The Toyota Land Cruiser V8 is a dinosaur, but likeable. Pricey to buy and run

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The first Toyota Land Cruiser was a rebadged Jeep clone. The name was first used in 1954, but a five-door station wagon was a far more recent addition to the corporate line-up. The modern V8's first spiritual successor was the 60 series, which was introduced in 1980 and became one of the first SUVs. By the time it was replaced in 1990, it had taken Toyota to a position of global dominance that it still enjoys in the segment today.

As the 4x4 market has moved increasingly towards road-biased ‘soft-roaders’, it’s easy to forget the continuing demand for vehicles capable of actually venturing into the wilderness and delivering on the promises implicit in the tough styling. As such, the new, eighth-generation Land Cruiser is undoubtedly the genuine article.

Better than ever on road and still supreme off it

It’s bigger and more luxurious than the old Land Cruiser Amazon, but, like its predecessors, it’s been engineered to take on the toughest terrain in the world. A combination of virtues that means its closest rival is the hugely successful Range Rover.

The previous Amazon tag has been dropped, with this model distinguished from its smaller siblings by a V8 suffix, referring to the mighty new 4.5-litre twin-turbodiesel that now powers it.

Toyota is forecasting just 700 sales a year in the UK, and there are no plans to bring the petrol V8 here – a tacit acknowledgement of the fact that Brits seeking a top-spec SUV put mud-plugging way down the list of priorities.

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Toyota Land Cruiser V8 front end

Behind the familiar (but scaled-up) design, the Toyota Land Cruiser V8 is an almost entirely new car; the rear suspension is the only substantial carryover from the Amazon.

The Toyota still features an old-fashioned separate chassis rather than the monocoque construction that modern SUVs have increasingly turned to. The company proclaims this to be an affirmation of the Land Cruiser’s genuine off-road credentials, and it also makes it far easier to repair in those parts of the world without access to laser-aligned bodyshop rigs.

Badging is extremely subtle. Indeed, other than 'Land Cruiser', 'V8' is your lot

The downside of body-on-frame construction tends to be poor structural rigidity, which is why Toyota has used hydroformed chassis members and high-strength steel in the frame.

The V8’s torsional rigidity is claimed to be 1.4 times better than that of the Amazon. The extra strength has brought bulk, too, with the V8 tipping MIRA’s scales at a very substantial 2880kg – considerably more than Toyota’s claimed 2555kg kerb weight.

Owning a big SUV that’s capable off road is one thing, but buyers like their vehicles to look as though they can handle themselves off the beaten track. The Land Cruiser V8 has an air of United Nations about it, and most styling is there for practical reasons.

The vast headlamps work very well, the dipped beam is wide and has excellent fill — and the full beam is one of the most powerful we’ve experienced, well up to use on the African veldt. The big, chunky door mirrors offer a superb  range of view and are fitted with powerful heating elements capable of clearing condensation or frost in seconds.

Standard wheels measure 20in and look tiny, emphasising the sheer size of the car. Chrome bling is at a minimum.


Toyota Land Cruiser V8 dashboard

As befits its price tag and position in Toyota’s brand hierarchy, the Land Cruiser V8's cabin has a distinctly Lexus feel to it. Indeed, the centre console, touchscreen interface and audio controls will all be as in the very familiar to anyone who has spent time in an LS460.

It is also one of the most intuitive and easy to use units on the market. Most of the materials are appropriately classy, too, apart from the centre console’s wood trim.

Most air-conditioned cubbies keep bottles chilled so long as they’re cold when you put them in. Not so the Land Cruiser’s: it’s like a proper fridge

Unlike many separate-chassis SUVs, the Land Cruiser manages to combine its sizeable exterior dimensions with equally impressive internal space. Front seat occupants enjoy plenty of head- and legroom, and the driving position has a comprehensive range of adjustment.

It’s a supremely comfortable place to spend time, helped by excellent high-speed refinement. And it’s worth noting that the V8’s seating position is higher even than that of the Range Rover.

The Land Cruiser V8 has inherited the Amazon’s seven-seat layout, with a third row of seats occupying most of the available boot space when deployed. These fold awkwardly against the sides of the boot when not in use, and access is awkward.

Fortunately, the second-row seats can be moved forwards or backwards on runners, meaning that legroom can be divided among rear occupants according to their needs.

The layout of the primary controls is rational enough, and Lexus LS the touchscreen is easy to use. The only real ergonomic criticism is with the haphazard minor switchgear, which looks a real afterthought; poor control location makes adjusting the mirrors a very fiddly business, for example.


Toyota Land Cruiser V8 side profile

Toyota's new engine for the Land Cruiser joins a small but select group of diesel V8s. It uses twin low-inertia turbochargers and common-rail injection to deliver a peak power output of 282bhp and a massive 479lb ft of torque, available from just 1600rpm.

The Land Cruiser’s raw performance figures only tell part of the story. We couldn’t quite match Toyota’s claimed 8.2sec 0-62mph time on damp asphalt, but our figure of 8.6sec is still striking in a vehicle that weighs very nearly three tonnes.

A conventional manual handbrake is unusual in luxurious cars like this, but it suits the Land Cruiser’s no-nonsense nature

In-gear times were similarly striking, not least the 5.4sec taken to go from 50-70mph.

