2021 Toyota Land Cruiser Review

2021 Toyota Land Cruiser - An icon trailing into the sunset... for now.


Toyota has been building the Land Cruiser for over six decades making it the longest running nameplate in their lineup. News broke late in 2020 that the Land Cruiser would not return for the 2022 model year so if you're in the market for a new premium off-road capable SUV, now is the time to grab one. For 2021, not much has changed for the large SUV other than some new colors and an available third row for its Heritage Edition model. The Land Cruiser is a full size, premium SUV that seats five or eight. It's powered by a 5.7L DOHC V8 engine that produces 381 HP and 401 lb.-ft. of torque. It's offered in two trims, base or Heritage Edition, with prices starting at $85,665. The Land Cruiser plays in a very niche segment of high-end off-road worthy vehicles. Vehicles like the Land Rover Range Rover and Lexus LX 570 would be its closest competitors, but buyers may also consider SUVs like the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, or Ford Expedition.  

Despite its storied history, the Land Cruiser has only seen a handful of generations. Its most recent full update took place fourteen years ago in 2007 with a mild facelift for 2015. Toyota has since made minor updates and added trims such as the Heritage Edition that debuted at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the FJ40. Heritage Edition models come with four color options (Midnight Black, Blizzard Pearl, Classic Silver and Magnetic Gray) and all are complemented with a black-accented grille and bronze-colored BBS 18x8" forged aluminum wheels wrapped in P285/60R18 mud and snow-rated tires. Not all vehicles (in my opinion) can pull off the bronze wheel look, but the Land Cruiser is one that they look right at home on and give it a "custom" look straight from the factory. Also added to the exterior are vintage styled Land Cruiser badging and a Yakima Megawarrior roof basket. Removed from Heritage Edition models are running boards and chrome lower body side moldings.

The real value that comes with the Land Cruiser is its off-road capability. Under the hood is a brawny V8 that offers ninety percent of peak torque at a low 2,200 RPM which is extremely helpful off-road and for towing capability.  Towing capacity is rated at 8,100 pounds and a tow hitch is standard on all models. Weighing in at over 5,700 pounds, this is a large, heavy vehicle so it's no surprise that fuel economy is not one of its strong suits. EPA estimates are at 13 city / 17 highway which are well below the class average. During my time driving it in suburban Chicago, I averaged 13.1 MPG with some highway driving. It does have a 24.6 gallon gas tank which will give drivers an estimated range of around 350 miles.

The throaty V8 offers decent acceleration with a 0-60 time of 6.8 seconds. The eight-speed automatic seamlessly transitions through the gears and offers a pleasant experience around town. While on regular roads, the Land Cruiser delivers a plush, smooth ride. The "cruiser" in the name couldn't be more accurate as this SUV makes for a great road-trip vehicle (fuel economy aside). At highway speeds, road noise is minimal and the steering is light. It feels well-grounded and absorbs road imperfections with minimal bounce. There is body roll and sway during quick maneuvers or when taking sharper corners, which is something to be expected in a vehicle of this size. As expected, driving in parking lots or tighter streets will require some extra attention due to its size, but Toyota has added driver assist features to make this easier.

Where the Land Cruiser really shines is in its off-road capabilities. Starting out life as a small 4WD military vehicle and becoming an all-terrain icon in the 1960s mean this vehicle's lineage is strong. As a body-on-frame SUV, this is a true truck-based vehicle. The Land Cruiser also comes standard with a double-wishbone front and four-link coil-spring rear suspension. This suspension setup offers good articulation and long wheel travel which hydraulically adjusts the lean resistance provided by the stabilizer bars. The capability has been tested in highly sought trails such as Moab and drivers often praise their vehicles for handling every possible obstacle. It offers 8.9" of ground clearance and a fording depth of 27.55." Rest assured that all of your crucial mechanicals are protected as the undercarriage comes equipped with reinforced skid plates.

