1999 Toyota Land Cruiser "When It Was New Review" By Carey Russ

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1999 Toyota Land Cruiser

by Carey Russ

There is a dilemma in sport-utility design. A modern SUV must have serious off-road prowess. But, particularly at the premium end of the class, it must have luxury car levels of refinement, comfort, and quiet. And power, preferably V8 power.

The Toyota Land Cruiser's off-road abilities have never been in doubt. The "Cruiser" has been Toyota's entry vehicle into markets throughout the world, particularly in areas where roads are primitive and conditions are rough. In American specification for the past decade or more, though, it was and is anything but a basic all-terrain vehicle with primitive appointments. But, the previous Land Cruiser's solid axle suspension, while rugged and capable of dealing with just about any off-road situation, was lacking in refinement compared to newer competitors. Likewise, the old Land Cruiser's six-cylinder engine was showing its age, and forced to compete with V8s. Enter the fifth-generation Land Cruiser, bigger, stronger, and more capable, yet more economical to operate and more environmentally friendly. And it is the first V8-powered Toyota.

The new Cruiser made its debut as a late-release 1998 model during the 1998 calendar year. While superficially similar to the previous-generation Land Cruiser, it is larger in every dimension, with more interior room and easier access. A new, much stiffer frame and body structure provide secure anchorage for the first independent front suspension in a Land Cruiser, with improved ride and handling qualities and a quieter, more comfortable driving experience the result. Despite the increased size, weight, and power, the new Land Cruiser has a smaller appetite for fuel than the old model. Changes for 1999 are few, highlighted by an available independent rear automatic climate control system.

The new Land Cruiser's off-road abilities were demonstrated to me at the press introduction earlier in the year. I had the opportunity to drive one on dirt roads and four-wheel-drive trails in the California Coast Ranges. It seemed just the vehicle for the morning commute in the African savannah or Brazilian rain forest. A recent week in the comfort of home showed the Cruiser's most impressive civilized side. Well-appointed but not excessive, it is luxurious in its comfort and feeling of solidity, not in superficial characteristics.

APPEARANCE: Although no body panels carry over from the previous generation, the newest Land Cruiser is definitely a Toyota Land Cruiser. The gently-rounded two-box shape is familiar, but more filled-out in a muscular way. Bulging fender flares and large tires on alloy wheels add to its appearance. The new Cruiser is unostentatious - a slightly angular chrome-trimmed grille and name badging on the tailgate are the only brightwork. The plastic-covered bumpers contrast with the body color.

COMFORT: The '99 Land Cruiser is unostentatious inside as well. My test vehicle had the optional leather upholstery, which made it look as ready for the boardroom as the backwoods. But wood trim and gratuitous gadgetry are absent. The essentials are done to a high standard, with comfortable, fully-reclining, heated front bucket seats and a 60/40 split rear seat that reclines or flips and folds for versatility and extra cargo room. Access is easier than before due to larger doors, and the seat and floor heights are not excessive. The first two rows have plenty of room; optional third-row seats are best suited to small children. There are plenty of storage spaces around the cabin; even the second-row passengers have door pockets. Standard climate control and AM/FM/cassette/CD sound systems work well and have large, easy-to-use controls. Power windows, mirrors, and doorlocks are standard, as expected.

SAFETY: The 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser has dual air bags, 4-wheel antilock vented disc brakes, side-impact door beams, and daytime running lights.

ROADABILITY: Off-road ability has always been a Land Cruiser strength, but the solid axles of the previous Cruisers, while sturdy, did compromise on-road comfort. No longer. The new, much more rigid chassis and its independent front suspension still have all of the off-road ability that has made the Land Cruiser the Toyota of choice in less-developed parts of the world. Steering and suspension are much more precise in their action, and the big Cruiser really does feel like a luxury car on the road. It's that smooth and quiet. A passenger inside, blindfolded, could have a hard time telling that he or she was inside a truck. Think of the 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser as a luxury car that doesn't care if there's a road underneath it or not.

PERFORMANCE: The new Land Cruiser engine is based on the 4.0-liter V8 in the Lexus LS400 and GS400, but enlarged to 4.7 liters and tuned for stump-pulling low-end power. It has a maximum of 320 lb.-ft. of torque, 45 more than the old 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, and 18 more horsepower with 230, and is strong where it counts for city traffic, highway driving, or any off-road situation. Although the 5,000-lb. Land Cruiser can sprint from zero to sixty mph in under ten seconds, it has improved fuel economy and lower emissions levels than previous Land Cruisers. It can tow up to 6,500 lbs.

CONCLUSIONS: The new Toyota Land Cruiser has a blend of civilized comfort and rugged ability.


Base Price $ 46,478
Price As Tested $ 51,860
Engine Type dual overhead cam, 32-valve V8
Engine Size 4.7 liters / 285 cu. in.
Horsepower 230 @ 4800
Torque (lb-ft) 320 @ 3400
Transmission 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic
Wheelbase / Length 112.2 in. / 192.5 in.
Curb Weight 5225 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 22.7
Fuel Capacity 25.4 gal.
Fuel Requirement unleaded premium
Tires P275/70 R16 Dunlop Grand Trek m+s
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / vented disc,
load-sensing proportioning
and antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone with
torsion bars / solid axle with multiple links and coil springs
Ground Clearance 9.8 inches
Drivetrain front engine, full-time four-wheel drive


EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed
14 / 16 / 14
0 to 60 mph9.9 sec
Towing Capacity6,500 lbs.


Rear differential locks                      $   430
Leather trim package                         $ 1,820
Third rear seat package:
   50/50 split folding rear seat with outboard headrests, rear
   power quarter windows, rear cupholders & assist grips,
   child protector rear hatch lock           $ 1,135
   Power moonroof with jam protection        $ 1,055
   Carpet & cargo mat set                    $   177
   Drop hitch                                $   345
Destination charge                           $   420

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