2008 Toyota Land CruiserPosted on October 15th, 2007
By Jim Woodman
If your idea of an active lifestyle means hitting the trails and getting away from urban sprawl, you’ll certainly want a vehicle that takes you just about anywhere imaginable.
Today there are so many four-wheel drive options and vehicles for off-road enthusiasts that it leaves many of us overwhelmed with what works or doesn’t. And the reality is that very few people actually use their vehicles for hardcore off-roading.
Toyota’s banking on the fact its new seventh generation Land Cruiser, which hits dealerships in October 2007, will turn a few heads in the off-roading community.
There’s no question a big part of Toyota’s heritage is the Land Cruiser. While Land Cruiser leads the SUV markets in Saudi Arabia, Australia and Russia – and 130,000 are sold worldwide – 2007 U.S. sales will only be about 3,000 vehicles. In contrast, Toyota will sell about 30,000 Sequoias in the U.S. this year.
The takeaway here is that Americans love their big SUVs and Land Cruiser is priced high enough that many would-be buyers end up jumping over to Lexus, specifically the LX470.
For starters, Toyota has introduced an all-new 5.7 liter V8 which delivers 90 more horses than the 2006 4.7 V8 while consuming less fuel than its predecessor – 13/18 as opposed to 12/15 city/highway. Nothing wrong with an engine that generates more power on less fuel. Toyota accomplishes this with a bunch of electronic wizardry, within its 6-speed automatic transmission, that’s probably more interesting to the tech geeks.
Of course the biggest reason you’ll want a Land Cruiser is for its off-roading prowess. Last week, I had the opportunity to join a group of journalists in Big Sky, Montana to drive the Land Cruiser over very rugged and challenging terrain. In fact, had you told me these vehicles could make it through some of the black diamond ski runs – with extra deep ditches and challenges thrown in – I wouldn’t have believed you had I not experienced it myself.
The 2008 Land Cruiser features a new CRAWL mode which is essentially a cruise control for off-road driving. With the transfer case shifted into low range, CRAWL controls engine speed and output, along with braking force, to propel the vehicle in forward or reverse at one of three low speed settings. I tried this over some of the most challenging terrain and all I had to do was steer the vehicle and CRAWL handled the rest. If I ever felt stuck, I just shimmied the steering wheel back and forth a couple times and the vehicle did the rest.
Even descending very steep, black diamond ski courses, on a surface of large rocks, CRAWL applied just the right amount of braking pressure and power to the appropriate wheels to safely get me down the mountain. The cool thing, just like regular cruise control, is that you can override it at any time.
There’s also a Downhill Assist Control, which is part of CRAWL, and a Hill-start Assist Control, which is totally automatic. So, for example, if you’re on a real steep ascent and you release the brake before applying the throttle, you won’t slide backwards down the hill. The brake will automatically engage to keep you in place.
While in Montana, I overheard one of the journalists say “this CRAWL features makes off-road driving idiot proof.” Of course, we all know what certain people might try to do with a vehicle so I won’t ever say anything is idiot proof. It’s always possible to steer yourself right off a cliff. That said, after about 20 minutes on challenging terrain, my off-road driving confidence had risen to the point I would’ve driven my Land Cruiser into places that only an idiot might venture.
Hmmm. This is an interesting thought. Could a vehicle this safe actually make people over-confident and, ironically, get them into trouble? I don’t think so but it’s certainly a great topic for a future story.
Chassis and Suspension
Instead of using a unitized body – like most car-based four-wheel drive vehicles – Toyota elected to maintain a separate frame and body for the 2008 Land Cruiser, which is now dubbed the 200 Series. Engineers determined that in order to strengthen a unitized body enough to handle the stress of rough roads and high-capacity towing, they would’ve increased the body’s weight and mass so much that it would completely negate the lightweight character usually gained by unitization.
