Toyota Land Cruiser rises from the grave as cheaper, true-to-roots 4x4
Ok, the Toyota Land Cruiser was never technically dead. But it has been MIA from the American market for the past couple years. The last time American Toyota dealerships had new Land Cruisers to show, they were selling big, US$87K luxury SUVs. Or trying, anyway – the US public wasn't exactly eating them up, so Toyota canceled the model all together. It didn't plan to keep its longest-running nameplate off the SUV-hungry market for too long, though, going back to its roots to launch a different breed of Land Cruiser for adventurous Americans. The 2024 Land Cruiser 250 Series gets a chiseled body, ruggedized underpinnings and more affordable price tag.
It was always a strange thing to see one of the world's original off-road icons existing in the US solely as an overdressed barge many red-blooded off-road enthusiasts couldn't afford, or wouldn't risk driving in the dirt if they could. That was especially perplexing as interest in overlanding and off-road adventure vehicles absolutely skyrocketed around the country, and yet you still had one of the world's best just sitting there under the show lights looking way too posh and pretty for anything gnarlier than a short, snow-dusted jaunt between luxury chalet and ski resort valet parking. It was so far removed from the classic FJ40 or the 70 Series Cruisers still roaming other markets, it might as well have been badged a Lexus ... if Lexus didn't already have the seat filled with the LX570.
Toyota vanished the Land Cruiser from the US market after MY2021, and instead of bringing over the 200 Series' natural successor, the global Land Cruiser 300 Series (available in the US only as the Lexus LX600), it developed a smaller, stronger breed of Land Cruiser to mark a grand US return, doubling down on the model's historic ruggedness and reliability to create a true 4x4 meant for folks who plan to use it as such.
With the 250 Series, Toyota resets the US Land Cruiser to what made it popular to begin with, developing a hard-line off-roader inspired quite conspicuously by the classic FJ40s that were once the best-selling Toyotas in the country. The new model has the same great off-road capability Land Cruisers have always had, but unlike the 200/300 series, it also has the rugged packaging and lower price point to better match that capability. In short, it might just make enough sense to enough American SUV buyers to justify its existence on the market this time around.
Toyota celebrates the Land Cruiser's history by giving its latest model strong lines and right angles throughout and splashing an available contrast roof over top heritage-inspired body paint, just like the FJ40 from generations ago. The round headlamps on the 1958 model also tie into the classic FJ look, while the thin bars on the "Land Cruiser" grade pay homage to the FJ62 wagon. The all-caps Toyota badge scrawled inside the narrow grille also harks back to classic periods of Land Rover past.
The 193.7-in (492-cm) Land Cruiser 250 is based on the same TNGA-F global body-on-frame truck platform as the 300 Series and newest Tacoma and Tundra, and while its wheelbase checks in at the exact same 112.2 in (285 cm) as the 2021 200 Series, it loses just over an inch of length and 4.4 inches (11 cm) of width in comparison, helping to define its true-to-heritage short overhangs. The new platform also boosts rigidity over the last-gen 200 Series, ensuring the SUV can back its rugged looks with on-trail performance.
As for power, Toyota breaks cleanly from the past with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas turbo assisted by a 48-hp electric motor integrated in the eight-speed transmission. That i-Force MAX Hybrid layout combines to send up to 326 hp and 465 lb-ft (630 Nm) of torque out to all four corners via a full-time 4WD with locking center differential and electronically controlled two-speed transfer case with high/low range. A locking rear diff comes standard.
We look forward to seeing how the new Land Cruiser's fuel economy sticker reads (that info will come closer to market launch), but between the compacted packaging and hybrid powertrain, it has to be a marked improvement on the 2021 200 Series' 14 mpg (16.8 l/100km) combined.
The Land Cruiser 250's front double wishbones with twin-tube shocks and rear multi-link system with coils help isolate occupants from the bumps, drops and bashes served up with a smile by Mother Nature. A front stabilizer disconnect system loosens up articulation at the push of a button for improved off-road performance, stiffening right back up with a second push of the button for on-road stability.
Off-road performance equipment includes Multi-Terrain Select, Crawl Control, a Multi-Terrain Monitor and Downhill Assist. The 250 rides 8.7 inches (22 cm) over top the ground below, offers an approach angle of 30 or 31 degrees, depending on trim, and fills out the spec sheet with a 22-degree departure angle and 25-degree break-over. Skid plates, rock sliders and a host of Toyota Genuine Accessories will be available for buyers looking to further beef things up.
Despite its old-school looks, the five-seat Land Cruiser 250 also carries the latest tech, starting with the Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 package and features like proactive driving assist, full-speed-range dynamic radar cruise control, pre-collision with pedestrian detection, and lane departure alert with steering assist. Inside, an 8- or 12.3-in multimedia touchscreen provides access to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Qi wireless charging, a 14-speaker JBL audio system and 4G connectivity are available.
Toyota will release full Land Cruiser pricing closer to the spring 2024 US launch, but the automaker does say that the three-model lineup will start in the mid-$50,000 range. The model grades are the 1958, Land Cruiser and limited-run Land Cruiser First Edition and will be built at Toyota's Tahara and Hino plants in Japan.
Outside the US, the Land Cruiser 250 Series will replace the Prado as the light-duty model in the traditional three-model line that also includes the station wagon flagship (300 Series) and the heavy-duty utility vehicle (70 Series), marking a return to the light-duty model's rugged, utilitarian heritage. Powertrains will vary by market and will include a 277-hp 2.4-liter turbo and a 201-hp 2.8-liter turbo-diesel.
Watch the all-new Land Cruiser 250 create some of its first memories in the promo clip below.