Land Cruisers come equipped with a multi-terrain select system that allows the driver to adjust the dynamic for varying road/off-road conditions. When in loose terrain like sand and mud, the system will adjust to allow additional wheel slip to keep the tires moving without sinking. And for the real adventurers, a "mogul" mode will prove most effective for steep slopes, ditches, and ridges. Also, standard is a CRAWL mode for the steep inclines/declines which will regulate the engine speed and output combined with braking force to aid the vehicle properly through the obstacle while the driver focuses on steering. Additional off-road goodies include downhill assist control, hill-start assist control, and off-road turn assist which tightens the turning radius to create a pivot effect allowing the extra-large Land Cruiser through some tighter turns.

Climb inside and you'll be treated to a premium interior, plush seats, and functional styling. As a two row SUV, there is a lot of breathing room for passengers. Toyota has maintained a simple design with upscale materials and excellent build quality. Drivers face traditional gauges with a 4.2-inch color multi-information display at the center. The information can be customized for everything from your current fuel range to off-road conditions within the multi-terrain select mode. A 9-inch infotainment touchscreen is standard at the center of the dash, although it does not integrate with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. It does include a 14-speakeer JBL premium audio system, wireless charging pad, integrated navigation and USB media ports. Despite not having all of the current apps many competitors offer, the Land Cruiser has been updated enough to provide the basics.  

Offered as either a five or eight-passenger vehicle, Toyota has outfitted the Land Cruiser with some comfortable seats. My test vehicle was a five-passenger version and both rows of seats were well-cushioned and very comfortable for a long commute. Leather upholstery is standard with heated/ventilated seats in the front and heated second row seats in the back. The driver seat is positioned high giving the driver a commanding position above most other vehicles on the road. LATCH connectors are available in the second row for families in need to strapping in a car seat. The second-row seats fold easily for access to the rear cargo area (or optional third row).

Utility was a key thought in designing this SUV with various storage compartments such as the extra-large center console that can double as a cooler box. Regardless of seat configuration, cargo volume tops out at 82.8 cu. ft. behind the front seat and 41.4 cu.ft. behind the second row. Second row seats have a 40/20/40 split option and also slide forward for access to the back (or third row). Models equipped with the third row have the option of folding up the seats in a 50/50 split against the sides of the SUV. Also worth noting is the tailgate which splits in its opening into a top hatch that lifts up and bottom area that folds down.

Riding in a vehicle of this size feels quite safe, but Toyota has ensured that feeling with Toyota Safety Sense P standard. Those features include pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert, and automatic high beams. Added features like ten airbags, the Star Safety System, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert and side-impact door beams will round things out. In summary, this vehicle is loaded with safety which is reassuring knowing that it can take you on many adventures off the paved roads.

Sales of the Land Cruiser are relatively low in the US (hence its future demise), but that makes it even more of a gem. The Heritage Edition turned heads when I had it and those in the off-roading / overlanding community expressed their jealousy on social media knowing I had access to one for a week. If only there were more options in the Chicago suburbs to take it off the pavement, I would have loved to put its true capabilities to the test.  The Heritage Edition was tastefully modded at the factory to earn street cred and looks like a custom off-roader (although I wouldn't mind seeing some beefier tires). It really has achieved an icon status in the automotive industry that is well-deserved. If you're in the market something unique that is built to last for many, many years, the Land Cruiser would be worth the investment.

First Impression Summary:

Test Vehicle: 2021 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition
Exterior Color: Midnight Black Metallic
Interior Color: Black Leather
Notable Options: No additional options
Price as tested: $89,360

Jim OBrill

Jim is Director of Marketing for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association and Chicago Auto Show and a co-host of Drive Chicago Radio on WLS 890 AM Chicago. His passion for cars started young and he’s often referred to as the ‘car-guy’ among family and friends. As a former auto detailer, he has an eye for identifying solid used cars and tags along on many car buying adventures. Early in his career he worked at several car dealerships in various areas of the business. As a co-host on Drive Chicago and member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, Jim has had opportunities to attend track school and drive vehicles on multiple circuits such as Road America and Gingerman Raceway. With a background in photography, taking pictures of vehicles has always been a hobby.

Jim also enjoys the trails and taking trucks like his 4Runner off road. He has a special appreciation for older cars and can often be found spending free time at cruise nights or home washing one his four vehicles. Jim resides in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three kids. Follow Jim on Instagram at @jpcars22 for new vehicle content or @forgotten_survivors.312 for shots of older cars still on the streets of Chicagoland.