The Toyota Land Cruiser has made its return to the U.S. after a three-year absence, but it’s a very different truck than the 200-series model it replaces. It’s based on the smaller Land Cruiser Prado model (which we Americans recognize as the Lexus GX), and where the old 200-series model carried a $87,000 MSRP, Toyota says this new Land Cruiser will start in the mid-$50,000 range. It’s exactly what enthusiasts want, something Toyota has become very good at delivering.
It was 2017 when then-CEO and current chairman Akio Toyoda declared that the company was done with “boring” cars. In the years since, Toyota has not only brought out a number of enthusiast cars, it’s done an excellent job listening specifically to what enthusiasts want. Just look at what’s come since then. There’s the current GR86, which is better than its predecessor in every way; the GR Corolla, a response to those who clamored for the homologation-special GR Yaris; the GR Supra, which got a manual transmission three years into its lifecycle; and of course, the new Lexus GX 550 with which this new Land Cruiser shares its platform.
Tons of people read about that Lexus when it debuted. It hits all the right notes—boxy truck style, legit off-road capability, and the promise of Toyota truck indestructibility. That’s no accident, and nor is this new Land Cruiser, which hits all the same notes and promises a lower base price. Toyota’s going to have a damn difficult time keeping up with the inevitable demand and dealers are going to be thrilled to have yet another truck with which to tack on big markups.
Toyota was long a punching bag. Though it had some interesting models, it was widely seen as a maker of appliances and nothing more, which to some enthusiasts was contemptible behavior. (I never bought that argument. Some people just need an appliance after all. Not everyone has the time/money/patience to own a more frivolous vehicle.) Now however, it’s one of the more interesting enthusiast brands out there, offering an amazing breadth of vehicles for car lovers of all sorts of stripes. No other automaker does quite the same thing while also offering a full line of mainstream cars to boot.
Of course, while cars like the GR86, Supra, GR Corolla, and LC 500 likely aren’t huge profit centers for Toyota, the new Land Cruiser should be. It shares the same Toyota New Global Architecture F (TNGA-F) platform with the GX 550, the new Tacoma, new Tundra, new Sequoia, Lexus LX 600, and the full-size Land Cruiser sold elsewhere. The cost for developing the TNGA-F platform is well-amortized among many popular and profitable vehicles. While Akio Toyoda’s pet-project Gazoo Racing sub-brand and the GR86, Supra, and Corolla represent Toyota sticking out its neck a bit, with expensive-to-build, low-volume projects, the new Land Cruiser is the safest of bets.
Toyota’s also leaning into the nostalgia that permeates today’s car culture. Not so much on the Lexus side, but all of its GR models reference past greats in various ways, and the new Land Cruiser nods to older models too. Both the First Edition and 1958 models pay homage to the original FJ40 Land Cruiser with their round LED headlights, while the standard model has square lights like the iconic FJ62. Additionally, the 1958 edition gets two-tone paint and a “TOYOTA” front grille like the FJ40. And why not? Old Land Cruisers are more popular than ever, might as well lean into that.
There are, of course, some pitfalls to listening to enthusiasts. We’re a particular bunch. Toyota surely knows this, with how much criticism is leveled at the GR Supra for its very obvious BMW roots. I doubt that anyone’s going to be upset about this Land Cruiser, though. Toyota seems to understand the market uncannily well, and this U.S.-spec Land Cruiser arrives not a moment too soon.
A car enthusiast since childhood, Chris Perkins is Road & Track’s engineering nerd and Porsche apologist. He joined the staff in 2016 and no one has figured out a way to fire him since. He street-parks a Porsche Boxster in Brooklyn, New York, much to the horror of everyone who sees the car, not least the author himself. He also insists he’s not a convertible person, despite owning three.