2024 Toyota Land Cruiser First Drive Review: Off-Road Cheat Code

The latest Toyota Land Cruiser is a little smaller and a little cheaper than before, but it’s every bit as capable on the trail.

byJosé Rodríguez Jr|
Toyota Reviews photo
José Rodríguez Jr.


The Land Cruiser needs no introduction. It’s been one of Toyota’s preeminent badges for seven decades, worn by its most capable off-roaders around the globe. And, yet, the latest 2024 Toyota Land Cruiser warrants a reintroduction because the SUV took a brief hiatus from the U.S. market in 2021 only to return this year in the wake of the massive popularity of the off-road segment.

The Toyota SUV that returned is not the same as the one that left, and I don’t mean that metaphorically. This U.S.-spec Land Cruiser is the 250 series, known as the Land Cruiser Prado in nearly all markets abroad. The previous available model was the Land Cruiser 200 series, which was succeeded by the comparatively burlier 300 series. Toyota chose to bring the Land Cruiser 300 to the States only as the Lexus LX 600.

So, unless buyers move upmarket, the “true” (read: full-size) Land Cruiser remains unavailable in America. But after taking the 2024 Toyota Land Cruiser off-road, I’m here to tell you there’s not much to fret about. Despite its smaller size, the new SUV earns its badge and then some: It’s a Land Cruiser, alright. One of the best yet.

José Rodríguez Jr.

Make no mistake; the Land Cruiser we’re getting is smaller, but it’s not small by any means. It’s officially a mid-size SUV, sitting below the Toyota Sequoia in terms of size and price. It’ll technically sit above the new 4Runner among Toyota’s stable despite both being classed as mid-size SUVs. The difference between the upcoming 4Runner and this Land Cruiser—besides price—will remain in their styling, comfort, and overall aims as vehicles. Toyota insists there won’t be much overlap in their sales, and I am cautiously inclined to agree; after all, a Land Cruiser buyer is not the same as that of a 4Runner.

According to Toyota, the latter is more interested in hardcore off-roading, while the former is looking for an all-rounder that still boasts great off-road capability along with reliability and durability. Hitting those three points was the reason Toyota chose to rerelease the Land Cruiser in the U.S., claiming a return to its roots. 

Those traits also happen to be characteristics of the Lexus GX, a perennial fan favorite. The new Lexus GX 550 is essentially the same vehicle as this Land Cruiser albeit with an added emphasis on luxury. But the GX naturally starts at a higher price, making the Land Cruiser seem like a bargain. The LC also looks cooler, if you ask me. And all it took was Toyota going back to old-school Land Cruiser designs, which are clearly on display in this new model.

There’s no getting around the family resemblance of the new Land Cruiser to FJs of old. Whereas Toyota has taken big swings with cars like the GR Supra, which some critics deride for lacking the spirit of its predecessors, the new Land Cruiser is overflowing with it. 

There will be three available trims at launch, from the base 1958 model to the simple but confusingly named Land Cruiser middle trim. The top-of-the-line model is called the First Edition, and it’s limited to 5,000 units for 2024. Toyota refused to disclose whether these are all sold out already, so it’s possible that you could get your hands on one but it won’t come cheap.

The Land Cruiser First Edition starts at $76,345 including destination, which is almost $20,000 over the price of a base model. Despite the dramatic difference in cost, 1958 and First Edition models share the same basic looks, both getting circular headlights inspired by old Cruisers. The middle trim has rectangular LED headlights that nod to the 60 series, specifically the FJ62. It’s hard to pick which looks better because both nail the retro look. You could say the 1958 is more retro, but two-tone paint is only available on upper trims and the white roof is a Land Cruiser staple. 

The Land Cruiser First Edition adds more extensive underbody protection with skid plates for the engine and transmission, along with rock rails and a roof rack. The cabin gets a few “First Edition” logos and leather seats, as opposed to the leather-like “Softex” in the middle trim or cloth of the base model. Still, the price of the First Edition model seems high for what you’re getting. 

The decision between trims could come down to the added interior and off-road tech of the middle and higher trims. There’s an upgraded 10-speaker JBL sound system in the middle trim, and the infotainment screen gets a big size bump to 12.3 inches versus the 8 inches in the base model. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard no matter the trim. The basics are all there in the 1958 model and the plush texture of its cloth seats is fantastic. It’s a true throwback right down to the interior.

The new Land Cruiser still handles like a body-on-frame behemoth, which is to be expected given that it rides on the TNGA-F global truck platform. This is the same one that underpins the Tundra, Sequoia, Tacoma, Land Cruiser 300, and the upcoming 4Runner. So, even though this new Cruiser is “just” a Prado, it shares much with the full-size Land Cruiser sold overseas. 

Of course, it differs from the 300 Series in powertrain, with the U.S.-spec Land Cruiser powered by the i-Force Max Hybrid across all trims. It combines a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an electric motor in the bell housing of the eight-speed automatic transmission. This combination packs quite the punch, making 326 horsepower and max torque (465 lb-ft, to be precise) comes on early in the power band. Despite being a hybrid, it sounds pleasantly agricultural, which is to say it still sounds like a Land Cruiser out on the trail.

