by Roger Biermann
The name Land Cruiser is an almost compulsory mention in the off-roading world; having been around for more than sixty years, the Land Cruiser has stood the test of time in the harshest of environments. Featuring as a luxury large SUV against rivals such as the Lexus LX 570, with which it shares underpinnings, and the Mercedes-Benz GLS class, the Land Cruiser dominates in terms of physical strength, brute power, and off-road capability, while losing ground to competitors when it comes to sophisticated interiors and refined luxury. The Land Cruiser’s $85,165 price tag is on par with main rivals and brings with it a 5.7-liter V8 outputting 381 horsepower. But the Land Cruiser’s allure lies in its go-anywhere attitude, with the body-on-frame SUV boasting some of the highest reliability and value retention ratings across the market.
The 2019 Land Cruiser carries over unchanged from the previous year, and although clinging to the legendary reputation of this vehicle is endearing, it’s possibly time that some upgrades were implemented to an otherwise outstanding vehicle to keep it on level pegging with more contemporary rivals.
With no exterior changes to note, the 2019 Land Cruiser maintains the same familiar - almost retro-inspired - shape, prioritizing functionality over any particular modern aesthetic. Projector-beam LED headlights with daytime running lights and integrated LED fog lamps are standard, and the only trim level available is released with 18-inch split-spoke alloy wheels, and skid plates under the front end, suspension, radiator, fuel tank, and transfer case. The split tailgate’s lower half flips down for easy loading, and exterior mirrors are color-coded. A tilt-and-slide sunroof is equipped as standard, and chrome moldings with the Land Cruiser logo are installed along the side of the body.
For the most part, the Land Cruiser’s dimensions remain the same as the previous model, although, at 5,815 lbs, the Land Cruiser is the heaviest amongst rivals like the Lexus LX and Mercedes-Benz GLS. At almost 78 inches in width, the Land Cruiser is also wider than the others and stands taller than the Mercedes at 74 inches in height. Both the Lexus and the Land Cruiser have a wheelbase of 112.2 inches, while the Mercedes has around 120 inches. As the Mercedes GLS is more of a soft-roader than being truly an off-road vehicle, ground clearance is not as impressive as the 8.9 inches offered by the Toyota (upgraded to nine-inches with the running boards removed). Approach and departure angles are a little better than in the past due to a few tweaks in construction, resulting in a class-leading 32-degree approach, 24-degree departure, and 21-degree breakover angles.
A total of six colors makes up the available palette for exterior options on the Land Cruiser. Midnight Black Metallic, Blue Onyx Pearl, Brandywine Mica, Magnetic Gray Metallic, and Classic Silver Metallic are carried over from the previous year at no additional cost, while the same premium option is available for purchase at $395 extra: Blizzard Pearl. Although at a further cost, it is a classy color for the Land Cruiser, whose SUV status can be forgotten for its off-roading abilities, as it remains a comfortable and elegant family carrier too.
There is only one option available in terms of powertrain, namely, the legendary 5.7-liter V8 engine paired to permanent four-wheel drive. Producing 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque, the engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic, matching its corporate sibling, the Lexus LX 570. It completes the 0-60 mph dash in around 6.7 seconds. Considering the almost 6,000-pound bulk the V8 has to lug up to speed, this isn’t a bad performance in the slightest, and betters both the Lexus and the Mercedes GLS, at least in non-AMG guise.
With this powerhouse beneath the hood, the Land Cruiser has a towing capacity of 8,100 lbs, which - once again - is a good 1,500 lbs more than both main rivals. Equipped with full-time 4WD and a low-range transfer case, off-road performance is what the Land Cruiser was designed for, which is why it’s still used in some of the most rugged terrains around the world as the luxury off-roader of choice.
The equipped 5.7-liter V8 engine generates 381 hp and 401 lb-ft and is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission that strives to maximize what is truthfully rather terrible fuel consumption. This translates to upshifts which are admittedly smooth, but also highly ambitious in their race to the highest gear. Nonetheless, acceleration is brisk, with the steady rumble of the big V8 in the background, and a heavy dose of low-down torque. Once at cruising speed, the V8 offers effortless passing ability and competent, consistent highway driving. A good balance between outright performance and luxurious driving style has been maintained by the Land Cruiser over the years, and with a well-insulated cabin, road (and engine) noise is kept to a minimum.
