Editor’s Note: This story comes to you from Motor1.com Russia. It has been translated and edited for clarity. Metric figures have been translated to Imperial, and the currency conversions are correct as of publication. You can read the original story here.
When I first crossed the granite ridge of Mustatunturi a dozen years ago and found myself on the Sredny Peninsula, which is closer to the Norwegian border in a straight line than to Murmansk, Russia, it was a mysterious and wild place.
Already almost abandoned by the military and still little explored by tourists, you were truly on your own. Food is only what you brought in the trunk, your overnight accommodations were a tent (good), a car (better), or in a rare and random cabin (the worst), and showers happened in the cold waters of the Barents Sea.
Since then, the Russian government named its Arctic outpost in the west a nature park. Even with that designation, though, visitors still need to notify the authorities (a good idea when exploring any wilderness), coordinate foreign guests with the FSB, and pass through a frontier outpost. But the living conditions have grown a touch more civilized. For example, on the shore of Malaya Volokovaya Bay, neat half-sphere tents provide fashionable glamping.
And in vain, fans of brutal off-roading wrinkled their nose at these luxuries. For me, to discover the wonders of nature at will is more logical without the effort, expense, and time it takes to arrange a camp. With a solid base, a nice clean bed, a real shower and toilet, and perhaps a restaurant with a panoramic view of the bay, you can go further and see more.
Each dollar, yen, or ruble Toyota invested in this engine pays off when it comes to motivating a 2.5-ton SUV.
Even with pleasant accommodations, it’s not like you won’t be doing some extreme stuff. The center of the park is still light on cell service – you’re more likely to catch Norwegian roaming than Russian cell networks – and if anything happens, you need to rely on your own strength and ability. There is no asphalt here, and the adventures begin literally 100 meters from your front door. The new 2022 Toyota Land Cruiser is just the sort of vehicle for the conditions.
Toyota now speaks more cautiously about off-road pleasures. The company’s Russian office celebrated the redesign of the 2015 Land Cruiser 200 with an epic trip to the mysterious Dyatlov Pass, through the untouched snow of the Ural Mountains, but it’s taken a softer tact with the larger variant. The company’s reps say the main task of this generation is to deliver the owner wherever they please and then return them home safely, comfortable, and without any sad consequences.
Downsizing or Powersizing?
An important element of the Land Cruiser’s redesign is the radical change of powerplant – no more V8s here. Before diesel models show up, the Land Cruiser will arrive in Mother Russia with a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 packing direct injection. But the advanced engine is still a thirsty thing, gobbling up premium fuel with gluttonous abandon. Where the Land Cruiser 200 sucked down 15 to 20 liters of gas every 100 kilometers, the Land Cruiser 300 is no better. Even the addition of a ten-speed automatic can’t save the new model.
Of course, the V6’s two turbochargers aren’t about efficiency, really. And each dollar, yen, or ruble Toyota invested in this engine pays off when it comes to motivating a 2.5-ton SUV. With 479 pound-feet of torque at just 2,000 rpm, the Land Cruiser can jump forward briskly, humiliating smaller “sportier” crossovers with a 6.8-second sprint to 62 miles per hour.
Regardless of the speed limit, the Land Cruiser will happily charge toward it at breakneck pace. There’s some serious performance for a full-size SUV, and we wouldn’t recommend bragging to traffic cops about it. And in the unlikely event that the performance isn’t enough, the new LC comes packing two Sport modes – the bottom line is you won’t expect such sudden and brutal acceleration from an SUV that looks so much like a suitcase.
What You Buy, You Drive
Experienced Land Cruiser drivers will no doubt wonder what the point of all this grunt is in an SUV, especially when previous examples had less-than-stellar brakes and poor handling dynamics caused by the high center of gravity. After all, the new Land Cruiser’s chassis is really the same as before: longitudinal frame, independent suspension with transverse arms at the front, and a continuous axle with longitudinal bars behind. Even the brake discs are the same size. But despite this similarity, Toyota still rethought every chassis component’s structure and managed to shave a substantial amount of weight off in the process.
