2012 Land Cruiser Review

New V8 makes mid-range Land Cruiser pick of the bunch

By Imthishan Giado

2012 Toyota Land Cruiser

We last saw the Toyota Land Cruiser at the launch of the 2012 range, where we got to drive the much-improved V6 model. How does upgrading to eight cylinders help?

For those who’ve not been paying attention, the evergreen Land Cruiser got quite a few upgrades this year to help it keep up with the competition. Easiest bit to spot is the facelifted front end, which looks more muscular, and the orange indicators are a nice nod to the original Land Cruiser 70 series (which now has fully integrated headlamps).

2012 Toyota Land Cruiser

The top-spec 5.7 remained unchanged while the V6 got a slight but noticeable bump in performance. Big news in the middle however, where the ancient 4.7-litre V8 has been sent to the knacker’s yard and replaced with an all-new (well new to us, anyway) 4.6-litre V8, which produces 304bhp and 323lb ft of torque. That’s a bump of 36bhp and 21lb ft respectively, math geeks.

2012 Toyota Land Cruiser

Buy this car and people won’t exactly be stopping you in the street to ask about it. So ubiquitous is the Land Cruiser on the streets on the UAE that people are hard pressed to tell one model year for the next, and it’s the same with this 2012 car. The dark red hue of my test car was certainly quite attractive and a nice change from the usual pearl white or beige which 90% of customer cars will no doubt be delivered.

2012 Toyota Land Cruiser

Inside…yes, it’s much the same as before. The main differences from the lower V6 model I drove at the launch is the avalanche of standard kit fitted, including – deep breath – full touchscreen navigation, four-zone climate control, electric reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel, a kicking JBL hi-fi, a massive touchscreen interface for the HVAC systems borrowed from the full-fat LX570 and last but not least, fully ventilated front seats. Make no mistake – the V6 is the entry-level car you buy for the badge but the V8 is the car you buy when you want to make a statement.

2012 Toyota Land Cruiser

Generally, the swoopy interior is aging well and has plenty of space for all but the largest families. Everything has a chunky, sorted feel, from the big grab handles on the door to the oversized buttons to control the A/C. The last bit is a welcome touch – too many manufacturers are falling prey to the designer’s desire to eliminate buttons in favour of touchscreens only, but this may be the last of the big cars which you can operate with gloves on.

2012 Toyota Land Cruiser

On the road, the Land Cruiser remains as sorted as ever, if no sports car. The new direct-injected V8 is a massive improvement, pulling with authority from just about any of its six automatic gears and feeling far more fruity than its aged, peaky predecessor. The new double-wishbone suspension fights cornering forces better than before and there’s slightly less lean through the bends.

2012 Toyota Land Cruiser

But be in no doubt that this is no Range Rover, but a very big, very heavy traditional SUV; the steering is a feel-free zone, the brake feel is squishy and hard stabs at the stop pedal are greeted by huge amounts of forward pitch as the nose dips earthward. All the dynamic limits are low, so drive at six-tenths and the big LC will thank you for it. Go beyond that and it’s a world of understeer, screeching tyres and sharp uncouth ESP interference.

2012 Toyota Land Cruiser

What I’m really interested in finding out is how this new engine performs offroad. To do so, I took it into the wilds of the desert – OK, the bit beyond Bab Al Shams. This is no gentle track though; it’s an area full of blind crests and powdery soft sand, where agility matters more than brute power.

In the midst of these small hills, the Land Cruiser performed admirably for a stock car following in the tiny paths made by nimble Wranglers. This was in no small measure aided by the removal of the front lip spoiler – thanks to another previous ‘incident’ with this test car – which had the effect of dramatically improving the approach angle of this colossus. The big red truck might not sport the huge ground clearance of cars like the Ford Raptor but it is peerless in the dunes, the perfect amount of power always available an ankle flex away.

2012 Toyota Land Cruiser

Improvements to the suspension are subtle, but there’s definitely a better ride offroad with less of the jiggly bumps transmitted to the cabin. New for this year is a somewhat oddly-named ‘Overturn Assist’ feature. Only available in low range, this allows the Land Cruiser to make very sharp turns by braking the inside wheel through a bend. It certainly works as advertised but to be honest it’s not very useful in the UAE, where our deserts are nearly all open spaces with few restrictions. One of the rocks perhaps and a button that’s likely to be remain unpressed for many years.

 

2012 Toyota Land Cruiser

Verdict

The big Land Cruiser is back and with a brand new brawny heart that finally does it justice. The old 4.7-litre engine was a good one – I should know, I had one! – but it’s had its day and this 4.6-litre is superior in every respect, not to mention fuel economy.

Apart from the mill, the updates for this model year might seem a tad stingy and we’re still a long way from an all-new Land Cruiser that might better take on the likes of the Range Rover. This remains a formidably-built but inherently unexciting car to drive, but one that will take you there and back again every time and come sale time, will return incredibly good resale value. Traditional strengths, but then we’re in a traditional market, one for which the Land Cruiser remains king.

Specs

Price: AED240,000 ($65,350)
Engine: 4.6-litre V8, 304bhp @ 5500rpm, 323lb ft @ 3400rpm
Performance: 0-100kph NA, top speed 220kph (estimated)
Transmission: six-speed auto, four-wheel drive with low range
Weight: 2490kg

Verdict Harder, faster, stronger but you’ll pay dearly for the privilege

5 responses to “2012 Land Cruiser Review”

  1. KB says:

    I’ve just moved back to Dubai and am looking to buy an offroader (yes, i’m a beginner) and so my request would be if you guys could do a comparative analysis between the different brands and models available in the market, suggesting which is best for Novice, Intermediate and Expert drivers in the desert.

    P.S. Great review.

    Thanks
    – A loyal fan

  2. admin says:

    [Imthishan] Thanks so much for your kind words!

    Regarding the offroaders; nearly any SUV is capable in the desert in the right hands (just ask our very own Fraser Martin) so it really comes down to building your individual skillset in a safe, controlled environment.

    You also need to decide just what your needs are, and how far you plan to take your offroading adventures. Want to do the occasional Fun Drive or Jamboree, but still maintain good ride comfort and plenty of toys? You’ll be looking at LWB cars like the Prado and Grand Cherokee or Wrangler Unlimited.

    But if you’re really thinking about hitting the dunes every weekend, you’ll need something small and nippy like a Wrangler or an FJ, trucks which also boast huge aftermarket support and easy parts availability. You -will- break stuff!

    If this all makes your head spin don’t worry – we’lll be doing comparison tests in the cooler months and even show you some of the best places to go!

  3. marc says:

    guys, great page first of all.

    i am getting closer and closer to actually buy a v6 LC 2013. givent that Toyota mildly updated the LC in 2012, when do you guys think a all-new version will show up? late 2016, later, earlier?

    thanks for your thoughts and take care,
    marc

    • admin says:

      [Imthishan]
      2016 for the next Land Cruiser at the very earliest – they operate on a very long lifecyle of between eight and nine years between models. Current car is a great buy and hardly depreciates at all so if you want to upgrade in three years, you certainly won’t lose your shirt on one.

  4. marc says:

    thanks for the feedback. thought so. looks like i will go for one during ramadan now.

    take care

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