Review: 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition -- The King Of The Mountain

By Peter Nelson

September 25, 2020

All Photos by Peter Nelson

 

The Toyota Land Cruiser is like the guitar riff in Dio’s (RIP) quintessential metal song Rainbow in the Dark. It’s heavy, has withstood the test of time, is enjoyed by enthusiasts across a wide spectrum (everyone who enjoys rock n’ roll ought to love this song), and has been reliably getting people stoked for a very long time.

 

It’s well-known that when it comes to solid, capable off-roaders, Toyota is in the top five of carmakers who do them well. The Land Cruiser nameplate has been around since 1951, and the trucks it's been affixed to have always been regarded as sturdy, well-built, and capable. Even enthusiasts who prefer sportscars and paved, grippy asphalt, at least acknowledge and give Toyota respect for this, whether or not they're inclined to hit some trails themselves. The J200-generation 2020 Land Cruiser Heritage Edition is the latest and greatest by the Aichi, Japan brand, and we recenly had a whole week with it.

 

We felt a tad fish-out-of-water giving a big off-roader a go after having a long run of performance-oriented platforms meant for the street. But we were anxious to drive this one, because we not only enjoy all kinds of winding roads, paved and unpaved, but also because we’re well aware of this enthusiast-SUV’s pedigree. Here’s how our week with the premium-spec Land Cruiser went.

 

Thanks very much to Toyota USA for lending us the 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition for this review. Its base price is $87,645, and after fees, the all-day price is $89,269.

 

 

Exterior

 

Positives: Great muscular design, classic off-roader looks

Negatives: Ride height can be tough for shorter individuals due to a lack of running boards

 

The Land Cruiser checks all of the boxes as a great off-roader from the factory. Tall ride height, barely any front and rear overhang for better approach angles, muscular looks, and more. Its sheer size must be experienced in-person; we were a bit surprised by just how tall it really was when we first walked up to it. This 6’3” author had no problem sliding into the driver seat after opening its massive driver door, though shorter passengers had trouble getting into the passenger side.

 

Externally, the Heritage Edition doesn’t tack on much over a base model, but it’s enough to improve its looks. With this slight $2,000-and-some-change upcharge, consumers get 18” bronze BBS forged alloy wheels (never before have 18” wheels looked so small from the factory), special Land Cruiser Heritage Edition retro-look badging, some mild headlight changes, a Yakima roof rack, and this beautiful Midnight Black Metallic Paint (Blizzard Pearl white is an option, though less-pretty in our opinion). The roof rack, while generally inaccessible thanks to no running boards or rear ladder, improved its overall look and made it seem even larger. Though, we did cringe a bit every time we took it through a drive-thru.

 

 

Interior

 

Positives: tons of cargo room, tall-person friendly, no third row (yes, that’s a positive), great visibility

Negatives: outdated infotainment system, shaking rear seats on the highway, wind noise

 

The Land Cruiser’s large dimensions continued inside. With as much as 82.8 cubic feet available with the quick-folding rear seats, this thing can haul a ton of gear. Or, it can be an excellent accompaniment to moving apartments, which is how we put it to use. Achieving max hauling volume was a breeze thanks to quick-folding rear seats, though one annoyance was them shaking and vibrating quite a bit while unladen driving down the highway.

 

Toyota threw out the third row of seats for the Heritage Edition. This immensely improved cargo room, as well as contributed to an overall weight loss of around 100 pounds over the standard Land Cruiser.

 

Loading cargo in and out of the split rear hatch was a breeze, especially for it being so tall. We barely had to lift stuff out thanks to its ride height; just slide boxes and bins over its gigantic, hard rubber hatch mat and continue on.

 

 

Even with the presence of a sunroof, there was tons of headroom in the front and back, and it had a very comfortable, airy interior. Legroom was generous, as was shoulder room. This all led to excellent visibility with barely any blind spots. A downside of its large dimensions, hoisted up high in the air, was a bit of wind noise on the highway, though it wasn’t as bad as other large vehicles we’ve driven in the past. Losing the roof rack would surely improve this.

 

When staying cognizant of its massive proportions proved a little tricky in tight spaces, a 360-degree camera and excellent backup camera were a massive help. Plus, driver aids like blind spot monitoring helped keep us in-check changing lanes on the highway. It also possessed tech to keep an eye out while backing out of parking spots: Pedestrian Detection and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert were great at keeping an eye on our six. Anyone in a late-model Land Cruiser who backs into you in a parking lot is simply a jerk.

 

Elsewhere in the Land Cruiser’s long list of tech, its Dynamic Radar Cruise Control was a little tricky to figure out at first, but it did quite well once we had it engaged. It made a traffic-laden highway trip coming back from the mountains a chance to relax, rather than a chance to get annoyed by Southern California drivers. When it came to infotainment however, things weren’t as cutting edge.

 

 

The infotainment system was quite dated, to the degree of offering no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and resembling infotainment screens of the mid-aughts (this generation began in 2007, so it looks like Toyota has barely, if at all, updated). Its functionality was fine however: good navigation, easy to navigate through the screens and menus, lots of physical buttons, satellite radio, premium JBL audio 14-speaker-with-amp sound system, and Bluetooth.

 

The Land Cruiser is probably the only big SUV on sale today that can get away with having an ancient infotainment system, especially for being north of $80,000. People who are buying it are at least mildly aware of its reputation, and are more concerned with its comfort and capabilities than the most cutting edge tech, such as Mercedes’ MBUX or BMW’s iDrive.

