SUBURBAN OVERKILL

2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition Review: A Bloated, Beautiful Anachronism


January 9, 2020 Cars By
Brand: Toyota
Product: Land Cruiser Heritage Edition
Release Date: 2020
Price: $87,645
From: toyota.com

The Toyota Land Cruiser is a vehicle for a very specific type of car enthusiast. Those well-heeled enthusiasts are pretty much the only people still buying an SUV that has become bloated beyond purpose after a storied 60-year production run — with a bloated price tag to match.

The Land Cruiser Heritage Edition — available for an additional $2,330 — is a direct play for the hearts of those enthusiasts. Toyota gave the Land Cruiser a sleeker, more athletic silhouette, deleted the third row of seats and affixed a Yakima roof rack. It’s meant to read more like the classic overlander of yore and less like the chonky pleasure craft of the past decade. Land Cruiser fans are sure to love it…but how do normal people react?

To find out, Toyota loaned me a Heritage Edition to drive around and use in my ordinary life for a week. I gauged reactions from my decidedly non-Toyota enthusiast friends and family. Their reactions were very different from the ones elicited by self-evident automotive icons like the Ford Mustang or the VW Beetle. None of them could identify the Land Cruiser by sight (most thought I had told them I was getting a Land Rover). Then again, with its low sales volume and lack of promotion, it’s not a car you see in the wild very often.

The Land Cruiser’s coolness required an extended explanation, which inevitably led to the major differentiator between it and other SUVs: how much it costs. The nearly $90,000 sticker price sparked disbelief — and laughter. Nearly everyone asked some variation of, “Why would anyone buy that?”

I didn’t have an answer then. I still don’t.

What We Like

Toyota nailed the styling with the Heritage Edition. It’s pared-down and simple, and visually de-bloats the car. It harkens back to the past without looking too kitschy and derivative — like, say, the FJ Cruiser. The Heritage Edition is low key enough to blend seamlessly into its natural surroundings: affluent family vacation haunts from Jackson Hole to Nantucket.

The Land Cruiser still offers the best of Toyota build quality. It’s over-engineered and basically indestructible; alterations over its lengthy model run have ironed out every wrinkle. With some luxury SUV competitors, you’re left hoping to reach the end of the lease without it breaking down. If you buy a new Land Cruiser in 2020, there’s a decent chance emissions legislation will force it off the road before it dies on you.

Also, the Land Cruiser brings the hygge. It’s cozy, plush and pleasant to drive, with a ride height more commanding than most SUVs. You feel insulated from the noise and weather in a way a more plebian SUV can’t quite do. (It even has large, adjustable cup holders for your hot beverage of choice.) Being outfitted to attack the Arctic Circle makes you feel special, even if it’s complete overkill for a dreary December day in Michigan.

Watch Out For

The Heritage Edition looks more lithe than its sibling, but the Land Cruiser remains [expletive deleted] enormous. Weighing in at a hefty 5,715 pounds, it’s one of the heaviest personal vehicles on the road — about 1,000 pounds beefier than the J80-generation Land Cruiser of 1990-98. It’s also among the tallest cars you’ll find, at 74 inches before you add the Yakima roof rack into the mix. (I had to remove said rack on the fly amidst a cacophony of honking to exit a parking garage). Even the font on the Land Cruiser badging has to be jumbo-sized to look proportional.

Unlike the latest full-size trucks, the Land Cruiser doesn’t disguise its poundage with agile handling, and it doesn’t use its size to maximum effect. The seating area, while comfortable, does not feel spacious by truck standards. The cargo space — up to 81 cubic feet, is decent, but less than many three-row SUVs like the Kia Telluride.

The Land Cruiser is also anything but fuel-efficient. That 2008 model year-spec 5.7-liter V8 is EPA-rated for 13 mpg city and 17 mpg highway; I earned 12.2 mpg over six days of driving. Even not-very-efficient three-row SUV competitors are going to get 50-percent-better fuel economy. Burning a gallon of gasoline on every minor errand starts to feel excessive after a while.

There are also a few very specific quirks worth noting. You can wirelessly charge your smartphone, but you can’t use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The upper part of the rear hatch lifts and lowers automatically…but it lowers onto a tailgate that opens manually, thus defeating the purpose.

Other Options

The Land Cruiser largely occupies its own niche. The Lexus LX 570 ($86,380) is a rebadged version of the same car. The Range Rover ($90,900) or Mercedes-Benz GLS 550 ($95,750) could also be options for the Land Cruiser buyer. And if you don’t require the luxury overlanding cred and just want an elephantine, truck-based three-row SUV that hasn’t been updated in forever and gets terrible gas mileage, Toyota also offers the Sequoia ($49,905).

Verdict

The Land Cruiser is capable, durable, and possesses a distinct charm. The Heritage Edition adds to those characteristics. But Toyota’s iconic SUV is also cartoonishly proportioned, dreadful for the environment and way too costly for what it is. Harbor-piloting the Land Cruiser around town and trying to find places to park it got tiring after a few days. I understand why Land Cruiser enthusiasts like them in theory — but I can’t conceive of a cogent argument to justify spending nearly $90,000 on one.

Toyota provided this product for review.

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Tyler Duffy is Gear Patrol's Motoring Staff Writer. He used to write about sports for The Big Lead and The Athletic. He has a black belt in toddler wrangling. He's based outside Detroit.

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