Jun 03, 2023

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser Is Cool, Affordable, Honors the Original

It may not have a solid front axle, but it's also not a mall wagon—essentially, Toyota turned the clock back and forward at the same time.

Toyota formally pulled the wraps off the new 2024 Land Cruiser today, in a rebirth that was hardly surprising considering the enduring cachet this nameplate enjoys across the world. Now off-road enthusiasts with sights set on backcountry travel will be able to hit the trail in a new Land Cruiser instead of waiting years for the price of a used high-mileage Land Cruiser to fall within reach.

It is to be expected that Toyota would not walk away from this iconic vehicle. Instead, the automaker called a time out and used it to engineer a clean break from the Land Cruiser's increasingly expensive and bloated mall-cruiser trajectory. This desirable off-roader has stayed faithful to the original concept, but Toyota made a determined effort to return this off-road SUV to a more mainstream price point.

Toyota isn't disclosing full details, but the starting price will be in "the mid-$50,000 range." Compare that to the $87,030 minimum cost of entry for the discontinued 2021 Land Cruiser, and you can see why Toyota expects sales to increase significantly over the paltry 3000 to 4000 units per year they typically moved over the past decade. They're not saying how much sales will increase, but we find it telling that they plan to sell all 5000 examples of the First Edition—a number they haven't hit in an entire year since 2004—within the first three months. After those are built, production will shift to the less expensive base Land Cruiser 1958 (so named for the first year of U.S. Land Cruiser sales) and the simply named Land Cruiser variant.

To bring the price down, the new Cruiser rides on a version of Toyota's new global TNGA-F truck platform, a modular workhorse that underpins Tundras, Sequoias, and even the new Tacoma. It's the foundation for the world-market 300-series Land Cruiser, and under another acronym it appears under the Lexus LX600 (a U.S.-spec 300-series Land Cruiser variant) and the upcoming Lexus GX550. It also helps that the new model is strictly a five-passenger machine, which saves cost by eliminating the need to engineer third-row climate distribution ducting, passenger controls, and other accommodations.

In the Toyota geek-speak that Land Cruiser aficionados love, the new Land Cruiser is technically a 250-series. It's not near as big as the pure-300 Lexus LX600, but it is newer than the 200-series Cruiser that left the scene in 2021. All three of these share a 112.2-inch wheelbase, but the new TLC is nearly seven inches shorter than the LX from nose to tail. Compared to the old 200, the new model shares an overall width of 78.0 inches, stands only 0.8 inch shorter, and is just 1.2 inches stubbier front to back. That said, the differences appear huge in real life because the 2024 Land Cruiser has a narrow body, grille, and greenhouse with prominent fender flares that cover a comparatively broad track. It's a clearly skinnier vehicle that looks like it has been modded to give it a tougher stance.

Despite the narrower body, the accommodations feel more generous than the current 4Runner. Interior dimensions are not yet available, but the vehicle feels right-sized. That's because this smaller Land Cruiser is still not as small as the current Toyota 4Runner, which still has a place to live in the hierarchy in its usual place below this new Land Cruiser. Toyota is mum about any new 4Runner specifics, except to say it's not going anywhere. We think the new 4Runner, when it arrives, will slot in at a lower price point by using the Tacoma's part-time four-wheel-drive system and its base and midlevel engine offerings. A high-performance TRD Pro will probably continue, as that would distinguish it from the more overland-focused Land Cruiser.

All 2024 Land Cruisers will be powered by the same 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder hybrid iForce Max powertrain and eight-speed transmission that will power the high end of the Tacoma model range, most notably the TRD Pro. This powertrain's output of 326 combined horsepower represents a dip below the old 5.7-liter V-8's 381 ponies, but its mighty combined torque of 465 pound-feet betters the old model's 401 pound-feet where it counts off-road—especially since the iForce generates peak torque at just 1700 rpm instead of 3600 revs. An integrated tow hitch is standard, but this smaller and less powerful Land Cruiser's tow rating does drop from the prior model's 8100 pounds to a still-respectable 6000 pounds.

Toyota won't release fuel-economy estimates until later this year, but we expect huge increases over the 2021's appalling 14 mpg combined (13 city/17 highway). The reformulated hybrid Cruiser should also handily outclass the larger LX600's 19 mpg combined (17 city/22 highway).

