Jun 14, 2023

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser First Look: Closer To 4Runner & Tacoma Than Tundra

After years of speculation, Toyota recently began dropping a series of hints and teasers ahead of the Land Cruiser's return to the American market. Off-roading enthusiasts took note, after lamenting that the hiatus since the last J200 Series dropped out of Toyota's lineup in 2021 while the J300 available to the rest of the world, simply put, wasn't fair.

But the decision stemmed from sheer sales volumes: Because the Land Cruiser stickered for nearly $90,000—just shy of a Lexus LX 570 and solidly in luxury territory—most customers made the leap to the more sumptuous derivative rather than sticking to the base SUV.

The LX 600 that replaced the LX 570 in the interim, however, can easily cost over $100,000—and a peculiar gradewalk strategy that added an optional rear locker only to the most expensive trims (on an already luxurious Lexus) now makes sense. That's because American customers who might want an affordable SUV with that level of off-roading prowess can now, or at least soon, buy a Land Cruiser once more.

Toyota held the debut fittingly at the Land Cruiser Heritage Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah. But even before the official unveil, a series of teaser images hinted at a big, boxy SUV more in line with the recently announced 2024 Lexus GX. Or at the very least, a departure from the rounded edges of previous Land Cruiser generations, which approached a certain level of bulbous swoopiness by the final years of the J200 Series here in the US.

Sure enough, advanced imagery supplied by Toyota (and almost immediately leaked on Reddit) confirmed these suspicions and Land Cruiser now returns into a dedicated plasticene era of off-roading SUVs. Clear inspiration from the revived Land Rover Defender, Ford Bronco, and even a few Kia/Hyundai models shines through the almost Lego-like surfaces.

But in person, the revamp works much better—mostly because the overall size hews much closer to the current 4Runner and forthcoming Tacoma than any previous Land Cruiser. Or at least, so it seems when surrounded by classic models in a museum, far from any other modern Land Cruisers that might provide an accurate size comparison to inflated bodies of most cars, trucks, and SUVs these days. Proportionally, the new design resembles the greatest SUVs of the 1990s, most notably the narrow height of a second-generation Mitsubishi Montero. And that's not a bad thing, other than perhaps a slightly larger hood.

The oversquare design looks smaller in person that photos, and official measurements provided by Toyota show the Land Cruiser coming in closer to 4Runner sizing than Sequoia, sharing a 112.2-inch wheelbase with the Lexus GX (and the RoW J300) but a full 2-3 inches taller despite using the same sized tires. Yet ground clearance actually decreases compared to the J300, at 8.7 inches, lower than the new Tacoma's 9.5 inches and even less than a 2WD 4Runner's 9.0 inches.

Approach, breakover, and departure angles changes minimally depending on trim, with the best clocking in at 31.0/25.0/22.0 degrees respectively. For comparison, the current 4Runner fares much better with approach angle of 33 degrees and a departure angle of 26 degrees.

Despite a return to 1990s-era sizes and proportion, the rear hatch opens upward with a hinged glass panel, as well—no barn door or swingout spare tire. Fender flares end in black plastic arches rather than metal, while standard front recovery hooks hide beneath a perfectly square grille design and a bold hood reminiscent of the Tundra's humps on each side, which on that full-size pickup perfectly impede off-road visibility. The Land Cruiser's more upright cabin with plenty of headroom and a low window beltline should help side viewing angles, at least.

In that regard, the exterior dimensions coming in at around two inches larger than a 4Runner in overall length and height seems surprising on paper—but without a doubt, the Land Cruiser introduces a much more modern interior with better packaging to create more perceived space, along with the improved capability of a thoroughly overhauled drivetrain.

Fans of older Land Cruisers' naturally aspirated inline-six and V8 engines can join a pity party with anyone who loves the Lexus LX 600 or Toyota Tundra's twin-turbocharged V6 engines. The new Land Cruiser instead shares a hybrid turbocharged inline-four engine with the highest-spec 2024 Tacoma pickup truck trims, also dubbed i-Force MAX in this application.

The 2.4-liter mill puts out 326 horsepower and a hefty 465 lb-ft of torque thanks to a 48-horsepower electric motor and 1.87-kWh battery pack. The hybrid components integrate into an eight-speed automatic gearbox—also shared with Tacoma, rather than the J300 and Tundra's ten-speed transmission.

This Land Cruiser follows in the footsteps of previous generations by offering only full-time all-wheel drive—despite using a true two-speed transfer case with a locking center differential, the drivetrain will not allow rear-wheel drive. An automatic limited-slip rear differential with an electronically locking feature does come standard across all trims, however.

The all-but-mandatory solid rear axle and independent front suspension support a surprising choice of all-season tires that Toyota simply must assume every buyer will immediately replace with all-terrains or mud-terrains. But really, though, nobody expected a Michelin LTX Trail or Dunlop Grandtrek tires on this truck—perhaps throwaways, or maybe an attempt to win the fuel economy battle. The largest standard tire measures 32.6 inches, though, and the trapezoidal wheel arches can definitely fit at least large 33s and maybe even 35s with a bit of suspension lift.

