First drive: the Toyota Land Cruiser Invincible

Toyota still makes the Land Cruiser?

It does indeed. Alongside the Land Rover Defender and Mercedes G-Wagen, it is one of the true icons of the car world. And like them, it has almost unimpeachable off-road abilities. Enough for Toyota to indulge itself with a spec level called ‘Invincible’…

You’re as likely to see one on a UN peacekeeping mission as you are to witness a gaggle of them indulging in sandy high jinks on Dubai dunes. You’re probably less likely to see one on UK roads, mind; little over 1,000 Land Cruisers were sold here in 2015 (Land Rover sold ten times as many Discoverys), and that number will almost certainly dwindle now we can’t buy the V8 version anymore.

So what engine can I have?

It is not glamorous, we’ll warn you. It’s a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel with 174bhp and 332lb ft, figures put into perspective by a 2.2-ton kerb weight. Its 12.7sec 0-62mph time feels positively optimistic, though its 38.2mpg is surprisingly achievable.

On the road, the engine is neither fun nor gratifying to extract the most from. Overtakes and acceleration down slip roads both prove rather groansome. For getting you through a swamp or up a gnarly hill, though, we suspect its power delivery is perfect.

Is it rubbish on road like a Defender?

It actually isn’t. You won’t want to throw it around like a Cayenne or an X5, but neither does it immediately wave a white flag as soon as you need to get somewhere with haste.

The steering helps, by being (relatively) tight and quick-witted. It is so much more car-like than the Defender’s or G-Wagen’s. It’ll still elicit vast manoeuvres if you need to turn around in a tight street, and its sheer size makes parking a bind, regardless of how many cameras Toyota has fitted to it. But overall, you don’t need to unduly compensate for any dynamic shortfalls.

A whole suite of systems, including air suspension and vastly adjustable ride height, play their part in this. Indeed, there’s a whole panel of buttons and knobs that comfortably outsizes the air conditioning controls. Invincible spec also brings every off-road toy imaginable, including those cameras to check you won’t be felling trees as you pass them.

It looks a bit old hat inside.

One person’s ‘old hat’ is another’s ‘traditional’. And there is very little equipment this Land Cruiser doesn’t have, with all those on- and off-road chassis systems, seven seats, electric everything, and a whole suite of active safety systems. There’s even a Bluray player for rearward passengers.

It’s just all packaged in a button-frenzied manner, which may offend your inner fashionista, but which is perfect when you’ve been working outdoors and you’ve a pair of chunky gloves on.

The one concession to all of this is the new ‘Touch 2’ touchscreen system. It houses all manner of functions, including data from the off-road systems as well as the sat nav and controls for the 14-speaker stereo. It’s a good system, and its inclusion helps soften the £55,000 blow on the spec sheet.

Um, what?

Yep. The Land Cruiser Invincible’s £54,895 asking price is enough to buy you a well-stocked Discovery HSE, complete with much silkier, 252bhp V6 engine, more contemporary styling inside and out, and with near identical approach and departure angles and wading depth. Over most terrain, it would hang on the Land Cruiser’s tail well.

But a Disco doesn’t feel quite as Tonka toy, and you’d doubtless be more precious about hurling it up hills and through water, if that’s what you really intend on doing. Meet oncoming traffic on a single-track road in this Land Cruiser, meanwhile, and you’ll have no qualms about clambering atop a bumpy verge to let the mere cars beneath you pass by.

It’s still expensive.

Well, an equivalent G-Wagen prices itself directly at the unhinged, approaching 90 grand in basic diesel form. Really. The Land Cruiser, meanwhile, starts at a far more reasonable £35,895 if you can live without some of the goodies.

The basic three-door, five-seat version still gets a centre diff lock, low-range gears and hill assist modes, however, while quirkily recalling the Defender 90 with its stunted styling.

It won’t win favour in Kensington with that grille, though.

Nope. And that, to us, is where its ultimate appeal lies. The Land Cruiser name dates back to the 1950s, when cars like this really were about drawing a straight line to your destination on a map, and following it.

The SUVs today feel like they’re from another planet in comparison, and while the Land Cruiser has made concessions in some areas to compete, it’s remained steadfastly true to itself in others. Changes in form mean it’s outlasted the Defender, but its unwaveringly functional character means it might just nab some of the Landie’s customers in its absence.

It’s a classic example of paying for the stuff you can’t see, rather than the stuff you can, and in doing so, it has a surprising amount in common with Toyota’s other star, the GT86. Both eschew the nattier styling and plusher interiors or rivals to ensure your money is spent on the mechanically good stuff.

It may not please the masses, but if you’re into cars – whatever their shape and form – that’s an approach that ought to please you.

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