Toyota has finally revealed the all-new Land Cruiser. We've waited for more than a decade for the redesigned model, and we're excited to see it in the metal. The launch of the 300 Series came at a good time, too. That's because 2021 marks the 70th anniversary of the Land Cruiser name. With that, now is a good time to trace the roots of this legendary model.
You might be surprised how the Toyota Land Cruiser story started. It all began in the Philippines during World War 2 when the Japanese Imperial Forces saw a Willys Jeep here and promptly sent it back to Japan. They then reverse-engineered it and the result was the Model AK prototype. However, Japan's subsequent loss in World War 2 meant it saw limited use and was subsequently canned. If anything, the story could have ended there, but another war opened an opportunity for Toyota to build another four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Jeep BJ (1951-1954)
Ironically, the Land Cruiser came about because U.S forces needed a Jeep-type vehicle and tasked Toyota to build it. The result was the Toyota Jeep BJ and it saw service during the Korean War. It wasn't called the Land Cruiser yet, but as early as 1951, it was laying down its foundations for its legacy. It did it by climbing the sixth stage of Mount Fuji, a feat deemed impossible by car. Japan's National Police Agency was so impressed by its abilities that they made it their official patrol vehicle. Towards the end of its production cycle, it then received the name Land Cruiser.
20/30 Series (1955-1960)
The second-generation Land Cruiser dubbed the 20 or 30 Series, came out in 1955. It was no longer out in the battlefields and was aimed towards civilian use. Toyota also softened the styling because they planned to send this model for export. This generation also became the first one to be available with a longer station wagon body. There were more creature comforts this time around, but it was still a utilitarian at heart.
40 Series (1960-1984)
The 40 Series is, perhaps, the one that put the Land Cruiser on the map literally and figuratively. It's also one of the most recognizable shapes in the automotive industry. By then, Toyota had made inroads in international markets, and the Land Cruiser's reputation for durability and reliability was well and truly established. Because of its dependability, Toyota kept making it for 24 years.
50 Series (1967-1980)
By the late '60s, Toyota wanted to take Land Cruiser in a different direction. They wanted something that looked more like a station wagon and less like a military vehicle. The result is the 50 Series, and you can think of it as the Land Cruiser's baby steps towards the upmarket crowd. It looked nothing like its predecessor with its more contemporary design. Of course, that didn't mean it had gone soft. If anything, it was still a capable off-roader.
60 Series (1980-1990)
Whereas the 50 Series brought the Land Cruiser to a different route, the 60 Series kept it on that path. This generation set the foundations for the Land Cruiser we know today. You can even see some of its design elements in the modern version. This model also added more luxuries in higher-grade versions, but they also kept the more rugged and basic variants for those who need a workhorse. If you want to know how the present Land Cruiser ended up with that many variants, this is where it all began.
70 Series (1984-present)
The 70 Series is a bit of a special mention. It's more of a successor of the 40 Series instead of the 60 Series. It was smaller than the latter, too, and its dimensions meant it can fit in tighter trails and tracks. The 70 Series also kicked off the Prado line that subsequently became its own success story. Like the 40 Series, this one has a well-established reputation for longevity and durability. Because of that, Toyota still hasn't discontinued this model even after 37 years...and counting.
80 Series (1990-2008)
By the '90s, boxy shapes were out and curves were in. That is exactly what Toyota did to the 80 Series Land Cruiser. It was built from the strengths of its predecessors, all while leveling up the comfort, features, technologies, and abilities. This generation was also the first to be sold hereunder Toyota Motor Philippines and has gained a cult following since then. It also became the basis of Lexus' first SUV, the LX. And here's a fun fact about the 80 Series, Jeremy Clarkson was once the proud owner of this generation of Land Cruiser.
100 Series (1998-2007)
When the 100 Series arrived in the late '90s, Toyota had positioned the Land Cruiser even higher up the market. It was more comfortable and luxurious than its predecessor and boasted a lot more technologies. This was also the first model to receive a V8 engine, although the ones officially sold had a 4.2-liter, straight-six turbodiesel. And yes, Jeremy Clarkson bought this generation of Land Cruiser as well.
200 Series (2007-2021)
It's easy to dismiss the 200 Series as a minor evolution of the previous model. With its conservative-looking exterior, that might be the first impression it gives. However, this generation ushered in heaps of technologies to make it even more unstoppable off-road and on-road. It also got a healthy boost under the hood thanks to its 4.5-liter turbodiesel (international markets got the 5.7-liter gasoline V8), making it the first (and last) Land Cruiser with a V8 diesel. But despite the added tech and a focus on comfort, the 200 Series still proved to be a capable 4x4 when the pavement turns into sand, mud, or rocks. This generation would also be one of the longest-running models in the Land Cruiser line by staying in production for 14 years.
300 Series (2021-present)
For the all-new Land Cruiser, Toyota amped up the technologies that should make it the most off-road capable version yet. Toyota fitted it with the new Electronic Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, along with a Multi-Terrain Monitor which simulates an X-ray view of the tires to aid with off-road precision and tire placement. The 300 Series also gets a Multi-Terrain Select system which automatically adjusts the capabilities of the 4x4 system to suit the terrain.
Of course, the redesigned Land Cruiser doesn't just rely on its new electronic assists. Toyota said they re-tuned the suspension to give it better articulation and off-road handling. They even said the new one incorporates lessons learned from the Dakar Rally. It's also significantly lighter than before, has a stiffer chassis, and no longer has V8 engines. That said, the new 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V6 packs over 400 PS, making it the most powerful Land Cruiser to date. Not only that, the smaller 3.3-liter V6 twin-turbo diesel is more powerful than the old 4.5-liter V8 lump with more than 300 PS to offer.
Happy 70th, Land Cruiser
It's not often to have a nameplate that lasts a few decades, let alone more than half a century. But that just shows how strong the Land Cruiser brand has become over the decades. What started as a bare-bones military vehicle has become one of Toyota's legendary models. While it seems that each generation is a subtle evolution of prior models in recent years, there is no denying how far it has come. With that, we have high expectations for the 300 Series, and it better be good. But either way, we think the 300 Series is one heck of a 70th birthday present for the Land Cruiser.
Here's to 70 more years.