Perfection is a rare, extremely-difficult-to-attain state of completeness or flawlessness. Almost everyone, or everything in this world is benchmarked against a certain point of reference in their respective fields, and their lives are spent changing and adapting themselves in an attempt to get as close to their relevant touchstones as possible. But there are some who attain near-perfection early on in life and consequently can resist the need to change or adapt. The Toyota Land Cruiser is one such. Having started life way back in 1951, it didn’t take much time for the Land Cruiser to attain legendary status as an off-roader, and building a reputation for being able to reach the remotest corners of the world. So, apart from the solid front axle being scrapped and the six-cylinder being replaced by a massive V8 in the top trim, the Land Cruiser has remained unchanged in its fundamentals.
However, while the brass tacks were left intact, Toyota decided to give this iconic off-roader a bit of sprucing up for the 2016 model year, with a revised front fascia with a large bold grille and restyled headlights, and ditching the long-serving six-speed automatic in favour of an eight-speed unit. The changes brought it up to date with its fast-improving rivals in terms of technology features and it went on to win the Best SUV accolade at the 2016 wheels Car of the Year awards. And hardly a year since that major facelift, Toyota has launched the 2017 model with a few minor updates to the exterior and interior, and a set of new safety and convenience features.
Visual changes for the latest model include a roof spoiler with LED lights, and sequential indicators. These help add a dash of modernity to the Land Cruiser’s imposing, timeless looks. It remains big and tall, a towering, unmistakable presence on the road, and off it. The swollen exterior translates into a capacious cabin, which can absorb eight adult-sized derrières into its three rows of seats. The cabin does feel a bit dated because it is, but Toyota has done a good job in masking it with a refreshed layout of buttons and knobs as well as hugely improved materials. The upright centre console has separate controls for each function, whether it be climate control, infotainment or off-road aids. This means there’s no delving deep into the on-screen menu to access essential functions.
The front buckets are very comfortable and highly supportive, whether you’re cruising along serenely on a highway, or being thrown around on an off-road trail. Rear seats are not as contoured but still relatively comfortable, and passengers at the back can now enjoy personalised entertainment thanks to the rear-seat DVD entertainment system with 10.1in screens.
While the Land Cruiser remains an exceptionally comfortable vehicle on tarmac, it comes into its own in extreme, gruelling off-road situations.
While the Land Cruiser remains an exceptionally comfortable vehicle on tarmac, it comes into its own in extreme, gruelling off-road situations. The rugged 10-member high-tensile steel ladder frame, along with independent double-wishbone suspension with coil springs and stabiliser bar up front, and a four-link rear suspension with coil springs, stabiliser bar and semi-floating axle in the rear, make this mighty Toyota ready for anything the wilderness can throw at it. These are supplemented by the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that helps maintain optimum traction on even the most uneven of terrains. This system automatically disengages the sway bar and regulates the suspension system for the best wheel articulation in a given situation. And thanks to the reinforced skid plates, you needn’t worry about potential damage to the suspension, radiator, fuel tank or transfer case.
After a long, comfortable drive from Dubai, we let the Land Cruiser loose on the gravel- and rock-strewn mountain trails in Fujairah, and it took to the terrain as naturally as a mountain goat would. A very large mountain goat, mind. The effortless grace with which this gargantuan SUV manoeuvres treacherous topography is simply incredible. All I did was flick the Mult-terrain Select (MTS) knob to ‘Loose Rock’, and activate Crawl Control, and the computers take over throttle control and even braking from you. And you can barely hear the 362bhp, 5.7-litre V8 while this is done. MTS lets you choose from four additional terrains; Rock, Rock & Dirt, Mogul and Mud & Sand. Extremely handy is the Multi-terrain Monitor, which lets you keep an eye on the vehicle’s surroundings with the help of footage from cameras in the front, rear and sides shown on the 9.0in navigation screen. And with features like Vehicle Stability Control, tyre pressure monitoring, Hill-start Assist Control, a hydraulic suspension, Turn Assist, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure alert, and rear cross-traffic alert, the 2017 Land Cruiser is one of the most technologically advanced vehicles in the segment. Plus, equipped with airbags all round and side-impact beams on all doors, it’s also one of the safest.
While the range-topping VXR we tested retails for Dh339,500, the Land Cruiser is available from as low as Dh199K for the bare-bones Safari trim. Whichever one you pick, you can be assured of the same incredible off-road capabilities that have made the Land Cruiser the legend it is today.