The beast

The new Toyota Land Cruiser might just be the greatest SUV on the market.

Arup Das | Print Edition: August 23, 2009

At 2.5 tonnes, it makes the Hummer look puny. It has acres of space. It can navigate terrain—from the dense Amazon forests to the sand dunes of the Sahara. And it may be the meanest Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) of all time, with the sole exception of the Range Rover. All hail the new Toyota Land Cruiser.

The first thing that strikes you is the huge windscreen, which gives the driver the feel of looking out on the world through a French window from a small hilltop. Then, there’s the smell of all that leather—the Land Cruiser has excellent luxury credentials in its interior styling even though it’s not quite a Lexus.

Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota Land Cruiser

The touch screen navigation system is user-friendly (but doesn’t have any India maps) and the nine-speaker audio system comprises a six-in-dash CD/DVD player with MP3 capability and Bluetooth. And the four-spoke leather/wood steering wheel has switches for audio, display, telephone and voice recognition functions. So, it has enough juice to blow your mind.

It’s huge—you can get eight occupants into the Cruiser without any trouble and unless they’re 6 ft plus, the leg room is ample. And you’re constantly aware of how big the car is—it seems out of place in cities. But it isn’t too unkind to the planet—somehow Toyota has managed to reduce its pollution level without compromising on its off-road abilities. While it’s not great at twisting roads—handling is its only shortcoming—the steering is crisp and responsive and the ride is smooth.

But the Land Cruiser really shines on rougher ground. The new V8 is available with just one engine—a 4.5-litre diesel producing 286 bhp that has 50 per cent more torque than before, making sure that it has a whopping pulling power. It soaks up bumps with ease and its body control over extreme terrain is excellent.

Toyota has developed a range of off-road modes, most of which are activated by putting the vehicle into neutral and simply pressing a button. And they actually work. The downhill assist control, or DAC, proved to be quite useful down steep inclines, even though letting your foot off the brake at a sheer drop and trusting the car’s electronic DAC system was a real leap of faith.

SUVs this good don’t come cheap. The new Land Cruiser costs Rs 85 lakh. But whatever you throw at it, the car just says “is that best you can do?” And there aren’t many vehicles that can do that.

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