By KBB.com Editors
The 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser takes the best attributes from several different types of vehicles – luxury sedan, minivan, serious off-roader, full-sized pickup – and combines them to produce a comfortable, roomy and capable SUV. The flagship of Toyota's six-SUV fleet offers seating for eight, a 381-horsepower V8, full-time four-wheel drive, 8,500-pound towing capacity and new technology that gives it impressive ability off-road. However, its price and size have both ballooned. Competitors include the Mercedes-Benz GL550 SUV, Land Rover Range Rover HSE, Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator, though none exactly match the Land Cruiser's combination of power, seating capacity, towing capability and back-country performance.You'll Like This Car If...
Land Cruiser loyalists whose fortunes, desires and lifestyles have kept in step with the vehicle's increasing size, luxury and price will be attracted to this latest version. It will also appeal to those who demand opulent surroundings while carrying eight people, towing a heavy trailer or hauling a mound of gear.You May Not Like This Car If...
Those who battle tight urban traffic or must cram into undersized suburban parking places may find the Land Cruiser a bit unwieldy. Also, its styling does not project the rugged image some seek in an SUV.What's New for 2009
For 2009, privacy glass is added to the Land Cruiser's side and rear quarter windows.Driving It Driving Impressions
Thanks partially to its stiffened ladder frame, the Toyota Land Cruiser's ride comfort comes close to equaling that of many luxury sedans. Steering feel is precise and confidence-inspiring. Body roll is much less than most other vehicles with similar off-road aptitude. It accelerates impressively from a stop despite its 5,690-pound curb weight. Its 381-horsepower V8 makes passing on two-lane roads easy. Still, it's a big vehicle and it feels like it. On two-lane highways, it seemed as if there was little space left between the outside mirrors and the centerline on the left and the edge of the road on the right. Parking and maneuvering in tight quarters was a challenge even with the sonar proximity warning system and rearview camera. The Land Cruiser shined in severe off-road exercises, which included climbing rock piles, traversing deep dirt moguls and descending a hill that in winter is a steep and difficult ski run.Favorite Features
The three-place center row seats offer fore/aft adjustment and are split 40/20/40. When combined with the 50/50-divided third row, they allow passengers to maximize legroom depending upon the number and size of those aboard.
Kinetic Driving Suspension System
During serious off-road driving, the new Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System maximizes suspension travel in order to keep the tires on the ground. Without it, a tire would hang uselessly over the valley between deep moguls when the suspension reached its limit of travel.
The 2009 Land Cruiser offers an expansive interior that can be configured to accommodate up to eight passengers, two people and a pile of gear or several combinations in between. Cargo space is somewhat lessened by the third-row seats that flip up and stow along the cargo bay's sides, rather then folding flush into the floor. Unlike many three-row SUVs, however, the rear-most seats can accommodate most adults, while the adjustable second row provides expansive legroom when the third row is vacant. The instrument panel, dash and console are awash with switches, gauges and displays; it will take owners some time to figure out what they all do. At least the speedometer is large and easy to read.Exterior
While many SUVs employ fender flares, aggressive grilles and various bulges to project a go-anywhere, tough-guy look, Toyota chose less-cluttered bodywork; when you're confident of your ability, you don't have to pretend. Besides, the Land Cruiser's already wide body leaves little space for fender flares. Though 2.4 inches longer than the previous generation, the Land Cruiser offers roughly the same ground clearance, both over level surfaces and when approaching, negotiating and clearing off-road obstacles.Notable Standard Equipment
Highlights of the Toyota Land Cruiser's standard features are full-length side-curtain airbags, which deploy in side impacts or rollovers. They account for two of its 10 airbags. To help prevent the need for airbags, the Land Cruiser has full-time four-wheel drive, vehicle stability control, four-wheel traction control and a new anti-lock brake system designed to produce shorter stops in snow, on sanded roads and off the pavement. A sonar system warns drivers of obstacles hidden close to the vehicle. The four-zone climate control system's 28 outlets should help all passengers stay comfortable. The Land Cruiser is available in one trim level.Notable Optional Equipment
A satellite navigation system and a rear-view camera top the list of options available for the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser. The camera's image is projected on the navigation system's screen when reverse is selected. It's possible to get these separately or as part of the Upgrade Package, which bundles almost all of the Land Cruiser's optional equipment. Passengers on long road trips will appreciate the package's rear-seat entertainment system, which includes a nine-inch display, six-disc CD/DVD changer and jacks for audio and games, heated second-row seats and a refrigerated "cool box" in the center console.Under the Hood
The 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser's 5.7-liter double-overhead cam V8 produces 381 horsepower, up 116 from the previous 4.7-liter V8. Its 401 pound-feet of torque helps Land Cruiser tow trailers of up to 8,500-pounds, an increase of one ton. The new six-speed automatic transmission employs a very low first gear for strong acceleration away from stoplights and two overdrive gears for better fuel economy. The Land Cruiser's revised full-time four-wheel-drive system has a Torsen torque-sensing center differential that sends engine torque to the axle with the most traction.
381 horsepower @ 5600 rpm
401 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/18
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser starts just under $66,000, while fully optioned versions are roughly $73,000. This is a bargain compared to the seven-seat Mercedes-Benz GL550 SUV or the five-place Land Rover Range Rover HSE, which both start closer to $80,000. However, it's more expensive than the all-wheel-drive Cadillac Escalade, which also seats eight and starts around $65,000.Be sure to check Fair Purchase Prices to see what buyers are actually paying for this vehicle in your area. As for resale, the Land Cruiser is expected to hold its value reasonably well, better than either the Escalade or Ranger Rover, but not as well as the GL550.