First Drive: 2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

The Land Cruiser returns to Canada, feeling thoroughly modern inside and out without losing the essence that made it an icon
The Land Cruiser returns to Canada, feeling thoroughly modern inside and out without losing the essence that made it an icon

by Nathan Leipsig | May 6, 2024


I’d like to take a minute to acknowledge the ill-fated Toyota FJ Cruiser that first rolled into our lives in 2006. The FJ was a tacit acknowledgement that the original and iconic Land Cruiser had grown too big and too-far-removed from its original mission statement, and the FJ was an experimental return-to-form. Rather than riding on a unique platform, the FJ Cruiser was essentially a 4Runner with quirky retro styling that may have been a tiny bit too far ahead of its time; less than 1,000 were sold per year in Canada for most of its run. The new 2024 Toyota Land Cruiser — with its lower price point, smaller size, and instant-classic styling — is a return to that idea, destined to succeed now that being a retro-tough-chic sport-ute automatically makes it one of the cool kids.

Just like the Land Rover Defender, Mercedes’ Gelandewagen (or more colloquially, the G-Class), and the Willys GPW that would eventually become the Jeep Wrangler, the Land Cruiser traces its origins back to when it was conceived as little more than a simple, durable, go-anywhere military transport vehicle. The Land Cruiser grew in size and scope over its life, eventually becoming almost completely unrecognizable next to its forebears. It was an increasingly hard sell with its bespoke hardware driving up costs, and was eventually discontinued in North America. The only way to set it right again was to start over, and the result is exactly what we wanted from this all-new-for-2024 Landie.

It’s much smaller, more affordable, and far more in-tune with the tough-chic aesthetic that’s been enjoying an extended moment under an expanding spotlight. It’s blocky, angular, utilitarian, and thoroughly retro in its design elements. Toyota made an interesting decision to sell the new Land Cruiser with both rectangular and round headlight designs, with both faces and option packages channelling different eras of Landie styling. A monochromatic colorway over the squared-off face can look pretty badass, whereas the two-tone First Edition model I drove — with its warm shade of not-quite-yellow paint against a white roof — looks further back into the Landie’s roots. And also looks badass.

Far removed from the full-size behemoth it used to be — the Sequoia fills those full-size boots now — the new Land Cruiser is a midsize two-row SUV coming in at roughly the same size as its contemporaries in the tough-chic segment. It rides on the same TNGA-F platform as every other Toyota truck, being most closely related to the Tacoma and makes use of the same brilliant iForce Max hybrid powertrain deployed in higher trims of Grand Highlander and top-shelf Tacos.

The Land Cruiser has always been a bit of a dog performance-wise, and a thirsty dog at that. If you’re lucky enough to track down one of the older diesels that kicked the drinking habit, it comes at the expense of being almost dangerously slow. That changes here, as the Landie is finally brisk while delivering impressive fuel economy at the same time.

The numbers come in at 326 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque, and this particular tester averaged 13.3 L/100 kilometres in my short time with it — very healthy for a fairly quick off-road brick. The eight-speed automatic transmission that controls everything is smart and seamless, and routes all that grunt through an electronically controlled four-wheel-drive system with a Torsen centre differential.

As you’d expect from a Land Cruiser, it’s fitted with every off-road-oriented tool that Toyota has in their war chest to keep that pace going when the road ends. Multiple terrain modes, hill descent control, disconnecting sway bars, and locking differentials are standard on all but the base “1958” Land Cruiser, and the appropriate off-road geometry figures of approach, breakover, and departure angles are more than adequate at 31, 25, and 22 degrees, respectively. The skid plates and rock rails that come with our First Edition model will help protect the Landie if you feel like verifying those figures on your own.

Paved or otherwise, the Land Cruiser comfortably cruises over any land, with a healthy amount of toughness baked into its character. It rides fairly well, if slightly on the firm side but definitely not overly so, and shows impressive body control and little roll under cornering. Steering is slightly slow and almost classic-truck-ponderous, but it’s not imprecise by any stretch. Similarly, throttle and braking response feel natural and organic, inspiring confidence and making its movements feel deliberate. The Land Cruiser is gratifying to helm.

This serves the Land Cruiser very well on-road and off. From the driver’s seat, you can comfortably place its wheels exactly where you need them to be, no matter the surface. Regardless of what you’re doing or where you’re doing it, there’s relatively little wind and road noise, and visibility through the Landie’s upright greenhouse is fantastic. This loaded First Edition model was decked with every luxury and incorporating Toyota’s full suite of driver assists, 360-degree parking cameras, powered leather seats with heating and ventilation, a 14-speaker JBL sound system, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen running Toyota’s latest easy-to-use and crisp-looking infotainment.

The new Land Cruiser’s got it all, and it can do it all. It looks the part just as well, if not better than its contemporaries in the tough-chic segment, and has the substance to back it all up in a package that’s comfortable and practical, with (we can safely assume, given the Land Cruiser’s history) comparatively lower running costs. It’s a charming plaything that you can actually use and enjoy every day, presumably for many years, without worry. The original Landie was and still is rad, but they are rough around the edges. This latest evolution keeps that cool with, as far as I can tell, no drawbacks.

Unlike the G-Wagen’s tiny doors or the Wrangler’s solid front axle, the newest Land Cruiser makes no sacrifices to be the coolest cat in the class. It channels everything that made the original Landie an icon, bringing it into 2024 without losing the essence that made it such an icon in the first place. Were I in the market, I’d seriously be considering one of these.

Prices start at $69,290 for the base “1958” trim, and top out at $90,370 as-tested for the limited-run and fully loaded First Edition here. A nicely equipped 2024 Toyota Land Cruiser comes in at around $80,000 or so; that’s not a small ask, but I wouldn’t doubt for a second that you’d get your money’s worth and then some. This isn’t a lease special; buy it, love it, take it anywhere, and drive it until the wheels fall off. Being what it is, they probably never will.


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About Nathan Leipsig

Deputy Editor Nathan is a passionate enthusiast with a penchant for finding 80s and 90s European vehicles. He can typically be found messing about on his E28 5-series or on Kijiji looking for the next project. Current Toys: '23 Miata Club 6MT, '86 535i, '99 Beetle TDI 5MT