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2006 Toyota Land Cruiser

Hatari!

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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2006 Toyota Land Cruiser

Muscular, flared fenders are Land Cruiser's most recognizable feature.

Photo © Jason Fogelson
Wherever elephants and lions roam free, you'll find a Land Cruiser. I drove the 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser in the wilds of greater Los Angeles, where starlets and agents graze like gazelles. LA's not exactly a wildlife refuge, but it is a good place to test the mettle of most vehicles. The 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser starts at $55,815 ($65,533 as tested) with a 3 year/36,000 mile basic warranty and 5 year/60,000 powertrain warranty and an EPA estimate of 13 mpg city/17 mpg highway. Hatari!

First Glance

Land Cruiser has certainly gone upscale in the fifty-some years since its introduction in 1953 as the B-85. The 1967 FJ40, the first Land Cruiser to be exported from Japan, is the design inspiration for the new Toyota FJ Cruiser, a more pedestrian vehicle than Land Cruiser. Land Cruiser retains some flavor of the early FJ40, but adds a much higher degree of polish and sophistication.

It's obvious that Land Cruiser is in the same family as 4Runner and Sequoia. The three vehicles share the same general lines and some similar trim treatments. Land Cruiser is bigger and more mature than 4Runner, more athletic and elegant than Sequoia. Muscular, flared fenders are Land Cruiser's most recognizable feature. A slightly square cabin lends a retro feel and FJ echo. Land Cruiser sits high and proud, with a very healthy 9.8" of ground clearance. Because of the wide track (63.6" front/63.8" rear), overall width (76.4"), length (192.5") and long wheel base (112.2"), it doesn't look tippy or unbalanced despite its 73.2" height. Land Cruiser is a big vehicle, but manages to look impressive without looking ungainly -- wish I could manage the same.

Fit and finish for the Japan-built Land Cruiser are at a very high level, even by Toyota standards.

In the Driver's Seat

Land Cruiser's dash is pure Toyota -- just the facts, ma'am.

Photo © Jason Fogelson
Inside the Land Cruiser, it's apparent that you don't have to rough it to cross the Kalahari anymore. Interior material selection is top-notch, with high quality plastics, real metal trim pieces and none of that fake wood that I hate so much. Nicely upholstered, fully power-adjustable heated leather driver and passenger seats put you in the right position to get a good view through Land Cruiser's big windshield and across the flat hood.

The dash is classic Toyota -- just the facts, ma'am. Analog gauges with big white on black numbers and red needles make readouts simple. The center stack is straightforward and fuss-free.

My test vehicle was loaded -- Navigating the Kalahari would probably be much easier with the optional ($3,350) EMV nav system in Land Cruiser. The system includes a big color screen that doubles as the monitor for a rear view camera -- a good idea in a vehicle this big.

The big center console between the seats carries more than the usual share of controls and switches, including the gear selector, drive mode selector, seat heat switches and dials and switches for the optional ($1,620) Adaptive Variable Suspension setup. The layout is a little random, and is the only place that the Land Cruiser verges on clutter.

On the Road

I wish I could tell you that I took the Land Cruiser on safari, down rutted game trails and across great expanses of wild savanna. Unfortunately, I spent all of my time on the pavement, though I did seek out the wildest stretches of the Hills of Beverly to test the Land Cruiser.

Land Cruiser's 4.7 liter V8 engine does a good job of motivating the 5425 lb beast, with 275 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque on tap. Full-time four-wheel drive is at work with a locking center differential, a must for serious offroad work. The torque will really help, too.

Land Cruiser's standard suspension setup is double-wishbone independent in front, four-link coil spring in the rear. The Variable suspension setup in my test vehicle included settings to adjust stiffness from "Comfort" to "Sport," along with automatic load leveling and adjustable height control. For day-to-day driving on good roads, Land Cruiser can hunker down closer to the ground and improve the smoothness of your ride. A great feature, worth the extra $1,620 for the luxury feel.

On the safety side, standard ABS-controlled four-wheel ventilated discs work great. Dual stage front airbags are standard; curtain and side airbags are a $650 option. Check that box on the order sheet.

Journey's End

Land Cruiser is a big vehicle, but manages to look impressive without looking ungainly.

Photo © Jason Fogelson
I know what you're thinking -- $55,000 for a Toyota? But this isn't just any Toyota -- this is a Land Cruiser. There aren't many vehicles on showroom floors with an unbroken fifty years of history, or with Land Cruiser's genuine offroad chops, true luxury and sophistication. That said, there aren't many with worse fuel economy, either.

If you're looking for luxury and offroad ability, HUMMER's H2 is a serious contender. It has a better approach and departure angle than Land Cruiser, and can be loaded down with extras to pamper you on the incline. GMC's Yukon Denali is a powerful, luxurious vehicle, and delivers more power than Land Cruiser, though it might come up short when the pavement ends. VW's Touareg, Porsche's Cayenne, and Mercedes' GL 450 are all worth considering, though only the Merc will match Land Cruiser's seating capacity. Don't overlook the pricier Range Rover, Infiniti QX56, and Land Cruiser's cousin, the Lexus LX 470, either -- each takes luxury one step beyond, while still retaining offroad ability.

For my Hatari! fantasies, though, there's no substitute for a Land Cruiser. Of course, my Hatari! fantasies involve an FJ40 painted like a zebra, and Elsa Martinelli with a big bag of photo equipment. 'Nuff said.

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