When it comes to old-school, boxy off-roaders, there’s the timeless – but now slightly showy – Mercedes G-Wagen and, obviously, the Land Rover Defender that we all know and love. But there’s also a third contender: the Toyota Land Cruiser, and the latest, retro-styled model is destined for Europe.
Like many original off-roaders – think the Willy’s Jeep and G-Wagen – the Land Cruiser was born in times of conflict; in this case, the Korean War. Following North Korea’s invasion of South Korea, the US came to support pro-western South Korea against its Soviet-backed aggressors, but, to do so, it needed trucks – and fast. At the time, the US still occupied Japan and urged the nation to develop a vehicle fit for the job.
Within months, Japan had the answer and it came in the form of the Toyota Jeep BJ, which, unsurprisingly, looked like a carbon-copy of the Willy’s Jeep. Back in the US, the makers of the original Jeep weren’t too happy with how similar it appeared, nor the use of the name Jeep, so Toyota evolved the looks and renamed it the Land Cruiser.
Fast forward a few decades and the Land Cruiser went from a utilitarian, go-anywhere 4×4 to a luxury, all-wheel people hauler. With over 11 million sold in the 72 years it’s been produced, the latest model marks a return to its roots – well, sort of.
Its retro styling is inspired by the early Land Cruisers, with the First Edition cars – of which around 3,000 are destined for Europe – featuring round headlights and a bi-tone paint finish available in either light blue or sandy yellow. The models will also sport square headlamps, which still look the part but without the nod to the car’s collectable ancestors.
On the inside, the new Land Cruiser means business – just as any rugged, off-roader should. Chunky, easy-to-press buttons and switches adorn the cabin, meanwhile its no-fuss, linear dashboard contains all the tech and features you’d expect from a modern SUV, such as a large touchscreen, which is mounted centrally, and digital dials.
Under the bonnet, the European cars will be equipped with a 2.8-litre diesel that churns out 201bhp; the US, on the other hand, get a hybrid, four-cylinder 2.4-litre turbo engine that produces 321bhp. For those keen to get their hands on a First Edition, the order books are already open, with deliveries expected in the first half of 2024. With no official word on price, the Land Cruiser is expected to fetch between £40,000 and £65,000 for the flagship First Edition models, which puts it in line with the lower-spec Defenders, but far from the G-Wagen’s price tag of over £100,000.
In a market drowning in bland ‘soft-roaders’, the new Land Cruiser certainly makes a statement and stands as an appealing alternative to the tried-and-tested Defender. Like its closest rival, the Land Cruiser calls on more than 70 years of rough-and-ready off-road research, ensuring it will be an entertaining drive when it arrives next year. Watch this space – we’ll be back with a full review soon.
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