What Happened to the Toyota Land Cruiser?

  • By: Sean Cooper

The Toyota Land Cruiser is Toyota’s oldest model still in production. Known for its off-road guts and reliability, it has gained recognition and loyal fans over the years. Though it started as a utilitarian multi-purpose vehicle, it has now turned into a full-size luxurious vehicle without losing its off-road traits. Over time, the competition has grown to include offerings from other manufacturers as well, rivaling the Land Cruiser in various ways. At last, the good old Land Cruiser has given up in the American market (for now), but Toyota has indicated that it will return with something worthwhile. If you’re wondering what happened to the Toyota Landcruiser, read on.

2020 Toyota Land Cruiser

Is the Toyota Land Cruiser available in the USA?

There have been rumors drifting around for years about the Land Cruiser’s discontinuation. After all, the last generation, the J200 series, had been in production since 2007. In December 2020, Toyota confirmed that 2021 would be the last model year in America. Furthermore, when in June 2021, Toyota introduced the new J300 Series Land Cruiser to the rest of the world, it breathed its last in the US. There is no official successor to the Land Cruiser announced by Toyota yet.

Why is the Land Cruiser not sold in the USA?

We cannot blame a single fact for the demise of the Land Cruiser. When you analyze the market, you see that the list of reasons goes on and on. Diehard Toyota fans will definitely mourn the demise of this legend, but this was a long time coming. The sales numbers were showing the signs of demise quite clearly. Toyota also remarked in a statement that interest and sales were declining in the US.

First and foremost, there was no denying that the Land Cruiser was getting old. For a vehicle in production since 2007, minor updates and two facelifts just didn’t cut the mustard. As an automaker looking to retain market share, you have to consciously put in the effort, which Toyota didn’t. Moreover, its on-road driving dynamics were easily outclassed by more premium rivals like the BMW X7 and Mercedes GLS-Class, which offered more civilized driving, if not the same off-road capability.

Secondly, the price at which it was offered didn’t justify the outdated interior and lack of modern technology. The drivetrain was similarly getting old, and competitors offered way more advanced powertrains. This forced buyers to shop the Land Cruiser against other, more modern Toyota and Lexus products, especially the Lexus LX570, and more advanced offerings from other manufacturers as well. The Toyota Sequoia, and pretty much every other model in the Toyota lineup, outsold the Land Cruiser by a significant margin. The lack of any form of hybridization or electrification might be another plausible reason for the LC’s inevitable demise.

Poor sales figures are often cited for vehicles going out of production, and the Toyota Land Cruiser in the United States is no exception. However, if Toyota had kept genuinely developing the Land Cruiser instead of tweaking it at the edges, it might still be in its American portfolio.

What is the history of the Land Cruiser?

Toyota is known for reliable and economical vehicles worldwide. The Land Cruiser is Toyota’s oldest nameplate still in production. Born after World War 2, it has always been a four-wheel-drive vehicle that could tackle anything off-road thrown at it. It can be credited with being the vehicle that strengthened Toyota’s reputation for “quality, durability, and reliability.”

The Toyota Land Cruiser has an unbelievable resume as a 4×4 off-roader. However, the ongoing model seems to be more extravagant than daring. The transition to a luxury vehicle from a utilitarian past has been smooth, and while the Land Cruiser has grown in size, it hasn’t lost its off-road prowess.

When Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. was formed in 1957, it sold a single J20 series in the subsequent year. The Americans had their own plethora of off-road vehicles, so the market was limited. But it started to gain traction in sales due to its undoubted reliability. Gradually, it became the best-selling Toyota in the USA from 1960 to 1965.

The FJ40 or 40-series was a formidable off-roader of its time. And with the introduction of low-range gearing, it became a better vehicle to conquer any terrain. Creature comforts were added gradually, and the powertrain was also updated with more powerful engines. For some reason, Toyota decided not to replace the 40-series, which focused more on off-road readiness than comfort. This was when the Land Cruiser line broke off into the Land Cruiser Prado (not offered in the USA) and the 70-series.

1991 Toyota Land Cruiser

The 70-series, which replaced the 40-series, is something of a forbidden fruit. Not offered in the USA, it’s still in production in some countries. Instead, the 60-series was offered. With the 60-series, the Land Cruiser became a better highway cruiser with many standard features, without sacrificing any of its capabilities.  Additionally, a new interior brought the SUV into the modern era. It became known as pretty indestructible for its amazing record of reliability.

The 80-series was the first Land Cruiser to be offered by Lexus as the Lexus LX450. And, of course, it was pricier than the Land Cruiser. It moved closer to being a comfort-oriented SUV than an off-roader, although it had great off-road chops. The 100-series, which replaced the 80-series, adopted a much more civilized setup. It ditched the live rigid front axle in favor of independent front suspensions.

The engine was replaced by a powerful V8 to meet the on-road power demands. The Lexus LX470 was the Lexus equivalent of the 100-series. Lexus also introduced the Lexus GX series, which was based on the Land Cruiser Prado. Remember that America never got the Prado? So, there is this. The Prado, or Lexus GX, as it was offered in America, was ever so slightly more off-road-oriented than the Land Cruiser, or Lexus LX.

