Behind The Wheel: Toyota Land Cruiser is still durable

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Toyota has done a nice job of updating the Land Cruiser for 2016, giving its priciest vehicle some new lines to go with upgrades under the hood and behind the wheel while retaining the durability that has given the SUV near-cult status with its owners over the years.

The exterior styling for the five-door, eight-seat SUV has been modernized, with LED headlights and taillights, a new grille, and front and rear bumpers. The Land Cruiser also got a prominent bulge in the hood for 2016, but it has retained its boxy and brawny look.

For the first time since going on sale in the U.S. in 1957, the Land Cruiser has been given an eight-speed automatic transmission, which has improved the acceleration of the hefty, 5,815-pound SUV.

Toyota has added the latest safety features to this year's Land Cruiser, such as blind spot monitoring and collision mitigation. Trailer sway control, which helps a driver keep a towed trailer steady on the road, now comes standard.

Inside, there are more things to make travel enjoyable, including two 10-inch screens so rear-seat passengers can watch movies and play video games and Siri Eyes Free capability that lets drivers communicate with their iPhones with the push a button.

Adds to reputation

All of these upgrades only add to the long-running reputation and appeal of the Land Cruiser as the SUV for drivers who value durability and longevity above all else.

The Land Cruiser's quality and reliability scores have been consistently high, and Consumer Reports lists the 2016 version as a recommended buy.

With a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $84,820, the Land Cruiser isn't cheap. No factory options are available, because the Land Cruiser comes fully equipped.

It will also cost drivers at the gas pump, with the Land Cruiser getting only 13 mpg in city driving and 18 mpg on the highway, according to government ratings. The Land Cruiser comes in only one version, which has a V8 and full-time four-wheel drive.

The Land Cruiser can tow up to 8,100 pounds of boats, campers and the like, and can last for decades. And it doesn't just look like an SUV, with its body-on-frame rugged construction and Torsen limited-slip locking center differential that adjusts power in rugged terrain from wheels that are slipping to those that aren't.

It's a big climb to get inside the 6.2-foot-tall Land Cruiser. With ground clearance of a full 9.1 inches, this SUV provides lots of distance underneath so its mechanicals don't scrape off-road obstacles such as fallen logs and protruding rocks.

The Land Cruiser's mud- and snow-rated 18-inch tires are ready for all types of terrain, but surprisingly, in the test-driven version, there wasn't much road noise to be heard inside the vehicle.

This quiet interior, upscale amenities and strong V8 power give the sizable Land Cruiser a luxury-with-brawn feel.

The 5.7-liter double overhead cam V8's 381 horsepower and 401 foot-pounds of torque capably propelled the Land Cruiser's heft, and the new transmission managed the power well.

The tested vehicle averaged 14 mpg in a mix of city, highway and off-road driving, which would get only 344 miles on a single 24.6-gallon tank.

The Land Cruiser rides smoothly on pavement and cushions many off-road bumps, particularly when they are taken and managed slowly. But its heft is noticeable off-road and on. In curves and turns, those in the test-driven model leaned noticeably and the hood dipped in all but the smoothest of braking maneuvers.

Third-row legroom is scant, at 28.3 inches, but front-row legroom of 42.9 inches is outstanding.

The cargo floor at the back of the Land Cruiser is high off the ground, so items have to be hoisted inside. Maximum room in the cargo area, with the second-row seats folded down and the third row removed, is 81.7 cubic feet.

Land Cruisers from the 2003 to 2006 model years were recalled in February because improper programming for the side curtain air bags could cause them to deploy unnecessarily and risk injuring passengers.


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