The Toyota Land Cruiser is a staple among overland enthusiasts. Despite the 70, 60 and 40 Series Land Cruisers’ stellar track records and legendary status; we’re going to focus on the previous three generations available in the United States.
200 Series (2008-Present)
The 200 Series Land Cruiser, also marketed in the US as the Lexus LX570, is Toyota’s large Japanese-built, frame-on-body SUV… luxuriously lounging around your local showroom floor as you read this. Despite an astronomical price tag and somewhat stagnant sales record, the 200 series retains its appeal to the overland and expedition-oriented crowd. Though if you’re anything like us, you are patiently waiting for the used models to drop into the $20-30K price range.
- As well-built and reliable as its lineage would suggest
- 5.7 Liter V8 Powerplant
- Cameras pointing in almost every direction
- More interior room to stretch your legs
- Crawl Control
- Good Aftermarket Support (e.g. bumpers, racks, etc.)
The not so good…
- Price tag
- LX570 bumpers, and umm ground effects
- The latest “upgrade” to the Land Cruiser’s grill
- Looks like a larger, nicer, and more refined Toyota Highlander (sorry soccer moms)
- To the lay person… it’s a Sequoia
- For some reason, the “D” light on the dash burns out prematurely
While it may seem that Toyota is headed in the wrong direction when it comes to Land Cruisers available in the States. The 200 series is, overall, an amazing overland vehicle. Especially when it’s tastefully modified
100 Series (1998-2007)
The best Land Cruiser ever. Sure, we have one sitting in our garage but hear us out. The 100 series (or LX470) is like the Goldie Locks of the past three generations. Its 4.7-liter engine is renowned for its reliability and significant performance boost over the 80 Series’ straight six. But its not as big and powerful as the 5.7 liter that resides between the fenders of the 200 Series.
The introduction of the 100 series also added independent front suspension. Another upgrade from the prior generation. And the 100 series is a perfect size. At least compared to the Tundra-like width of the 200 Series.
- A lot of them never saw off-pavement travel
- Quieter and comfortable-er
- 2003 and newer have back-up cameras
- Incredible fit and finish (inside and out)
- They’re over-engineered (Toyota’s goal: 25 years or 250,000 miles before a major overhaul)
The not so good…
- They are becoming increasingly rare
- If you want to modify the suspension the automatic height control adds complexity and cost (look for a pre-2003 Toyota Land Cruiser)
- As the 100 Series evolved luxury slowly overtook utility
The 100 Series like all others before it will eventually become a classic. Pick any year and it will serve you well. Lean toward ’97-02 if you’re planning to modify. Or look into the ’03+ if you want a bit more refinement (increased power, more gears in the transmission, backup cameras).
80 Series (1991-1997)
As the 80’s, Communist Russia, and the reign of Milli Vanilli came to an abrupt halt Toyota made the world right again by introducing us to the 80 Series Land Cruiser. Like its predecessor it gave us a straight axle up front, a straight six under the hood (or bonnet), and rock-solid reliability.
However, unlike any Land Cruiser before… it was pretty stinking plush. Comfortable seats, full-time four-wheel drive, coil springs at all four corners, and third-row seating transformed the Land Cruiser into a real sleeper; to use some old school hot-rod terminology. The 80 Series was suited perfectly for a newly emerging demographic; the soccer mom. However, its battlefield-crossing, expedition-ready, and Australian Outback survivability remained intact. It was at home traversing a mall parking lot as it was weaving its way through the absolute middle-of-nowhere.
- Comfortable; even by today’s standards
- Straight axle up front
- Air bags and antilock brakes (starting in ’93)
- Modern air conditioning (134 replaced R12 refrigerant)
- Lexus LX450
The not so good…
- Appearance is not as bold as the 60 Series
- Earliest 80 Series were more sluggish than latter model years
- Later model years are still pretty slow
- Not as powerful or comfortable as the 100 Series
Before you buy one be sure to check out Slee Offroad’s 80 Series Newbie Guide