2024 Toyota Land Cruiser pivots to retro charm

By automotive-mag.com 18 Min Read

Simpler, more honest, smaller, more efficient, and less expensive—these things aren’t associated often with the introduction of a new vehicle. In the case of the 2024 Toyota Land Cruiser, these descriptors define the reintroduction of the iconic off-roader.

It’s also less powerful, though it weighs less, but in sum it’s also less capable at some of the things Land Cruiser shoppers have always wanted.

After a three-year hiatus, those shoppers are about to find a Land Cruiser that’s almost nothing like its predecessor. That’s because outside the U.S., this isn’t the Land Cruiser everyone else gets: the 300 Series Land Cruiser. It’s the Land Cruiser Prado to the rest of the world, and it’s offered here to reserve the biggest, most capable, and most expensive SUV for the Lexus lineup in the form of the LX.

With the U.S. Land Cruiser, Toyota set its sights on the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and Ford Bronco. And it hopes the iconic name can justify its downsized ambitions.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

Toyota Land Cruiser goes hybrid

The shrinkage starts with the powertrain. The old butter-smooth, gas-guzzling V-8 has died. Every Land Cruiser now taps a 2.4-liter turbo-4, with a 48-hp electric motor sandwiched in its 8-speed automatic transmission. Combined power output checks in at 326 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. That’s 55 hp less, but 64 lb-ft more torque, than the outgoing Land Cruiser’s 5.7-liter V-8. 

It balances out. The new Land Cruiser checks in at 5,037 pounds. Relatively speaking, it’s the Mounjaro of Toyota SUVs, since it’s lost 776 pounds.

As a result, gas mileage has soared. The outgoing Land Cruiser posted abysmal EPA fuel economy ratings of 13 mpg city, 17 highway, 14 combined. The 2024 Land Cruiser’s hybrid powertrain on paper is much more efficient with ratings of 22 mpg city, 25 highway, and 23 combined. In our brief exposure on the road, it won’t come near those numbers, but it’ll improve.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

Toyota Land Cruiser: two steps forward, one step back on capability

Toyota has scaled back the Land Cruiser’s extravagant off-road hardware—again, so Lexus can thrive. As a result, it’s no longer the towing expert it once was, but off-road talent has endured.

Full-time four-wheel drive with a 2-speed electronically controlled transfer case comes standard on the new Land Cruiser, as do center and rear locking differentials. No Toyota on the TNGA-F platform (of which the Land Cruiser shares with the Lexus GX, Toyota Tacoma, 4Runner, Tundra, and Sequoia) offers a front locker; the chief engineer for the Lexus GX said “we don’t need it.” Maybe, but a Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler can be had with one. 

An electronically controlled disconnecting sway bar up front that extends wheel travel is standard on the mid-trim Land Cruiser and First Edition grades, but it can not be optioned on the base 1958 trim. The outgoing Land Cruiser’s KDSS (hydraulically controlled disconnecting sway bar system) isn’t even an option.

Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select system features off-road modes for various situations and like other modern vehicles can now be used in both 4Hi and 4Lo. The crawl control system, which works like off-road cruise control, is much more refined than Toyota’s previous system, which made loud clunks and thunks.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

The hardware and software are competitive and should be plenty to get people where they want to go, but the Land Cruiser is a mixed bag in terms of raw capability numbers. The new Land Cruiser checks in with an approach angle of up to 32.0 degrees, a max departure angle of 22.0 degrees, and a breakover angle of 23.0 degrees with 8.7 inches of ground clearance (note these approach, departure, and breakover ratings have changed since the Land Cruiser’s debut in August). The outgoing Land Cruiser bestest or matched nearly every single one of those numbers with an approach angle of 32.0 degrees, a departure angle of 24.0 degrees, and a breakover angle of 21.0 degrees, with 8.9 inches of ground clearance.

