Full 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser Review
What's New for 2009
For 2009, the Toyota Land Cruiser receives standard privacy glass for the side and back windows.
The 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser represents the newest version of the company's oldest nameplate. From its beginnings as a bulletproof (and rhinoceros-proof, for that matter) utility vehicle often seen in old "National Geographic" magazines to its current form as a luxurious yet still extremely capable SUV, the Land Cruiser has always been at the top of its game. Whether negotiating rugged trails or cruising comfortably on the highway, the latest Cruiser retains the model line's long-standing tradition of superior all-around capability.
Completely redesigned last year, the Land Cruiser kept its proven, rugged body-on-frame architecture while growing a few inches longer. Although curb weight increased by 265 pounds, a more powerful V8 with more than 100 additional horsepower (for 381 total ponies) more than compensates. A six-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive (with low-range gearing) round out the 2009 Land Cruiser's motive hardware.
The current Land Cruiser also sports a revamped front suspension design and a couple of high-tech features that improve handling both on- and off-road. Toyota's KDSS (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System) automatically stiffens or loosens the front and rear antiroll bars depending on the driving situation. The result is less body roll when cornering on pavement and enhanced wheel articulation (travel) when traversing bumps and ruts off-road. Furthering off-road ability is an electronic "Crawl Control" mode that allows the Land Cruiser to maintain a fixed, very low speed on hilly trails without any driver input.
As impressive as the Land Cruiser's off-road prowess is its ability to transport its occupants in luxury-sedan comfort. A heavy-duty climate control system with no fewer than four zones keeps the cabin temperature comfortable, while heated front seats, leather upholstery and a 14-speaker audio system help create an upscale ambience. On the downside, while the Cruiser is rated to carry up to eight passengers, the third-row bench is cramped enough that it's best left to little kids. Furthermore, that third row doesn't fold flat, and maximum cargo capacity is no better than that of most midsize SUVs.
There's not much out there that can challenge the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser when it comes to combining off-road capability and daily-driver comfort with an enviable reputation for durability. But it'll cost ya -- priced at more than $60,000, the Land Cruiser is in the same price range as luxurious rides like the roomier Cadillac Escalade or the highly regarded Mercedes-Benz GL450. The Cruiser has the power and features to compete at this price point, however, and it's recognized the world over as one of autodom's iconic vehicles. If your heart is set on a full-size luxury SUV and you don't want to spring for the big-daddy Lexus LX 570, then the Land Cruiser is certainly worth a close look.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser is a full-size luxury SUV offered in a single trim level. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, skid plates, running boards, auto-dimming mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, front and rear parking sensors, a leather-wrapped power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with integrated audio controls, driver memory functions, power heated front seats, leather upholstery, quad-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof and a 14-speaker JBL audio system with a subwoofer, a six-CD changer and an auxiliary audio jack. The aforementioned KDSS also comes standard.
Optional is the pricey Upgrade package. It bundles a rear spoiler, a rear-seat entertainment system, Bluetooth, a navigation system, a back-up camera, interior wood trim, 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.
EPA fuel mileage ratings stand at 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined. Properly equipped, this SUV can tow 8,500 pounds.
Standard safety features include antilock disc brakes (with brake assist and multi-terrain programming), stability control, front and second-row side airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, full-length side curtain airbags (with rollover detection) and active front head restraints. The optional advanced seatbelt system will tighten 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 seats eight passengers in its finely wrought interior. The second-row seats can tumble forward, slide fore and aft, and recline. The third row, however, has a knees-up seating position that's suitable only for kids; moreover, while its 50/50-split design enables it to fold up against the sides of the cargo bay, it doesn't fold flat and it's not removable. Consequently, the Cruiser's maximum cargo capacity is limited to 82 cubic feet, a small figure for a large SUV.
As expected, the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser boasts considerable off-road capability, yet it doesn't come at the expense of on-road refinement and handling. When traversing rugged terrain, the Land Cruiser's Crawl Control works as advertised: Uphill or down, you simply dial in the desired speed (as low as 1 mph), keep your feet off the gas and brake pedals and simply steer in the desired direction, and Crawl Control does the rest.
Once you're back on the tarmac, the big Toyota rides like the civilized luxury SUV it's intended to be, soaking up bumps with refined composure. On winding blacktop, the Cruiser is relatively flat in the corners and feels surprisingly confident for such a large vehicle -- a lot of credit goes to the KDSS. Performance is also strong, with the 5.7-liter V8 furnishing plenty of thrust for passing, towing or effortless freeway cruising.