Home » What The New Land Cruiser Must Be To Avoid Disappointing Millions

What The New Land Cruiser Must Be To Avoid Disappointing Millions

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I’m a Land Cruiser owner and I’ve been pretty involved in the community since I bought mine about 10 years ago. I’ve volunteered at the Land Cruiser Heritage Museum, I go to the events and gatherings — you get the idea. To me, and other victims of its charm, the Land Cruiser is an important brand, and like so many people passionate about a brand, I’ve become very passionate about defending it. Today, Toyota will unveil a new Land Cruiser model, and while I don’t know the details and I haven’t yet seen it I have some concerns about what I think I know. Will this be the Land Cruiser I know and love? Does this have what it takes to carry on the brand legacy? 

How The Toyota Land Cruiser Built Toyota’s Reputation In America

Toyota started selling the Land Cruiser in the United states in 1958.  This very one in fact, which is on display at the Land Cruiser Heritage Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah:

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1958 FJ25 (Image credit Land Cruiser Heritage Museum)

Since 1958, Toyota had sold the Land Cruiser continuously up until 2022, making it the longest continuously running nameplate up until that time — yes, longer than the Suburban, which was not trademarked as a Chevy exclusively until 1988. The Land Cruiser is more than a neat little truck, it has been an incredibly important product for Toyota.  

As you can imagine, the country was in a very different place in 1958 with respect to foreign automotive brands, and especially Japanese brands competing against domestic entrants. To build confidence in its brand and to increase marketshare, Toyota needed a product that could find a small but loyal market and challenge notions about quality. Offering a durable, Jeep-like utility vehicle with plenty of domestic commonality (the F engine was largely based on the 1939 GMC L6 236 with a scaled up Chevy “stovebolt” head and built under license) for utility companies, farmers and sportsmen was Toyota’s way of building a loyal following and quietly establishing a foothold. It worked. The Land Cruiser quickly established a reputation for being a durable, long lasting and hard working vehicle built by a now-trusted brand.  The 1958 pictured above, as rough as it is 70 years later, was used as a snow plow for years by its 2nd owner and still runs and drives today. In Brazil the Land Cruiser was called “Bandeirante” or flag carrier. The Land Cruiser was literally Toyota’s best foot forward.

[Editor’s Note: The Land Cruiser wasn’t Toyota’s first U.S. product, the Toyopet Crown was, though it bowed out of the market after rather poor sales. The Land Cruiser, however, stuck around and won hearts. ““In 1958, Land Cruiser saved the company, at least here in the U.S.,” Toyota Spokesperson Sam Butto told the New York Times in 2008. -DT]

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The 40 Series Land Cruiser quickly followed the 20 Series and further cemented Toyota’s reputation for quality, becoming the brand’s top seller from 1961 to 1965. This gave Toyota what it needed to succeed in the US market – trust – and opened the doors for the brand to take hold and become the global powerhouse that it is today. It’s not a stretch to say that the Land Cruiser made Toyota, especially in North America, and it’s an incredibly important nameplate. 

In 2022 Toyota announced that after 68 years it would no longer have a Land Cruiser to sell to North American consumers as the 200 series sunset and the new 300 series would not be coming to the US or Canada as a Toyota (it is available as the LX600 in the US).  

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2022 URJ200 (Image credit Land Cruiser Heritage Museum)

The Land Cruiser, arguably Toyota’s most important nameplate, casually shuffled away. Yeah, that bugs me, but while that kind of notoriety is important, it’s not really what Toyota hangs its hat on.  Toyota has never really understood nostalgia and prefers to look forward culturally; it’s less a big deal to drop something like the longest running nameplate, but it had me worried for a long time that Toyota was going to let its heroic “founding father” nameplate go by the wayside. Thankfully we found out pretty quickly that Toyota was working on something for the Land Cruiser name.

What Is A Modern Land Cruiser?

Vehicle Lineage
Image: Toyota

In 1997 Toyota ended production of the 80 series (see below and above), which was the replacement for the boxy 60/62 series. The Land Cruiser brand was going through something of an identity crisis by the end of the 62 series in the late 80’s. It was clearly moving more upmarket and attracting more affluent buyers, but its rugged simplicity was clearly part of the charm. The 80 series was meant to bridge this schism by being both a better utility vehicle and flagship luxury machine. It was a radical departure from the 60 series – bigger, rounder, coil sprung and clearly focused on a quiet luxurious experience.  

