The road from Lake Pleasant to Crown King is, in some places, hardly a road at all. It's more like a loosely connected bunch of ruts and heaves, boulders and ditches, steep inclines and sheer cliffs.Nearly 30 miles of mayhem, and 6,000 feet of torturous climbing. The perfect place to test-drive a $51,000 sport-utility vehicle. After traversing about a dozen miles of moderate dirt road in a Toyota Land Cruiser, we stopped a grizzled-looking character to inquire about the road conditions ahead. At the wheel of his jacked-up pickup truck, with tires that could have come off an earth grader, he looked doubtfully at our spiffy Toyota. "I wouldn't take that thing up there," he rumbled, frowning at the very idea. "For one thing, you'll scrape those running boards right off." Thanking him, we proceeded on our way. I was chuckling at his macho profiling, but my wife and two boys wore worried expressions. His dire warning, plus the dark clouds looming over the Bradshaw Mountains and the occasional boom of thunder, put a certain edge on the outing. Soon, we began tilting over the gaping holes and jutting boulders, the Land Cruiser switched to low range, its sophisticated all-wheel-drive system drawing the massive truck over the toughest sections without a sigh of complaint. This is why you pay the big bucks. Not for cruising around Scottsdale shopping centers or loading up youthful soccer players. But getting out into wild places, challenging the ancient mining roads and Jeep trails that p Arizona, that's the magic of these popular vehicles. As an off-roader, and an image builder, the Land Cruiser is right up there with the British Land Rover. They have similar credentials, starting out after World War II building rugged, spartan, go-anywhere vehicles to challenge America's Jeep. The Land Rover grew into the tiny Range Rover. The Land Cruiser is still the Land Cruiser, but became a upscale one. Now, it's the trendy vehicle to be seen in: It's what Eddie Murphy was driving during his recent, er, encounter. For 1997, Toyota is marking its 40th year in America, many of its early years spent selling Land Cruisers almost exclusively. Our tester was equipped with $5,500 worth of extras celebrating that fact. It also came with a $1,000 stereo and $1,200 sunroof. On the road, the Land Cruiser drives like a dream, albeit a heavy one, with decent handling and cruising power. But all that weight takes a toll on acceleration. Gas mileage is terrible. The ride is firm but never harsh, steering is solid and direct, and the brakes halt the two-and-a-half-ton sport-ute with proper authority. All very well, but it's in the rough terrain that the Land Cruiser flexes its muscles and struts its stuff. Optional is a unique electronic four-wheel-drive system that allows locking of the front, rear or both differentials with the twist of a dashboard switch. Even the worst stretches of that Crown King trail were handl ed with aplomb, the unflappable Cruiser seeming not to notice the lurches, heaves or severe lists. The Land Cruiser cushioned us in splendid comfort for the entire passage. The thronelike leather seats are quite nice, thank you, and the interior has a roomy airiness that enhances outback travel. Naturally, there's a complete load of electric features, dynamic stereo system, lots of cup holders, etc. In profile, the Land Cruiser looks pretty long in the hood, compared with most of today's short-nosed vehicles. The extra snout length is to accommodate the venerable straight-six-cylinder engine that has powered Land Cruisers for eons, though now it's been refined and upgraded, including the addition of dual overhead cams. It's strong and smooth-running with loads of torque. Of course, the Land Cruiser's reliability and durability are legendary, adding to its stout-hearted aura. The Land Cruiser made the climb up to Crown King without complaint and with run ning boards intact. It's really a gorgeous trip, with old mines, an ancient Army fort and fabulous scenery. And the Land Cruiser's strong abilities let us concentrate on just having fun. 1997 Toyota Land Cruiser Vehicle type: Eight-passenger, four-door sport-utility vehicle sedan, four-wheel drive. Base price: $41,068. Price as tested: $51,235. Engine: 4.5-liter inline six, 212 horsepower at 4,600 rpm, 275 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm. Transmission: Four-speed automatic. Curb weight: 4,933 pounds. Length: 189.8 inches. Wheelbase: 112.2 inches. Safety features: Dual air bags, anti-lock brakes. EPA fuel economy: 13 mpg city, 15 mpg highway. Highs: Off-road prowess. Solid build. Record of dependability. Lows: Poor gas mileage. Mild acceleration. High price.
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||August 17, 1997|
|Bob Golfen||AZCentral.com||June 7, 1997|
Closest Dealers Listing this Car
Featured Services for the Toyota Land Cruiser
- Sell your current car quickly and easily on Cars.com.