The result is far easier to drive at speed. One can even speak about a certain amount of pleasure that comes when pushing such a big automobile down the road – the track was widened, the engine sits further behind the axle and lower in the bay, and the seat are further rearward. This better weight distribution and lower center of gravity are key to the new Land Cruiser’s poise at higher speeds.
save over $3,400 on average off MSRP* on a new Toyota Land Cruiser
Even the brakes work better. You still need to apply a fair amount of pressure at times, but the effort required is progressive – the brakes don’t “float” and palms don’t sweat. The Land Cruiser’s steering character, though, seriously depends on what trim the owner is willing to shell out for.
The 70th Anniversary is best suited for asphalt, with 20-inch wheels and tires with thinner 55-series sidewalls, a self-locking rear differential, and a Custom drive mode. But the Comfort + and its meaty 265/65/18 tires hold a trump card – the E-KDSS system, or electronic kinetic dynamic suspension system. Essentially active anti-roll bars like you’d find on some high-end German vehicles, E-KDSS can disconnect the front and rear sway bars to improve articulation off-road while improving road-holding ability on-road.
But despite this similarity, Toyota still rethought every chassis component’s structure.
While driving on level ground, the 70th Anniversary trim seems more concentrated and precise. It takes maneuvers more willingly and the tires don’t complain quite so much when pushed. If a bump or pothole gets under the wheels, though, the balance is lost. The Comfort + trim with E-KDSS is unperturbed by, well, anything. It holds its line accurately in places where the 70th Anniversary and its adaptive dampers struggles to keep the body roll in check. There is a third LC300 trim, which deletes both E-KDSS and the trick dampers, but it wasn’t available for testing.
If the on-road difference between the 70th Anniversary and Comfort + are shades of gray, off-road they’re black and white. The Middle Peninsula is a treacherous location for stock cars, the rugged terrain covered with a network of rocky trails, which in many places, are flooded depending on the vagaries of the weather.
Off the trial, the slopes, fords, and rocks don’t look particularly scary, but I’d seen a GAZ-66 (think of a Soviet take on the famous Daimler Unimog) with water up to its windows in those places. So the owner of a stock 70th Anniversary has a scant chance to get back from these roads with a whole car. Blame the flashy body kit, which reduces the approach angle from 32 degrees to just 24. No matter how experienced the driver, how carefully they attack an obstacle, the Anniversary cars were damaged without exception.
If the on-road difference between the 70th Anniversary and Comfort + are shades of gray, off-road they’re black and white.
Heavy rains soaked the ground, turning dirt into mud and compounding the 70th Anniversary truck’s delicate 20-inch tires. Regular Dunlop Grandtrek AT30 Touring rubber are all-terrain in name only, and it was little surprise when I caught a side cut in a completely ordinary situation while driving evenly over a rocky rut.
Was it bad luck? Probably, but the Comfort + trim overcame the tough terrain with far more confidence, its relatively fat Yokohama Geolander AT G31 tires and their thicker sidewalls better able to handle the abuse. The geometry of the body is just right, there’s nothing to tear off (except for the license plate while fording) and the E-KDSS system provides a fantastic range of motion – even the legendary Land Cruiser 80 loses out, offering just 27 inches of articulation to the LC300’s 28.4.
With E-KDSS, it’s a challenge to get one of the Land Cruiser’s wheels in the air in real-world situations, so we had little reason to employ the locking differentials. By the way, there are three on the Comfort +, putting the Land Cruiser in a rather rarefied class of high-performance off-roaders.
What both versions of the Land Cruiser have in common is that strong engine and a stout electronically controlled transfer case. Drop into neutral and flick a toggle switch to move into low-range. Switching back happens just as quickly and easily, so there’s no rocking or waiting or fidgeting of any kind. It’s very convenient when difficult obstacles that require careful crawling interrupt higher-speed sections of trail.