The new Land Cruiser has a new double-wishbone independent front suspension and four-link rear suspension with a solid live axle. Tubular gas-pressure shock absorbers, a hollow stabilizer bar and coil springs all complement each other to deliver exceptional off-road stability while maintaining a high-level of on-road comfort. I was amazed to see how much each wheel could travel up or down to accommodate big bumps and ditches.
Towing capacity is now 8,500 pounds, up from the 6,000 pound limit on the 2006 model and way over our 3,500 pound criterion for ALV towing consideration.
Paved Road Impressions
Since the Land Cruiser is a full-time four-wheel drive vehicle, your on-road driving choice is simply high or low range. Driving in high on paved roads felt like I was driving a much smaller vehicle. It didn’t feel top heavy like many of the big trucks or SUVs when hugging mountain roads.
My Land Cruiser was outfitted with a Navigation System and DVD Entertainment System with a wide 9-inch screen. Because I was driving on so many remote roads, many were not mapped and I found it almost impossible to find my way back to the hotel via its suggested route.
Basically, the Navigation System would tell me that the guidance would start once I got to the suggested route. Only problem was that I couldn’t see where the route started. I’ve always thought a directional arrow or shaded outline should at least show you what direction to head in order to pick up the route in the event your route’s not even on the screen.
Inside the Land Cruiser is all luxury. To be honest, if you get all the upgrades and leather packages I’m not sure why you really need the Lexus. A note to Lexus owners: a LX 570 will be out in a few months that mirrors this latest Land Cruiser.
A big push-button to the left of the steering wheel starts the vehicle – one only need have the key fob in their pocket. Smart keyless entry is also accomplished in this manner, meaning you literally never need to take the key out of your pocket.
A new air conditioning system – and I’m not making this up – has 28 air vents and four independent climate control zones. Yes, Toyota realizes there can be a big difference if you’re a passenger or driver exposed to a bright sun and may want cooler air than those on the shady side. Allergy sufferers will be glad to know there’s also a micro-dust and pollen filter coupled with a seven-level blower control.
The instrument panel features bright Optitron gauges with clear turquoise illumination. There’s also a multi-informational display that shows gear selection, odometer, trip meter, fuel consumption, cruising range and tire pressure for all tires, including the spare.
A JBL premium audio system with an in-dash six CD/DVD changer and 14 speakers delivers exceptional sound and clarity. My vehicle was also outfitted with a back-up camera, second -row seated seats, headlamp washers and Bluetooth(r) controls.
Safety Features Galore
Safety-wise this Land Cruiser is loaded. A new four-wheel multi-terrain anti-lock braking system selects the most optimal ABS profile for on-and off-road driving surfaces. Electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, traction control and stability control are all standard.
If you like airbags, Land Cruiser sorts you out with ten – the most found in any Toyota vehicle. I won’t go into all of them, but suffice to say they’re everywhere including separate knee airbags for the driver and front passenger.
At a suggested base retail price of $63,200 it’s easy to understand why more people aren’t buying Land Cruisers. At that price, most tend to migrate up to luxury brands. But the seventh generation is going to turn some heads, especially for those that fancy themselves as off-road enthusiasts.
Toyota believes they’re going to wow a lot of the Land Cruiser faithful and are predicting their sales to jump to 8,000 units for 2008. While this may seem lofty, given their ’07 numbers, I’m not inclined to disagree after getting an outstanding demonstration of what this vehicle can accomplish.
Base price: $63,200
Price as tested: $70,445
Horsepower: 381 Hp @ 5600 r.p.m.
Torque: 401 lbs.-ft. @ 3,600 r.p.m.
0 to 60: N/A
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Yes
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 13/18 m.p.g. city/highway
Comments: Price as tested reflects a fully-loaded vehicle with Navigation, DVD Entertainment, cooler box, rear spoiler — basically all the bells and whistles. Price doesn’t include a $685 destination fee.
One response to “2008 Toyota Land Cruiser”
buy a toyota after getting mine back to the garage 2 times.
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