Full 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser has been fully redesigned. Highlights include a more powerful V8 engine, enhanced on-road handling, a higher towing rating and new luxury and safety features.
The longest-surviving nameplate in the Toyota lineup, the Land Cruiser traces its roots to an earlier era when sport-utility vehicles were judged for their off-road credentials above all else. From those early days, the Land Cruiser has morphed through several generations. It's gotten bigger, more luxurious and, naturally, more expensive. Through it all, however, this iconic Toyota has maintained the constants of excellent off-road ability and a reputation for reliability and durability.
For 2008, Toyota is hoping for more of the same -- but better, of course -- for its fully redesigned Land Cruiser. The previous-generation SUV, though certainly capable, had been on sale since 1998 and was getting increasingly dated in terms of features and design. Compared to last year's model, the 2008 Land Cruiser has the same wheelbase but is 2.4 inches longer and about an inch wider and taller. The exterior has been freshened but is still conservative, and underneath is again a traditional body-on-frame design. The frame is considerably stiffer than before, and Toyota says the payoff is enhanced ruggedness, towing capacity and crashworthiness. It also works in conjunction with a new front-suspension design to improve on-road handling.
Last year's optional adaptive suspension is no longer available, though a new feature called KDSS (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System) debuts. KDSS automatically stiffens or loosens the front and rear antiroll bars depending on the driving situation, and the result is less body roll when cornering and enhanced wheel travel when traversing the rough stuff. There's also a new electronic "Crawl Control" mode that allows the Land Cruiser to maintain a fixed, ultralow speed on off-road terrain without any driver input. On the downside, Land Cruiser aficionados will be a bit disappointed to learn that ground clearance and approach, departure and break-over angles have all been reduced slightly on the new model.
The 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser has also gotten heavier by about 265 pounds, but no one will likely notice thanks to its new engine. It's an advanced 5.7-liter V8, the same one featured as the Toyota Tundra's top-shelf choice. It cranks out 381 horsepower and is connected to a new six-speed automatic transmission with full-time four-wheel drive and low-range gearing. The new engine also meets a stricter emission standard (ULEV) and returns slightly better fuel economy than last year's 265-hp, 4.7-liter V8.
Inside, Toyota has updated the cabin with a fresh design and enhanced features. For the first time, there's a heavy-duty four-zone climate control system, a surround-sound audio system and additional airbag coverage with an available pre-collision seatbelt preparation feature. Three rows of seating for up to eight people are once again standard, but the new model is just like the old one in that the third row is too cramped for anyone other than children. The third-row seat still doesn't fold flat, and maximum cargo space is no better than that of most midsize SUVs.
Toyota has done the right thing by staying the course for the redesigned Land Cruiser. No other SUV can boast such an impressive combination of off-road prowess and urban comfort while also having real heritage and a strong reputation for reliability and durability. However, following tradition has placed a limit on the Land Cruiser's appeal. Priced at more than $60,000, it's Toyota's most expensive vehicle and in the same price range as the highly regarded Mercedes-Benz GL450. One also needs to be realistic about usage. If you're planning on using your SUV mostly for family-oriented urban driving, less expensive yet roomier and more versatile crossovers like the Buick Enclave and Mazda CX-9 will do the job better. The 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser is a very impressive SUV, but an eyes-open approach to a potential purchase is essential.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser is a full-size SUV. There is only one trim level. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, power and heated front seats, leather upholstery, four-zone automatic climate control, a 14-speaker JBL audio system with a six-CD changer and auxiliary audio jack, a sunroof, auto-dimming mirrors, keyless ignition and parking sensors. KDSS also comes standard. Many Land Cruisers will likely be fitted with the pricey Upgrade Package. It bundles a rear spoiler, a rear-seat entertainment system with a 9-inch screen, a navigation system with Bluetooth and a back-up camera, interior wood trim, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, heated second-row seats and a center console cooler box. Of all this package's features, only the navigation system and rear spoiler can be ordered as stand-alone options.
Powertrains and Performance
All Land Cruisers have a 5.7-liter V8 engine that produces 381 hp and 401 pound-feet of torque. This power is sent through a six-speed automatic transmission and a full-time four-wheel-drive system with high- and low-range gearing. Properly equipped, this SUV can tow 8,500 pounds.
Standard safety features for the 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser include antilock disc brakes (with brake assist and multi-terrain programming), stability control and traction control, front and second-row side airbags, driver and front-passenger knee airbags, active front head restraints and full-length side curtain airbags with rollover detection. The optional advanced seatbelt system will retract the front seatbelts when the brakes are suddenly applied or when tire slippage is detected by the stability control system.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Land Cruiser can seat eight. The second-row seats can tumble forward, slide fore and aft, and recline. As on the previous model, the 50/50-split third-row seat folds up against the sides of the cargo bay. It folds up easier than before, but it still has a knees-up seating position that's suitable only for kids. Since the third row is no longer totally removable, the Cruiser's maximum cargo capacity is down this year to 81.7 cubic feet. The familiar two-piece hatch with mini-tailgate remains intact.
As with the previous-generation model, the 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser boasts considerable off-road capability. The big difference is with on-road handling. The new model corners flatter, feels more stable and has more responsive steering. Naturally, acceleration has improved considerably as well thanks to the new 5.7-liter V8. The Land Cruiser's Crawl Control also works very well. Uphill or down, one simply dials in the desired speed, takes their foot completely off the gas and brakes and steers in the desired direction.