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By Katrina Ramser


Driving a Land Cruiser is like being part of an off-road cult. The genealogy of the infamous vehicle that birthed the whole utility craze we see today dates back to 1951 when the Cruiser climbed Mt. Fuji. The only other car that holds (or rivals) such devotion is the Jeep, and choosing between the two is a serious as deciding if you are a Raiders or 49'ers fan.

A fully loaded 2008 Land Cruiser with a 6-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive, everything from leather seats to the DVD package, will run you about $72,122.

The Tundra's 5.7-liter V8 engine is under the hood, followed closely by a new transmission, a new off-road system, new frame and new suspension. There's a lot to be impressed about when it comes to its off-road capabilities, which are going to get you through any rough weather or terrain conditions, inclines and declines included. In low range, the CRAWL Control system takes over speed (using three speed settings between 1 and just over 3-mph), along with the braking force, at each wheel.

At the lowest speed setting with the CRAWL Control system, the Land Cruiser did a funny, back-and-forth jig, and the control made a beeping sound the whole time.

CRAWL includes Downhill Assist Control (DAC), with no driver intervention included, too. This feature is like a lot of the Hill Descent Controls you're seeing on expensive SUVs from the Land Rover to Touareg to Lexus GX.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Testing the interior roominess, which includes headroom, cargo spaces, and dimensions for extended seats and spaces, the Land Cruiser proved to be spacious and maneuverable. Aside of a nice list of standard features, the optional equipment or upgrades are virtually endless: wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel; cool box; moonroof; individual climate controls (28 air vents in all); Smart Key keyless entry; push-button start; electrochromic or moving side mirrors; steering wheel mounted audio, telephone, and voice recognition controls; and a touch screen CD/DVD-based GPS navigation system with a back-up camera.

Reliability & Safety Factor: Just when you think makers can't make driving any more comfortable or easier or safer, they go ahead and make active headrests that move up and forward in case of a rear-end collision. If you get rear-ended by something more powerful than your Land Cruiser, the force of your head being thrown forward and then back will be anticipated.

Cost Issues: The Toyota marketing literature reveals this vehicle is made for the household income that pulls in $240,000 (yes, a year; not lifelong total). Most of us see a $72,122 vehicle purchase like this one on the same level of investing in a small house, this being one without a flushing toilet.

Activity & Performance Ability: With a three-ton curb weight, when tested on rough terrain (including large off-road dips and holes) it handled with lightweight character and little was felt inside. It was like driving a yacht, completely aware of rough sea storm conditions. Insulation inside the A-pillars of the frame suppresses vibrations and noise. At the lowest speed setting with the CRAWL Control system, the Land Cruiser did a funny, back-and-forth jig, and the control made a beeping sound the whole time.

The Green Concern: Honda right now has better-than-average global warming scores, and although Toyota is nipping on their bumper, they are not doing it with this car. Gas estimation for the 2008 Land Cruiser is 13-mpg city and 18-mpg highway. On curvy, 40-mph rural highways with no quick stops or incline acceleration, a recorded an average of approximately 15-mpg was obtained.


The gas estimations are no better or worse than anything else in its class with a V8. If you are in the market for an upscale SUV, Toyota has more "street cred" in terms of reliability than others in its class, such as the Range Rover or the VW Touareg, and is just as equipped and nice.

2008 Katrina Ramser