Here’s What It’s Like To Off-Road An $85,000 Toyota Land Cruiser

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If you consider things objectively, buying a 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser makes absolutely no sense. For one thing, it’s $85,000 for a Toyota, the same automaker that sells the subcompact Yaris to people whose primary requirement for a new car is that it exists.

It’s also eighty-five grand for a vehicle with no panoramic sunroof (you can get one in the Jeep Renegade), no power liftgate (standard on the Chrysler Town & Country), and a giant V8 that gets 13 miles per gallon in the city and 18 miles per gallon on the highway. That’s 20 percent worse than the Cadillac Escalade. You have to try to do that badly.

And yet, it’s my favorite car on sale today.

(Full disclosure: I begged the Toyota people for a Land Cruiser press car. And they mulled it over, and they considered their options, and they really thought about things, and then they replied: Who are you? No, I’m kidding, they were really nice and they gave me one.)


I drove this thing three hours to Washington, D.C., two hours to New York City, and on an off-roading expedition through Rausch Creek Off-Road Park, where it ended up caked in mud up to its roof racks. Here’s a tip: do not buy a Toyota Land Cruiser former press car. Especially if it’s dark red.


Anyway, you’re probably interested to learn how it all went, so I’m going to tell you. I’m also going to show you, because I’ve created this video where the Land Cruiser is traversing muddy holes, and steep ruts, and challenging hills, and giant rocks. And as usual with off-roading videos, you’re going to watch it and insist that it’s nothing, and that your wife’s Acura TLX could do that, as you sit at your cubicle and eat instant soup.

But the truth is that the off-roading we did was pretty difficult. It was especially difficult for the Land Cruiser, which showed up to the off-road park on street tires, in stock form, with giant running boards going down either side. And then there was the fact that I was driving someone else’s $85,000 vehicle. So I was a little nervous, in the same way that the Ferrari F40 is a little impractical.


I became even more nervous when we were five minutes into the off-roading affair and the Land Cruiser’s undercarriage caught a fairly small rock in the middle of a trail. This was a rock we hadn’t even bothered to pay attention to, and THWACK!! The Land Cruiser couldn’t get past it. This is it? we thought. This is all it can do? Given the vehicle’s limitations (coupled with its price tag), we probably should’ve immediately done the smart thing: turned around, left the park, and played it safe.

Instead, we were there for five more hours.

And the Land Cruiser never had another issue. We climbed big hills, we went over giant rocky ruts, and we drove through huge mud holes. And the Land Cruiser handled all of it with ease.


Although I would like to believe it’s because of my expert driving, it wasn’t. In fact, it was largely due to the Land Cruiser’s expert driving. I say this because the Land Cruiser now comes equipped with an off-roading feature called Crawl Control, which involves pressing a button on the center console labeled “Crawl Control,” removing your feet from the pedals, and merely steering.


The Land Cruiser then does everything else, using various sensors and gadgets to ascend, descend, or merely drive straight at exactly the speed you want. The system is absolutely brilliant, except for the fact that when it’s operating, it sounds like you’re standing in a warehouse that’s getting pummeled with hail the size of lawn flamingoes.

So the off-roading went great. Still, I couldn’t help but imagine how great it would really be if you took off those idiotic running boards, jacked it up a few inches, and threw on some meaty tires. At that point, the Land Cruiser would be unstoppable.


Remove the physical limitations, turn on crawl control, and the thing could traverse the surface of the moon. It would also look like a better value up there, since the Lunar Rover cost $38 million and also doesn’t have a power tailgate.


Really, though, the most impressive part of the Land Cruiser came on the drive home. Because after forging mud holes, climbing huge hills, and cruising across giant rocky fields, my friends and I sat in the Land Cruiser on the highway, driving 70 miles per hour, our butts being warmed and cooled by the automatic heated and ventilated seats, DVD screens glowing in back, while the Land Cruiser used radar to automatically slow down and speed up based on the vehicles in front of us.

Try that in a Jeep Wrangler.

@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars, which his mother says is “fairly decent.” He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer.