Despite manufacturers’ attempts to get closer and closer to the perfect sport-utility vehicle, with crossovers, tall wagons, mini-utes, and mega-utes, Toyota actually perfected the SUV back in 1998. It’s called the Land Cruiser. The latest iteration, introduced four years ago, is what every other SUV aspires to be: a four-wheeled Leatherman, a rugged yet ergonomic tool that can be used for every purpose.
Toyota started down the road to perfection in 1951, when a Land Cruiser was the first vehicle to reach the sixth level of Mount Fuji. Since then, it has been tested from the Rubicon Trail to the Australian Outback to the African plains. Fifty years of refinement have created a vehicle of bulletproof construction, mountain-goat traction, and Swiss-clock dependability. You can buy a Land Cruiser in Los Angeles on Friday and drive it to Los Cabos on Saturday. You could use the Land Cruiser just as easily for mundane suburban chores. The sumptuous interior and refined suspension soothe long com-muting miles. Comfortable seats for eight make the Land Cruiser well suited for the soccer car pool. Its stable highway manners and 320 pound-feet of torque allow the Land Cruiser to tow 6500 pounds effortlessly.
Since 1998, Chevrolet has revamped the Tahoe and the Suburban, Ford has introduced the Excursion, Mercedes is importing the G500, Toyota has debuted the Sequoia, and Cadillac has introduced, and then re-redesigned, the Escalade. Yet none matches the Land Cruiser’s unique combination of assets, which is why it remains our best large sport-utility.