2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition Review – Toyota is firmly embedded in the Off-Road cultural Zeitgeist. Since it first graced our shores in 1958, it has been a perennial favorite of Go-Anywhere adventure seekers, and while the Land Cruiser has actually grown more luxurious in its current, sixth-generation form, it’s still just as good when it gets tough.
For the 2020 model year, the biggest news on the Land Cruiser front is this new Heritage Edition model, which includes some welcome additions and deletions. For starters, the Cruiser’s third row of seats has been removed to increase cargo space, which now swells from 16.1 cubic feet to 53.5-perfect for a travel refrigerator or large cooler.
Outside, Land Cruiser’s side steps have been removed for better ground clearance, and chrome lower body side moldings have been official because, let’s face it, they’re just going to get scratched to hell anyway. A Yakima Megawarrior roof basket comes standard on Heritage Edition and I totally dig bronze, 18 inch, forged aluminum wheels from BBS. A vintage Land Cruiser badge on the D-pillar rounds off the slightly updated look.
No, none of these upgrades are mechanical, but the Land Cruiser still packs plenty of Brawn. Its Stout, 5.7-liter V8 engine cuts out 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. The engine has been transformed into an 8-speed automatic transmission and gets the job done with minimal fuss, although it is not the most sophisticated Powertrain Control out there. Lots of low-end torque combined with full-time four-wheel drive and a Lock Center differential mean the Land Cruiser can do quick work on steep, Rocky Hills. The 285/60 Series Dunlop AT23 Grandtrek tires also help with off-road traction.
In addition to its powerful, simple power plant, the Land Cruiser features a two-stage Transfer Bag with a terrain management system to better navigate rocks, dirt, mud and sand. Toyota’s ladder frame makes it super strong and tough as nails, and skid plates protect all the important bits, like the front suspension, radiator, gas tank and transfer case. I especially like the off-road turn assist feature, which brakes a rear wheel and pivots this large SUV around a tight corner. Super cool.
Utah’s State Route 210 rises about 3,500 feet over a nine-mile, curvy drive from suburban Salt Lake City to Sugarloaf Mountain. It’s a fast climb – about 400 meters per hour. miles, but it’s nothing compared to the uphill battle Toyota’s first U.S. office fought in the late 1950s to convince post-war farmers to bypass All-American jeeps for a close-up copy called the Land Cruiser.
The brave, unrefined open-top Land Cruiser that Toyota first disputed to the Americans was far from an immediate success. Of the 288 Toyotas sold in the United States in 1958, just one was a Land Cruiser. A redesign a few years later made the truck more capable, and it developed a reputation for durability unmatched by the relatively archaic jeep CJ. The Flash Forward 60-plus years and the 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser are again a blip; its share of automaker sales was higher in 1958 than in 2018, when the Japanese automaker sold 2,100,000 vehicles in the United States. Only 3,200 of them were $ 86,000 luxury SUVs wearing the big Land Cruiser badge.
For a company based on market share, Land Cruiser is now the one fighting for its existence in the United States.
Some smaller dealers have not seen a Land Cruiser in stock for years. These showrooms won’t blow the lights out for the Land Cruiser name’s 65th anniversary, as the carmaker reminisces in soft style with the Limited Edition Heritage Edition. And these dealers will miss the love letter Toyota written for its longest running model.
The 2020 Land Cruiser Heritage Edition follows the Porsche model to offer less for more. It stickers for a staggering $ 88,970, including a mandatory destination charge, or about $ 2,300 over the base model. Add $ 425 to Blizzard Pearl white paint unless the standard Midnight Black works for you. Heritage Editions place the race boards, center console, and third-row jump seats in the true Land Cruiser. Reasons for the price increase are 18-inch forged BBS wheels painted an attractive bronze and a Yakima roof basket. Inside, the black leather seats have bronze accent stitching, and Toyota swapped the gray Headliner for a variety that manages to make the roomy interior feel pretty cramped. Only D-pillar badges, modeled after those used on the iconic FJ40, give a homage to the model’s impressive global history.
The Land Cruiser’s appeal is in its relative subtlety. Well, that’s at least as subtle as a 6,000-pound SUV can be. Its positioning suggests quiet wealth, though Toyota isn’t quite sure who buys the big truck. Automaker’s US Marketing arm trusted us that it does not track Land Cruiser buying demographics due to the truck’s low volume, although an average income of six figures is a given. These land cruisers stored in Mega-Mansion vacation home garages near Aspen and Park City were not sold because of a carefully cultivated marketing message. Toyota has not run a Land Cruiser TV ad this year in the United States.
In many ways, the Land Cruiser is not unlike the hopped Mercedes wagon that flew past me on my way to a seven-figure home at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The Mercedes E-Class wagon is a staple among the elite, a silent rejection of “expected” luxury sedans. Both the Mercedes wagon and the Land Cruiser are under-the-radar models that are far more popular outside the United States.
For Mercedes, justifying the E-Class wagon in the US is not tough. It has knocked out its Audi and BMW competition (for now). For Toyota, however, the challenge is greater. The Land Cruiser has to contend with swanky Range Rovers and Mercedes-Benz G-Class SUVs. And for a company notorious for its bean counters, Cruiser’s cruel 14-mpg combined rating should have some red pens eager to cross it out of next year’s Roster.
For now, the Land Cruiser is sticking around and Toyota denies that the Heritage Edition is the model’s swan song in the United States. Heritage Edition feels more like a farewell letter than a tribute, though. It would be a sad day for this great Bruiser to disappear completely from our market.