Thirty-five years ago, who knew that rugged utes, subscribers to the oldest school of SUV-dom, would become status symbols? Mercedes’ Geländewagen makes news when some guy buys one for Kylie Jenner. GM takes the hoary Suburban, slaps a Cad badge and some Volvo-esque taillights on the thing and prints money.
And staid Toyota still trickles out a stream of serious-business Land Cruisers outfitted in a manner that reminds old-timers that, before Lexus, the company’s mainline marque was its own luxury brand. For 2016, Toyota has gone and added more luxe and convenience goodies, as well as thrown in a new transmission.
Much has been made of the fact that the new Tacoma makes do with a mere six forward gears. The ’16 Land Cruiser will bear no such criticisms, as its 381-horse, 401-lb-ft 5.7-liter engine now is backed up by an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The EPA result is 13 mpg in the city, 18 on the highway, and 15 combined. Capable of towing 8500 pounds, the Cruiser also features Trailer Sway Control, which uses the stability-control system to cancel those unnerving side-to-side oscillations while pulling a load.
New for ’16 is a safety suite called “Safety Sense-P” which includes a pre-collision system, pedestrian protection, and frontal collision avoidance. Lane-departure warning, auto high beams, and radar-based active cruise control also aid the driver.
Inside, the upgraded Entune head unit with JBL Synthesis audio offers 14 speakers and a 9.0-inch screen with Siri Eyes Free tech, while rear-seat passengers are treated to 11.6-inch screens. Phone junkies get a Qi wireless inductive-charging system. Black and Terra Brown are the two available interior colors.
Outside, the refreshed Land Cruiser is new ahead of the A-pillars, and we like the look. As is par for the model, it’s not overwhelmingly flashy, even if it isn’t as wholly blocky and utilitarian as it once was.
In the rear, LED light-pipe taillights add a bit of pizazz without going over the top. And while 18-inch wheels once seemed ginormous, they’re now practically an exemplar of restraint on a vehicle this size.
Most important, the big Toyota retains its off-road prowess, with 30-degree approach and 20-degree departure angles. The full-time 4WD system features a low-range transfer case, as God and Ivan Stewart intended.
The locking center diff is a Torsen unit that runs in a standard 40:60 torque split but can send more twist fore or aft as needed. And one last thing: Toyota still includes a full-size spare. Thirty-five years ago, that wasn’t a selling point. It was practically a given.