Return of the Land Cruiser

Andrew Court

It’s a big day for American rugged terrain drivers; the iconic Toyota Land Cruiser is coming back to our shores.

The last American market Cruiser was bloated to the point of being unrecognizable. The 2021 J200 version, fully loaded, cost almost a hundred grand. With all the trim and tech you’d expect from a Range Rover, it was more posh than purposeful. This G-Wagon wannabe was built primarily to get little Chandler to lacrosse practice all safe and comfy.

Toyota made its bones building light, super reliable, off-roaders designed for the African bush. They were so impressive we even dedicated a post to their history. Needless to say, off-road enthusiasts couldn’t afford the J200 version, yuppies preferred Lexus, and the truck was canceled. The only guy I ever knew who owned one was a Kazakh oligarch who dated my ex-sister-in-law, but that’s a story for another time.

The Japanese manufacturer was paying attention and now they’ve responded. The 2024 model is an off-road beast at a cheaper price point with quasi retro styling. The entire range has full time four wheel drive with locking center and rear differential.  It comes with fabric and manual seats alongside other basic touches affluent Connecticuters will hate. There will even be a place to plug in your fridge if you’re about that overlanding lifestyle.

Essentially what they did was take the Land Cruiser Prado, a favorite of European farmers and third world NGO workers, and bring it to the United States. Of course to do this they updated the look and made it slightly more Whole Foods parking lot appropriate. Your girl won’t mind being seen in it outside her yoga studio.

Whenever you mess with an icon, however, there are controversies. This 2024 model does away with the much loved V8 and replaces it with a hybrid four cylinder. The engine’s power consequently dipped to 325hp from the V8’s at 381. The towing capacity is down to 6,000 pounds from 8,100. There’s no solid front axle but if you need me to explain what that is to you then you probably don’t need it. All in all, they made some concessions to achieve a smoother ride and better fuel economy. For most people it’s probably worth the compromise. We’ll know more when it’s available to test drive.

Here’s the big question: should you shake 55 grand out of your piggy bank and go down to the local Toyota dealer? To be honest, I’m asking myself this question, and I hate to say it but the answer has to be no.

Like half the sorority girls on the road, I already drive a 4Runner and I don’t get why you would pay up for the Land Cruiser. The new Cruiser’s retro styling is a bit of a yawn fest, following the already worn path of the Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler to profitability. The thing I liked about past Toyotas is that they don’t go in for this sort of marketing bullshit. Also my 4Runner has a solid front axle because that’s really necessary in South Beach.

I would, however, be tempted by the Lexus version. My college roommate had a great phrase, “any damn fool can be uncomfortable” and I think that applies here. 

The 2024 GX is based on exactly the same platform but you get a twin turbo V6 and a fancy pants interior. The base price is only five grand more for the Lexus so why go with Toyota? Also, there’s  none of the cheesy retro razzmatazz and a more purposefully sleek exterior (This is obviously my opinion so no hate mail to Field Ethos). With Lexus’ new Ovetrail trim, no one is going to confuse you for a soccer mom even if you might be hooking up with one.

Now with a wish from the magic genie I’d get the 2024 updated 70 series Land Cruiser. This is not retro looking, it’s actually retro with a diesel V8 and a manual transmission. The updated version has a retouched, handsome looking front end and a few appreciated creature comforts like Apple CarPlay, better AC, and safety equipment including lane departure warning. Unfortunately for us Americans, it’s only available in the Japanese and Australian markets. With a price around $46K US,  it’s also the cheapest.

Long story short, you really can’t go wrong. Toyota makes the best trucks around and we at Field Ethos heartily endorse them. If you think you want a Land Rover Defender or Jeep Wrangler, stop, this is what you really want. In both Toyota and Lexus attire it—as said in the classic bit of copywriting—not only “gets you there, but it will also get you back.”

And if you, like most people, are on a tighter budget, fear not. I think one of the best things to come from this all around model range update will be a drop in used prices. This sucks for us that own the current generation but great for everyone looking to get into an awesome truck.

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