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Discussion in 'NM- High Desert Cruisers' started by pappy, May 5, 2017.
2017 Toyota Land Cruiser: The Hippopotamus of Luxury SUVs
It's like an $85k hippo to boot
Do you have the full article text? I don't have a subscription to the WSJ and can only read the teaser paragraph.
Took some digging.
I worried that calling the Toyota Land Cruiser a “behemoth” might sound catty, so I looked it up. The word comes to us from the Hebrew for “hippopotamus,” and—in the actual presence of Toyota’s cultic, revered luxury SUV—I have to say, that’s pretty spot on. Both appear equally aerodynamic, for example. The proportions are similar, too, with massive bodies poised over itty-bitty feet. If anything, it’s the hippos that should take umbrage.
If not behemothic, pachydermic: The Land Cruiser as help-elephant of the American raj, perhaps, gently bearing up to eight of the royal family, knocking down the occasional tree. Sorry about the droppings.
In truth, the Land Cruiser is a dinosaur—heavy-boned, placid and semiaquatic (wading depth of 27.5 inches)—with anatomy un-evolved since the Late Hasselhoff Epoch: a full-size, body-on-frame 4x4 with a solid rear axle, steel and more steel, a big-displacement V8 up front and no remorse at the tailpipe. They don’t build them like this anymore, because if they did, all SUVs would weigh three tons and get 13 miles to the gallon.
This sauropod was once the most advanced species of SUV, with premium construction and cabin appointments, atop the unstoppable, fully agro chassis and four-wheel-drive system. Everything built with Toyota’s silver hammer. But as stylish, capable luxury SUVs have multiplied like rats in rhinestone collars ( Audi , Bentley, Maserati, Mercedes-Maybach), I have wondered what rare and powerful charm the Land Cruiser still holds for the approximately 4,000 Americans a year who buy them.
The 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser. Photo: Toyota
My guess: mass. Or density, if you like, the sense of concentrated heft, the avoirdupois of quality. The Land Cruiser is heavy, and moreover, it feels heavy, every inch of it gratifyingly solid and substantial, like a fine watch, or the bank safe that falls on your boss. While other auto makers are whittling and fiddling to save grams, Toyota offers the epicurean delight of unrestrained curb weight.
It’s a rude kind of Veblenism, the notion that the heavier things are, the more valuable, but it’s fairly ingrained in our consumer responses. Give a pull on the Sasquatch-size driver’s door handle. Feel the gathering momentum of the huge door pivoting on its oiled hinges. It’s not easy to halt. When did they start making the doors out of bronze?
Press the Start button and the big V8 stirs, but the Land Cruiser’s steely mass absorbs nearly all the vibration and noise. Turn the JBL sound system up, the huge subwoofer thumping a beat that would shiver the timbers of other cars. The Toyota’s cabin is still. More mass means more mass-damping.
As a point of comparison, the Range Rover, standard wheelbase, weighs about 1,000 pounds less than the Land Cruiser. Further, its V6 engine has higher specific power (340 hp out of 3 liters displacement) than the Toyota’s; and it gets about 20% better fuel economy (19 mpg, combined). Meanwhile, the Range Rover’s highway manners make the Land Cruiser feel like Jeb’s old pickup. But then the Range Rover doesn’t feel like Her Majesty’s trusty anvil.
The 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser. Photo: Toyota
The Toyota is beautifully made, of course. The silk-smooth 5.7-liter DOHC V8 rouses 401 pound-feet of torque at 3,600 rpm and dispatches it through a (new for 2016 model year) eight-speed automatic. But it’s got its work cut out for it. In instances of extreme throttle cruelty, you can accelerate to 60 mph in the mid-7 seconds, the Land Cruiser making outraged sounds and performing an epically graceless squat. Yeah, no. Driven in the real world, the big machine moves off the starting line with the crispness of Noah’s Ark.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Land Cruiser sales in the U.S., Toyota’s PR department helpfully reminded me. But the formative years were certainly the 1990s, with the remarkable J80 series. In 1996, a pair of J80s took first and second place in the unmodified-production class of the Dakar Rally. That’ll do, pig.
The back seat of the 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser. Photo: Toyota
Then and now, the Land Cruiser puts iron on the off-road target, with a beyond stout four-wheel-drive system based on a fully automatic, limited-slip/locking center differential; a two-speed (low-gear) transfer case; and a solid rear axle suitably sized for farm equipment. At the four corners are 285/60R18 mud-and-snow tires, though under the visual bulk of the body they look like casters.
All of that—and the balloon-y tires and the long-legged suspension—deliver stupendous, world-famous chops, off road. But on road, the same equipment makes the vehicle feel floaty, sometimes alarmingly so, gently swaying like a blimp at its moorings. Toyota’s chassis engineers have tried to address the compromises. A switch in the console allows drivers to limber up the front and rear stabilizer bars, the anti-roll bars, allowing increased wheel articulation off road. To which I exclaim: It has anti-roll bars?
Another system is designed to help the SUV negotiate extra-tight turns on off-road trails, actually dragging a rear wheel to pivot the vehicle. It also works in parking decks.
2017 Toyota Land Cruiser
The front seat of the 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser. Photo: Toyota
Base price $85,950, with delivery
Price, as tested $86,303
Powertrain Naturally aspirated 5.7-liter DOHC V8 with variable valve timing; eight-speed automatic transmission; two-speed transfer case; full-time four-wheel drive (40/60 static torque split, front/rear) with limited-slip/locking center differential, limited-slip front and rear differential.
Power/torque 381 hp at 5,600 rpm/401 lb-ft at 3,600 rpm
Length/weight 194.9/5,815 pounds
Wheelbase 112.2 inches
0-60 mph 7.5 seconds (est)
Maximum trailering capacity 8,100 pounds
EPA fuel economy 13/18/15 mpg, city/highway/combined
Cargo capacity 16.1/43.0 cubic feet (third row up/folded)
I gather from the general frumpiness of the exterior that the few loyalists out there are not aesthetes. Why does Toyota’s most capable off-road vehicle look like it’s wearing a housecoat? The important thing is preserving the command seating, the high perches looking down at the world through Amtrak-sized windows.
Toyota’s designers were left to improve the front end, mercilessly. With the most recent face-lift, the Land Cruiser got that big chrome nose, upturned a bit snottily, and extraneous “power domes” stamped into the hood. You wonder who in Toyota Design has a secret Dodge in his garage?
The Land Cruiser has other currency. Toyota loads these things up with every available convenience, aid and comfort in its larder, for one price ($85,950, delivered). That includes all Toyota’s latest driver-assist technologies, featuring emergency-braking assist and pedestrian detection.
That seems especially prudent. You wouldn’t want to be the jaywalker who steps in the path of this speeding brontosaur.