Home Reviews 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser: Heritage Edition has retro flare, off-road prowess

2020 Toyota Land Cruiser: Heritage Edition has retro flare, off-road prowess

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Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition (Image by G.R. Whale)

To celebrate 60 years and 10 million Land Cruisers, Toyota is building 1,200 Heritage Edition versions of the current model. I can’t make the 60-10-1,200 connection, but the sun’s not over the yardarm yet.

The Heritage Edition’s $2,330 premium nets you a 100-pounds-lighter truck because it does not come with third-row seats, side steps or the front console cool box. There are also some minor cosmetic changes, including the bitchin’ badge on the rear pillars mimicking the original. 

Plus, you can get it in any “color” you want – so long as it’s metallic white or black. 

That finish is very nice and handsomely complemented by the wheels, but exactly wrong for any Cruiser outside the arctic where there’s minimal solar heating and few bushes to mar the finish. 

Inside, the black (only) leather is contrast stitched in bronze.

Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition (Image by G.R. Whale)

The H.E. also includes a Yakima LoadWarrior roof rack and BBS forged alloy wheels, the latter likely with a higher strength-to-weight ratio than any wheel this side of a Cayenne Turbo S. The rack and wheels are far more useful than sidesteps and most campers can’t get enough beer in the cool box for one round, so Toyota is effectively not charging any significant premium for the limited edition. 

If you really needed third-row seats, I bet the mounting points are all still there, you just won’t have coordinated stitching.

Unless your LinkedIn profile reads “Vehicle Development Engineer, Toyota Trucks” or something similar, you won’t really notice the missing 100 pounds – or any other difference from a regular TLC except for wind noise. 

Yes, the roof rack has a wind deflector, but it also has a myriad of round tubes. I was surprised to find wind noise didn’t change much from 65 mph to 80 inside, but unless you’re using the rack, best to pop it off before somebody forgets vertical clearance now begins at 7 feet, something inches. There’s a hint of tire noise at highway speeds too, but the Dunlop Grandtreks are standard TLC kit.

Go-anywhere capability

Now that you can make your sports-car friends jealous of your truck’s wheels, what else can you do with an H.E.? More or less whatever you want – and isn’t that the point of an SUV?

I spent equal hours in low-range and on pavement, and had I not stopped so much to admire the view would have continued straight on to my monthly road rally. If you can afford the gas, the TLC can legitimately and comfortably take you almost anywhere it fits.

The Cruiser appears a somewhat unwieldy bulbous thing, but it really isn’t. A Honda Pilot or Ford Explorer are longer; a GMC Yukon is a foot longer. The 112.2-inch wheelbase is shorter than anything in class, nearly identical to a mid-to-late ’80s regular cab “long” bed Toyota pickup, and one reason Land Cruiser turns tighter. In low-range it might carve tighter yet with turn assist locking the inside rear wheel making it a pivot point. But the Toyota is more than 6 feet tall (rack not included) and only 2 inches narrower than most full-size pickups, lending a capacious feel where three-across rear seating is realistic proposition. 

 

Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition (Image by G.R. Whale)

Cargo space appears one size smaller than a cargo van at a respectable 53.5 cubic feet — 2 less than a VW Atlas crossover with its third row stowed. A large hatch affords weather protection for loading, while the short tailgate is a convenient seat and the same level as the cargo floor—there are even handy storage bins inside the tailgate.

Backlit white-on-black instruments are the real thing, the oil pressure gauge as responsive as the tachometer, and the tilt/telescoping, heated-where-you-hold-it leather and wood wheel allows a good view of them. 

All controls, including a proper handbrake, are logically arrayed and easy to decipher. Plus, the JBL sound system is than ready for trail or highway, but the touchscreen and lack of CarPlay or Android Auto belie the platform’s age. Voice control, Siri eye’s free and weather overlay via HD radio are as advanced as it gets here.

Taking stuff with you

Plush as the padded surfaces and wood trim are, underside robustness appears at lest equally impressive. Open the hood, and your eyes are immediately drawn to the passenger-side void where you expect ROW diesel Cruisers get a second battery – and the battery in this gas-engine truck is the same size Dodge put in the first Cummins diesel pickups. The cooling system holds only 1.2 gallons less than the current Ram diesel. Relatively speaking, everything here is up high and serviceable.

I didn’t see anything underneath that didn’t look suitable for the heaviest half-ton pickups. It’s well skid plated and carries a matching spare. 

In fact, the numbers are similar in some respects, especially against luxury trim half-ton crews: At 5,715 pounds curb and 7,365 GVWR the Land Cruiser has an effective payload of 1,670 pounds, allowing 860 pounds of people and cargo plus the 10% tongue weight of an 8,100-pound trailer. 