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1997 FZJ80

 

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Above is my 1997; I bought an 80 series expressly because it represented this crossroads in the brand history. I wanted something comfortable, but analog. Something simple and rugged, but with fuel injection and ABS. 

I love what the 80 series is and it’s generally considered a pivotal point in Land Cruiser history. It established the “golden wheelbase,” (considered by many the ideal wheelbase length for overlanding) and it set the pattern for comfort and luxury. However, as good as the 80 series was compared to the 60, it was still dated at launch. Like most Land Cruisers before it, the 80 series had a series of inline 6 engines that were either directly or spiritually related to the F engine used in the very first Land Cruiser models from the 50’s. Mine is one of a few years with the updated 1FZ engine, which was considered very modern for a Land Cruiser but I can tell you that even brand new, it was slow…and this was the fast engine. If you had an early model with the F engine, a direct descendant of a 1938 design…well the advice people give in the forums is to simply learn to accept a slower, more chill pace in life.  

The traditional solid front axle was rugged and allowed for a lot of modification, but it gave it vague steering and handling that was no longer in line with luxury car standards. Especially when their Land Cruiser was badged as a Lexus, Toyota knew that the buyers of its fabled off-roader demanded more and that the company would have to make changes.

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2004 UZJ100 (Image credit Land Cruiser Heritage Museum)

The 100 series was the culmination of that change. Longer, wider, with a new modern V8 engine and independent suspension, it was something entirely different from the Land Cruisers of the past.

Purest will say that this is where the Land Cruiser lost its way a little, and I can see that point — how did a little Jeep-like utility truck end up as a luxury wagon?  It’s easy to argue that Toyota had lost the plot. 

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As I’ve mentioned before, Toyota looks forward, not backward, and while that can suck for people who love the old thing, one thing Toyota has never done is make a WORSE Land Cruiser. The 100 series proved every bit worthy of the name with its durability, longevity and reliability. It was succeeded by the 200 series which, again, was seen as a softening of the brand, but was easily the strongest and most durable Land Cruiser ever built and it’s been proven over and over through countless miles including the crucible of racing. 

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This 200 series (Monica) has been racing in the SCORE series for 13 years including some class wins at the Baja 1000 — same chassis, same engine and trans. Yeah, they break a lot of stuff, but the fact that it’s still driving, let alone class competitive speaks volumes.

This all brings me back to a question of what IS the Land Cruiser Brand. Is it the Inline 6? The solid front and rear axles? A particular body style?

Well the Land Cruiser brand has too much variety to be pinned down to any one thing, but there are a few things that all modern Land Cruisers in the US are.

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  1. 112.2 inch (2850 mm) wheelbase – Seriously, from 1990 to current, ALL US Land Cruisers have had a 112.2 inch wheelbase. Even the 300 series is the same.  In an age of ever growing…everything…this is significant in its staying power. It’s what Toyota calls the “magic wheelbase” for wagons and it’s meant to be the ideal ratio for Land Cruiser things.
  2. Wagon bodies. Since the 40 series left the market in the 80s all Cruisers have been wagon bodies.  That’s not to say all Cruisers are, or that it’s required, but it is the way it is here.
  3. Built in Japan. Every Land Cruiser meant for North America is built in Tahara Aichi Japan. This is one of Toyota’s flagship factories and every Land Cruiser and most Land Cruiser engines are built here.
  4. Engineered and built for a 25 year service life. Everyone hopes their cars are made to last but Toyota makes it part of the mission for the Land Cruiser for it to be serviceable under severe duty for 25 years.  Mine is kicking right along at 28 years (built in 96) and 345,000 miles and still gets abused on the trail. It’s a well known fact that a Land Cruiser is a safe bet for durable and reliable.  
  5. Expensive. They are far above other SUV’s in the range.

Now Toyota builds a lot of other very tough cars and trucks – The Tundra, 4Runner, Tacoma, etc.  Some even say that the GX is the best SUV ever…but the Land Cruiser always stands on top of the pile.

The New Land Cruiser

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Image: Toyota

Now Toyota tells us we are getting a new Land Cruiser and it’s not the Land Cruiser the rest of the world gets, breaking the chain from J55 through J300.  

What we know for sure is that it is going to be “based on” the new GX550. I quote because it appears that it will BE the new GX550, but as a Toyota. Same chassis and mostly the same body.  

