First Drive: 2024 Toyota Land Cruiser Is One for the Die-Hards


The phrase “if you know, you know” tends to get thrown around too much, but in the case of the Toyota Land Cruiser, the adage works. Toyota’s prolific off-roader has conquered pretty much every continent, garnering a cult-like fandom from here to Tokyo to Timbuktu.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser Traildust front three quarter close

In the States, however, before its departure from our shores in 2021, the Land Cruiser had been trending toward being a fringe vehicle. Prices had crept north of $80,000 in the late 2010s, and by then it was more than a decade old. When the massive, V-8–powered J200 Series Cruiser did finally depart, there was a collective moan from the nameplate’s fans—even if only a few hundred actually held the cheese to buy one.

It’s little surprise, then, that news last August of the Land Cruiser’s return to our shores was cause for celebration among Toyota faithful. Even if the new vehicle was a radical departure from Cruisers past and no longer quite the halo ride in a world-famous lineup of off-road vehicles, North American enthusiasts would once again have access to this cherished nameplate.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser Traildust grouped with 1958 edition

We flew to San Diego to join Toyota at a ranch a few miles from the Mexico border for a product blowout at which we’d drive the new Land Cruiser, Camry, Tacoma hybrid, and see the new 4Runner. (Many on-site jokingly referred to it as “The Real Toyotathon.”) We were eager to see if a hybrid drivetrain and half as many cylinders as its predecessor would tarnish the Land Cruiser’s appeal. Though our time with the new Land Cruiser (Toyota calls this one the J250) was brief, we walked away with plenty of thoughts. Let’s dive in.

The first thing you notice walking up the new Land Cruiser is its styling, particularly when examined in contrast to the other vehicles that share Toyota’s TNGA-F body-on-frame platform. In addition to the Land Cruiser, those bones underpin everything from the Tundra and Sequoia to the 4Runner, the Tacoma, the Lexus GX 550, and the LX 600.

Even relative to the Lexus vehicles, the Land Cruiser’s styling is distinctly subtle, far less angular and aggressive than anything else on this frame. There’s a sense of confidence in the looks of the Land Cruiser, while the other offerings may render as a bit try-hard.

As Toyota tells it, that’s because this is a more globally focused vehicle than other TNGA-F offerings, which are aimed more specifically toward the North American market. The J250 had to fit a far broader styling brief than the other Toyotas, thus the more subdued sheet metal. For some, that will be a plus; for others, the J250 might feel boring. (I fall decidedly into the camp of the former.)

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser 1958 Edition side

Specs: 2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

  • Price: $63,345/$68,645 (Base for mid-tier “Land Cruiser” grade / As-tested for “Land Cruiser” grade)
  • Powertrain: Hybrid, 2.4-liter turbocharged inline-four, eight-speed automatic transmission, 48-hp integrated electric motor, 1.87-kWh NiMH (nickel-metal hydride) battery
  • Horsepower: 326 hp @ 6000 rpm
  • Torque: 465 lb-ft @ 1700 rpm
  • Drivetrain: Full-time 4×4 with two-speed transfer case, standard locking center and rear differentials
  • Layout: Front-engine, four-door, 5-passenger body-on-frame SUV
  • EPA-estimated fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, 23 mpg combined
  • 0–60 mph: 6.5 seconds (est.)
  • Competitors: Toyota 4Runner, Jeep Wrangler, Ford Bronco, Lexus GX 550

Unlike the 4Runner or the Tacoma, you can only have your Land Cruiser with a hybridized 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 326 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. That powertrain configuration is offered on the other two, but so are gas-only versions.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser 1958 Edition engine bay

We didn’t get a chance to drive the Land Cruiser on the road, but we did get plenty of time bouncing this system through rock gardens and trails. While it sounds a bit tractor-like from the outside—almost like a little turbodiesel at times—the powertrain stays mostly out of the way off road. Torque from the 48-hp electric motor integrated into the transmission’s bell housing was subtle enough to be unnoticeable, bridging the gap between idle speed and the engine’s peak torque—which arrives below 2000 rpm—nicely.

