2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition: Leather meets mud

By Roger Garbow

July/August, 2020

Let’s try a quick experiment. I’m going to guess what type of vehicle you drive. Here goes: it’s an… SUV! Okay, that was too easy, because over the last three decades, SUVs have steadily replaced cars in our driveways. While the top three vehicles sold in the U.S. are pickup trucks, here in the Northeast, SUVs and CUVs (compact utility vehicles) lead the way. And with good reason; they afford space for your family, pets, and stuff, while providing a commanding view of the road.

When Toyota launched the Land Cruiser back in the early-fifties, it was designed for military service as a rugged, no-frills machine. Through generations, Land Cruisers have been one of the most durable and reliable vehicles on the planet. Go anywhere in the world, and you’ll find Land Cruisers; they’re one of the few vehicles sold in almost every country on earth. It’s no surprise they’re Toyota’s longest running model.

Although SUVs with AWD or 4WD can go almost anywhere, many of the SUVs you see in Fairfield County offer minimal ground clearance and low-profile tires, rendering them practically useless when taken “off the beaten path.” For those seeking the road less traveled, the Land Cruiser is an excellent choice.

With the ability to ford water over two feet deep, and with a 21-degree breakover angle, the Land Cruiser can “crawl” over obstacles as easily as a Jeep Wrangler. Its 4-wheel drive system, which features a locking center differential and two-speed transfer case, is better than expected. Additional features include Toyota’s exclusive Multi-terrain Select, Crawl Control with Off-road Turn Assist, and Multi-terrain Monitor, displaying views of the front, rear and sides on the center screen.

Yet, with all the heavy-duty hardware, the Land Cruiser delivers a remarkably comfortable ride. The interior boasts luxurious amenities including center concole cooler. One of my favorite features is the split rear tailgate. While most SUVs have a one-piece liftgate, the Land Cruiser has a power-operated top half that goes up while the lower half folds down – making tailgating a breeze. Range Rover is the only other manufacturer that offers a split gate.

Impressive qualities considered, the Land Cruiser is not perfect. As expected with any large, luxury, V8-powered SUV, fuel economy is not a priority. Thankfully, the 25-gallon fuel tank affords acceptable range between fill-ups. Inside, this big Toyota is loaded with technology and features, yet it lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, which should be standard in 2020. Fortunately, Toyota’s Siri Eyes Free and Bluetooth do offer easy phone connectivity and voice integration.

The Land Cruiser Heritage Edition offers added luxury – but it comes at a price. The bronze BBS wheels look great, but wear the same mud and snow-rated 18-inch tires as the standard model. The Heritage Edition gains a rugged roof basket, but it’s quite noisy at highway speeds. A great alternative is Connecticut-based Thule, which makes units that are more aerodynamic and better-looking. Three things you lose with the Heritage are the third-row seat, the console cooler, and the side running boards. You might not need the extra seating or cold drinks, but the running boards make entry and exit much easier, especially if you are vertically challenged like me. Buying advice: stick with the standard model and save $3,000.

So, how popular is the Land Cruiser? Sales have been increasing for the last two years. In a marketplace where most vehicles are obsolete in five to seven years, Toyota’s current Land Cruiser design, at thirteen years old, is truly ageless. Production is limited, though, so it’s unlikely you’d see another one in your neighborhood.

I love the Land Cruiser and can envision myself owning one. The road less traveled is appealing to me, especially during a global pandemic.