In some markets Toyota sells many kinds of Land Cruisers. Australia is a great example as you can buy a 70 series, a 300 series and a 150 series concurrently. While these are all wildly different products, they are all “Land Cruiser” and built to a standard. 

  • The 70 series is an agricultural/industrial working vehicle. Very commercial, very dated.
  • The 300 series is the latest in the wagon line and follows the US Land Cruiser line till now.
  • The 150 is a light duty design meant to be a little more affordable to buy and run, with smaller engines, lighter components and a tidier footprint.  This line is known as the Land Cruiser Prado (Meadow in Portuguese).  

In the U.S. we’ve gotten the Prado in one form or another for decades as the 4Runner is based on the same line and the Lexus GX was and is basically a rebadged Prado. The GX550 is what the world will get as the Land Cruiser Prado, only with smaller engines and less luxurious treatment compared to the Lexus.

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This is where I get a little bothered. While the Land Cruiser Prado is absolutely a Land Cruiser and it’s absolutely up to the title, it’s not THE Land Cruiser. It is literally a Land Cruiser Lite. And While we still get the LX300, we no longer get the top tier Land Cruiser that the rest of the world will get.  

Will It Be Enough?

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Well, here is what we know about the GX550, and by association, the new Land Cruiser.

  1. 112.2 inch wheelbase.  The GX has grown to be the size and will now be the same wheelbase as the other Land Cruisers.
  2. Wagon body. The GX/Land Cruiser will certainly have the right body style for North American consumers. 
  3. Built in Japan.  The Land Cruiser and GX will both be built in Japan alongside the 300.
  4. Engineered and built for a 25 year service life.

We also know that the chassis will be a version of the TNGA-F chassis that underpins all new Toyota trucks including the Tacoma, Tundra, 300/LX and the GX.  In the past these platforms varied wildly in terms of strength of chassis and component; Now the gap is narrower/non-existent. Basically, where a Prado was literally a lighter take on the Land Cruiser the GX550 IS the Land Cruiser’s chassis — more or less.  

We can assume that the new GX/Land Cruiser will be every bit as tough as the 300 series as they are basically the same chassis. We hear that this new model Land Cruiser will be a 7 seater and we can assume it will inherit the GX’s towing and payload, more or less. This will be, for all intents and purposes, a 300 series with a different body.  

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Now, that does some weird things with the other Prado stablemate, the 4Runner, but we can only wait and see what Toyota does with that mess of their own making. Will Toyota sell four identical chassis with slightly different bodies (LX/GX/Land Cruiser/4Runner)? We can assume there will be smaller engines than in the GX550, at least as options as a means differentiate the two and the styling will be different but how different will they really be?

Part of me is really excited for this new model. It promises to be more fuel efficient, less expensive, and every bit a Land Cruiser.  Part of me knows deep down that we’ve lost something really special in the US market and that the heritage of the Land Cruiser will never be the same.

The reality is that people like me rarely have a chance to love a Land Cruiser fresh from the dealer’s lot as they have been priced well out of reach for people who want them as the off-road legends that they are.  With this new, presumably lower priced entrant, it may change that and that’s not nothing.  

One thing we can know for certain, if Toyota calls it a Land Cruiser, it is very serious about it. Will it be a true Land Cruiser? The part of me that knows it’s “only” a Prado will always bother me, but I do love my Prado and am willing to take it in as part of the family.

 

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David Puckett
David Puckett
10 months ago

To not disappoint “millions”, this new Land Cruiser needs to be affordable for “millions”. $50k+ is NOT affordable for “millions”.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
10 months ago

Sounds to me like a good time to review Aesop’s ‘The Fox and the Grapes’.

Mike B
Mike B
10 months ago

I think the main difference between this one and the 200 is that this one will actually SELL.

The FJ Cruiser was arguably a sales failure, yet it sold more in its first year than the entire 14 year run of the 200 series in the US.

Personally, I love the new one. I don’t think there is a “true” Landcruiser, LC is more of a brand with different vehicle offerings depending on the market.

That said, I had the pleasure of driving an 80 series around SoCal for 2 weeks earlier this summer, and I absolutely loved it. I think that’s peak LC. Other than the engine, it’s a fantastic vehicle. Actually, the engine was a pleasant experience, other than the mileage.