Going off-road with the Land Cruiser offers more of the same - effortless and almost self-driving in its ability to handle rutted terrain, requiring the driver only to manage throttle inputs and anticipate braking (as brakes can be a little slow to respond). With low-speed crawl control and multi-terrain select, the vehicle does equally well on rougher terrain as it does in suburbia. The low-range transmission pairs superbly with the high-displacement V8, giving the Land Cruiser tremendous low-down torque and supplying endless consignments of confidence that no climb is too steep and no rock unsurmountable.
A large, ponderous vehicle such as this requires a lot happening beneath the surface to make handling a pleasant experience. Toyota has managed this fairly well: a kinetic dynamic suspension system, comprising large anti-roll bars that disconnect at lower speeds, as well as a superior full-time four-wheel drive configuration make for excellent road grip (on asphalt as well as gravel), and surprisingly adept steering in and out of corners. Make no mistake - the Land Cruiser feels huge, and it is, but there’s minimal body roll through bends for its heft and a sense of confidence and competence in general handling. However, there’s always a slight sense of the body shuffling atop the frame, typical of body-on-frame built SUVs, and a sensation you won’t encounter in a Mercedes-Benz GLS.
The suspension also brilliantly absorbs road surface imperfections, which results in a smooth, soft ride inside. The steering system is amply weighted but not overly so, which is both helpful for tight spaces and provides a precise, direct feel for the open road. The Land Cruiser also boasts a feature whereby brakes are individually tightened to reduce the turning radius, which makes navigating sharp bends at low speeds much easier for a vehicle with such a wide girth. Braking takes some getting used to - this is not to say the brakes aren’t efficient or potent - they just require a bit of a push to actually bring the mammoth SUV to a full stop.
Off-road is where the Land Cruiser comes into its own, though, with permanent four-wheel-drive, a low range transfer case, and substantial approach and departure angles and ample ground clearance. While the long wheelbase may reduce the breakover angle compared to a shorter wheelbase Jeep Wrangler, there’s still an immense amount of rock-crawling capability, paired with levels of luxury in stark contrast to the terrain you’ll be able to conquer.
Fuel economy remains a sore point for the Land Cruiser - it is one of the thirstiest engines in this segment with gas mileage of 13/18/15 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. The Mercedes GLS does only marginally better at 16/22/18 mpg, and although this is a worthy weak point, is simply a reminder of the reason why this vehicle was designed with a 5.7-liter V8: for off-roading prowess, not necessarily suburban cruising. A 24.6-gallon fuel tank allows for a range of around 369 miles per tank of regular unleaded gas, which at least isn’t the pricey premium fuel required by the Mercedes.
With seating for up to eight passengers, the Land Cruiser promises generous space, a comfortable cabin which is well dampened and outfitted with high-quality leather upholstery. Although it succeeds in most of the latter promises, roominess is reserved mainly for the first two rows. The front seats are ample, and the second-row just a little less spacious. The third-row is not only cramped and restrictive in terms of leg room, but doesn’t fold away in an ergonomic (or user-friendly) manner. To be honest, we’d be perfectly happy without the third row entirely. The dashboard layout is thoughtfully presented, and the infotainment system is more than sufficient, although Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not compatible at all. Lower LATCH anchors on outboard second-row seats and tether anchors on all middle-row seats are present. But while the Land Cruiser presents as a luxury off-roader, it can’t match the Lexus LX or Mercedes GLS for outright quality and there’s always a sense this isn’t playing in the same luxury realm.
The Lexus variant in this segment is available in two models - a two-row SUV, or a three-row derivative, which we find to be a clever compromise for a vehicle such as this. We love the idea that the Land Cruiser can seat eight, but in reality the third row isn't practical for adults or even taller teenagers. The third row also doesn’t stow away with ease, operating on a fold-over-tilt-up mechanism that aligns it vertically with the side panels.
By contrast, the front row seats are luxurious, upholstered in semi-aniline leather with multi-stage heating and ventilation. There’s ample amounts of legroom and headroom, with enough rake and reach on the steering wheel and ten-way power adjustment suitable for six-foot drivers or taller. Forward visibility is superb, due to the large windows and slim pillars, although shorter drivers may struggle with the sheer size of the vehicle. Surround view cameras come in handy, as the third row of seats also negatively impacts rear visibility. Comfortable and supportive second-row seats recline and slide for extra comfort, although set a little low, and are overall quite pleasant in terms of head and leg room.
