Does the 100 Series Toyota Land Cruiser deserve its legendary status?
For over 70 years the Toyota Land Cruiser has established Itself in the off-roading zeitgeist as the king of reliable off-roading. This was especially true in the first several iterations of the Land Cruiser. Up through the 80 Series, the Land Cruiser’s purpose had been mostly for adventure. Then, beginning with the 80 series Toyota began the Land Cruiser’s transition to a more luxurious SUV experience, whilst retaining its legendary four-wheel prowess.
In 1998 Toyota introduced the popular 1998 - 2007 100 Series Land Cruiser, one of the highest-selling iterations of the Land Cruiser to date. 100 Series Cruisers, and their Lexus brother, the LX 470, have become very popular on online auction sites like Bring a Trailer and Cars and Bids. Watching these auctions is always exciting, especially to see bids reaching into the high forty or fifty thousand dollar range for low-mileage, pristine examples. While some might understand the appeal of spending that kind of cash on a 21-year-old SUV, others might deem it lunacy.
So, what is the appeal of a Land Cruiser? Search any online Land Cruiser forum and you’ll be immersed into a culture that is deeply loyal to the nameplate. Claims of unbreakable powertrains capable of going half a million miles without much trouble, not needing any major maintenance for the first 25 years of life, and some of the best out-of-the-box off-roading credibility is the message being evangelized.
But is it true? Are those claims made with merit?
As an owner of a 2000 Land Cruiser, I can speak to some of this.
We bought our Land Cruiser about five years ago, just after our son was born. I had always thought they looked awesome and had heard stories of their storied reliability. After selling our Subaru Forester, I sought one out locally on KSL Cars. As a young family, something spacious, reliable, and capable of hauling all our gear seemed like the perfect answer to our needs -- and to those ends, it has been. The Cruiser is 21 years old and has never left us stranded. Its under-stressed 4.7 liter V8 runs silky smooth (if a bit - ok, a lot - underpowered), and you can feel that it is capable of at least doubling its current mileage of 198,000 miles.
The claims of offroad capability are also true. It’s amazing what this old truck can do, with no modifications, with the exception of some Goodyear Duratrac tires. There is decent space for the kids and gear in the back, but it is short on storage compartments.
We’ve loved our time with the Cruiser, but it hasn’t been without its costs. Gas mileage is some of the worst out there, we average about 9-10mpg around town. I shed a tear every time we fill its massive tank requiring premium fuel. Thank you, dinosaurs.
The claims of not needing major maintenance for the first 25 years seems a little bit of a stretch, Sure, I guess if all you wanted to do was change out the oil every so often, yes, the Cruiser would technically still run, and would probably go a good bit into the desert before succumbing to its age. That said, the Cruiser has needed a fair bit of maintenance items from day one, when it was only 15 years old. Coil packs, the starter, timing belt, water pump, bushings, axle boots, sway bar end links, and more have all been necessary repairs. Sometimes the lock actuators won’t all work without manually inserting the key and opening the driver’s door. Every year there have been new items needed, which is to be expected with an older car, but it hasn’t been the “25 years no maintenance” legend you’ve heard about. Oh, and Land Cruiser parts are rarer, and thus more expensive than your average 4Runner or Sequoia. In other words, your Cruiser will probably run as long as you want it to, but it’s going to come with a little more cost than you’re expecting.
It’s also been interesting using the Land Cruiser as a family car. It’s not precious, so I’m not overly worried about kids being in it. They’re comfortable enough for daily jaunts, and it’s the perfect size for a family SUV -- not too big like a Suburban, but also not cramped like the 4Runner can be.
That said, it’s not the most comfortable family vehicle for long road trips. It starts to feel a little tight. The ride is a little rough. The seats are decent, but not great. The fact that there are no rear airbags (and only two in the front) is a little concerning. That said, we’ve loved it. But it could also be time to start thinking about moving on.
Overall, I would agree with many of the online claims about the 100 Series Land Cruisers. They are cool, capable, and durable SUVs, built for Overlanding. Am I going to pack my family around in it for much longer? Probably not. The lack of safety features does warrant a change, and some modern conveniences would be nice. If you’re interested in a two-owner, clear title, no accident, fastidiously maintained 2000 Land Cruiser, message me on my email below.
In the end, if you’re looking for an SUV to get you anywhere (and bring you back home), this is the rig -- keeping in mind that it’s still an older car that needs things.
About the author: Having owned everything from a DeLorean to an E46 M3 and a Toyota Land Cruiser, Jason Bell is a lifelong car enthusiast who loves sharing his passions as a teacher, writer, speaker, and social media manager. Contact him at email@example.com for comments/questions, or just to say "hi."