For those tricky bits, the twin-turbocharged V6 is the right tool, offering a smooth and predictable throttle response and enough low-end torque that even on rocky up-hill sections, the Land Cruiser climbs with a whisper of pedal and unperturbable smoothness. But if you want some help, Toyota left on features from the LC 200, including Crawl Control. There’s also a Deep Snow mode, which arrived as a result of Toyota’s wintry excursion in Dyatlov’s Pass.
With E-KDSS, it’s a challenge to get one of the Land Cruiser’s wheels in the air in real-world situations.
But all was not well with the force-induced V6. Constant fording and rock climbing caused the engine to throw a message on the dashboard about a loss of traction control, warning us to visit a dealer. There was no check-engine light, but the performance diminished noticeably as if both turbos were on strike. And even if this was but one issue, it happened on multiple test units.
Fortunately, all it took was a restart to bring things back to normal. Nevertheless, when we got away from civilization and started doing real work, I checked the air filters – what if they got wet? But the filter box is well protected, and the filters themselves were perfectly dry. We’re suspecting the issues in our test unit, then, were down to the electronics. I reached out to Toyota’s Russian reps for the cause of the problem, but I’m still waiting on an answer.
In a long traffic jam near Murmansk, a guy jumped out of his Toyota RAV4 and introduced himself as the owner of a Land Cruiser 200. He was eager to study the LC 300 and knew where to look, complaining about cheap faux wood, poor glove compartment lid, and flimsy door panels. He then finally noted that he had no faith in the twin-turbocharged V6, although as a whole, he argued the new Land Cruiser “is not spoiled.”
In general, Toyota closely watches the mood of Land Cruiser fans and owners. People are very loyal, and the brand has no right to go against them. But a revolution in the interior was not expected. People choose this car for pragmatic reasons and Toyota reworked the interior with that in mind, maximizing practicality with massive switches and knobs grouped together in functional zones.
I personally like this healthy conservatism as well, though Toyota did overdo it in some places. You can’t just take the display and stretch it out to 12.3-inches diagonally and leave an almost unchanged, archaic interface. Compare it with the screen of a child’s tablet and it becomes embarrassing for Toyota. Or take the monumental block of a center console – inside, under an armrest that opens both to the left and to the right is a cooler box. The Land Cruiser is not a vehicle that needs to make some annoying interior design statement, and yet here we are.
By the way, even with a slightly reduced body height, the LC 300 is as wide as the last-gen car and retains the same wheelbase. Even the rear seating is similar – I jumped from old car to new several times and couldn’t find any notable differences. There’s plenty of free space, but the second row remains a little bit cramped for long-legged passengers – one expects a more relaxing seating position in such a huge vehicle. While under way, relaxation comes from the soft suspension (worse with the 20-inch wheels, of course), ample sound insulation, and pleasant bonuses like separate second-row climate controls and available seat ventilation.
That rear bench folds in one quick movement, flipping forward to stand against the rear seats and forming a huge cargo compartment with a flat floor. It’s easier to get stuff out now, too, because the Land Cruiser lost the split tailgate. Lovers of trips out of town probably won’t be happy that there’s no longer a “bench” in the lower section of the rear hatch, though.
In a lot of ways, the new Land Cruiser is glamping on wheels – equally at home on a picnic as it is navigating the wilderness north of the Arctic Circle or then getting you from business meetings to muddy surroundings. And it’s downright pleasant on long stretches of highway. The LC 300 is an all-roader in the best understanding of the word.
But high-status versatility costs a lot of money. A weekend of glamping on the Sredny Peninsula costs at least 80,000 rubles per person. And the price for a new gas-powered Land Cruiser 300 starts at 5.6 million. But there is demand and a rush on inventory, along with greedy dealers marking up products. This doesn’t frighten LC worshipers, though, and new examples are rolling off dealer lots for 10 million rubles. This vehicle’s reputation works wonders.