Toyota restricted our testing to off-road courses carved into the San Ysidro Mountains outside of San Diego, so I won’t comment on the Land Cruiser’s highway handling. Courses were split into high- and low-speed trials, though you likely won’t go too fast in the new Land Cruiser while four wheelin'. The LC is big, and you’ll feel every bit of its mass as you tackle trails. But that only makes this Cruiser’s abilities all the more impressive. The new Land Cruiser is so adept at going off-road that it feels like cheating.

The high-speed trail could be driven in either 4Hi or 4Lo for greater traction but even with all the steep hills, 4Lo was hardly necessary. It proceeded to climb like a billy goat, and, even though I tried, I couldn’t get the suspension to bottom out. The LC gets a double wishbone suspension out front with a stabilizer bar disconnect on the higher trims and multi-link coil spring rear. There are twin-tube shocks at all four corners.

Toyota’s new off-road SUV clambered up and over without breaking a sweat, goading me to go faster than I should have. The hills and berms were so inviting I found myself overshooting and having to reverse on the trail once, though Toyota claims that Turn Assist gives the truck a turning radius of 20 feet. I never struggled to steer the beast, but its turn radius wasn’t as tight as the specs let on.

The low-speed trail stitched together segments of rock crawling and water fording with ruts and big whoops to test the Land Cruiser's articulation. There were more steep hills to climb and descents over rock gardens where Toyota suggested we use the off-roading functions that come standard on all trims, such as Downhill Assist and Crawl Control.

Crawl Control has been available on previous Land Cruisers but was hardly useful until this latest iteration. Prior versions of the tech didn’t inspire confidence with choppy, chatter-prone performance. This latest system is much smoother and makes rolling over obstacles as easy as putting the LC on a good line and feathering the brakes. It handles the acceleration input and drivers merely select from one of five speed settings. 

Toyota calls it an “off-road cruise control.” And, yeah, that sounds about right. All you have to do out on the trail is decide if you want to lock the limited-slip center differential or the rear diff (e-locking) and Crawl Control handles the rest, leveraging the SUV’s full-time four-wheel drive and active traction control to slowly but surely roll through whatever is in front of it. The system never faltered. It confidently got the Land Cruiser over rocks, muddy ruts, babbling brooks, and up and down steep hills. 

But a review like this wouldn’t be complete without a test that dispensed with the off-road driver aids. I had driven the course with all the assists on in the middle Land Cruiser trim, with the windows up and air conditioning set to an icy “Lo.” I had gone off-roading as comfortably as possible in the higher trim but then rolled down the windows and went with manual control in the 1958. You just can’t beat fresh air and the steady sound of an engine building as you climb over obstacles. Even without the off-road assists, the Land Cruiser easily negotiated the trail and made me feel more talented than I actually am.  

So, would I prefer the full open-air feeling of something like the Jeep Wrangler or Ford Bronco? Or, better yet, would I prefer the comfort of the Jeep Grand Cherokee or Wagoneer, not to mention the refinement of other rivals from Land Rover? No, I wouldn’t. As far as I’m concerned, the Land Cruiser 1958 occupies a singular sweet spot of comfort and off-road prowess. Top it all off with killer design and it’s a shut-out. 

The upper LC trims are close to the Lexus GX in terms of luxury, but the GX overtakes it even when the Toyota is equipped with the $4,600 premium package, which adds creature comforts like a digital rearview mirror, moonroof, 14-speaker sound system, and head-up display, among other things. We’ll have to wait to compare the Land Cruiser and the new 4Runner, even if Toyota says no one will cross-shop the two. Chances are, some people might.

No, the 2024 Toyota Land Cruiser that returned to American shores is not the one that said farewell. It’s likely some fans will remain upset that the 300 Series is not available in the U.S., but this Land Cruiser almost seems to shrug that off and is an easy contender for one of the best SUVs on the market right now. Toyota set out to take the Land Cruiser back to its roots and it largely succeeded. It may be a smaller Land Cruiser, but it’s just as capable as ever, if not more.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser Specs
Base Price (Land Cruiser trim as tested)$57,345 ($63,345)
Powertrain2.4-liter turbo four-cylinder hybrid | 8-speed automatic | full-time four-wheel drive with center- and rear-locking differentials
Horsepower326 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque465 lb-ft @ 1,700 rpm
Seating Capacity5
Curb Weight5,038 pounds
Towing Capacity6,000 pounds
Cargo Volume21 cubic feet behind second row | 98 cubic feet behind first row
Ground Clearance8.7 inches
Off-Road Angles32° approach | 25° breakover | 22° departure
EPA Fuel Economy22 mpg city | 25 highway | 23 combined
Quick TakeThe lumbering Land Cruiser got downsized but retains its off-road talent and impressive creature comforts.
José Rodríguez Jr.
Toyota Reviews