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What we’re driving: Toyota Land Cruiser

This sixth-generation of Toyota’s seminal Land Cruiser has been on the burly J200 (Tundra pickup-derived) body-on-frame architecture since 2007—and although there’s a certain allure to driving what currently is one of the industry’s longest-serving platforms, there’s no getting past the sense of being part of a real, live anachronism.

If you’re stuck on finding one of the few production vehicles that still uses hydraulic power-steering assist (i.e. power steering with “feel”), the Cruiser is your candidate. There’s feel—but good heavens, the Land Cruiser’s steering is S-L-O-W and only emphasizes the overwhelming impression this icon projects: studied, ponderous motivation that gets you through jungles and deserts. You know, the same places all of today’s six-figure Land Rovers are found.

The deliberate attitude continues with the powertrain, centered around Toyota’s long-serving 5.7-L V8 that still uses port injection to make 381 hp and 401 lb·ft (544 N·m). All of it is needed to get the Land Cruiser to do much of anything with its 5815 lb (2638 kg) fusion of transfer cases, leather and touchscreens. Toyota brought in its in-house 8-speed automatic transmission a couple of years ago, but it’s difficult to notice the difference over the previous 6-speed automatic and doesn’t seem to have had much influence on performance or the Land Cruiser’s 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway fuel economy.

The Land Cruiser’s cabin is wonderfully opulent and assembled to a palpably high standard, although the intrinsic truckishness of it all intrudes on my appreciation of quality. There are still those weirdo flip-to-the side bulkhead third-row seats, with an unfortunate 28.3 in of meager legroom. And if you merely flip up the third-row seats rather than remove them, the Land Cruiser’s poor packaging becomes apparent: this gargantuan offers a comparatively paltry 43 ft3 of cargo space behind the second row.

Toyota has hung on some of the latest driver-assist features and other electronic technology in an effort to stay topical, but it doesn’t do much to help the Land Cruiser camoflage its age. My utter admiration to Toyota planners and marketers for steadfastly avoiding the ridiculous trim-level designations so beloved by other luxury brands: there’s no Land Cruiser Ultimatum Edition or Super Ultra Special model. You buy a Land Cruiser. There are a few options. That’s it.

We all know the giant, go-anywhere luxury SUV is marketing at its best—and at its most cynical. Can’t blame Toyota for keeping this grand old dame in the fleet, though, as I’m sure it’s a profit bonanza. And like people who are devoted to music on vinyl records, you know time has passed it by, but that’s part of the appeal.

2017 Toyota Land Cruiser

Base price:      $84,325
As tested:        $86,303
Highs:               Palpable density; opulent cabin fittings; no silly trim-level games
Lows:                Poor cabin-space utilization; just plain slow; just plain old
Takeaway:        Retro-lux appeal—like vinyl records played on an expensive audio system
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