It’s a Land Cruiser, it’s a hybrid, and it will sticker in the mid-$50,000 range. If I stopped writing now, you’d still want one. And rightly so. The all-new 2024 Toyota Land Cruiser looks like a winner.
Toyota stopped selling the last Land Cruiser in the United States at the end of the 2021 model year. It was the end of a legendary, if flawed, legacy. While the rest of the world has always enjoyed a range of Land Cruisers running from hard-working commercial vehicles to mid-size consumer-spec versions, America’s only ever gotten a single model, which had grown very big, and very expensive.
Land Cruiser nerds—a group in which I proudly consider myself a member—refer to Land Cruisers by numerical model designations. You won’t find these numbers on any badges or in any marketing materials, but they help us easily differentiate generations and models that exist under the same badge. The last Land Cruiser Toyota sold in America is known as the 200-series.
My wife and I own a 200-series, which I have extensively modified with a one-off long travel suspension system, and a whole bunch of other fancy stuff. It’s very much not for sale, but if for some reason I did want to get rid of it, I’d probably set a price well in excess of $150,000. Toyota only ever sold about 3,000 units of the 200-series a year in this country. Ferrari sells more cars than that in this country every year.
Part of the reason for that limited volume was the price—the 200-series stickered for $85,000, and that was back before the pandemic sent the economy crazy. Everything else being equal, that’s a hair over $100,000 in today’s money. Another reason is that the 200-series was a deeply weird vehicle that only worked for a very specific audience. Price aside, it’s huge on the outside, but cramped on the inside, gets atrocious fuel economy, and while the seats are made from a quality of leather that would make a Rolls Royce jealous, the rest of the interior could have been borrowed from a 15-year-old 4Runner. To get the most out of a 200-series, you need to have deep pockets, no kids, prioritize off-road durability above anything else, and be willing to modify your expensive vehicle if you want it to work correctly. And even after all that, you also need to be cool with people in parking lots complimenting you on your “nice Highlander.”
In the rest of the world, the new 300-series Land Cruiser continues that tradition. There’s people in Saudi Arabia shredding sand dunes in them as we speak, and Australians using them to tow rugged camper trailers across the Outback. And also in those markets there’s tradesmen hauling lumber in 79-series Land Cruiser pickup trucks, and people parking on crowded city streets in their mid-size Land Cruiser Prados. “Prado” is Portuguese for “field,” and it’s been used to designate smaller Land Cruiser SUVs since 1990.
Rather than sell limited volumes of the 300-series in America, Toyota has instead decided to pivot, and sell us the new Prado. The official name is just “Land Cruiser”, but it looks like nerds may be calling this one the 250.
Power Train Capabilities to Come
All new Toyota 4x4s are now being built onto the same modular frame that debuted on the new Tundra, and the Land Cruiser 250 is no different. Where we do see a lot of differentiation is with the power train. Where the Tundra, Sequoia, and new Lexus GX (Lexus is Toyota’s luxury brand) employ a 3.4-liter twin-turbo V6, the new Tacoma uses a smaller 2.4-liter single-turbo four cylinder. And that’s the motor being used on this new Land Cruiser, complete with an electric motor in the transmission bell housing that takes total output to 326 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque. Toyota isn’t talking fuel economy yet, but expect miles per gallon in the high teens, if not low 20s—a significant improvement over the 200-series real world 12.5 MPG.
Like that Tacoma, the new Land Cruiser will employ an electronically-actuated disconnecting sway bar. This will combine good off-road wheel articulation with safe and predictable on-road handling. And while a disconnecting sway bar won’t be able to match all the superlatives applied to 200-series’ complicated hydraulic system, it will be cheaper.
Traction in the New Toyota Land Cruiser
One area where the 250 has the 200 beat is traction. Like the old one, the new Land Cruiser will employ a full-time four-wheel drive system, with a two-speed transfer case. This nominally operates in all-wheel drive, but drivers can lock the center differential at the flick of a switch. Unlike the old one, the new Land Cruiser will include a rear locking differential. 200-series owners had to turn to the aftermarket for that important part.
To briefly recap, when things get slippery all-wheel drive sends all torque to the wheel with the least traction. This improves safety by reducing the tendency for a vehicle to spin out while accelerating in low traction conditions. Four-wheel drive locks the speeds of the front and rear axles together, so the wheel with the least traction on one axle is only able to spin as fast as the wheel with the least traction on the other axle. This improves capability, enabling the vehicle to continue progress in situations where there’s little to no traction. Locking axle differentials then match wheel speeds across that axle, so the front wheel on the new Land Cruiser with the least traction will only be able to spin as fast as the entire rear axle, taking traction even further. So, the new Land Cruiser will be safe like a Subaru, and capable like a Jeep, all at once. Toyota is also including the latest version of its gee-whizz electronic traction aids to take things even further, much more easily.
More improvements come inside. Not only does the leather look nice, but now there’s modern touch screens, and nice materials used on the dash, too.
Those are about all the details Toyota is releasing right now. I expect to drive the vehicle sometime in early 2024, and sales should start next spring. And while I have a lot of questions about things like payload numbers, articulation, and durability, initial signs here are incredibly promising. (Stay tuned for my take, soon.)
One of the most common questions I get from readers: What SUV should they buy for all-round use? They want something reasonably efficient, completely reliable, and super capable. In the past, that’s been a hard question to answer as there’s been nothing on the market that combined all those factors at a reasonable price. Now there is. If you’re shopping for a new 4×4 SUV, you should buy this new Land Cruiser.