Interior color options include semi-aniline perforated leather in either Black or Terra color schemes. Most surfaces are soft-touch leather, with armrests, dashboard and door panels beautifully upholstered and featuring imitation wood-grain inlays. The center console, by contrast, offers hard plastic, which seems odd and a little out of place for what is an otherwise luxurious cabin, but alludes to the Land Cruiser’s utilitarian nature.
Available trunk space in the Land Cruiser is substantial. At 16.1 cubic feet behind the third row, the Toyota SUV offers more space than the Lexus LX three-row and similar volume to that of the Mercedes-Benz GLS. Folding and flipping the third-row seats away in 50/50 split, opens up a total of 43 cubic feet, although hindered by the fact that the third-row seats are clipped up against the side walls. They can be removed, but this is no easy accomplishment, and considering the space is cramped, we feel the Land Cruiser might be better off without them. With the second-row tumbled forward, a flat-but-narrow floor opens up to 81.7 cubic feet, which is impressive for this segment. The split-liftgate makes for easy loading, despite the high floor level, and also allows for longer items to be stored with the lower section acting as an extended floor, should longer items need to be loaded.
The Land Cruiser provides adequate small item storage too. Door pockets can hold numerous small items, although insulated and larger bottles may be too big to fit. Cupholders are also available, but the shallowness of these means top-heavy cups and mugs may topple out under pressure. The glovebox is amply sized and offers a convenient storage shelf inside. Under the center armrest in the front, a deep cold box is available for snacks and drinks or other larger items. There is also a shallow tray integrated into the lid, seatback pockets behind the front row, and an overhead console with sunglasses storage.
The only available Land Cruiser model is fully loaded with features, starting with a tilt-and-slide moonroof equipped as standard. Four-zone automatic climate control keeps the cabin comfortable, with numerous vents and temperature controls in both the front and rear. An enhanced multi-terrain monitor enables the front, side or rear view of the vehicle to assist with safety and driving functionality, together with an integrated backup camera with dynamic guidelines. The Land Cruiser also comes equipped with adaptive cruise control and the Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver aids. Wireless charging is included, and the perforated leather seats are heated and ventilated up front. A heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel with wood-grain inlay offers controls for the audio system and cruise controls, while entry to the cabin is by means of a smart key with proximity entry on all doors and liftgate. The auto-dimming rearview mirror and extendable sun visors are additional thoughtful touches.
Infotainment by means of Entune Premium Audio offers a 14-speaker JBL sound system with a subwoofer and amplifier, through which Satellite/High definition radio, CD, Bluetooth or an iPod can be streamed. The nine-inch touchscreen offers high-resolution infographics and is split-screen compatible with an intuitive and user-friendly system, that scores quite highly among rivals. Advanced voice recognition and hands-free phone connectivity are standard, and while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not included, Siri Eyes Free is. Integrated navigation and the Entune App suite are installed, and the Land Cruiser offers two power outlets for devices in the front, and one 120V AC power outlet in the rear. An optional rear-seat DVD entertainment system can also be added.
Two recalls are noted for the 2019 Land Cruiser, the first of which pertains to text on the load capacity warning label that may rub off, and the second relating to the seat belt tension sensor wire harness that may wear out over time and deactivate the front passenger airbags. The JD Power predicted reliability score indicates that the Land Cruiser is better than most, earning a four-out-of-five rating. A three-year/36,000 mile full warranty is provided, as well as a five-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty and five-year/unlimited mile corrosion warranty. A two-year/unlimited mile roadside assistance plan is included as well. Crucially, among buyers, there have been almost no complaints in recent years, and Land Cruisers are known to survive the toughest conditions for years.
There are no available crash test results from the NHTSA or the IIHS for the 2019 Land Cruiser, nor are there scores from previous year models to go by. However, the Land Cruiser is released with Toyota Safety Sense, StarSense, ten airbags, and numerous passive safety features.
The onboard Safety Sense system includes pre-collision warnings with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with sway warning, automatic high beams and dynamic radar cruise control. Additionally, the Star Safety system is equipped, which focuses on vehicle stability control, active traction control, multi-terrain monitor, anti-lock brake system, electronic braking, and brake assist with smart stop technology. Ten airbags are present, including second-row seat-mounted airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, and side curtain airbags.
Front and rear parking assist, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and hill start assist control are also equipped. When hooked to a trailer, trailer-sway control provides additional safety.
