60 years of ‘off road’ design culminates in the new Toyota Land Cruiser V8

It’s hard to believe, but Toyota has been designing and manufacturing off road vehicles for over 60 years. The design and features of off-road vehicles have come a long way since Toyota began, but it won’t surprise many fans that the potential success of the Land Cruiser V8 is probably a no-brainer.

Back in 1951, the 4×4 BJ was the standard off road machine, designed to get the job done, but with little in the way of extras or home comforts. Strong, and tough enough to drive up Mount Fuji in Japan, the latest offering from Toyota still retains the iron grit of the original but has added a few modern touches to please urban off-road fans.

With a major league engine of 479lb-ft of torque and 292bhp it’s everything Toyota followers would expect from a V8 with the one simple difference being the fact it’s a diesel. Tight on fuel economy at just under 28mph, Toyota made the call that few customers would baulk at changing from petrol. With no loss of power or acceleration there would be few, if any complaints with the 0-60mph time of just a notch over 8 seconds.

In terms of design, Toyota has wisely strayed only a little from the standard 4×4 body fans have come to expect. By keeping to an incredibly tough body, the manufacturers have kept the faith by providing stability where its rivals have taken an edge off their designs by going for monocoque or hybrid shells.

Makers of off-road vehicles normally have to balance comfort and handling with chassis strength. But Toyota clearly has had their designers working through the night to get the best compromise possible and have listened to customers and dealers to achieve the perfect mix.

Active dampers work to tighten the suspension around corners, especially at higher than normal speeds and then loosen off once the car is back on the straight. Height sensors automatically fine tune for extra ground clearance whenever the gears are shifted to low for true off-road use and then return to normal once back on standard tarmac.

The changes are totally foreign to the original concept of the BJ and its successors. But in the modern age comfort and toughness do need to take into account the new breed of off-road enthusiast who is just as likely to have come from the office as the farm, or steelyard.

Some luxury is even offered with the Land Cruiser, which comes as little surprise. The temperature control offers a 4-zone system which gives all the occupants ultimate control over their comfort.

Another standard comfort feature is a heater underneath each occupant’s seat and entertainment is provided for in an incredible 9-speaker system unit. An automated DVD player allows travelers to watch movies on an eight inch screen mounted on the dashboard.

For safety, the Land Cruiser has a comforting 12 airbags which offers protection to all occupants, not just those in the front seat who are offered extra protection with knees given their own airbag system.

While safety is vital in the off-road industry, much of Toyota’s technology is designed to prevent accidents occurring. A traction sensor identifies when one tire is having trouble and automatically decreases torque to the tire, giving more control to the other three.

With the thought given to safety as well as comfort, the Land Cruiser is perfect for a family holiday or road trip. Extra luggage space will please those wanting to take all their home comforts with them, and may even come to regard the Land Cruiser as a second home.