+ Proper off-road credentials
+ Total reliability
+ New infotainment system
- Body roll when cornering
- Engine refinement
- Transmission refinement
Verdict: If you need a car that can carry seven (or five plus luggage) with absolute reliability and ability off-road there really is only a Toyota Land Cruiser.
The Toyota Land Cruiser is part of a dying breed of full-fat off-roaders capable of carrying a family and luggage anywhere, even if there aren’t any roads. In this shrinking group the Land Crusier is up against the Land Rover Discovery and Defender, Mercedes G-class and Jeep Wrangler and that’s about it.
Toyota’s Land Cruiser hasn’t really changed in terms of exterior looks for more than 10 years. The latest upgrades which came into production at the end of 2020 are limited on the exterior to a Black Pack which colour-codes the door mirrors and rear light surrounds, unsurprisingly, black. The rest of the car retains its tough, rugged look with imposing grille and chunky overall look.
Climb inside (and you really do step up into a Land Cruiser) and you’ll find the dash is properly old-school with buttons for every function from the lane-keeping and fog lights, through to the seriously capable off-road system.
One of the biggest changes for the 2021 Land Cruiser is addition of a new infotainment system operated through an eight-inch touchscreen and featuring wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s a hugely welcome upgrade and one that integrates well with the car’s standard satellite navigation and stereo thanks to a very logical layout and operating system.
The Land Cruiser can be ordered in three or five-door forms and with five or (in five-door form the option of) seven seats. In the seven-seat form, tested here, there’s plenty of room for five adults in the first two rows of seats and just about enough room for two more adults in the last row.
However, with the third row of seats up (they’re powered in the tops-spec Invincible trim) there’s slightly less space than you’d get in a Toyota Aygo at 120 litres.
Use the Land Cruiser as a five-seater – as most would and there’s a whopping 640-litres of room in the boot.
Power for the Land Cruiser comes from a new four-cylinder turbodiesel engine which produces 204hp (up 27hp) and 500Nm (up 50Nm) of torque. While there’s nothing special about the power figure, there is a serious amount of torque, which is just what you need for towing and off-roading.
However, while inside the Land Cruiser you’ll not really hear much from the diesel engine, if you’re stood outside, there’s no disguising the loud engine note.
The driving experience can be summed up with two words; easy and comfortable.
The six-speed automatic gearbox is wonderfully old-school too. Just put it in drive and go, even if it’s not the smoothest shifting box. There is a ‘sport’ mode, but that’s a misnomer as there’s nothing sporty about it. This mode is far more useful as a way of manually selecting and holding gears when you’re off-road.
Tremendously good off-road and soft and comfy on-road. There's nothing complicated about the way the Land Cruiser is operated. It’s a big, reliable, comfy and easy to use 4x4 that’s also really good value against its rivals.
Price from: £42,405, Engine: 2.8-litre 4-cylinder, Power: 204hp, Torque: 500Nm, 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds, Top speed: 108mph
Now featuring Toyota’s latest infotainment system the Land Cruiser not only gains Apple CarPlay but wireless Apple CarPlay. What’s more the 8-inch screen also includes physical buttons to the side which makes switching between functions easier than many touch-screen only offerings from rivals.
There are also buttons for just about every other function in the car. And if, as I suspect most Land Cruiser buyers are, you’re a fan of buttons rather than touch-screen systems then this interior will please. However, the opposite is also true.
While it takes a while to get used to the position of every button, it’s also reassuring – particularly for the off-road functions – that if you want to engage something you just press a button, rather than having to find that control in a menu system.
And while the build quality feels extremely solid, the materials and interior design are showing their age.
The five-door Land Cruiser is, and has always been, all about practicality. There is loads of rear leg room for adults in the second row of seats and it’s not too cramped if you use the third row either.
However, most will use the big off-roader as a five seater with the third row folded to give more than enough luggage space for everyday use.
Toyota uses a side-hinged boot on the Land Cruiser, but to solve the issue of the large boot door being tricky to open in tight parking spaces, the rear window can be opened so you can easily drop your shopping in.
There’s only one engine and one gearbox available with the Toyota Land Cruiser, a new 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel producing an okay 204hp but a very useful 500Nm of torque.
It may be a bit clattery when starting from cold, but almost all of this noise and harshness is insulated from the cabin.
The engine is also fractionally more efficient than the previous version so is less expensive to tax.
The six-speed automatic isn’t quite up to the best in modern standards. It’s smooth enough when changing gear on the move but in stop-start traffic it can be a little jolty as it engages.
Over almost 1,000 miles in the Land Cruiser we saw an average of 29.4mpg which is also the official fuel figure.
The suspension is set to soft, so expect plenty of body roll in tighter corners, but that’s not what the Land Cruiser is about.
Having completed a nine-hour journey (thanks to Bank Holiday traffic) in a fully loaded Land Cruiser and come away with zero back-ache and felling far more ‘alive’ than I had any right to expect, this soft ride is just about perfect for a car of this type.
It’s this overall character that defines the way the car not only drives, but the way you’ll want to drive it – in a relaxed manner.
Off-road, the Land Cruiser is similarly easy to operate. The buttons on the dash make it easy to select the type of off-roading you’ll be doing and for the record the car has a wading depth of 700mm, a climb angle of 42 degrees and an approach angle of 31 degrees. It’ll also tow a braked trailer of up to 3,000kg.