 

 

Suspension, Handling, and Brakes

 

Positives: this thing’s tires can roll over anything, ground clearance is excellent, good ride quality

Negatives: more body roll than we’re used to, but that’s to be expected… so none, really

 

The Land Cruiser benefits from having decades of development behind it. The latest tech bolted up underneath it is Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, which makes it and its smaller siblings the 4Runner and Tacoma, more off-road capable than ever.

 

This system automatically adjusts its suspension by disconnecting the sway bars when it detects the vehicle is off-road and needs the added suspension articulation to maintain maximum traction and stability. When it returns to tarmac, it re-connects the sway bars to limit body roll and lean and improve stability. Elsewhere, it has double-wishbone front and multi-link coil spring suspension in the rear, with conventional coil springs and shock absorbers (no pesky air suspension here) keeping everything nicely suspended.

 

We didn’t get to test the Land Cruiser’s off-road capability as much as we would’ve liked, as all of the designated off-road trails within 80 miles of the LA Basin were closed due to fires going on in the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains. We didn’t get the chance to visit Hungry Valley either, as timing just didn’t work out. We did find one county road that offered some mild bits of off-roading, so we were able to explore the Land Cruiser’s off-road traits at least a little bit.

 

 

Rolling over washboard sections of gravel road, descending and then quickly ascending dry creek beds, cutting the wheel and rolling up onto the side of a small hill, and climbing a fairly steep, off-camber trail was all a cinch for this 5,715 pound beast. It climbed up and rolled down everything with the agility of a Pampas Cat (oh wait, that reference applies to a different off-roader). We were shocked by how the Land Cruiser’s suspension and ground clearance took care of everything, and made us feel quite invincible. Combined with its surprisingly-short-for-its-size 112.2” wheelbase, 32-degree approach angle, and 24-degree departure angle, we never had any clearance concerns. We wish we had more time with it, and could take it somewhere with actually-challenging trails and climbs, such as up around Mammoth Lakes, or Hungry Valley.

 

On the road, the Land Cruiser’s off-road-ability gave it a good ride quality, which made it invincible to all of Southern California’s tarmac annoyances. Steep driveways, speed bumps, dumb drainage channels on the west side of Los Angeles, crappy streets that are more on-par with warzones than a major American metropolitan area; this tall Toyota truck had no issues whatsoever. It just cruised along and ironed everything out. We finally get it; this is truly rolling around in the lap of luxury in the Golden State, not spending $20,000 more on a BMW 8-Series.

 

It still handled pretty well, too. We couldn’t corner nearly as quickly as we were used to in our daily and previous press loans, but body roll and agility wasn’t bad for being such a behemoth. Its turning circle was better than the 2020 Hyundai Veloster N we had the week before, too; this definitely aided in navigating tight city streets and parking lots. Everyday driving ride quality was good; it didn’t porpoise over undulations and uneven concrete, and it rode solidly, yet very compliant.

 

Brake dive was hilarious, and definitely scared motorists in front of us while pulling up to stoplights, but the brakes worked quite well and had excellent feel.

 

 

Engine and Transmission

 

Positives: Torquey, smooth, good 0-60 time for its size

Negatives: Devours fuel, transmission can be a little harsh

 

Under the Land Cruiser’s massive hood lives Toyota’s DOHC 3UR-FE 5.7-liter, naturally-aspirated V8, which produces 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, which when sent through the full-time four-wheel drive drivetrain reaches 60 MPH in 6.6 seconds. Not bad for 5,715 pounds.

 

Maximum torque is available at 3600 RPM, whereas all of its horsepower is charging through the drivetrain at 5600 RPM. This makes it feel quick on its feet, but it still has to be revved up to make it scream. The way torque comes on and is sent through its gearing definitely caters to its off-road potential; having access to a good chunk of it before 3600 RPM ensures it can traverse less-than-grippy road conditions with ease at low speeds.

 

Highway gearing is generally good, and 8-total gears help with this, but fuel economy is still rated at 13 MPG City and 17 MPG Highway; understandable for 5,715 pounds.

 

The transmission shifted relatively smoothly; it was a bit clunky moving between Park, Reverse, and Drive, but we imagine this is because the drivetrain is beefed up for capability and longevity. Mild- and half-throttle acceleration shifts were smooth, WOT shifts made us bow our heads at a significant angle.

 

The drivetrain also had a myriad of tech to ensure it’s as capable as possible off-road: automatic locking hubs, manual high-low gear selection, a center locking differential, and descent control are all standard equipment on the 2020 Land Cruiser. The Heritage Edition doesn’t add anything more, but it doesn’t need anything else.

 

 

A Great Time, Now We Want More

 

We had very minimal off-road experience before getting behind the wheel of the 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition. We drove a rented Jeep Wrangler on some fun trails in the Sierra Mountains last year, but that’s about it. Since spending a lot of time behind the wheel of this big, sleek beast, we’ve definitely gotten the itch to do more off-roading, even if all we got to do was a quick romp down a dirt road with some mild elevation and camber changes. Since giving back the keys to the Land Cruiser, we’ve spent more time than usual looking at decent examples of its elders, as well as similar fun off-roaders on Craigslist and Auto Tempest.

 

We really enjoyed our time with this brute. It was also a nice change of scenery being up so high; sitting eye-level with lifted F-150s is something we don’t get to experience too often. It was also wild being the object of Toyota off-roader enthusiasts’ affection for a week; we got a bunch of thumbs-ups and “wooh dude that’s soo sick” expressed at us in Orange County-ese.

 

The 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser is a great truck. We fully understand why they’re so popular, why Toyota can get away with throwing mid-aughts infotainment tech in them, and why they’re as capable as they are. We certainly hope the Japanese powerhouse keeps making them.

 

Check out our POV video!