Review: 2015 Toyota Land Cruiser

Jun. 19, 2015 By Josh Burns
Land Cruiser aficionados will appreciate that the 2015 Land Cruiser still carries with it some of that off-road capability for which the early models were known.

The Land Cruiser has a special place in the hearts and minds of off-roaders the world over. Its roots harken back to the early 1940s when Toyota began building a half-ton truck for Japan’s military that took cues from the Bantam Jeep of the same era. It went through a few different variations over the next two decades (including the BJ/FJ, J20 and J30) until it was finally unveiled to the public as the well-known J40 model that was first offered in 1960 and available for nearly 25 years thereafter. Even today, you’ll still see off-road enthusiasts hitting trails in rebuilt versions of the J40, J60 (1980-’89), and the popular SUV amongst the overlanding crowd, the J80 (’90-’97).

If you’re like us, maybe you were a little caught by surprise that the Land Cruiser is still in Toyota’s lineup in 2015, but sure enough, there it is! This newest version, considered the fifth generation, was first unveiled in 2008. The 2015 model does share some similarities with previous generations, because as Toyota notes, it retains that “go anywhere capability and spirit.” Yet Toyota considers this modern take on the popular body-on-frame SUV a full-fledged luxury SUV, and one that is ultimately only available in one trim option – loaded. Toyota makes no apologies for this fact, either, as the current Land Cruiser embodies off-road capability and luxury throughout. But its hefty price tag near $80,000 proves that this blend of capability and modern amenities isn’t cheap.

The 2015 Land Cruiser can fit up to 8 people.

There’s only one option for wheels on the 2015 Land Cruiser, and that’s an 18 x 8-inch Aluminum alloy wheel featuring a high-gloss finish. The P285/60 Bridgestone Dueler H/T tires may be on the more road friendly side, but they do provide ample traction for moderate off-roading.

The Land Cruiser shifted away from the two-door-style off-roader many decades ago, but the current four-door model for 2015 can accommodate up to eight people with its third-row seating, though keep in mind that the third row realistically will only comfortably fit children. The interior of the Land Cruiser is plush and cozy, offering many of the high-end features one would expect to find on a high-end luxury vehicle. Leather upholstery, wood trim accents, front seat and backseat climate control, a DVD entertainment system in the backseat, and a center console drink cooler are just some of the interior features. A few of our favorites included the heated and ventilated front seats, sunroof, standard Premium HDD Navigation with Entune and 14-speaker JBL sound system, and the integrated backup camera that is pretty much a must-have on an SUV of this size.

The Land Cruiser features the same 5.7-liter V8 engine found on the Tundra and Sequoia. It produces 381 hp and 401 lb.-ft. of torque.

The Land Cruiser is capable of towing up to 8,200 pounds thanks to its beefy 5.7-liter V8 engine.

Since this fifth-gen Land Cruiser was first unveiled in 2008 it is fitted with the current 5.7-liter DOHC V8 found in Toyota’s Tundra and other large SUV the Sequoia. The engine is rated to produce 381 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 401 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,600 rpm. The beefy V8 provides the Land Cruiser with a towing capability of 8,200 lbs., which is 1,100 lbs. more than a 4WD Sequoia (though the Sequoia gets the nod with more cargo capacity). Toyota mates a six-speed electronically controlled transmission to the 5.7-liter engine. The fuel economy rating for the Land Cruiser comes in at 13 mpg in the city, 18 mpg on the highway, and 15 mpg combined. We experienced a lower combined rating, however, at 13.48 mpg during our testing.

The interior of the fifth-generation Land Cruiser features wood trim accents and leather seats throughout.

The Land Cruiser relies on a full-time four-wheel-drive system that is equipped with a two-speed transfer case that features low-range more technical, slow-speed off-roading. One of the most notable features of the Land Cruiser is its TORSEN limited-slip locking center differential, which helps direct additional torque to the wheels with the best grip thanks to its 40:60 front-to-rear ratio, and it works in conjunction with Toyota’s Active Traction control (or A-TRAC) that activates both braking and throttle functions to aid in reducing wheel spin.

Aside from leather, the front seats feature heated and ventilated cooling for added comfort.

We were pleasantly surprised with how well the Land Cruiser found traction during off-road testing. Even in rocky, loose terrain on uphill climbs, the SUV’s tires never slipped as it confidently crawled up steep grades. Toyota also notes the Land Cruiser is equipped with skid plates to protect the engine and transmission from trail obstacles, and we’re happy to report we didn’t need to use them this time (but it’s good to know they’re there).

The wood-trim carries over to the steering wheel as well, which features controls for the stereo, BlueTooth phone functions and more.