TXpedition
TXpedition
10 months ago

Ok, did I read this correctly? The new Land Cruiser is like the FJ Cruiser?
If that’s the case, it will pretty much do what I need it to do as long as I put some sliders, armor on the bottom and size the tires up one size?

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
10 months ago

> Mine is kicking right along at 28 years (built in 96)

Math is hard

Mikan
Mikan
10 months ago

A fact that boggles me as an Australian is that the furthest you could ever be from a road in the mainland US is 21 miles, in Yellowstone National Park, and I think this highlights why it’s okay that the US doesn’t get the full-size Land Cruiser.

In modern-day America people just don’t need the capability to survive long expeditions in war zones, the outback or deserts, and in that case I think it’s perfectly fine to have a slightly less over-engineered and more affordable vehicle that still would be more than what most people would use it for.

Mike B
Mike B
10 months ago
Reply to  Mikan

I feel like this is essentially a 4Runner tier vehicle (makes sense since I believe the current 4R is a Prado 150), and the 4Runner is quite capable and lasts decades. Even in the northeast US where road salt is super hard on them, not a day goes by where I don’t see a 20-something 4Runner on the road.

The whole “Land Cruiser is designed for a 25 year service life” spiel seems like just marketing and folklore, Camrys and Corollas also last 25+ years.

Frog Crossing
Frog Crossing
10 months ago

OMG that is the most shallow argument. Suburban was the “name” on the “plate” since 1935. Who give an eff when the government protected the trademark. There are endless reasons the Land Cruiser has been long-respected – it owning “longest continuously running nameplate” isn’t one.

Last edited 10 months ago by Frog Crossing
Pat Rich
Pat Rich
10 months ago
Reply to  Frog Crossing

I couldn’t find when Chevrolet dropped “carryall” from the Suburban name, but “suburban” wasn’t so much a model as it was a type of car like a van. It didn’t really become the Chevrolet suburban until after the well after the Land Cruiser was introduced.

Frog Crossing
Frog Crossing
10 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

It’s an interesting wrinkle that Suburban and Carryall were both generic terms at the time, but that’s just a function of how autos were named and old the nameplate really is. Still a nameplate – was a generic one, now a specific one. That Chevy’s Suburban was the truck that captured a generic name as solely its own should lend even more credibility to the claim!

All just pedantic nuances of proud car people 🙂

Related: “Land Cruiser” was a Studebaker until 1954

Last edited 10 months ago by Frog Crossing
Mike B
Mike B
10 months ago
Reply to  Frog Crossing

Yeah, haha, that’s definitely a Yota fanboy reaching. I also didn’t see the part where the original was a copy of the Jeep and used a straight six that was based on a pre-war Chevrolet design. They even had interchangeable parts.

MrLM002
MrLM002
10 months ago

Watched a deep dive video on the new “Land Cruiser”. Here are the important bits:

BOF with IFS and a solid rear axle

Only available drivetrain is a Turbo Hybrid drivetrain with a 8 speed automatic transmission

Only 8.7″ of ground clearance

No 3rd row

Last edited 10 months ago by MrLM002
SK2807
SK2807
10 months ago

The 70 Series is barely a farm truck in Australia anymore, it’s a Japanese G Class and people are buying them up for the “adventure lifestyle”.

I live on a farm myself, and while there are still enough old 70 cab chassis doing an honest days work around, it’s the 4 doors that are lifted, have muddies, snorkels, bullbars, and huge toolbox/camping trays out back that are popular.

Chinese utes are now are the work/farm hacks, half the price at least of a 70, long warranties and do the job well.

Masterbuilder
Masterbuilder
10 months ago

Maybe I’m just an old, but to me, the FJ40 is THE Land Cruiser. It’s the one that established the nameplate. Simple, rugged and almost incredibly durable – all doubters had to concede that this was one tough vehicle.

If they could offer something close to that, Jeep and Ford would have some real competition for that market niche.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
10 months ago
Reply to  Masterbuilder

The Land Cruiser is funny, its less a single thing and more a family of things. I mean I think the LCHM has something like 140 cruisers and they aren’t done collecting. The 40 is definitely the Icon, but its sorta like a wagoneer and a wrangler – different kinds of THE Jeep. for some the 70 series is THE Land Cruiser, and others its the older wagons like the 55-80. One of the weird things about Toyota is their ability to become more desirable among purists as they age. People did not love the 200 when it came out. Too soft and bland. Now we look back and realize how amazing it was. There haven’t been too many embarrassing things with the Land Cruiser name attached.

