Toyota's Land Cruiser GR Sport Is the Best Possible Version of Itself

Photo credit: Dino Dalle Carbonare
This is the first completely new Land Cruiser in 14 years. It's a vehicle that Toyota takes very seriously, the pinnacle of its off-road range, a wish for anyone looking for a capable and reliable SUV for on the go. But we don't get it in the US.
The final iteration of the Land Cruiser didn't do too well in the U.S., selling about 3,200 units a year for the past decade. So it makes sense for Toyota to focus on markets where demand is still high. And in Japan it's definitely high; Customers there have to face a one-year waiting list. That's because, as the official global reveal made it clear a few months ago, the LC300-series Land Cruiser is primarily aimed at the Middle East, with about 60 percent of production going there. Next up are Russia and Australia, with only a few selected markets peppered with small allocations.
Photo credit: Dino Dalle Carbonare
Toyota kindly arranged a Tokyo ride on the GR Sport version of the Land Cruiser, the sportier version of the truck that comes with a more appropriate front grille treatment, locking diffs and retuned suspension for the best possible off-road experience. Our two days with the LC300, which were very on the tarmac, made it clear that Toyota has done an impressive job in making this new Land Cruiser the best possible version of the model.
It starts at the chassis level. This truck remains body-on-frame, but is now made with a new production technique that reduces metal overlap and uses more sophisticated welding. Aluminum doors, roof, front fenders and bonnet follow, reducing weight by 440 pounds from the previous model but increasing torsional stiffness by 20 percent. Gone are the air suspension, the complexity of which has been replaced by good old coils and normal gas pressure springs in a completely new, revised geometry to improve handling as well as off-road capability.
Photo credit: Dino Dalle Carbonare
As with the new Tundra, the Land Cruiser's V-8 is gone and has been replaced with the same 3.5-liter V-6 biturbo and 10-speed automatic transmission found in a Lexus LS500. Toyota adapted the powertrain to the demands of the terrain so that the force-induced V-6 can handle the 27.5-inch wadding capability. That engine's 409 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque don't really leave the V-8 missing, except maybe in the listening department. There's also an all-new diesel option, a 305-horsepower 3.3-liter V6 twin-turbo that brings 516 pound-feet of torque to the table along with slightly better fuel efficiency and range.
All of this results in a massively improved Land Cruiser, and that's before we get to its indulgent ride or the way it's significantly better to drive. The over-engineered feel that has always made these vehicles so desirable and reliable has been taken to a new level and the driver is always aware of it. While we didn't get a chance to test the diesel, the V-6 allows instant acceleration from any speed with improved fuel efficiency. In addition, gears can be exchanged effortlessly, which has never been the strength of the Land Cruiser. We achieved 18 mpg during our test. Improvements or not, this is still a 5,600 pound truck with a solid rear axle.
If the US ever gets the Land Cruiser, it will most likely arrive as a Lexus version of the truck, but nothing has been confirmed. We'd rather that Toyota bring us the GR Sport version of the LC300. Although it's just a trim level, this sturdy front grille treatment gives the Land Cruiser a killer look. So, Toyota, how about that?
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