For those who don’t live and die all things off-road vehicles, here’s a bit of context: Last week, Toyota announced a new Land Cruiser for North America, coming in 2024. We covered the reveal in-depth here: 2024 Toyota Land Cruiser: Impressive Price, Retro Styling, Smaller Size, Half the Engine.
While it’s a much-anticipated and impressive-looking vehicle, I want to share some thoughts after crawling all over it for a few hours, talking to engineers and designers, and discussing it with other in-the-know journalists.
We Get the Prado, Not the Land Cruiser
The 2024 Land Cruiser is a Prado, not the iconic Land Cruiser I and many others wanted to return. Look, it has lots of Land Cruiser badges on it, but it has much more in common with the Prado/GX/4Runner than any SUV to carry the sole Land Cruiser badge before it. And yes, I know Prado also carries a Land Cruiser badge.
Basically, I’m saying the just-revealed Land Cruiser is a smaller and watered-down version of the icon. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, and I’m pretty sure Toyota will sell a lot of these vehicles all over the globe. In most places, it will carry the Prado badge, but in North America and most of Europe, it will carry the Land Cruiser monicker.
I have even come to believe the world market LC 300 — which America won’t get — will be sold alongside this new Land Cruiser/Prado (known as the LC 250) in many places around the globe.
North Americans, we get the lux version of the LC 300, in the form of the Lexus LX 600.
My Land Cruiser Opinions
In case you wondering where my opinions come from, I’ve been a Land Cruiser fan for a very long time. I own a GX 460 — which is a Prado 150 — and have driven a wide range of Cruisers on multiple continents, both stock and modified.
I also attended the live reveal of this new Land Cruiser at the Land Cruiser Heritage Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah. Be sure to check out the museum next time you’re in the area, as it will blow your mind if you also appreciate Land Cruiser lore.
We don’t have all the details from Toyota, both because the brand remains selective of what it reveals and because there is still a long time before we’ll see one of these new SUVs in U.S. showrooms. But, here are my hot takes, opinions, and observations.
LC 250 / J250
This new Land Cruiser is a successor to the Prado J150 — sold as the GX 460 in North America — and not the successor to the 200 Series Land Cruiser (J200). It is a mid-size vehicle that is built to a price point. It is not a large, over-engineered SUV, built to crazy exacting standards that uses the best materials possible — and carries a big price tag to match. I would expect all those things in a Land Cruiser 200 Series replacement.
I have to accept that and understand that we won’t see the 300 Series Land Cruiser (J300) — which is a 200 Series replacement — at North American Toyota dealers. And, many of us wouldn’t buy the LC 300 anyway, because it would be a $100,000+ vehicle.
I also find it odd that the Lexus GX 550 gets a bigger engine and more power than the new Land Cruiser. It would make sense for the GX to get more power than a Prado, but the Land Cruiser/LX has always been the big dog when it comes to the powertrain.
Likewise, it’s strange that the new Land Cruiser is smaller than the new GX. All of the Prado-based vehicles around the globe are usually similar in size, and always smaller than the Land Cruiser.
2024 Land Cruiser Exterior Design Opinions
It’s hard not to dig the boxy shape and plethora of historical Land Cruiser design element nods. This is true inside and out.
But it’s hard to look past the chunky hard plastics, also true inside and out. To me, that is especially prominent with the grille and brow above it, which has no real purpose that I can discern. However, I think the grille might grow on me, as I generally like the pixel-like design — similar to the design language of the Hyundai Ioniq 5.
Also, what’s with that big flattish area below the headlights? They look like jowls.
My seemingly unpopular opinion is that the square headlights look better. This is a Land Cruiser and should look tough. The round lights make it look kinda cute and somehow make it look even smaller than it is. They also have some Jeep Renegade vibes, which is not a good thing.
Staying up front, I really don’t like the weird step that is the transition between the front of the vehicle and the fenders. It can’t be used as an actual step and just looks awkward.
Speaking of awkwardness, did you notice the huge cowling between the hood and windshield? Not only is it large, but it is also prominently featured, even from the side profile view. It feels like cheap, black plastic and sounded like it too when I tapped on the prototype.
I do love the two-tone paint scheme option offered on some trim levels. The plastic separator lines on the A and D pillars also are kinda cool and are on all 2024 Land Cruisers.
The chunky, protruding black plastic door handles are also a nice touch. They help make the truck look a bit more rugged than it would with body-colored handles. But, they also stick off the body enough that when off-roading, many will likely be ripped off by trees and rocks.
Possibly the worst design cue on the new Cruiser is the hitch receiver cover on the back. It looks like a giant wart on an otherwise pretty refined rear end. Luckily, the cover should be easily removable.
2024 Land Cruiser Interior Design Opinions
I love the 1958 model’s cloth interior and manual seats. You can’t get the cloth in other trims, however, or the 1958 with the front sway bar disconnect or square headlights.
And the 1958, with those manual cloth seats, will start around $55,000. That’s a lot for a vehicle with those basic features! I’m old, though, so still have a very hard time stomaching new car pricing.
