Three years after it departed these shores, the Toyota Land Cruiser is coming back to the U.S. market. While the passing of the previous model in 2021 was widely lamented, the Japanese automaker left the door wide open for a revival, urging fans to “stay tuned for future developments.” The future is now, and the very different 2024 Toyota Land Cruiser, unveiled Tuesday night, aims to recapture some of the magic of the nameplate’s earlier eras by being a little smaller and a whole lot more affordable than its predecessor.
This is not to say that old Land Cruiser wasn’t any good. In fact, the circa-2008 J200-Series Cruiser was as comfortable on the school run as it was crossing the Kalahari, but it was also a dated, 14-mpg ark with a towering $86,000 price tag. That placed it out of reach for many Toyota-loyal off-road enthusiasts, and luxury SUV buyers preferred its posh Lexus LX sibling by more than two to one for much of the last two decades.
For its replacement, Toyota has decided to change tacks, instead importing the next generation of the international-market Land Cruiser Prado, which Americans have known as the Lexus GX since 2005. That’s right, in other countries there are multiple variations of Land Cruiser, including the still-in-production 1980s-era J70-Series, the midsize Prado and the new-in-2022 full-size J300-Series, which is still sold here as the Lexus LX. After years of only being able to get the Prado from Lexus, now it’ll be here in its purest form.
This newer, smaller Land Cruiser is a four-cylinder hybrid, and it’ll start in the mid-$50,000 range, which will no doubt make it the most fuel-efficient and affordable Land Cruiser in decades. Toyota will offer three trims at first, a faintly retro “1958” base model, a mid-grade just called “Land Cruiser” and a “First Edition” top trim, of which only 5,000 will be built.
The name’s fame and its clear off-road mission should help it find plenty of fans, but it’ll walk a fine line between its Lexus cousin and Toyota’s most popular off-road SUV, the 4Runner.
What’s A Land Cruiser Prado?
Six decades ago the J40-series Land Cruiser was the first Toyota to find popular acceptance in America. While U.S. car buyers dismissed the automaker’s earliest U.S. cars, the Land Cruiser was an undeniable off-road conquerer, handsomely utilitarian and faultlessly reliable. It quickly earned a large and loyal audience.
As SUVs grew larger in the 1970s and 1980s, so did subsequent Land Cruisers, particularly after 1980’s J60-series, which set the template for ever larger and fancier versions. The increase in size, price and poshness created a market for a workhorse version more like the earlier rough-and-tumble Cruisers, 1984’s J70-series, and eventually a hybrid of both, the Prado.
Introduced in Japan in 1990, it came stateside in 2005 as the original Lexus GX. June’s debut of the similarly new 2024 GX fueled rumors of a U.S.-bound Prado, and Toyota confirmed the revived U.S. Land Cruiser only days later. Now we’re getting a good look at what separates the Prado from the GX. As in earlier years, they’re close kin but not quite the same, though the relationship matters more now that you can choose from either one.
Visually, there are many similarities, and both SUVs ride the same 112-inch wheelbase and have similar big-and-tall, square-jawed looks, but the details are different and so are the intended customers.
Toyota is notably not trying to reinvent the J40 here, and its designers have been sparing with retro cues. This isn’t a rehash of the 2006 to 2014 FJ Cruiser and isn’t trying to be. On the base “1958” trim, named for the first year of importation, and the “First Edition” the headlights are round to reference the J40, but they also just give the new SUV a simpler, cooler look. On the higher Land Cruiser trim the lights are rectangular, a reference to the 1980s J-60-Series.
Inside, the 2024 Land Cruiser has a more workmanlike dashboard that’s less reliant on a big touchscreen. However, you can get it with either a basic 8.0-inch (the “1958” model) or 12.3-inch unit, both running the automaker’s latest over-the-air update capable software. There are physical controls for almost everything, surfaces that seem designed to be easily cleaned after off-road adventures rather than Lexus’ genteel high-touch materials, different color schemes and tougher-looking, squared-off shapes.
