The ship of the desert – the Toyota Land Cruiser VXR – makes its way to the crankandpiston.com long term fleet
|362bhp @ 5600rpm
|391lb @ 3200rpm
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|Costs this month:
|L/100km this month:
My favourite part of the new Toyota Land Cruiser might surprise you. It’s not the cavernous cabin space, the split tailgate, nor even the cooler in the centre armrest (you’d be amazed what small trifling things impress me). No, it’s actually the ‘power bulges’ on top of the bonnet, part of a complete refresh of the Land Cruiser for 2016 onwards that saw everything from the A-pillar forwards chucked in the bin and completely re-designed. The new face, part of a new design signature for the Japanese marque, we now have a revised bumper, an even wider hexagonal front grille, slicker headlights and embossed Land Cruiser logos, each angled and menacingly sculpted. It looks great.
But it’s the power bulge that impress me most, rising as they do out of the bonnet like they’re straining to keep the 5.7-litre V8 bolted down beneath. It’s fantastically over the top, especially since these same bulges threaten to limit forward visibility for the less lofty of drivers. Yet, and this is the important bit, it adds character to what in generations past has been a rather bland SUV, and while many of you may even now be writing angry letters and requesting my head atop a freshly sharpened skillet – “how dare he criticise the ship of the desert”, etc etc – Toyota may well agree with me on this.
Though the Land Cruiser has been a consistently strong global seller since its ‘BJ’ arrival in 1951, Toyota has worked painstakingly to lift public perception away from the utilitarian go-anywhere reputation it once had to something ultimately more luxurious, more ‘ultimate’ (urgh). The fresh face is a good start, as is the full fat cabin design, complete with an updated infotainment system, ‘deep wood’ trim, folding third row seating, and Terra – sorry, brown – semi-aniline leather upholstery. Bear in mind exterior parking cameras, a powered tailgate, larger 20in wheels, and a brace of additional driver assistance systems among others are also lumped on top of an admittedly fully loaded cabin in our top of the range VXR model, though this does add an extra $20K on top of the $71,800 asking price for the base EXR example. We’ll see how indispensable these extra prove in the upcoming weeks.
Nor does that mean that Toyota has let its biggest regional cash cow get soft with age, the ‘tough as nails’ body a combination of high-strength steel and body-on-frame construction, while newly updated approach and departure angles courtesy of revised suspension means the Land Cruiser – again, theoretically – should be a decent hauler on the rough stuff. A two-way transfer case for the ‘full-time’ 4×4 system is also available should said rough stuff put up a hearty fight.
Other big news concerns the drivetrain, particularly the new eight-speed automatic transmission, a first for Toyota. This replaces the outgoing six-speed box in the hopes this improves both acceleration of the 3350kg lump – hey, nobody said ‘ultimate’ would be cheap and light – as well as fuel efficiency. How the 5.7-litre V8 will handle both, given that power has risen to 362bhp and 391lb ft-worth of torque is now available from much lower down the rev range, we’ll just have to wait and see over the next three months.