The last one that was discontinued in America after 2021 was the 200-series. Also known as the Lexus LX570, it focused more on luxury than any other Land Cruiser. You can blame the commonality between the Lexus version and the Land Cruiser for slumping sales. Although it did move away from its off-road origins, Toyota never abandoned it. Toyota decided to kill the Land Cruiser in the American market as the sales were never strong. Still, there is hope that the Land Cruiser will return in some form, like the Land Cruiser Prado.

Will the Land Cruiser return to the US?

The Land Cruiser might not return to the US market in the form of the J300 series, but Toyota did imply that it will return at some point with an all-new Land Cruiser that’s “way more modern and luxurious.” Anyway, Toyota sure has plans for its off-road lineup. The Compact Cruiser EV is rumored to arrive in 2024, replacing the bonkers FJ Cruiser. The Tundra and Sequoia share the same platform as the J300 series, and the 4Runner is still around, as is the Tacoma.

But who knows what Toyota has been planning? The buyers will decide whether Toyota should let it die or give it a new life. I’m not sure there’s a space in the Toyota family for the Land Cruiser as it was before. If the Land Cruiser is to have a future in the US it would have to concentrate on its remarkable off-road capability, especially as a replacement for the FJ Cruiser.

If Toyota imagines a new Land cruiser as an ultra-luxurious full-size SUV, but one with serious off-road chops, the next one is likely to soon follow in in the footsteps of its predecessor into early retirement.

What is replacing the Toyota Land Cruiser?

For now, the all-new 2022 Lexus LX 600 is ready to step into the Land Cruiser’s place. It is noticeable that it rides on the same platform as the updated J300 series Land Cruisers. So, while we are missing out on the new Toyota Land Cruiser in its truest form, perhaps we’re not really. The Lexus nameplate is known for the luxury treatment of Toyota products, so the return of the Land Cruiser as a “way more modern and luxurious” part might be this.

However, don’t forget that only a couple of years ago Toyota declared it didn’t see full-electric models playing a part in its lineup in the short- to mid-term, but now the company has completely changed its stance.

Is the Lexus LX600 the same as the Land Cruiser?

You can call them corporate cousins because, underneath the sheet metal, they are more or less the same. But the Lexus version will definitely be more on the luxurious side, with a different interior layout and materials. And of course, an even more luxurious price to go with it.

The TNGA-F platform, on which both of these vehicles are built, uses lightweight alloys and composite materials. All TNGA-F vehicles utilize a fully boxed frame to save weight. They likewise share height-adjustable coil spring suspension on all four corners. All of this contributes to these SUVs being 20% stiffer and 440 pounds lighter. The center of gravity is also lower. In addition to all of this, the drivetrain will also be modernized and will be the same for both of them.

As mentioned before, the main difference will be the interior. The Lexus LX600 will come loaded with the latest technology, driver assistance, and convenience packs. The optional Ultra Luxury Pack is also available for those who need more of this luxury. Ignoring the interior and the sheet metal, I will call them the same vehicle.

1984 Toyota Land Cruiser

What are the Toyota Land Cruiser alternatives?

The aforementioned Lexus LX600 is the closest alternative to the Land Cruiser. In addition to vehicles from rival manufacturers, depending on your needs, Toyota’s lineup has other options.

Toyota Sequoia: No doubt, the Sequoia is an SUV first and an off-roader later, but its interior materials are the same as the Land Cruiser, and it outclasses the Land Cruiser in terms of practicality. With the arrival of the new generation 2023 Sequoia, you wouldn’t complain about the drivetrain either. And in case you didn’t know, it’s also based on the platform that underpins the 300-series.

Toyota 4Runner: If you need a true off-roader and don’t care about a modern interior, the Toyota 4Runner serves the purpose. A $36,000 modifiable blank canvas for off-roading, you wouldn’t fret about scratching up and covering it with mud. It can even come with a modern infotainment system these days, but the powertrain is like something from the Dark Ages.

Nissan Armada: The Nissan Armada is the most overlooked vehicle in its class, but it does rival the Land Cruiser in terms of luxury and spaciousness. The ride is smooth and comfortable thanks to the independent suspension on all four corners. But just don’t expect anything close to decent fuel economy from its big V8. Also, it doesn’t have the same off-road capability as the Land Cruiser.

Land Rover Defender: The all-new Defender has returned as a more formidable off-roader as well as a great on-road vehicle. The Defender cannot compete with the reliability of Toyota, but it is worth considering when shopping for a luxury off-road vehicle. The new Defender certainly isn’t as rough-and-ready as its predecessor, but its off-road prowess will rival anything in the market.

The Land Cruiser also competes with the BMW X7 and Mercedes GLS-Class in a broader sense. But they don’t have a similar off-road pedigree and they don’t pretend to have.

There are likely to be old Toyota Land Cruisers crossing the deserts and navigating the jungles of Africa for decades to come, which is a testament to their rugged capability and relentless durability. They’ll continue to command strong prices in the used market in America for their off-road capability and remarkable reliability, but there could be better alternatives from a number of rival manufacturers these days. 

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