The Land Cruiser’s part-throttle behaviour is even more impressive, with an almost total lack of turbo lag and strong, effortless response from idle. We do have one criticism, though: the off-the-line response of our test car was disappointing, with a good half-second delay between pressing the throttle and the torque converter getting things moving.

Drive is supplied to all four wheels via a standard-fit six-speed automatic gearbox (with the option of manual override), plus a torque-sensing centre differential that can smoothly vary the amount of torque between the front and rear axles to promote stability.

The diff can be locked, and low-range gears selected, via switches on the dashboard.

Braking performance is respectable considering the sheer mass involved; the solid pedal gives proportional responses and the sizeable ventilated discs that sit at each corner do a decent job of hauling everything up, although the 54.8 metres required to stop from 70mph compares poorly with the 50.45 metres it takes the Range Rover TDV8 to perform the same task.


Toyota Land Cruiser V8 cornering

With the proviso that it doesn’t drive like a BMW X5, the Toyota Land Cruiser V8's driving manners manage to exceed expectations across the board. In large part, this is due to the adaptive dampers fitted by Toyota, which can be switched between sport, standard and comfort modes.

In the softest setting, high-speed ridges and compressions create an uncomfortable heaving motion. Encountering rough surfaces in the firmest sport setting does allow occasional juddering to enter the cabin, but stiffening the dampers helps to keep everything lashed down at higher speeds.

Most 4x4s have a monocoque chassis, but Toyota has resisted with the V8 which retains a separate frame

This stability makes the Land Cruiser an accomplished motorway cruiser.

Although you’re always aware that this is a large off-roader, it doesn’t feel like it weighs nearly three tonnes. For a start, it’s quick in a straight line and its body control is good under braking. And although you sit extremely high, the Land Cruiser rarely feels precarious.

Its steering, which is light at low speeds, weights up as speed rises; when pressing on it’s positive and has decent resistance. At its limit, the Toyota is prone to understeer, although it thinks about loosening its tail if you brake mid-corner.

Off the road, the Land Cruiser V8 displays the same abilities as it always has. The ride height, long wheelbase and sophisticated air suspension make it an extremely comfortable way to travel over rough terrain. The combination of anti-roll bars that decouple at low speeds and a traditional solid rear axle allows the Land Cruiser to cross a step as high as 63cm while keeping all wheels in contact with the ground.

The steering is probably the big Toyota’s weakest dynamic link. It’s low geared and generously assisted, but incapable of mustering much in the way of feedback. And even with the dampers turned up to maximum, any kind of enthusiastic cornering still comes at the expense of acute body roll.


Toyota Land Cruiser V8

It’s a shame Toyota is bringing only fully loaded Land Cruisers into the UK. A basic version would be more in keeping with the car’s tough, go-anywhere nature. But on a spec-for-spec basis the V8 offers good value against obvious rivals, and it should hold on to its value very well.

That said, the rising cost of CO2-focused taxation is set to strike cars like this disproportionately hard.

A small band on Land Cruiser fans keep V8's values strong

Standard-fit equipment is exceptional, with hill descent control, anti-whiplash front seats, four-zone climate control, reversing camera, sat-nav and Bluetooth just some of the highlights. The options list has only two entries, a premium audio system and metallic paint.

Fuel economy is also likely to disappoint you. We couldn’t get anywhere near Toyota’s claimed 27.7mpg. Indeed, in our experience you’ll be lucky to average more than 20mpg. CO2 emissions are rated at 270g/km, which attracts a band M tariff.

Officially, the Land Cruiser V8 will haemorrhage more value than the Mercedes ML420 CDI and Range Rover TDV8 HSE, but relative rarity and a small, but passionate band of followers gives the V8 some impressive residuals, shedding around £10,000 in the first year of ownership – although if you can persuade Toyota to sell you one in United Nations white, don’t expect the used values to hold up quite as well.


3 star Toyota Land Cruiser V8

The Toyota Land Cruiser V8 is the best yet on the road, and it remains supreme off it.

Toyota’s modest sales projections reflect the new Land Cruiser V8’s arrival in a dying part of the market. But there are still people who need their SUVs to deliver genuine go-anywhere ability and who demand that such utility is combined with plush trim and a comprehensive selection of toys.

The V8 moves the Land Cruiser up a class. Still tough, but now Lexus-style luxury.

The overwhelming majority of these buyers in the UK end up choosing a Range Rover, a car that the previous Land Cruiser Amazon could never properly rival.

The understanding of what buyers want is displayed perfectly in the Land Cruiser V8. It’s rugged when you want it to be and smooth when you don’t, and a well thought-out – and comprehensive – list of equipment is a welcome change, even on cars costing more than £50,000.

Now the Land Cruiser has a masterpiece of a V8 diesel engine and greatly improved on-road manners. It isn’t quite as accomplished as the Range Rover TDV8, let alone the soft-road alternatives, but it impresses more than the Mercedes ML420 CDI, Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDi and Volvo XC90 D5.

As a long-term ownership proposition, Toyota’s legendary tough build quality means it’s second to none. If you’re in search of the genuine article, this is it.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Toyota Land Cruiser V8 2008-2011 First drives