The padding on the console for your knee is a great idea, and well executed on the mid-grade new Cruiser. But on the 1958 version, that “paddling” is very hard and not comfortable.
Overall, the driving position in the 2024 LC 250 felt comfortable. The seats are supportive and have good contouring, which should fit a wide range of body styles.
The steering wheel is busy and a bit blocky, though, just like all modern Toyota trucks and SUVs.
There is also pretty good visibility out of the large greenhouse/windows all around the vehicle. That visibility is blocked, however, to the right of the steering wheel with the big, blocky driver’s binnacle and infotainment screen.
The combo is one big unit of plastic, with a lot of black plastic for what seems like not a lot of reason. The volume knob added in between, in an odd location, is also distracting and looks like an afterthought.
I also have to bring up the circular HVAC vents at each corner of the dash, as they are very similar to what you’d see in a Mercedes or the new Jeep Wrangler. They look good and should function well, but don’t scream Toyota or Land Cruiser to me.
Overall, I like the GX-style switchgear on the console. It feels relatively premium to the touch and is pretty well laid out. The modern Toyota piano keys on the dash under the infotainment screen are also a nice touch, and easily operated even with gloves on.
For North America, the 2024 Land Cruiser will be a five-seater, with no third row available. The GX 550 gets the third row, as very likely does much of the rest of the world in this new Land Cruiser/Prado. The prototype I crawled around in had cupholders, USB outlets, and even seatbelt mounting locations for a third row.
The second row offers plenty of headroom and impressive knee room. But, because of the high floor and low seats, half my legs don’t touch the seat cushion. This was true with a few people much shorter than me as well.
The second-row seats themselves are pretty comfortable, but high knees and minimal leg contact/support with those seats will be very uncomfortable for any real period of time.
Interestingly, the battery for the mild-hybrid system is under the rear cargo floor, and not under the rear seats like in many other vehicles. Because of this battery location, the cargo floor is quite high. This makes it harder to load gear and limits cargo volume.
It will likely also make it difficult to outfit the vehicle with a drawer system/sleep platform for overland travel that offers reasonable storage and sleeping room. Toyota didn’t give us cargo volume numbers in the launch info for a reason.
2024 Land Cruiser: Features Hits & Misses
LC 250 Hits
I’m going to give the overall interior and exterior styling a win, as I think most people really like it. It’s retro while being modern. It’s also cute while trying to be rugged.
I also have to give the overall off-road feature set a win as well. It has standard front tow/recovery hooks, a two-speed transfer case, center and rear selectable locking differentials, VSC, Auto LSD, CRAWL Control, and Downhill Assist Control.
Optional from the factory are rock rails, a front stabilizer disconnect, full-coverage steel skid plates, Multi-Terrain Select, and a Multi-Terrain Monitor trail camera system.
As with all vehicles built on this new Toyota chassis, a body mount chop will not be needed to fit larger tires. On most older Land Cruiser and Prado models, the front body mounts were just behind/in the front wheel wheels, requiring them to be trimmed in order to fit larger tires. I had to do this on my GX 460 to fit 34-inch tires.
After talking to a bunch of experts that have been behind the wheel and in the design room of the new Land Cruiser, I’m pretty confident that larger tires will fit without much trimming and modifications needed.
By larger, I mean true 33s or maybe a 34, but 35s will likely still need a lot of cutting and some modifications to the systems close to the wheel wells.
I have to say that the single powertrain option on the 2024 Land Cruiser in North America is a bit of a letdown. The 2.4L turbo-four with electric assist puts out 326 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. That is okay power, although very impressive torque.
I would have liked to see closer to 400 horsepower, but I’m sure this powertrain will be competent enough. We’ll have to see how the mild-hybrid system holds up in off-road situations, however.
North America does get the most powerful powertrain offered in this chassis. Elsewhere around the globe, the LC 250 will get a 2.8L turbo-diesel (201 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque), 2.4L turbo-four (278 horsepower and 316 pound-feet), and a naturally aspirated 2.7L four-cylinder (161 horsepower and 181 pound-feet).
For comparison, the GX 550 gets a 3.4L twin-turbo V6 (349 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque), the 4Runner has a 4.0L V6 (270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet), and the LC 200 a 5.7L V-8 (381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet).
The first thing people say is that the mild-hybrid powertrain is all about fuel economy. But, if that were true, then why is the LC 250 a full-time 4WD vehicle? You’d think it would have a part-time 4WD system, so you could disengage the front axle, reducing driveline power losses, and get better fuel economy for everyday fair-weather driving.
The current 2023 Lexus RX AWD has the same powertrain and gets 28 mpg. The LC 250 will likely get worse than that, and Toyota thinks it will get about 27 mpg. It, for sure, will get better than the 14 mpg that the thirsty V8 in the LC 200 managed.
