If there’s one thing I think we can all agree on it’s that the current generation Land Cruiser has almost nothing in common with the highly revered and coveted FJ40 series Land Cruiser from the ‘60s and ‘70s other than the name. Over the past three decades, Toyota has evolved the Land Cruiser to cater to a more upstream market, with luxury appointments, high-end interior materials and softer styling. It’s a far cry from the classic military-developed utilitarian farm vehicle everyone loves to wax lyrical about and fawn over. And that’s part of the modern Land Cruiser’s problem and also why its fate in the US market hangs in the balance. Should the new Land Cruiser not make its way to American soil, rest easy knowing we already have suitable a replacement: the 2020 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro, the SUV the modern Land Cruiser should have been.
There are a few reasons for the Land Cruiser’s decline in the States (less than 4,000 were sold in 2019) and most of them, if not all of are Toyota’s own doing. Around the world, the Land Cruiser is offered in a host of trim levels, ranging from fairly basic to well-appointed with a range of price tags to accompany them. In the US, we get only one and it’s fully loaded whether you like it or not and costs $90,000. That’s a lot to ask of Toyota customers, especially when the current Land Cruiser was introduced 12 years ago and only saw a mild refresh in 2016. Couple the lack of development with Toyota’s ability to build SUVs that regularly see 200,000-300,000 miles and the incentive to trade up at the end of the year completely disintegrates.
The Sequoia platform isn’t much better off, seeing as how it was introduced around the same time, but going into 2020 Toyota is giving the three-row SUV the upgrades it deserves with a TRD Pro package. Using ladder-frame architecture off-roaders already love, and putting to work the same exact 5.7-liter V8 found in the Land Cruiser (good for 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque), Toyota added uniquely tuned Fox shocks front and rear, BBS forged 18-inch wheels, all-terrain tires, a TRD cat-back exhaust, and a TRD ¼-inch thick skid plate. This doesn’t make the Sequoia TRD Pro the end-all-be-all of off-roading SUVs in 2020, but it’s more capable than ever and much more than the Sequoia’s mall-crawler reputation portrays.
Sure, the Land Cruiser touts much more advanced off-road technology with Crawl Control, Multi-Terrain Select, Multi-Terrain monitor, and Dynamic suspension compared to the Sequoia TRD Pro’s new suspension and simple center-locking differential. But the Land Cruiser’s upgraded tech hardly justifies a $30,000 price difference. And do most new Land Cruiser customers even put those systems to the test? I’d put money on the answer being a firm “no”. Any Toyota customer looking for an SUV to go off-roading with is buying a 4Runner for $36,000. For the Toyota customers looking for a day-to-day luxury SUV and pocketing $40,000, they’re buying the Sequoia or jumping to Lexus. The Toyota lineup has developed in a way that makes the Land Cruiser completely obsolete at any price point.
On a long weekend trip up to Vermont, the Sequoia handled highway duties like any other large SUV, absolutely swallowed bags and gear with its cargo space and tackled some light off-roading with ease. The V8 and six-speed automatic showed their age and felt sluggish at times, but still had enough grunt on tap to get out of its own way. The TRD Pro does tip the scales at a hefty 5,985 lbs compared to the Land Cruiser’s 5,815 lbs curb weight and takes a hit on its towing capacity at 7,100 lbs versus the base Sequoia’s 7,400 lbs. But, what the Sequoia TRD Pro lacks in tech or off-road gusto compared to the Land Cruiser, it makes up for in practicality.
If you can stand to go without the advanced off-road assists, not only does the Sequoia TRD Pro save you $30,000 over the Land Cruiser, it also buys you more cargo space boasting 120 cu-ft behind the front row, 66 cu-ft behind the second row, and almost 19 cu-ft behind the third. Compare that to the Land Cruiser’s 82.8 cu-ft, 41.4 cu-ft, and 16.1 cu-ft respectively and you have to wonder what else it has going for it, other than a respected name.
Off-road SUVs tend to have bare-bones interiors and workhorse engines, all while staying relatively affordable. It’s a formula that worked for the FJ40 back in the ‘60s and remains the preferred recipe for off-road enthusiasts to this day. No one wants to get a brand-new $90,000 dinged, dented and covered in mud, inside and out. It’s why the 4Runner is so popular in the overlanding community. However, the lack of an affordable, reliable off-road-capable V8 choice from Toyota made the Sequoia TRD Pro a no-brainer for the brand. It’s by no means a Ford F-150 Raptor-fighting SUV, but it now gives Toyota customers a more practical alternative to the Land Cruiser.
Between the 4Runner and the Sequoia, Toyota’s inadvertently sealed the fate of the Land Cruiser in the US. News of whether the new Land Cruiser will come to the US or will supposedly be confirmed later this summer. Reports also say the new model will be more off-road-focused and less laden with luxury options and appointments. However, if it turns out the next-generation Land Cruiser doesn’t make it to US shores, at least we’ll have the Sequoia TRD Pro — the Land Cruiser we’ve been asking for, for years.