Toyota Land Cruiser review: Price tag isn't justified for most drivers

The 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser costs about $80,000. The 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser costs about $80,000. Photo Credit: Cars.com

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Even though I have firmly planted my feet in the I'm-cool-with-driving-a-minivan camp, I secretly get excited when a big SUV like the 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser comes my way.

With the 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser's powerful V-8 engine and wide second row that fits three child-safety seats across it, I started daydreaming about ditching my minivan for this eight-passenger SUV.

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    My kids are still young, but I'm looking forward to a future where I don't have to worry about pesky things like step-in height or lifting a double stroller into the cargo area. For daydreams like that the Land Cruiser is perfect because only in a dream will I be able to afford its starting price of $79,550, including a $995 destination charge; this was the cost of my test car.

    While I loved the first row's heated and ventilated leather seats and the heated steering wheel, there was nothing that'd make me think the Land Cruiser is a high-priced SUV. However, it's what you don't see that has the Land Cruiser climbing the price charts. With its Multi-Terrain Select system, it can alter wheel slip based on the terrain, and a new five-speed Crawl Control regulates engine speed and output for off-road treks. The addition of the Off-Road Turn Assist feature, which automatically adjusts the brakes to make sharper turns off-road, is just the cherry on top.

    Unfortunately this SUV's off-road capabilities were somewhat wasted on the mean streets of Newport Beach, Calif. I did take advantage of that V-8 and its easy acceleration, helping me pass whomever I needed to; let's not forget that Southern California is the land of freeways, so that was one feature not wasted on me.

    There's nothing dainty about this V-8 powerhouse. While I never got to push it to its limit in the SoCal wilderness, I still enjoyed driving the Land Cruiser. I didn't find myself bumping around the cabin with every speed bump, but if I'm going to pay nearly $80,000 for an SUV I'd hope for a smooth ride.

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    EXTERIOR

    The Land Cruiser's looks have been updated for 2013 and isn't quite as blocky as before. This chunky but sleek SUV looks like it can handle itself whether you're driving it through mud or the mall parking lot.

    While most SUVs are notorious for being difficult for smaller children to climb in and out of independently, my 2- and 4-year-olds had no problem. I was shocked that my 4-year-old could open up the door without assistance.

    If the third-row seats are folded, there is 43.0 cubic feet of space in the cargo area. I was able to fit my double stroller in without a problem; however, any significant grocery-shopping trip would require me to leave the stroller at home. One perk was when the third row was in use, the cargo area's 16.0 cubic feet of space wasn't completely useless. I could probably fit a regular-sized stroller back there or a week's worth of groceries. With the second- and third-row seats folded, the Land Cruiser has a whopping 81.7 cubic feet of cargo space.

    The Toyota Land Cruiser has a 5.7-liter V-8 engine that makes 381 horsepower. It gets an EPA-estimated 13/18 mpg city/highway. For my weeklong test drive of mostly city driving, I averaged 14.4 mpg. The Land Cruiser requires regular unleaded gasoline.

    SENSE AND STYLE

    Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great

    Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On

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    INTERIOR

    When the first thing that jumps out about a vehicle is the exorbitant price, the second noticeable item should be a luxurious interior. That just wasn't the case with the Land Cruiser. The black-colored leather interior was a hit with both the Mister and me because it hid dirt well, but we agreed that it didn't look like the interior of a nearly $80,000 vehicle.

    The Land Cruiser only has one trim level, so all the luxury features such as heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, a DVD entertainment system and navigation come standard.

    It's a wonderful SUV for five people, though it can seat eight. My family of two long-legged parents and three small children in child-safety seats fit comfortably in the first two rows, and that tall order is rarely filled. My 4-year-old still needs help buckling herself up in her booster seat, so I appreciated keeping her in the second row and not relegating her to the boondocks of the third row. For families that need the third row, they might want to think twice about this SUV. There was a laughable amount of third-row legroom, and the seats were oddly low to the ground. They would be suitable if you only occasionally needed that extra space for carpooling with older children or flexible adults. I wasn't wowed by the Land Cruiser's number of storage compartments or cupholders. Some of them -- the second row's cupholders -- were inaccessible when using the second row's middle seat, which I was. The center console's large storage compartment is a cooler box. Some people may love this feature, especially if they're taking advantage of the Land Cruiser's off-road capabilities for a day trip, but it's a feature I could have done without. The cooler portion of it takes up a chunk of storage space that I could have used otherwise.

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    IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

    Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair

    Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair-Ample

    SAFETY

    There are two sets of Latch anchors in the 2013 Land Cruiser. Both my forward- and rear-facing child-safety seats fit well in the second row and didn't take up the front passenger's legroom. Three child-safety seats fit across the second row.

    The Land Cruiser has standard four-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, an electronic stability system, traction control, trailer-sway control, active front head restraints and 10 airbags, including side curtains for all three rows and side-impact airbags for the first and second rows. The Multi-Terrain Monitor also is standard; it offers front, side or rear views around the Land Cruiser.

    I was disappointed that Toyota didn't include a blind spot warning system on the Land Cruiser. It's a feature I find myself relying on more and more, and its absence is felt, especially at this price point.

    The 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser hasn't been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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