Toyota unveils the retro-styled return of the Land Cruiser
NEW YORK (CNN) — Just three years after being discontinued in North America, the Toyota Land Cruiser is coming back — with an all-new, retro-styled design. Besides the classic looks, the new Land Cruiser will also have a more accessible price than before.
It follows a trend toward more off-road capability in new vehicles and a major upsurge in interest in classic truck-like SUVs. In 2021, Ford brought back its Bronco off-road SUV to capitalize on interest in that classic brand. The Toyota Land Cruiser has its own similarly passionate fan base.
The new Land Cruiser is slightly smaller than the previous version, last sold in the United States in the 2021 model year. That version was closely related to the Lexus LX luxury SUV and was fairly opulent for a Toyota, with a starting price of over $80,000. Prices for the new Land Cruiser will start at around $55,000, further underscoring the model’s roots as a rugged off-roader rather than a comfortable errand runner. It’s expected to be available in the United States in the spring of 2024.
For those who really want to tap into Land Cruiser history, customers in the United States will be offered the Land Cruiser 1958 Edition, commemorating the year the model was first offered in the United States. It will feature classic styling cues like round headlights instead of the standard narrow, rectangular lights. A limited run of 5,000 First Edition models also will be available with two-tone paint and extra off-road equipment.
Despite the classic looks, the 2024 Land Cruiser will have modern hybrid power. The SUV will have a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine working with an electric motor to produce a total of up to 326 horsepower. Fuel economy figures will be announced later, Toyota said.
Toyota, which recently announced plans to offer more fully electric vehicles, has a long-standing commitment to hybrids, believing they play an important role in reducing global carbon emissions.
On the same day the Land Cruiser was unveiled, Toyota announced a near doubling of its quarterly profits, helped by increased production and sales as well as favorable currency exchange rates.
Tuesday’s unveiling comes on a date regarded as the model’s birthday. The Land Cruiser traces its direct history back to the earliest days of the Korean War when the US military was looking for a vehicle to work alongside their famous Jeeps in the Korean peninsula. Toyota had previously made four-wheel-drive vehicles, including large amphibious landing craft, for the Japanese military during World War II.
Engineers developed something they called the Jeep BJ, building the first production vehicle on August 1, 1951, said Kurt Williams, a director of the Land Cruiser Heritage Museum in Salt Lake City. While that vehicle didn’t earn the military contract, Toyota saw value in the small off-roader and continued its development. In 1955, it was renamed the Land Cruiser, with the name meant to suggest it could easily handle any terrain.
When it was offered in the United States in 1958, only a single Land Cruiser was sold in that first year. A later version with somewhat better off-road capability and higher build quality was introduced around 1960. Thanks to Toyota’s newly expanded US dealer network, said Williams, that Land Cruiser, called the Series 40, became the best-selling Toyota model in the US five years in a row. It’s the classic familiar to many American drivers today, with its round headlights and “Toyota” lettering in the grille.
In many parts of the world, especially in places where roads are poor and service centers scarce, Toyota Land Cruisers have become ubiquitous. Lacking the sort of technology and luxury equipment that many car buyers are used to, bare-bones Land Cruisers are sought after for their ruggedness, ease of repair and ability to get through treacherous situations, said Williams.
“Some come at it from ‘it’s the only vehicle that works where I live,’” he said. “‘I have a coffee plantation in Latin America or a mine in remote Australia.’ That’s the vehicle that reliably gets you to and from work, or gets you back home every night.”
Early Land Cruisers, along with other early SUVs, have become very popular in the collector market, said Brian Rabold, vice president of automotive intelligence at Hagerty, a company that closely tracks collectible vehicles. Toyota Land Cruisers were among the first SUVs to rise sharply in value. Between 2010 and 2015, classic Land Cruisers were among the first older SUVs to be worth over $100,000 in value, he said.
Although Land Cruiser values, along with other older SUVs, have tapered off slightly in the last couple of years, a 1970 Land Cruiser customized with modern equipment recently sold for $270,000 on the auction website BringATrailer.