land Cruiser’s cruising skills are actually very impressive. Off the road, however, and the Toyota’s legendary toughness becomes even more tangible. 

Entering an extremely muddy off-road course in our test location of the Scottish Highlands, the Land Cruiser had no trouble finding incredible traction up or down steep, rutted tracks or plunging into deep waterlogged ravines. A relatively tight-turning-radius steering angle made avoiding tighter corners a simple process, and when slip was detected, the clever all-wheel drive system managed to find traction out of nowhere, with no wheelspin or chattering traction control systems. In fact, we didn’t even bother engaging the locking differentials or anti-roll bar disconnect, even with the car sill-deep in sticky mud.

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Much like modern Land Rovers, the new Land Cruiser features a very clever terrain response system activated through a chunky physical knob on the centre-console. This adjusts parameters such as the gearbox, engine mapping, steering and brakes to suit various terrains. Further options for the gearbox transfer case, locking differentials and de-couplable anti-roll bars are accessed separately via buttons on the centre console. Compared to the minimalist vibe you’ll see on a modern Defender, these controls are all logical and easy to use. 

It’s a mentality that is spread throughout the cabin, which matches hard-wearing, but still elegant, materials to create a sense of total solidity. In fact, the entire cabin feels almost infallible as none of the cars tested (which once again were all prototype vehicles) made even the tiniest creak or rattle, even with a wheel dangling two feet in the air. In terms of outright practicality, the Land Cruiser also scores, with good rear legroom, and excellent head and kneeroom. The boot is also vast, with 620 litres of space and the option of a third row. 

Yet this car’s greatest asset is still the legendary reliability that Toyota’s assured us has been at the very core of its development – and is tangible the moment you sit inside. The difference now is a sense of real desirability to go with it. It’s not quite as good on road as a Defender, nor is the powertrain as refined, but for the job of getting you to and back from challenging or remote locations right across this wonderful planet, there are few cars better qualified for the job. 

Model:Toyota Land Cruiser 250 VX-L
Price from:TBC
Engine:2.0-litre, 4cyl turbo diesel
Power/torque:200bhp/500Nm
Transmission:Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph:8-9 seconds (est)
Top speed:102mph
Economy/CO2:TBC
Size (L/W/H):4,925/1,980/1,935
On sale:Q3 2024
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Senior staff writer

Senior staff writer at Auto Express, Jordan joined the team after six years at evo magazine where he specialised in news and reviews of cars at the high performance end of the car market. 

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