All Cruisers get full-time four-wheel drive and a two-speed transfer case with high/low ranges, along with locking center and rear differentials as standard. Dropped into four-low, the Cruiser made short work of dusty climbs, off-camber corners, and obstacles built to hoist a wheel into the air. We clamored over everything with just the center diff locked, which hinted at just how capable this thing is right out of the box.

Spring for the pricier of the two core trims, simply called “Land Cruiser,” and you’ll get access to an electronically disconnecting front sway bar, as well as Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Monitor system, which offers front and side camera views to make positioning the J250 a cinch. The lower-grade Land Cruiser 1958 does without those added tricks but was no less capable off-road, even with the blandest, road-grade (Yokohama Geolandar X-CV all-seasons, if you care) tires we’d ever seen on something offering real four-wheel drive. Expect more aggressive tires to be offered somewhere down the line.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser 1958 Edition side profile action pan

We’ll have to wait to sample a Land Cruiser for a longer period on roadways to say much about the eight-speed transmission, but it displayed no glaring faults as we trundled up and over the rattlesnake-infested hills south of San Diego.

Is the new powertrain more charming than the 5.7-liter, all-aluminum V-8 the J200 offered? That feels like a stretch, but there’s no denying it is markedly more efficient (the J250’s 23 mpg combined vs. 15 mpg combined in the J200). The aural appeal and character of the engines powering these Toyota brutes have never really been part of the selling proposition anyway. You buy one because it continuously proves itself the best candidate to roll over 300,000 miles without much issue. Time will tell if the new arrangement can offer the same promise, but we’ll give Toyota a longer leash than most competitors here.

Blessedly, the Land Cruiser’s interior came off as the sort of place you would happily spend 300,000 miles in. Scores of buttons—real ones!—adorn the center stack and console, controlling HVAC, drive modes, diff lockers, and more. We’ve known for a while that throwing controls into touch screens is a cost-play first and foremost, with any thought on longevity coming later on in the decision tree. Toyota’s choice here to stick with buttons feels noteworthy, as if the automaker still has an eye toward the way its vehicles will look, feel, and operate a decade-plus down the road.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser Java interior center console stack

Indeed, most of comprises the J250 in terms of mechanicals and styling feels pretty buttoned up. More of a question mark is how the new Land Cruiser will be received by would-be buyers, particularly when you look at the other offerings within Toyota’s own lineup—and those of its fancier sibling, Lexus.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser 1958 Edition front three quarter

The 2024 Land Cruiser 1958, the bottom rung of a three-step ladder, starts at $57,345, including a $1395 destination and handling fee. For that money, you get the charming round headlights, a 2400-watt AC inverter, and all the capability of locking center and rear diffs plus a real 4×4 drivetrain. But you also make do with manually adjusted fabric seats, no moonroof or Multi-Terrain Monitor, a tinny six-speaker audio system, and other touches that make this trim feel rather agrarian.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Blue off road course action front mud entry

The middling grade, simply called Land Cruiser, is where the niceties begin. You’ll get power-adjusted seats clad in SofTex, Toyota’s faux leather material engineered with ease of use and cleaning in mind. You’ll get access to those cameras from the Multi-Terrain Monitor, a larger center screen (12.3 inches vs. the 8-inch one in the 1958 grade), more speakers, and added capability thanks to the electronically disconnecting front sway bar.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Blue off road course action rear

This trim feels like the clear volume seller, but it starts at $63,345. If you tack on the Land Cruiser Premium Package, a $4600 bundle that nets you a 14-speaker JBL audio system, a power moonroof, a wireless charging pad, a head-up display, and more, you’re suddenly looking at almost $68,000. The top of the line is the Land Cruiser First Edition, limited to 5000 units, which adds leather seats and much of the content of the Premium Package. It comes in at $76,345. Gulp.

Problem is, for just a few hundred more than a J250 with the Premium Package, you could score a Lexus GX 550 Overtrail that offers much of the same capability off-road, a far nicer interior, and a twin-turbo, 3.4-liter V-6 that boasts more power (349 hp vs. 326), more torque (479 lb-ft vs. 465), and roughly 3000 pounds of additional towing capacity. Those trying to stretch their dollars in this space will spring for the Lexus; it’s just too good to ignore.