Now rated to tow 6,000 pounds, the Land Cruiser will haul less than the old model, which was rated to tow 8,100 pounds. Payload capacity has gone up 118 pounds, to 1,688 pounds. Choose your adventure scenario wisely.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

Toyota Land Cruiser shifts the driving experience

I drove the Land Cruiser on a moderately challenging short off-road course set up by Toyota on the California side of the Mexican border near Tecate, then briefly on the kinked roads nearby. There’s much to recommend, but some big caveats, too—not to mention the non-spec off-road tires fitted to one Land Cruiser I looped on the dirt and pavement. 

Pushing the start button brought the powertrain to life, but the old V-8’s massive gulping of fresh air that sounded like a dragon breathing is gone. Replaced by the faint noise of an inline-4 coming to life. At idle the deep burble’s been replaced by a noise that one associates with an economy car like a Corolla. It doesn’t sound tough, but neither does a Bronco or Wrangler with the turbo-4.

Off-road the Land Cruiser didn’t break a sweat on the rather tame rock-strewn and undulating terrain. The hardware seems far more capable than we were allowed to experience during our brief first encounter. The turbo-4 gets augmented by the instant power delivery from the electric motor at take off. Toyota’s perfected hybrid powertrain blending and the story’s the same here with smooth transitions and delivery while clambing over obstacles or up hills at low speeds. 

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

With 8.7 inches of ground clearance the course we were on didn’t present many obstacles the Land Cruiser couldn’t clear easily, but all Land Cruisers come standard with skid plates for the engine, transmission and transfer case. The standard mud flaps were at risk of being ripped off a few times as I heard them scrape the earth. They would be the first thing an owner planning to take this Toyota off-road needs to remove.

When I hit the pavement, the turbo whoosh could be heard every time I let up from the throttle. Though I matted the accelerator pedal, acceleration on the road felt underwhelming. While the Land Cruiser feels at home at low-speed crawling off-road with plenty of low-end torque, there’s no wallop of power on the highway, despite the 465 lb-ft torque rating. Other Hybrid Max-badged Toyotas, such as the Toyota Tundra pickup truck, have the same mid feel. A turbo-6 Ford Bronco Wildtrak rips harder than the Land Cruiser.

The 8-speed automatic transmission delivers quick shifts, but it’s a little more indecisive than the 10-speed found in the GX.

It takes seconds going down the road on pavement to understand the Land Cruiser’s place in the Bronco/Wrangler conversation. The brick-like shape, upright windshield, and rectangular mirrors induce the expected wind noise at speed, but it’s not as loud as those competitors. That comes down to the fact the Land Cruiser’s roof and doors can’t come off. If they do, that’s a story I want to hear. 

Vision to the front and sides is terrific thanks to the tall upright glass and a mostly flat hood. This doesn’t have a short windshield or puffed-up hood for a macho feel like other Toyota trucks and SUVs. That hood does have power bulges on each side, but they almost act like markers that help place the wheels while off-road. 

Rearward vision suffers more than expected, despite the large square rear glass. The rear seat back comes up high enough that it covers the lower third of the rear glass, which inherently shortens the outward visibility. 

The soft damping tune that pays dividends off-road while crawling over undulating rocks turns into a ride that’s not quite settled on the pavement. I felt vibrations and constant small movements that the Land Cruiser’s chassis and dampers simply didn’t know what to do with.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

Toyota Land Cruiser sports retro flair

The proportions of the Land Cruiser have shifted dramatically. It’s now 4.4 inches narrower and 1.2 inches shorter than the outgoing 200 Series, which gives this SUV a narrow, brick-like appearance. Base 1958 and top-spec First Edition models sport round headlights as a nod to the 1960s 40 Series models. The nicer Land Cruiser mid-trim model sports rectangular LED headlights with Chiclet-like diodes as a nod to the 1980s 60 Series Land Cruisers. Vertical rectangular taillights harken back to the FJ60s. The two-tone paint, especially with the white roof option, really sells the vibe. Small by today’s standards, 18-inch wheels can be upgraded to 20-inchers on the Land Cruiser trim.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

Inside the upright dashboard is like the GX and Mercedes-Benz G-Class; it’s not deep and is mounted close to the windshield. The controls will be familiar to anyone that’s been in a recent Toyota with lots of buttons and knobs, including for the climate control and volume control. An 8.0-inch touchscreen is standard along with a 7.0-inch digital gauge cluster on 1958 models. The mid-trim Land Cruiser and First Edition models sport a larger 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and 12.3-inch touchscreen with the familiar Toyota interface. Every Land Cruiser features wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. That interface can’t split screen—hope you like a lot of CarPlay and or a huge map—and on the smaller 8.0-inch screen everything feels compressed. This is because Toyota’s interface locks some native touch commands on the left rail, making the usable screen smaller.