Although the Land Cruiser presents itself with an almost retro-kind of glory - celebrating an illustrious heritage of capability - the answer to the question still remains a resounding yes, a good car it is indeed. Although it may be a fuel-hungry SUV with a less luxurious cabin than its Lexus counterpart, the positives simply outweigh the negatives when it comes to this old-school off-roading legend, and with only a few hiccups, it still provides ample power, a sublime ride and a comfortable cabin - both on, and off, the asphalt. IntelliChoice awarded the Land Cruiser two awards for Maintenance Costs and Retained Value in the Luxury Utility segment for 2019. Although the Lexus offers a more refined interior, and the Mercedes a more spacious third row (and better fuel economy), neither are any match for the off-roading capacity and fabled durability which the Land Cruiser has to offer. You buy the Land Cruiser knowing that you’ll likely expire long before it does, and in full knowledge of the fact that there are compromises made for the sake of capability. If you’re in search of adventure off the beaten path in comfort and style, the nostalgia of the Land Cruiser’s go-anywhere heritage is hard to beat.
With an MSRP of $85,165, excluding destination charges to the tune of $1,295, the Land Cruiser is more expensive than the entry-level Mercedes GLS by a good $15,000, however, the GLS can easily cost up to $125,000 or more. In startling contrast, the Lexus LX 570 costs just a bit more than the Land Cruiser, while offering only a cushier cabin for the price. On the whole, there is nothing exceptional or outrageous about the pricing of the 2019 Land Cruiser considering the specification and capability it offers.
Only one fully-loaded variant exists in the 2019 Land Cruiser range, powered by a 5.7-liter V8 engine that produces an impressive 381 hp, in order to tow trailers or boats in excess of 8,000 lbs. Paired to an eight-speed automatic, and featuring permanent four-wheel-drive, the Land Cruiser is also equipped with kinetic dynamic suspension systems and low-speed cruise control to fully facilitate off-roading adventures.
With other standard features including a power sunroof, four-zone climate control, and various surround-view cameras, this SUV offers a comfortable cabin, kitted out with perforated leather seats with heating and ventilation on the front items, along with a heated steering wheel. The Toyota Safety Sense driver aid bundle includes pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. From an infotainment perspective, it also features a brilliant and easy-to-use infotainment system, together with a high-resolution nine-inch touchscreen and premium JBL audio system, but notably makes do without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto functionality.
Only one option package exists to upgrade specification on the already fully-loaded Land Cruiser: a rear-seat DVD entertainment system that can be bought at cost of $2,200. The system includes two individual 11.6-inch monitors with RCA jacks, HDMI input, remote and two sets of wireless headphones. Aside from this, a range of cosmetic accessories is available.
As there is only one model available, the buyer’s only questions should be, what color should you choose, and do you want the additional DVD entertainment system in the back? While the answer to the first question is relatively simple (go ahead with the Blizzard Pearl), there’s not much need for an additional $2,200 spent on DVD entertainment; most youngsters these days have tablets or phones to keep them occupied, and a universal tablet holder is an available accessory for an additional $99 - keep the cash in hand, you may need it for fuel costs!
Sharing a platform and powertrain makes the Land Cruiser and the Lexus LX not so distant relatives, and as such, the comparison is significant: similarities are numerous - fuel consumption, engine output, and driving experience are almost identical. However, the Lexus offers a more opulent cabin, better interior finishes, and a few more convenience features than what the Land Cruiser has available. On the other hand, the pure muscle and brawn built into the Land Cruiser, together with its ability to take on cratered terrain and still maintain its composure, stands out. The tiebreaker depends on the buyer and what it is they want from their SUV. For luxury and elegance, go with the Lexus. For off-roading prowess, only the Land Cruiser will satisfy.
The Mercedes GLS range offers three models with vastly different price tags - starting at $71,145 for the entry-level model, with a mid-range variant at $96,745 and a fully-loaded trim exceeding the $127,000 mark. The entry spec derivative is a good comparison as it offers a more spacious cabin which is also very refined, with a more concise and easier-to-handle driving style. The status of the German brand also adds a certain pizazz to this SUV, which seems almost too genteel to think of on rougher terrain; taking it off-road seems almost sacrilegious. The Land Cruiser is a much better option if the buyer is adventurous and prone to hitting off-road trails. The Mercedes remains the better city-centric vehicle and sophisticated family carrier, even at the entry point to the range.