WHEELIN’ IN A 2017 TOY­OTA LAND CRUISER

The large off-road beast adds fea­tures, re­tains ca­pa­bil­ity

Four Wheeler - - Contents - By Tim Es­ter­dahl ed­i­tor@fourwheeler.com Pho­tos: Tim Es­ter­dahl

THE LONG­EST-RUN­NING NAME­PLATE IN TOY­OTA’S his­tory, the Land Cruiser, still to this day is one of the best off-road SUVS on the planet. We took the leg­endary ve­hi­cle on a camp­ing trip and did some wheel­ing to see if it is still as good as we re­call.

In­tro­duced way back in 1955, the Land Cruiser was orig­i­nally meant to be a Willys Jeep com­peti­tor with a de­sign and name so closely aligned to its com­peti­tor that Willys sued Toy­ota. Nowa­days, the Land Cruiser is noth­ing like a small Jeep. With a 112.2-inch wheel­base, a 5.7L V-8 en­gine, and a new eight­speed trans­mis­sion, it can hold eight pas­sen­gers while crawl­ing on gnarly trails.

Still equipped with a two-speed trans­fer case and fea­tur­ing body-on-frame con­struc­tion, the Land Cruiser is filled with in­te­rior com­forts and nearly ev­ery­thing Toy­ota of­fers in off-road equip­ment. The Land Cruiser comes stan­dard with a full-time 4WD sys­tem and a Torsen limited-slip lock­ing cen­ter dif­fer­en­tial dis­tribut­ing torque 40/60 front-to-rear. If wheel slip­page still oc­curs, the ac­tive trac­tion con­trol (A-TRAC) sys­tem uses the throt­tle and brakes to re­duce the spin. If that still isn’t enough to get un­stuck, the Crawl Con­trol sys­tem can be em­ployed af­ter

shift­ing the trans­fer case to low range. With five driver-se­lectable low-speed set­tings, Crawl Con­trol reg­u­lates the en­gine speed and brakes to lit­er­ally crawl for­ward or backward.

Toy­ota also equipped the SUV with a Mul­titer­rain Se­lect sys­tem with a Mogul set­ting. This Mogul set­ting is for ex­treme ter­rain and ba­si­cally acts like a limited-slip dif­fer­en­tial. The driver can then fo­cus on driv­ing with the cen­ter con­sole screen show­ing front or rear side views with near 360-de­gree vis­i­bil­ity and a 5-sec­ond front un­der­car­riage pro­jected path video play­back.

Plus, the Land Cruiser has Down­hill As­sist Con­trol for low-speed de­scend­ing con­trol and what Toy­ota calls “Off-road Turn As­sist,” which tight­ens the turn­ing radius by ap­ply­ing slight brake pres­sure to the in­side rear wheel to im­prove off-road driv­ing feel. It cre­ates a lit­eral pivot ef­fect.

Rid­ing on P285/60R18 all-ter­rain tires, the SUV has plenty of grip off-road, while pro­vid­ing a good on-road feel de­void of hum.

Putting this equip­ment into use, we hit The Cliffs In­sane Ter­rain off-road park in Mar­seilles, Illi­nois. Carved out of 300 acres of what was a for­est, this off-road park has dozens of trails run­ning through the prop­erty. Most of these trails were in use by ATVS, Jeeps, and mo­tor­cy­cles due to the tight-turn­ing lines through the trees.

Flip­ping the switches to en­gage var­i­ous off-road equip­ment, we climbed to the top of a hill near the en­trance and be­gan to play in the mud. Up and down the muddy hills and through the trees we used all the mir­rors, cam­eras, and equip­ment to keep the 5,815-pound SUV on the right path. Most of the drive, the SUV gave us a con­fi­dent off-road con­trol with only one spot of deep mud caus­ing the tires to load with goo and lose trac­tion. For­tu­nately, the 381hp 5.7L V-8 en­gine helped get us out of the mud and back on the dirt path. Af­ter a few hours of play­ing around, we got back on the paved road and con­tin­ued our jour­ney.

In­side, the Land Cruiser’s cabin is filled to the brim with soft-touch ma­te­rial, wood trim, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment sys­tem. This was par­tic­u­larly handy for our camp­ing trip with the kids. There is noth­ing bet­ter than driv­ing down the road with­out scream­ing kids. All of that equip­ment comes stan­dard since the Land Cruiser doesn’t come in any trim lev­els. It has one—fully loaded.

In the very rear are the side-mounted seats, which fold down to cre­ate room for an ad­di­tional three (small) pas­sen­gers. This de­sign is re­ally a throw­back to how the ve­hi­cle used to be built and also al­lows for more rear ground clear­ance, with the al­ter­na­tive be­ing stor­ing the seat be­low the floor. We are glad Toy­ota de­signed the Land Cruiser this way for off-road use, though it isn’t ideal for car­ry­ing cargo.

Our trip in­cluded one night of camp­ing in Des Moines, Iowa, and our Land Cruiser was filled with our lug­gage and our camp­ing gear too. The awk­ward rear-seat po­si­tion­ing chal­lenged our packing skills.

Also, the Land Cruiser is a rather tall ve­hi­cle at 74 inches, and while the ve­hi­cle has steps for eas­ier en­trance and exit, the rear doesn’t. The rear also of­fers a half-fold-down trunk, which is handy for sort­ing items, but gets in the way packing items in.

Back on the road, Toy­ota’s full suite of safety fea­tures came in handy on our 1,200-mile trek. For ex­am­ple, the adap­tive cruise con­trol, blind-spot mon­i­tor, and rear cross traf­fic alert (for back­ing out of park­ing spots) all proved them­selves.

About the only thing we didn’t care for was the fuel econ­omy of 13 city/18 high­way (we av­er­aged 15.2 mpg), yet it is a small com­pro­mise to make with such a ca­pa­ble off-road ve­hi­cle that also has the abil­ity to tow up to 8,100 pounds. Be­sides, if you are in the mar­ket for an SUV that starts at $84,775, you prob­a­bly can af­ford to buy some gas.

Large, pow­er­ful, and full of of­froad equip­ment, the ’17 Toy­ota Land Cruiser can han­dle much more than you’d think a lux­ury SUV would be ca­pa­ble of.

Equipped with 4WD and Crawl Con­trol, among other fea­tures, the Land Cruiser is a lux­u­ri­ous, yet pretty beastly SUV.

->One of the ben­e­fits of new tech­nol­ogy on the Land Cruiser is the multi-cam­era views and an­gle in­for­ma­tion. This can come in real handy when the trail gets tight.

|>We hit up The Cliffs In­sane Ter­rain off-road park in Mar­seilles, Illi­nois, to put the Land Cruiser through the paces.

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