Up front, the Land Cruiser features double-wishbone front suspension, while out back a four-link, coil-spring rear suspension setup is designed to provide great axle articulation for off-road terrain. Although drivers will find limitations off the highway due to the Land Cruiser’s limited ground clearance of 8.9 inches, this luxury SUV still offers capable approach and departure angles of 30 and 20 degrees, respectively. Fire roads and moderate trails proved to be no problem for the Land Cruiser, but we found limitations with its ride height in steeper uphill and downhill sections. In spite of its sheer size, the suspension did a great job of soaking up the bumps in low range and at a quicker clip in high range on weathered roads.

Instead of offering a sway-bar disconnect for more articulation during off-roading, the Land Cruiser provides a more high-tech alternative in its Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (or KDSS), which hydraulically adjusts the lean resistance provided by the stabilizer bars to minimize wheel lift for improved traction. The KDSS is also said to reduce body lean by as much as 50 percent on the highway; then again, keep in mind that at 5,765 pounds, this heavy SUV will not be mistaken for a sporty crossover on winding roads.

The Land Cruiser is a large SUV, and yet it still motors up moderate off-road terrain with confidence.

More technical, slow-speed off-roading in low range allows the driver to use the CRAWL Control. This system features five speed settings that hold the vehicle’s movement in forward or reverse by controlling both the throttle and braking functions on level ground or steep uphill sections so the driver can focus on steering. The Downhill Assist Control is a similar function, though it controls the speed of the vehicle during descents while in low range; Hill-start Assist Control aids by preventing the SUV from rolling back when stopping or starting on a steep incline. Although we typically prefer to do the driving ourselves, when taking an $80,000 SUV off of the highway for exploration, these features will provide some added peace of mind for the less experienced off-roaders – especially when first exploring with the vehicle off-road while unsure of its capabilities/limitations.

To the left of the steering are controls for the side-view mirrors, parking sensors, stability controls, limited slip center differential, and more.

Serious off-roaders will likely look to replace the stock tires on the Land Cruiser, which don’t offer much in terms of tire grip off-road, but they do provide great on-road handling and a quiet ride. On the highway, the Land Cruiser is comfortable and confident. Our only gripe is it feels a little heavy around tight turns during daily driving around town. Instead of flowing around turns effortlessly, it feels just a little more laborious than we’d like. Slow-speed navigation in parking lots and the like aren’t much of a chore, however, and the backup camera makes that job far easier.

In terms of its overall appearance, the exterior styling is clean and simple – maybe too simple for a luxury SUV, but it still looks nice. The interior is overall quite nice, it is comfortable and filled with features throughout, though some of the functions do feature dated controls. Inside, the Land Cruiser looks and feels the part of a luxury SUV, but then again its styling isn’t quite modern enough to really sell the entire package.

There's a lot of things we like about the fifth-gen Land Cruiser, but the price tag is not one of them.

At the end of the day, we came away with a mixed impression of the 2015 Land Cruiser. On the one hand, it’s a nicely equipped family vehicle that offers a host of amenities; on the other hand, it’s a decently capable off-roader that still shares some of that capability of prior Land Cruisers. It seems to straddle the line between those two things, being more of a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. It’s not really a pure luxury SUV or a serious off-roader. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all, our hesitation comes at the realization this combination comes with an $80,000 price tag. We built a decently equipped 4WD SR5 Sequoia for a little more than $60,000 on Toyota’s website, and while the Sequoia certainly doesn’t offer as many features and amenities as the Land Cruiser, it will serve a similar purpose for most families in getting the group to the campsite, towing the trailer, heading on weekend excursions, etc. We like the fifth-generation Land Cruiser in many regards, but we’re not sure we can justify the asking price.

Specifications – 2015 Toyota Land Cruiser
Engine: 5.7L DOHC VVT-I V8
Horsepower: 381 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 401 lb.-ft. @ 3,600 rpm
Transmission:  6-speed ECT automatic w/sequential shift mode
Height: 74.0 in.
Track Width: 64.6 in. (front & rear)
Length: 194.9 in.
Wheelbase: 112.2 in.
Approach Angle: 30 degrees
Departure Angle: 20.0 degrees
Breakover Angle:  21.0 degrees
Ground Clearance (suspension or axle to ground) 8.9 in.
Claimed Curb Weight: 5,765 lbs.
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: 7,275 lbs.
Towing Capacity: 8,200 lbs.
Payload Capacity: 1,295 lbs.
Fuel Tank: 24.6 gal.
Seating Capacity: 8
Axle Ratio: N/A
Aver. MPG (tested): 13.8 mpg overall
Price: $80,830*
*Sticker price as tested, includes destination charges Newsletter
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