Those capacities help explain the slight nose-down attitude that parallels empty pickups. 

What’s underneath matters

The Cruiser uses coil springs at both ends, getting its ride quality from suspension travel. To maintain lateral level KDSS controls the fat antiroll bars, offering good flex and articulation handy on the trail and controlled roll stiffness on the pavement. It’s not as trick as full air suspension and active dampers, yet it doesn’t feel artificial like many (including the Lexus GX) do.

IFS won’t please the purists, but it does help ride and directional stability. It also allows rack-and-pinion steering, here a variable gear unit (ratio of 14.2-17.6:1) that again, doesn’t feel artificial at all. 

Regular truck drivers will recognize the body-on-frame feel, and any GoPro tucked underneath will show how flexible the body mounts are, yet the assembly rarely shudders and rides miles ahead of most body/frame utes this long into a generation.

Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition (Image by G.R. Whale)

For propulsion TLC gets Tundra’s 5.7-liter gas V-8 rated at 381 horsepower/5,600 rpm and 401 pound-feet/3,600 rpm on plain unleaded. Here it’s coupled to an eight-speed automatic that always gave me the gear desired or requested, saving a lot of “ECT Power” button pressing. 

The EPA says 13/17/14 mpg in city/highway/combined driving, and I recorded almost 18 mpg on 65-75 mph highway (rack on, but empty), 12 mpg around town, and about 10 mpg in low-range. These are lower than newer competitors but anyone buying a big, genuine utility vehicle looking for gasoline mileage isn’t going to find it. 

I didn’t tow anything with this one, but previous experience suggests the only thing you might need are some larger mirrors for wider trailers.

Off-road adventures

When you want to venture off road all you have to do is signal. There’s no air dam to remove or pause while it pumps itself higher, and it’s in 4WD all the time (you push/rotate to engage low-range) with a lockable (automatically in low-range) Torsen center diff. Alas, you cannot flat-tow it as a dinghy behind your Prevost coach.

Throttle-mapping for the 41.5:1 crawl ratio takes some of the edge off throttle tip-in, but it doesn’t soothe the touchy brakes or springy pedal. In many cases where the incline wasn’t too steep I could simply idle along in low-range/drive while it walked over small rocks like a sailboat changing tempo as it crests a swell. Head toss is minimized since KDSS lets the antiroll bars move further, and when throttle is needed it doesn’t take much.  The only thing I scraped underneath was the rear mud flaps, frequently, but they were still there at day’s end.

Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition (Image by G.R. Whale)

Unlike earlier Cruisers, there are no factory locking differentials, just the assortment of electronic aids like traction control, multi-terrain monitor and crawl control. Only once did I get it crossed up enough that traction engaged for a couple of seconds, and that may not have occurred with more weight in back, more aggressive tires or both. Might you put a locker(s) in if you plan expansive wheeling? Sure, but see how far you get without it, at least until the warranty expires or you want to re-gear for taller tires.

Yet it wasn’t the ease of making progress or the comfort doing so that made the Land Cruiser feel different, it was an intangible I’ll call build quality for lack of a more precise descriptor. It never emitted a single creak, groan, squeak, thunk or anything else the entire time I had it—that’s a rarity amongst press four-wheel drives to begin with, and this had 12k miles of hard use and multiple paint buffs on it. There’s every indication the stout-looking chassis and everything in it will be durable like people expect.

Comparables

Every U.S.-spec Land Cruiser comes one way—loaded. 

Standards include everything above plus10 airbags, Toyota’s Safety Sense suite, multi-view cameras, four-zone climate control (including automatic heat/ventilated front seats) and so on. The only accessory on this one was the port-installed glass breakage sensor, for a grand total of $89,269.

That’s just under the base price of the least expensive Range Rover, a 355-horsepower mild-hybrid. The Range Rover has air suspension, better fuel economy and a few features (gesture tailgate, rear fog lamps, more advanced if no-easier-to-use infotainment) the Land Cruiser doesn’t, but you’ll need $95k -plus to get other features standard on the TLC. The Range Rover also has more panache, but you turn into an ass every time you get in the driver’s seat. 

A G-Wagen, which suffers from the same fate, begins at $131k.

If you prefer the dustbuster look or Lexus dealer experience, a LX570 two-row is about the same price. A GMC Yukon Denali will be $15k less, while Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator could be less – or $7k more, and none of them will match this off road. An Infiniti QX80 Limited ($91,450) feels closest but it doesn’t wheel as well either. 

Arguably the two best alternatives are: (for pavement use) a Sequoia Platinum with more modern electronics and 18 cupholders, slightly better mileage despite a six-speed automatic at $70k; or (for fuel economy) a Sierra Denali diesel 4×4 in the mid-high $60k range, which tows or carries about 10% more.

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