Critics’ Notebook: 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser

Maybe I’m needlessly, hopelessly stuck in the past, but I never really considered the Toyota Land Cruiser a competitor to my favorite full-size luxury SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade, Mercedes-Benz GS (née GL) or even the elephantine Infiniti QX80. I thought of it more as a bigger 4Runner, or something on par with an isuzu Trooper, had the Isuzu Trooper continued its rectilinear reign. Budget, not budget-busting. That was before I climbed up into this 2016 model. Lined with caramel macchiato leather, knurled metal-ish knobs and more seat heaters than a Packers game 20 minutes after the taquito concessioner passes through, this beast was large and in charge and ready to conquer the winter holidays.

Sadly, winter in the Northeast wasn’t cooperating. (“Green” is hardly the term for a Christmas where the temperature tops 70°F.) But that didn’t stop it from acting as a luxe shuttle for a quartet on upstate holiday, ferrying us between restaurants, movie theaters, dinner parties and liquor stores in search of holiday cheer. Were that it would return in time for our next run to the recycling center. We’re drowning in empty bottles and we hadn’t even reached New Year’s Eve.

The Cruiser a makes a rugged and chiseled mate, but I wanted more refinement from its 5.7 liter V8. Or more potency? Or thrust? Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the 429-horsepower twin turbo in the Benz 550, or the 420 hp in the Caddy’s ‘Vette-derived V8, but the 381-hp output by the Land Cruiser seemed a bit ragged and watery, and the eight-speed automatic transmission never wanted to kick down enough ratios. Not that I usually mind going deeper, but I had to keep shoving my foot down in order to achieve the desired result. And parsimony clearly wasn’t the mission. This big man never made it out of the mid-teens in the MPG department, even during 150 miles on the highway.

My boyfriend and I like to play a game, guessing the price on the cars I test. I’m usually within a few thousand dollars of dead accurate, and I almost never go over. On this car, I guessed $72,000, thinking I might be high. The real bottom line was nearly $84,000. Granted, that includes everything except, like, a $29 chrome trailer ball hitch. This made me wonder, what do they add to the $89,000 Lexus LX, besides two extra horsepower and that polished piscine punim? I’ll be driving that in a few weeks. Check back here to uncover the results our of ongoing luxury sleuthing.


PRICE (as tested): $84,000

POWERTRAIN: 5.7-liter V8, eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive

MPG: 13 city/18 highway