The Toyota Land Cruiser built its reputation as one of the most rugged, long-lasting, and generally un-killable objects man has ever put on four wheels. From 1960 to 1984 (and until 2001 in Brazil), the J40 series truck remained in production, a favorite of explorers, militaries, and adventurers all over the world. The Land Cruiser line has been ebbing and flowing since the 1960s — the J70 series has been in production for 32 years, and is still popular in Asia, Australia, and Africa, for example — but in the Western world, the flagship Land Cruiser has grown cushier with each successive generation since the ’80s.
This has always made the Lexus LX a bit of a head-scratcher. It was conceived at the end of the Japanese economic bubble as both a Range Rover competitor and way around a proposed tariff on Japanese luxury cars. The LX debuted as little more than a rebadged Land Cruiser with a nicer interior. And despite the being almost mechanically and stylistically identical, the LX was a sales smash, exceeding expectations in its first two years on the market.
That was 21 years ago now; the Land Cruiser itself has become a bona-fide Range Rover fighter itself (at least in the U.S.). Yet at the top of Lexus’s SUV lineup, the LX is still sitting proud. And both are still remarkably similar. Both last saw a comprehensive redesign in 2008, both have gotten two updates since then, both are about as luxurious as Toyota gets, and both can cross the savanna if needed. So when there’s barely any daylight between the two, which one do you pick? That’s what we’ll tackle in the latest Buy This, Not That.
Tale of the tape
Despite the facelift for 2016, the Land Cruiser really isn’t all that different from when George W. Bush was in office. Sure, the interior and electronics have been updated since then, and it’s new from the A-pillars forward this year, but other than that, it’s the same body-on-frame layout, same 5.7-liter V8, and same full-time four-wheel drive system that’s been pulling duty since today’s high school seniors were in fourth grade.
But the staying power of the Land Cruiser’s important bits has made Toyota’s upgrades that much more significant. A new eight-speed automatic transmission bowed for 2016, as did several interior upgrades, such as Toyota’s updated Etune infotainment system and 9-inch touchscreen. Inside, there’s ample room for eight, though the third-row can be cramped for taller passengers. The big V8 makes 381 horsepower and 481 pound-feet of torque, enough to power the nearly 3-ton SUV through anything, and tow 8,100 pounds while doing it. It’s not the fastest truck in its segment, but it’s likely to get you where you’re going, roads or not.
Like what you hear from the Land Cruiser? Good! Because the Lexus LX570 has the same body, same frame, same room for eight, and same 5.7-liter V8. There are some big differences here, however. The 5.7 is slightly up on power (2 horses), but way down on torque — 77 pound-feet to be exact. It’s heavier too; the LX’s handsome interior does have a leg up on the Toyota’s, but it also contributes to the Lexus’s 300=pound weight gain. Combined, this all adds up to a 1,100-pound towing deficit compared to the Land Cruiser, and if you’re buying something this big, towing is something that generally factors in.
The Land Cruiser is in a class by itself. Yes, it’s inefficient, and it’s nearly a decade old, but it comes from a line where big changes come to the lineup every decade or so. As long as it has enough torque to tear out tree stumps and make it to the North Pole and back with eight people traveling in comfort, Toyota has a blank check to do whatever it wants.
The Lexus, however, is another story. The latest facelift has moved these two models as far apart from each other as they’ve ever been, and the results aren’t great. We’ve come around to Lexus’s aggressive grille design, but on a truck this big, it comes off as ungainly. Lexus has doubled down on luxury with the LX — as it should — but it comes at the platform and powertrain’s expense. Yes, the vast majority of American Land Cruiser and LX owners will never use these trucks to their fullest potential, but we figure if you’re spending at least $84,820 ($89,820 for the LX), you’re probably interested in what they can do.
All that money on a Land Cruiser? It’s probably worth it for one of the most iconic, rugged vehicles you can buy. Hell, the way they’re built, you’ll probably be able to drive it for the next 25 years. Paying for a fancier version that weighs and costs more, but does less? We’ll stick to Toyota’s icon any day of the week.