The use of this engine is a big reason why the Land Cruiser is strictly a five-passenger machine. The hybrid system's 1.87-kWh nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery sits atop the axle where a third row would go, and it even creates a load floor that's a bit higher than we like to see. Still, the cargo area is voluminous, and we appreciate how the hybrid setup enables the fitment of a standard 2400-watt inverter and power delivery system.

The 2024 Cruiser follows the same full-time four-wheel-drive blueprint as the prior model. It has a two-speed transfer case with a Torsen center differential that allows constant all-wheel drive operation on dry pavement. The center differential automatically locks when the transfer case is shifted into low range, or the driver can choose to lock it in high range. All new Land Cruisers also have push-button-lock rear differentials, a Crawl Control system, and Downhill Assist Control.

The basic suspension concept is the same as before, even though the change to TNGA-F architecture did result in some detail alterations. This Cruiser still rides on dual control-arm independent front suspension and a solid rear axle that's located by four trailing links and a Panhard rod. Simple twin-tube dampers are used all around, but the so-called KDSS system of automatically disconnecting front and rear anti-roll bars is no more. The new Lexus GX550 gets a new e-KDSS evolution of the concept, but the 2024 Land Cruiser eschews that in the name of cost containment.

The 1958 base model is designed for those who won't go off-road very often, but it also has appeal for those that will venture out and want to save money to spend on suspension and tire mods of their choosing. It has skinnier 245/70R-18 32-inch tires and fixed anti-roll bars. It also has manually adjustable cloth heated seats, a heated steering wheel, the smaller 8-inch touchscreen, and lacks a power liftgate. It does have heritage-style round LED headlights, which we find pretty cool.

Step up to the Land Cruiser and First Edition models, and you get 265/70R-18 33-inch tires with somewhat more aggressive tread, a disconnectable front anti-roll bar to improve articulation, and a Multi-Terrain Select system that can optimize the traction control for various conditions in high range as well as low range. Both get the larger 12.3-inch touchscreen and a 10-speaker audio system, but the Land Cruiser trades round LED headlights for rectangular ones. The round ones come back on the First Edition, though, along with rock rails, a roof rack, a front skidplate, and more.

If off-roading is not your thing and you'd rather roll on 20s, the Land Cruiser grade offers them as an option. Select First Edition standard fare, such as ventilated leather seats, are available in a Land Cruiser Premium package.

We're less suspicious of the new Land Cruiser now that we've looked beyond the basic specs and examined it in real life. The downsizing isn't as radical in a mechanical sense as we feared, and certain dimensions aren't that far off the 200-series. The fact that the body is narrower and more tightly drawn may well be a positive off road, and the fact that it’s a five-seater is no bad thing. The straightforward look of the suspension is sure to fire up the imagination of aftermarket tuners, so a plethora of third-party accessories is sure to come online in short order.

The biggest unknown is the drivability of the 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder iForce Max hybrid powertrain. The numbers are good, and the idea of having an electric motor adding smooth torque at very low rpm sounds like it has potential, but it's still theoretical until we get behind the wheel. The same is true of the relative merits of the front anti-roll-bar disconnect versus the outgoing KDSS system.

Like a lot of elements on the new Land Cruiser, the return to a simpler and less costly approach has a lot of appeal. It certainly has brought the price back down to earth, and that's no bad thing. And who can argue with a Land Cruiser that's bound to get decent fuel economy? As for the inevitable outrage of the purists, no more than 4000 of them laid their money on the table each year over that last decade or so. How much collective upset can there be? It's pretty clear the demand for a bloated and expensive Land Cruiser barely existed. This new direction is bound to get more of them in the hands of those that always wanted one, and we're looking forward to seeing brand new examples out on the trails.

Dan Edmunds was born into the world of automobiles, but not how you might think. His father was a retired racing driver who opened Autoresearch, a race-car-building shop, where Dan cut his teeth as a metal fabricator. Engineering school followed, then SCCA Showroom Stock racing, and that combination landed him suspension development jobs at two different automakers. His writing career began when he was picked up by (no relation) to build a testing department.

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The 2024 Land Cruiser comes in 1958, Land Cruiser, and First Edition grades, with the base price for the 1958 model teased at the mid-$50,000 range.Every Land Cruiser features a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder hybrid powertrain that delivers 326 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque.All TLCs have full-time four-wheel drive with locking center and rear differentials; a disconnecting front anti-roll bar and 33-inch tires are also available.An Affordable Land CruiserWhat Kind of Land Cruiser Is It?Downsized Hybrid Powertrain, Better MPGFamiliar HardwareHow the Grades DifferThe Jury Has Nearly Finished Deliberating