Still, even with the reasonably sized rubber, expect fuel economy to match or exceed the Tundra's ratings of 20 MPG city and 24 MPG highway. (For comparison, the Lexus RX 500h uses the same engine and transmission and earns an EPA-rated 27 MPG combined, though a larger, heavier, and less aerodynamically slippery body will probably hurt the Land Cruiser's ratings.)

No diesel, no manual—hey, not all dreams come true. But across three discrete trim levels, Toyota clearly hopes to satisfy every potential customer base for the new Land Cruiser.

Toyota dubs the entry-level Land Cruiser a "1958 Edition" because it offers the most basic features, as well as a few cosmetic details harkening back to the rugged originals that were little more than Jeeps built in Japan. The standard rear locker is complemented by Toyota's CRAWL control off-roading software, while exterior cues include round LED headlamps within rectangular sorrounds to each side of a "Heritage" grille. The interior receives the base nine-inch touchscreen and six-speaker sound system, as well as manual seats upholstered in substantial fabric perhaps best described as rough and tumble (with the surprisingly upmarket inclusion of a heated steering wheel).

The mid-level trim is named "Land Cruiser"—that won't get confusing at all, right?—and adds a front sway bar disconnect, rectangular LED headlamps, RIGID fog lamps, and 20-millimeter wider all-season tires. A larger 12.3-inch touchscreen tops the dash, with Multi-Terrain Select and Multi-Terrain Monitor systems included, while seats get upgraded to SofTex with heating and ventilation.

At the top of the lineup, a limited run of 5,000 "First Edition" Land Cruisers takes a step further into off-roading fun with a roof rack, rock rails, a font skid plate, and mudflaps from the factory. A tailgate light and heated/ventilated leather seats round out the upgrades, though some buyers will also undoubtedly prize the "Unique-stitched key glove" that comes as a commemoration of the iconic four-wheeler's return.

Much like the current Tundra and recently unveiled Tacoma, Land Cruiser also receives a thoroughly modern interior that manages to tread the line between rugged and techy. The linear dash includes the two aforementioned touchscreen sizes above piano keys for climate control. All the switches for locking differentials, 4WD settings, and drive modes now sit directly next to the shifter—a full-sized, fully mechanical gear selector, to the great relief of anyone who has experienced some of the more inventive "solutions" to the nonexistent problem of traditional gear shifting design lately.

The Land Cruiser's infotainment system will, of course, support wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, with plenty of USB-C charging ports and even a wireless charging pad tucked into the dash. Buyers who springs for the larger 12.3-inch screen may well appreciate the additional real estate for viewing the Multi-Terrain Monitor camera angles given the hood design.

A JBL 14-speaker surround sound system and 4G hotspot in partnership with AT&T also round out optional tech features, though who knows how well cell reception will work when truly adventuring off the grid. A 120-volt/2400-watt outlet will certainly help keep food cold in a camping fridge, though.

A total of six cupholders surround the five seats, though another pair of cupholders in the trunk, above the rear wheel wells, hints at more information possibly on the way from Toyota. A folding third row must be in the works, or why else have vestigial cupholders, cutouts for seatbelts, and a hollow sleeping platform back there? (Jump seats seem unlikely to pass modern crash testing, but some dreams never die.)

Toyota promises pricing for the new Land Cruiser will start in the mid-$50,000 range. Every truck will be built in Japan, rather than the same Hunstville, Alabama, plant as the 2024 Tacoma, with deliveries anticipated for spring of 2024. Even if the MSRP holds steady between now and then, expect the heart of the lineup to start north of $60,000 with First Editions likely nudging up nearer to $70,000.

That's not including a set of full steel skid plates to protect the entire underbody, or five beefier tires, or the accessories that Toyota and the aftermarket industry must already have begun developing. No mention either of roof rail capacity for tents and additional gear storage solutions, or even full interior storage specs, but with the rear seats down, taller owners will probably need to stick feet between the front seat to stretch out on a sleeping platform.

Just a few things to add to the shopping list, then, in addition to waiting for an allocation at a dealership. If recent industry trends continue and fan reception to the specifically catered Land Cruiser recipe proves positive, dealer markups once inventory begins to arrive seem inevitable, even if current pre-orders seem attractive at MSRP. Then again, the volume of sales that the J200 and LX 560 fought over barely numbered in the thousands—and the new Land Cruiser returns to face stiff competition that includes Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Defender, even the forthcoming Ineos Grenadier.

Overall, the new Land Cruiser arrives as quite a surprise, mostly due to the smaller-than-expected sizing and hybrid engines, but also the price point that more accurately matches the rugged image of older generations. Important details still beg an answer from Toyota, though, in addition to the third row of seats and tire choices. Wheel travel remains a mystery, as does the final drive ratio. And what about a winch mounting point or metal bumpers?

Toyota clearly bet that enough four-wheeling features combined with tech and creature comforts for urban buyers would hit the sweet spot. But the overarching question now involves where the 4Runner might slot in, certainly below Land Cruiser but will Toyota need to go smaller, cheaper, and more rugged? Until such a time as the full lineup clarifies, potential 2024 Land Cruiser buyers may rightfully feel confused about the proper choice for a Toyota SUV amid the current off-roading boom.