Unlike the Lexus, the Land Cruiser will only be available as a two-row machine, probably because of the extra space needed for its battery pack. In sum, the GX is clearly a close cousin, but the Land Cruiser is reasonably differentiated. The mechanical differences, however, are even more significant.
The Hybrid Land Cruiser
Every 2024 Land Cruiser will use Toyota’s 2.4-liter Hybrid Max drivetrain, previously seen in the recent Crown sedan and Grand Highlander. The setup mates a turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine with an electric motor for a total of 326 system horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque, way up from 281 hp and 401 lb-ft in the old V8. These numbers also aren’t far off the 2024 GX’s twin-turbo V6 (349 hp and 479 lb-ft). Power is delivered via an eight-speed automatic, while the GX uses a ten-speeder.
Undoubtedly, the hybrid will yield gas mileage superior to any previous Land Cruiser, and it has enough power to boast a 6,000-pound towing capacity.
As before, this Land Cruiser is a traditional body-on-frame SUV and it’s definitely focused on off-road adventure. Four-wheel drive (4WD) is standard, as are a two-speed transfer case (high and low ranges) with a locking center differential and an electronic locking rear differential and front recovery hooks. Every version uses off-road friendly 18-inch rims, though 20-inchers are optional on the higher trims.
Getting the best off-road gear will mean upgrading to the higher trims, which add a front stabilizer bar disconnect feature, Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select system (terrain modes) and its Multi-Terrain Monitor trail cams.
Toyota says the 2024 Land Cruiser will have 8.7 inches of ground clearance and approach, breakover and departure angles of 31, 22 and 25 degrees. While Lexus hasn’t yet released a ground clearance number on the GX, its angles are 26, 21 and 23, though breakover and departure angles rise to 22 and 24 degrees on the off-road Overtrail-trim GX.
This should make the Land Cruiser a formidable machine on the trail, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s 1.2 inches shorter and 4.4 inches narrower than the previous ‘Cruiser. It should also be a little lighter, hopefully, than the old version’s 5,800-pound heft.
One might wonder where it leaves the 4Runner though, which is scheduled for a redesign itself in 2024. The aging current 4WD 4Runner is about the same size, has 9.6 inches of ground clearance and superior approach and departure angles, but a lower breakover angle. If the Land Cruiser starts in the mid-$50,000 range, it’ll surely overlap with the top 4Runner trims like the TRD Pro, which is also targeted at off-road adventurers.
The Land Cruiser’s new double-wishbone front suspension, with twin-tube shocks, and coil-sprung multi-link rear suspension might make it handle better on the road than the 4Runner, but we’ll have to wait and see to know for sure.
2024 Toyota Land Cruiser: How Much and When?
Apart from the general “mid $50,000-range” starting price, we don’t know exactly how much each variation of the new Land Cruiser will cost. This is, however, about a $30,000 price cut from the old model and about what the model cost 20 years ago, so quite a discount.
The higher trims will probably spill over $60,000, but they also come with more stuff. In addition to the extra off-road equipment, the Land Cruiser grade gets the rectangular headlamps, heated and ventilated seats, a 10-speaker audio system (up from six in the “1958” grade) and opens up many options, including high-strength skid plates and rock rails or, if you’re more into the looks than getting dirty, 20-inch rims. The “First Edition” model will come with some of this gear standard and add more niceties, like leather seats.
Toyota also plans to offer a wide range of accessories for the Land Cruiser, so you can make it into your very own overlanding rig straight from the dealership. You won’t, however, have to pay extra for any active-safety systems. Toyota’s Safety Sense 3.0 system is standard, incorporating adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and many more systems.
The company says that the 2024 Land Cruiser, to be built in Japan at its Tahara and Hino factories (the latter once the site of FJ Cruiser production) will arrive at dealerships in the spring of 2024. Expect more details about pricing and specs to follow.