LC 250 Misses
And, I’m stoked the vehicle comes standard with a full tow package, including a hitch and electronic brake controller. But, it only tows 6,000 pounds (7,716 with the diesel that we won’t get in North America). For comparison’s sake, a GX 460 tows 6,500 pounds, an LC 200 tows 8,500, and an LC 300 tows 7,700 pounds.
Back to tires, no proper off-road tire will be available on the new Land Cruiser from the factory. This seems like a massive miss, especially considering the other off-road features that come standard and/or are available.
The most aggressive tire offered on the 2024 Land Cruiser is a Michelin LTX Trail 265/70 R 18. That is an on-road-focused all-terrain tire for all-season use. It should be fine for getting to the mall with a little snow on the ground and the mountain biking trailhead down the forest service road, but is not suitable for any real off-road adventures.
Ground clearance (8.7 inches) is unimpressive on the LC 250. For reference, a Subaru Outback Wilderness has 9.5 inches and a 4Runner 4×4 has 9.6 inches.
Yes, solid rear axle vehicles will generally have less clearance because of the rear differential. With that said, comparable solid rear axle vehicle like the GX 460 has slightly less, the LC 200 has slightly more, and the 4Runner has considerably more ground clearance.
While we did get a lot of off-road capabilities, we did not get a front locker. That’s sad, as the GX 550 didn’t get one either and many of us thought that Toyota was saving it for the Land Cruiser. We were wrong.
While standard, the front recovery points are way up under the vehicle. This is not ideal when in the mud, deep sand, or water. It also means that in many recovery situations, the straps and/or cables will put pressure on the front bumper plastics and will no doubt break them.
Vehicles like the Land Cruiser and Range Rover should have a split tailgate, not a lift gate like minivans and crossovers. Even the new Defender and GX 460 got swing-out doors, which are better than lift gates.
One big disadvantage to this design is the fact that you can’t put a spare on the rear door like most Prados have around the globe. Also, I hit my head on this easily when accessing the rear of the new Land Cruiser.
The mid-grade launch vehicle was poorly named and painted. It is just called the Land Cruiser, while the base is the 1958 and the top is First Edition. That is just confusing!
Also, the Land Cruiser “Land Cruiser” was launched with a light blue and white roof paint scheme, which looks great. But, it looks way too much like the Bronco Sport Heritage Edition — especially with the rear hip upturned body line the two vehicles share. This is not a comparison I’d think Toyota would want us to make, as the 2024 Land Cruiser is a much larger and more capable vehicle than a Bronco Sport.
Toyota SUV Lineup: 4Runner?
Now, where does the next generation — probably coming in 2025 — 4Runner fit in Toyota’s new SUV lineup?
The new Land Cruiser is much more like a 4Runner/Prado/GX than it is a Land Cruiser, in size, build quality, price, etc. This means the next-generation 4Runner needs to find its own niche within the SUV hierarchy. No doubt it will still fall below the Land Cruiser, but we have to wonder what powertrain it will have, how big it will be, and where it will fall on the price spectrum.
I hope Toyota goes all in on its off-road heritage and makes the 4Runner a true Wrangler and Bronco competitor. Make it a touch smaller, don’t raise the price, and give it some more lifestyle options like removable roof panels — or like an old-school 4Runner with a removable hardtop.
I doubt we’ll see anything of the sort, but if we don’t, I feel like the 4Runner and new Land Cruiser will play in such a similar place in the market that they will cannibalize each other’s sales a bit.
The Real Land Cruiser Does Still Exist — In 2 Forms
First, we have the modern Land Cruiser. The Land Cruiser 300 Series (LC 300) debuted in 2021 and is the true successor to the LC 200.
Sadly, Toyota won’t bring the LC 300 to North American shores and no longer sells the LC 200. Yes, we do get the bling version of the LC 300, the Lexus LX 600.
Nearly concurrently as us getting our first look at the LC 250, the refreshed, after 15 years, Land Cruiser 70 Series debuted in Australia. Yes, this is the vehicle that has essentially not changed since 1984 and is what much of the legend of the Land Cruiser is built around. No, we will never see the 70 Series sold in North America — but you can import ones that are 25 years old or older.
New 2024 Land Cruiser: Conclusions
Here’s the bottom line: The 2024 Land Cruiser is going to be a sales success. It speaks to a wide range of modern overlanders and weekend warriors who want retro and boxy looks, reasonable fuel economy, off-road capability, and an iconic nameplate. Also, it is barely more money than a 4Runner and starts at about $30,000 less than a Land Cruiser 200 Series.
Putting the Land Cruiser badge on this vehicle is a great marketing play, but I believe does a disservice to the heritage and lineage of the icon. I believe it should have been brought here as the Prado Land Cruiser that it is.
Do I want one? No. My GX 460 is more comfortable, capable, and roomy. The new GX 550 is more luxurious, powerful, and better looking. The 200 Series Land Cruiser is more rugged and powerful. Even the current 4Runner is more capable off-road — the forthcoming one will no doubt be as well — and I believe it’s better to look at inside and out. And yes, I know, the 4Runner is the only comparable new vehicle in terms of price point.