Then you have to examine the other box in the room, the similarly sized and hotly anticipated 4Runner. The 4Runner has more nameplate equity here in the States, and while pricing information won’t be available for a while yet, we’d bet you’ll be able to score a good chunk of the Land Cruiser’s capability for a few thousand less.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Blue badge dust detail

While skeptics may see this overlap as nameplate infighting among the TNGA-F offerings, Toyota insists it’s actually an advantage. The company still views the Land Cruiser as a halo product, even if it now hews much closer to the other products it supposedly lords over.

Reading between the lines, I don’t think anyone at Toyota is expecting the Land Cruiser to unseat the 4Runner as the North American king of TNGA-F. That’s probably fine. The appeal will probably come from knowing that you’re part of a global club enjoying one of the most prolific vehicles ever to huff dust, which is plenty for some.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Blue off road course action front

Wherever you fall on these hypotheticals, I’ll leave you with this: American dealer lots with Land Cruisers on them are better than those without. If you do decide that the Cruiser is right for you, you’ll catch no guff from me. Maybe just a hat tip.

After all, if you know, you know.

2024 Toyota Land Cruiser

Price: $63,345/$68,645 (Base for mid-tier “Land Cruiser” grade / As-tested for “Land Cruiser” grade)

Highs: Delightful styling wholly distinct from anything else on the TNGA-F platform, capability worthy of the nameplate’s lofty ideals—even wearing full-on street tires. Thoughtful interior that, like the rest of the vehicle, feels crafted with an eye toward the next decade.

Lows: The pricing ladder gets dicey quickly. Cannibalization from siblings is a real threat, especially for indifferent buyers. Crying out for chunky A/T tires, though we’d bet those are coming.

Summary: That the Land Cruiser is back is cause for celebration. That it’s offered alongside so many compelling siblings might not be. Still, for the die-hards, there’s a lot to like.


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    It’s just me, but… If I could express to you all how little a test of a new car means to me — !! I can’t afford one, I can no longer work on one (half the fun, for a gearhead!), and I don’t like the look. Yes, I’m ancient, but still restore OLD cars, and have valid opinions, thanks. It must be fun for you guys to get to flog a new 4X4, (or whatever) but they aren’t relevant to me. (Oh, can you afford one?) Period. Thanks, anyhow! Ole’ Wick — Rodding since 1960.

    I totally agree. When I scrolled through the newsletter and came to this story I thought it was another Bronco story. They all look alike now and interest me not one bit. Thank goodness we can still go to the classifieds and buy the real deals of yesterday (often for less money) and drive something that looks good and something we can do the maintenance ourselves. As well, for politicians that look to take our cars and trucks away. I think it’s time to round them all up and put them in a pen somewhere.

    The 1958 version with the ability to get options available on the mid-grade version would be the sweet spot. Frankly, I’m surprised the rectangular headlights are offered at all. You’d think Toyota would have wanted to tap into that nostalgia that made the new Bronco such a hit.

    Arguably the rectangular headlights are a hat tip to the late 80’s FJ62 Cruiser.

    As to the story, given there is a 7 month wait list for Cruisers in Australia I don’t think Toyota USA will be too worried if the take-up there is slow.

    This Land Cruiser is in a weird spot for me. If you go towards the higher models I think I would rather have a Lexus GX instead. Lower models I think I might prefer a 4Runner instead. It’s going to be interesting to see how all these fairly similarly priced and somewhat similarly trimmed models are going to fair out in the Toyota lineup.

    We recently traded a 2014 hybrid Highlander up for a new one, marked fuel efficiency difference but not as comfortable. I’m not sold on the looks of new Jeeps and Broncos and Land Rovers are outside my snack bracket so this new cruiser with Hybrid powertrain is certainly something I’ll watch out for when it eventually hits the streets, till then I’ll keep working on my 89 Jeep YJ with square headlights, 4.3 gas, roll bar and that real 4×4 feel with a manual transmission. I wonder why we can’t buy cars that offer real driving feel anymore and everything tries hard to be a minivan without actually being a minivan? I think perhaps soccer moms are controlling the economy these days.

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