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Review: Is Toyota's updated Land Cruiser still king of off-road?

As SUVs become more luxurious, the Land Cruiser is one of the few unashamedly old-fashioned off-roaders around. We find out how it copes in the urban jungle.

What is it?

The story of the Toyota Land Cruiser is one that's almost as old as Land Rover. Production began in 1951, and since then it's gained a worldwide reputation for strength, solidity and off-road capability. The latest model was introduced in 2009, but a range of updates has kept it feeling relatively fresh. It's also packed with tech, but none which detracts from the overall feeling of old-fashioned brawn.

What's new?

2018 has seen a rather large update, to keep the Land Cruiser in step with rivals such as the Land Rover Discovery. A new workhorse 'Utility' model has been introduced, but we're driving a top-spec 'Invincible' trim. The 2.8-litre diesel engine gets a smaller turbocharger along with AdBlue to reduce exhaust emissions, and the interior's been tidied up to accommodate a large central touchscreen and comprehensive off-road controls.

What's under the bonnet?

The UK market receives only a single engine - a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel. The large capacity and low cylinder count naturally mean it's less smooth than a Land Rover's 3.0-litre V6, and it's down on power too, with just 174bhp compared to 255bhp. But with almost 450Nm of torque, pulling power is ample, and it feels like it could cope not just with its 2.4-tonne weight, but the 3-tonne trailer it's permitted to tow. Utility models are offered with a manual transmission, but most buyers will use a six-speed automatic. It's relatively smooth, but the car's bulk means it has a tendency to downchange at a moment's notice - even on the motorway. Refinement is an issue from cold, but at a cruise it settles down to a muted thrum which isn't too unpleasant.

What's it like to drive?

It's enormous, heavy, slow and ponderous - but buyers won't care too much. Crucially, with automatic gearbox and great visibility, it's very easy to drive for a car of its size, more so than the Discovery with its bustling rear. Our 'Invincible' trim offered six adjustable driving modes, which you'll never use - but none of them alter the over-light steering. The ride isn't as sophisticated as most rivals, due to the separate chassis construction, but the trade-off is off-road ability the equal of anything on the market. Put simply, the Land Cruiser's reputation is well deserved - these cars are unstoppable and faultlessly reliable.

How does it look?

There's a certain brutish charm about the Land Cruiser, but it's unlikely to win any beauty contests any time soon. Our model was painted in a rather lovely deep metallic-blue shade, while the upright and imposing grille plus sharp LED headlights class things up a bit. The impression is ruined somewhat by the old-fashioned side-hinged rear door as well as the relatively small wheels considering the size of the arches. From inside, the double bulges of the bonnet give a real impression of bulk, though it's easy to place the car on the road.

What's it like inside?

Climb up into the cavernous interior and you're faced with plenty of switches to press. The high-mounted infotainment screen allows for a selection of bulky off-road dials and buttons, all sensibly-sized for use while traversing rough terrain. Material quality is rugged rather than plush, but it feels hard-wearing and build quality is rock solid. There's plenty of room for five people, though the electrically-operated seats six and seven are better suited to children. Toyota's Touch 2 Pro infotainment system is easy to use. It's the same system fitted to most of its cars, and works just as well in the Land Cruiser - though the interface is far from attractive.

What's the spec like?

Our Invincible grade car came in at over £50,000, which may be tough to stomach given the lack of on-road manners. But look at the car against its main rivals and it begins to look more attractive. While the Land Cruiser can come fully loaded for its top-spec price tag, a Land Rover Discovery still finds plenty of items relegated to the options list. Comfortable electrically-operated front seats feature both heating and ventilation, and the off-road goodies are all standard too. Some items are missing too, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, or a sunroof.

Verdict

The Land Cruiser is truly an institution, and current owners won't need any encouragement to soldier on with the brand. They're unstoppable due to amazing off-road ability and dependability. Attracting new buyers into a Land Cruiser is a tougher job. It's impossible to deny that most modern SUVs are better on the road, have better interiors, and look rather less workhorsey. Your suitability to a Land Cruiser comes down to your needs - and if it suits your lifestyle, you won't be disappointed with this old-school bruiser.

Facts at a glance

Model: Toyota Land Cruiser

Base price: £33,435

Model as tested: Toyota Land Cruiser Invincible

Price: £52,855

Engine: 2.8-litre 4cyl turbo diesel

Power: 174bhp

Torque (Nm): 450Nm

Max speed (mph): 108mph

0-60mph: 12.7s

MPG: 38.1mpg

Emissions (g/km): 194g/km

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