Tyler
Tyler
10 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

Excuse me for not paying attention, but did Hammer Head Fist Punch have a name change?

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
10 months ago
Reply to  Tyler

Yeah that caught me off guard too when I noticed it the other day, but then I remembered it was changed when I penned my first article for the sight.

86TVan
86TVan
10 months ago

Great rundown Fistpunch.

Some even say that the GX is the best SUV ever

“some” eh? lol. Other than wheelbase, what part of the LC is better than your GX470? What about the 300 series in Japan would we want on a wishlist for the US LC aside from the lockers?
And yes, I am going to say it…the LC should have a damn split gate. 4Runners should have the roll down window. And the GX should have the barndoor. As God intended.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
10 months ago
Reply to  86TVan

And yes, I am going to say it…the LC should have a damn split gate. 4Runners should have the roll down window. And the GX should have the barndoor. As God intended.

PREACH! Sorry, I know the split gate is noisier and harder to engineer that a big htach Toyota…but it’s better. FIX THIS.

Geoff Tuck
Geoff Tuck
10 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

As the owner of a 60, 80 100 (105 technically) and now a 200 series the thing I was most disappointed about the new 300 series was the absence of the split tailgate! A feature that has been adored now relegated to the past – hopefully it makes a comeback

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
10 months ago

This site is still crashing like a Tesla on autopilot at a Emergency Vehicle builders convention

Frackle
Frackle
10 months ago

Like 25 people in the US know what a landcruiser is. They’ll probably make it a hyundai kona competitor with an optional hybrid powertrain.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
10 months ago
Reply to  Frackle

I think vintage Land Cruisers are in the same category as Grand Wagoneers and Broncos now, lots of people with lots of money (or else, good enough credit to borrow lots of money) are paying crazy sums for restored and restomodded ones to keep in the garage and stare in the evening at while sipping a glass of rose, and occasionally take out to a Cars & Coffee at the Wegmans parking lot on Sunday morning. In other words, enough people who are willing to spend big money on an offroady looking SUV know what a Land Cruiser is for it to be well worth Toyota’s while to make a new one.

Evil-Shenaniguns
Evil-Shenaniguns
10 months ago

I saw you touched on it on another comment. But the Sequoia is also on the new Tacoma, Tundra, 300/LX and GX platform. Further muddying the waters.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
10 months ago

TNGA-F is good, but using it everywhere is…strange. Granted the 300 and the Sequoia are so different in size that you can get away with it, same with Tundra/Tacoma, but when you make the GX the same size as the 300 AND the 4Runner…its going to get weird.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
10 months ago

I’ve had a 60 and 80 series Land Cruiser, and I’ve driven a 100 series. Out of the three, I’d say the 80s series felt the most “intangibly special” but rebuilding the seeping front Birfield axle was a nightmare. It oozed coolness to me, but was a bit rough around the edges. The 60 felt too light or empty somehow, and didn’t really do much for me. The 100 series felt like it was completely neutered of personality and was a very “this is fine” driving experience, but not anything special.

I’m also led to wonder, if the 200 series essentially shares its drivetrain with the Tundra and Sequoia, wouldn’t that imply those models are also built with an intended 25 year service life? Would that also suggest that the Sequoia is actually the poor man’s Land Cruiser?

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
10 months ago

The 200 and the Tundra/Sequoia were largely unrelated, but the new 300 and Tundra/Sequoia, et all are. That being said, those are built in the US including the engine and they are not built to the same standard. Very good cars, but there are little things that differentiate. One of the little ones I know about is that my GX470 has a greasable driveshaft and the 4th gen 4runner does not. One is a Land Cruiser and the other is not.

BoneStock
BoneStock
10 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

What part of the 4th gen driveshaft isn’t greasable? Just finished greasing the u-joints and slip yokes and not sure what else you would need to grease down there.

Pancakeman!
Pancakeman!
10 months ago

I too am looking forward to the new LC. I like the GX and would have considered the LX (to get a LC300) if it wasn’t for that grill. I know some people like it, but it’s not my thing. Fortunately, they scaled that back for the GX.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
10 months ago
Reply to  Pancakeman!

I don’t know who at Lexus still thinks the spindle is the future, but I’m guessing its also the person who kept tape decks in their cars well into the 2000’s

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