The front seats are comfortable and supportive, but not as wide or firm as the outgoing Land Cruiser’s top-notch thrones. Base 1958 models sport cloth upholstery that has a tweed-like look and feel right out of an ‘80s J60 Land Cruiser. Hard plastic fills the interior from the door panels to the dashboard making wipedown and cleanup easier, but it looks, and feels, cheap in a vehicle that costs $57,345 including the $1,395 destination charge. The mid-spec Land Cruiser grade costs $63,445 and swaps the hard plastics for soft-touch materials on the front door uppers and dashboard, though it’s porous and I imagine it’ll be a pain to wipe down. The mid-level trim also ditches the rad tweed-like cloth upholstery for leather-trimmed seats that doesn’t feel as high in quality as the hides found in the outgoing Land Cruiser. 

When you close the door on the Land Cruiser, any of them, there’s a hollow tinny sound that inspires no confidence or strength.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

At 5-foot-10 I could comfortably sit behind myself, but there’s a stadium seating layout so the rear passengers are looking up and over those in the front seat. The seating position feels high and translates to barely enough headroom for 6-footers in back despite the scalloped headliner. The seat backs manually recline. When it comes time to increase cargo space the seats fold flat. There’s no third row in the U.S., but other markets do get a third row. Toyota didn’t bother redesigning the rear cargo area, so there are armrests and cup holders back there as if a third row exists. The liftover height is too high because the load floor is raised to accommodate the hybrid powertrain’s battery pack under the rear floor. To ensure the load floor was flat a plastic compartment under a false floor is installed near the tailgate as a cheat like GM did with the previous generation Tahoe and Yukons. 

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

The square rear window electronically pops open independent of the tailgate for easy access into the cargo area when it’s full, but it’s a high reach over the tailgate into the rear end this way. The tailgate is tall thanks to the fact it runs down into the bumper and the Land Cruiser checks in at 76.1-inches high overall. That tailgate will 100% hit my garage door when opened. While the base 1958 model doesn’t really have a solution since it has a manual tailgate, the mid-spec Land Cruiser trim has a power-operated tailgate that you can program to not go all the way up.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

The Land Cruiser became less expensive, but not a value

The outgoing Land Cruiser ended its life costing $86,910. It was the definition of stealth wealth, because buyers could bury their money since the neighbors would have no clue it’s anything other than a weird-looking Highlander. Comparatively speaking, at $57,345 the new Land Cruiser is a downright bargain, if it’s style alone on the docket. But given its downscaled ambition, it’s a lot of coin for an 8.0-inch touchscreen, cloth seats, and all-season tires. The mid-spec Land Cruiser grade costs $63,445 while the first models off the boat, the 5,000 limited-edition First Edition Land Cruisers will cost an unreasonable $76,445.

A four-door Jeep Wrangler Rubicon or Ford Bronco Badlands both cost more than $53,000. The far nicer Lexus GX 550 Overtrail, which has a twin-turbo V-6 powertrain, costs over $70,000. The plug-in hybrid Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk costs at least $68,000, which is astonishing. The 2025 Toyota 4Runner sits waiting in the wings arriving this fall with Trailhunter and TRD Pro models that sport the same powertrain and nearly the same off-road hardware as the Land Cruiser.

The Land Cruiser feels, and looks, as if it’s gone back to its roots while adopting a modern powertrain and electronics. But it carries an all too modern price and dips in its core-mission abilities. 

How far can the nameplate and retro design take the new, less capable Land Cruiser? We’re about to find out.

Toyota paid for travel, lodging, and I got sunburned to bring you this firsthand report.

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