I have to admit that I was shocked when I got the Monroney sticker for the 2021 Toyota Land Cruiser that I would be driving back and forth to Monterey Car Week. Base price: $85,515. Total price: $90,141.
Wait! This is a Toyota, an off-road workhorse and descendent of the FJ Cruiser, if I remember correctly, not a fancy schmancy Lexus luxury liner that doesn’t want to get its tires dirty.
But I quickly forgot about the price when I discovered a piece of standard equipment that makes any road trip more pleasant. Hidden beneath the center console cover is what Toyota calls the “cooler box.”
That’s cooler as in a mini-refrigerator, and what could be cooler, and I mean that in the slang definition of that term. Pack the box with beverages, or snacks that need to be kept cold, or, in some cases, medical supplies that need to be refrigerated, press the power button, and your stuff stays quite cold as you drive.
I also was impressed that with the split and side-stowed third-row seats pivoted up against the cargo compartment flanks, there was room not only for the 48-inch folding table I took along as a desk on the road, but the accompanying office-style swivel chair, a big bag with extension cords and lamps, my suitcase with a week’s worth of clothing, plus an overnight bag and my camera bag.
And that still left the entire second-row seating are for traveling companion and co-editor Bob Golfen’s ginormous suitcase — believe it or not, it’s a Lucas brand bag, just ideal for British-car Bob — and his overstuffed backpack. Plus my computer bag.
At first was I surprised by the Land Cruiser’s split, clamshell-style tail gate and backlight. But it works nicely. The top section opens independently and electronically at the touch of a button, so you can reach in without exposing whatever is on the cargo floor. A lever frees the pickup-style tail gate to pivot down, ready to provide a work space, a picnic table, or a place to sit.
Oh, one note before I forget: One reason for the difference between the base and as-tested prices was the optional rear seat entertainment system with two video screens and wireless headphones, designed to keep those not sitting up front entertained as they travel.
Standard equipment built into the base price includes 4-zone automatic climate controls; a multi-terrain monitor camera display that shows front, side and rear views on the 9-inch touch screen display; 8-passenger seating on “semi-aniline perforated leather-trimmed seating surfaces,” with the front seats heated and ventilated and with 10-way power on the driver’s side and 8-way on the passenger’s side; a dozen cupholders; a 14-speaker JBL audio system that audiophile Bob found to be of very high quality — and did I mention the built-in refrigerator between the front seats?
And, of course, the Lane Cruiser has the full array of Toyota Safety Sense protection with 10 airbags.
The SUV’s 5.7-liter V8 engine may be thirsty, but it’s 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque (peak torque available at 3,600 rpm) is plenty powerful and hauls the nearly 3-ton vehicle and whatever is inside up steep roads without breaking into a sweat.
I’m not a fan of how Toyota automatic transmissions feel as if they’re freewheeling when you driving in a downhill direction, but it was easy to toggle the shift lever to the manual mode, where you could toggle again among second, third and fourth gear to avoid overusing the vehicle’s brakes, which are nearly 14 inches in diameter on each wheel.
Another mechanical bit I really appreciated was the quick and light speed-sensing, variable-gear-ratio rack-and-pinion steering. The ratio ranges from 14.2 to 17.6:1 with 3.14 turns lock-to-lock. That makes parking such a big vehicle much easier than you might think, and was really appreciated on the way to Monterey as we drove up coastal Highway 1, which seems to cling to the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean.
Whether cruising across the Mohave Desert with its triple-digit temperatures, or up the California coast, or maneuvering the narrow streets of Monterey and Seaside, the Land Cruiser was comfortable and capable. Pricey, perhaps, but imagine what it would cost to put a V8 engine and 8 seats on a refrigerator.
Toyota has introduced an all-new Land Cruiser for 2022, key mechanical changes and additional updates.
2021 Toyota Land Cruiser
Vehicle type: 8-passenger sport utility vehicle, 4-wheel drive
Base price: $85,515 Price as tested: $90,141
Engine: 5,7-liter V8, 381 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm, 401 pound-feet of torque @ 3,600 rpm Transmission: 8-speed whatever
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches Overall length/width: 194.9 inches / 77.95 inches
Curb weight: 5,815 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 13 city / 17 highway / 14 combined
Assembled in: Aichi, Japan
For more information, visit the Toyota website