Is the 2020 Land Cruiser a beauty or a beast?

2020 Toyota Land Cruiser 4WD

Color: Blue Onyx Pearl (ext.), Beige (int.)

MSRP: $85K ($89K as tested)

Engine: 5.7L V8, 381 HP, 401 Lb.-Ft.

Just over 70 years ago, Toyota rolled out the first-ever Land Cruiser. I wasn’t around at the time, but I’m guessing people were ready to stick it in the mud at first sight. It looked like a truck kind of thing. It looked rough and ready for off-roading.

From what I understand, it did not disappoint.

Enter the Land Cruisers of late, and, pardon me speaking my working-class mind here, it looks a little bit tender. Sure, you could add Harley-Davidson stickers and tag frames, but these expensive SUVs still look more go-to-opera than go-to-mudhole.

I’m not criticizing. The copy Toyota loaned us for a week was gorgeous, and it had every safety, convenience and entertainment feature you could require. I just don’t know who’s taking a $90K luxury ride down to the creek bottoms.

Having said all of that, if you did take the 2020 Land Cruiser muddin’, it would probably fare well, and you’d be no worse for the wear in its well-appointed cabin. So, let’s talk about that for a minute.

Right off the bat, let me say how much our family appreciated our Land Cruiser having eight seats across three rows. We’re a family of seven, so having room for a guest is a luxury in itself. Our current situation involves a Suburban and a Town & Country, each only having seven seats for the trim levels we own.

The Land Cruiser is upholstered in a comfortable leather, and the front seats are vented, which is great right about this time of year. They’re all ventilated for breathability, and the main four seats are heated.

The Land Cruiser did not feel like a truck when I drove it, even when I took it around the super-fun Atlanta Motor Speedway perimeter road. It is, however, meant to tow like a truck thanks to its body-on-frame architecture and its 5.7-liter engine producing 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. It’s rated to pull about 8,000 pounds worth of whatever you need to take to the lake with you.

If that lake happens to be in the mountains, you might enjoy the Land Cruiser’s crawl mode and hill start assist control. Of course, the all-time four-wheel drive will also be appreciated.

Back to that AMS perimeter test run, I was pleased with how Toyota engineered the Land Cruiser to balance that sense of floating through the course while still offering sporty steering and a feeling of control over the driving experience.

Rounding out the off-roading-capable package, the new Land Cruisers come standard with the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, which is an independent, double-wishbone suspension complete with coil springs and a stabilizer bar. It’s a real-deal off-roader, but it just doesn’t look like one.

By the way, Toyota is already offering the 2021 Land Cruiser, but in reality it is the same machine as the 2020. One difference on the lot is that you can now get the Heritage edition with the third row, whereas the 2020 Heritage edition only offered five seats with its two rows.

A few more things we liked about this Land Cruiser: Old-school cruise control stick instead of steering wheel integration; chunky radio knobs; lots of bottle and cup holders; generous and clever cabin storage, including a center console powered cool box; easy access to the third row; a quality JBL sound system; and the flip-down tailgate.

Wrapping up this review, let me say for those not familiar with the Land Cruiser, I’m kidding about it being tender. It does look slick and luxurious, but they build these Land Cruisers like tanks. You can tell the door metal is thicker by the way they sound when you shut them. And even that tiny bit of driving I did out in my back yard let me know this SUV was designed with driving capability and control in mind.

Toyota has been making the Land Cruiser for seven decades, and we hope they’ll keep up the good work for many years to come.

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