To some off-roaders Toyota’s Land Cruiser ranks right up there with Jeep’s Wrangler as an icon, the ultimate all-star of mucking around in mud and slop.
Certainly it will do all that with ease, yet like many Land Rovers before it, the Land Cruiser is an expensive luxury beast that only upscale off-roaders can approach. Case in point, the 2021 Land Cruiser Heritage Edition in Midnight Black. (Not sure it’s any darker than just black.)
This week’s test truck, and yes it’s body-on-frame, not unibody like a crossover or car, was pricey.
It lists at $89,210 including delivery, and thankfully that’s all-inclusive. The Heritage Edition is indeed the top of the line, but there’s only one other model, the base if you will. It lists at $86,780 with just one option package that puts it at, well, basically the Heritage Edition price.
For the record, the Heritage version, which was also offered in 2020, boasts fancy bronze BBS wheels, a black grille and retro vintage badging, which I liked. Also, the stitching on the plush leather seats is a bronze shade. Cool!
Cool too because when car makers start calling models “Heritage” editions and such, it usually means their production days are drawing to a close. Certainly Toyota already has a more modern (inside and out) Sequoia SUV that is actually longer and roomier, so the need for the Land Cruiser truck is waning.
But if you love retro and off-roading and have cash to burn, consider it as the Land Cruiser is a delight to drive. Trucks usually aren’t this refined, but they often do burn a lot of gas and the Cruiser does that like a supertanker delivering its crude to a refinery. I got 13.3 miles per gallon in an even mix of city and highway driving. The EPA isn’t much more optimistic, rating the truck at 13 mpg city and 17 mpg highway. But, if you can afford the entry price, fuel cost will likely be inconsequential.
Aside from that Mrs. Lincoln … the Land Cruiser is authoritative on the road. Its 5.7-liter V8 is strong like bull, pumping 381 horsepower and touting a torque rating of 401 lb.-ft. Channeled through a fine 8-speed automatic tranny, the Cruiser is actually quick on its wheels despite weighing 5,715 lbs.
If you plan to tow with your 4-wheeler, it’ll tug along 8,100 lbs. without complaint.
Speaking of 4-wheeling, there’s a knob on the console to flip between 4-wheel high (normal) and low, plus another knob to adjust for crawling on rocks or mountain climbing too. Some trucks now use buttons for this, but a dial is equally easy.
For those keeping track of features, the Land Cruiser has a locking limited-slip center differential and a kinetic dynamic suspension system. Both help with off-roading, but the suspension also provides a luxury SUV ride on city streets, meaning it can take on the craters we lovingly call pot holes and not shake up the passengers.
Plus the Toyota was excellent in the snow, of which we had PLENTY when I drove this one. I didn’t have to go wading off into the brush to know that my traction was primo. In fact, in my slalom testing on abandoned snowy side streets, where I’ll turn the steering wheel back and forth to see how much tail wagging a vehicle will do, this one did none. Bravo.
Handling was good too for a truck. I felt there was good feedback in the wheel, but it wasn’t overly heavy, so easy to drive and control. I had no lane wander on the freeway, which sometimes is an issue with trucks.
Inside the black truck was, surprise, a black leather interior that feels as luxurious as a Lexus or other top-end brand. Seats are a well-cushioned black leather, moderately supportive and power of course. There are three driver seat memory settings too.
Dash is black and textured with a thin fake wood trim on it and the doors, the wood edged in satin chrome, as is the console and door pulls. The look is elegant, but serious.
You get all the luxury and safety bells and whistles too, a heated steering wheel and heated and cooled front seats. Rear outer seats are heated and there’s a power tilt/telescope steering wheel.
Mid dash is a large infotainment screen that is incredibly easy to use with volume and tuning knobs, plus large buttons. The dual front climate controls also are large and simple and the rear seat has its own climate system.
Overhead was a moderate-sized sunroof, not the usual panoramic you get in most crossovers these days. Rear seats are roomy and comfy and this version will seat five adults. A third row seat is available, but my experience is that seat is not terribly roomy. Judge for yourself.
Good news in back as there is oodles of cargo room behind the second row seat, 82.5 cu.ft., if you need a number. Plus the Heritage model comes with a huge cargo rack on the roof for when you’re headed to the African plains on safari. The bad news? That rack creates quite a bit of wind noise when driving on the highway.
I’m also not a fan of the split tailgate, although this one works fine. With the hatch portion being powered and the lower a soft open model that doesn’t clunk down like an old pickup’s gate. The lower portion also is short enough that you can easily load groceries by springing just the hatch.
Safety equipment is well represented here too with Toyota Safety Sense, including blind-spot warning, a pre-collision system with braking and pedestrian warning, smart cruise control, lane departure alert and automatic high beams. There’s also rear cross-traffic alert and parking sensors front and rear, a near necessity on a large vehicle.
A-pillars are fairly thick here too and the Land Cruiser has a monster step-up height, nearly two feet. It’s tall enough that without the big A-pillar handles few people under 6-foot-4 could easily get into the vehicle. I’d advise running boards unless you’re an Olympic hurdler.
So the Land Cruiser is a mix of fine performance, rock-solid off-roading ability, and a price tag that indicates you’ll be sniffing some rarified air. But it’s luxurious inside, an easy driver, and makes you feel like you’re king of the road, assuming you can afford the gas.
FAST STATS: 2021 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition
Hits: Bigtime power and off-roading ability, good ride, easy handling and luxury interior. Heated wheel and heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, big info screen, sunroof, power tilt/telescope wheel and oodles of cargo room, plus huge roof rack. Full safety equipment lineup.
Misses: Considerable wind noise from roof rack, huge step-up height, horrible mpg and still not a fan of split tailgate.
Made in: Aichi, Japan
Engine: 5.7-liter V8, 381 hp
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 5,715 lbs.
Wheelbase: 112.2 in.
Length: 194.9 in.
Cargo: 82.5 cu.ft.
Tow: 8,100 lbs.
MPG: 13.3 (tested)
Base Price: $89.210 (includes delivery)
Major Options: None
Test vehicle: $89,210
Sources: Toyota, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage