Are we too soft for the 70 series? And Jeremiah visits the Land Cruiser Heritage Museum to check out the new Land Cruiser 250!
Since Toyota announced the coming of the new Land Cruiser 250 about a month ago, I’ve been asked by many what I thought of it. Truthfully, I’ve been waiting for it to sink in a little before I even formed an opinion. There is a lot to absorb, both visually and technically. Plus, without actually getting some hands-on time, It’s impossible to get a real feeling for a vehicle. Toyota uses the phrase “Genchi Genbutsu” to describe the necessary act of actually going to the location and seeing the real thing in order to size up a situation. I was waiting for the opportunity to do just that, and then I got it.
Last weekend, Chandra, Atlas, and I made the journey to Salt Lake City, Utah, for an evening with the new Toyota Land Cruiser and its designer, Jin Won Kim. Toyota had placed a shiny new 1958 model of the Land Cruiser in the Land Cruiser Heritage Museum for the lucky attendees of Cruiser Fest 2023 to be able to practice Genchi Genbutsu for themselves. Having the opportunity to view it in a more intimate setting and visit with the designer the night before really gave me the time I needed to solidify my opinion about it. But first, here is what I learned.
The design team in charge of the project has been working on this for a long time. True to other Toyota principles, they did a lot of research before even getting started. They were present at FJSummit in 2019, I think, and I remember them talking with Land Cruiser enthusiasts and riding trails. They visited the Land Cruiser Heritage Museum and spoke with Dan and Greg, who can both speak at the highest levels about what “Land Cruiser” really means to us. They also consulted designers of the previous Land Cruiser models to make sure their vision was going to stay consistent with that of the fathers of past versions. It was crucial to them that they kept true to the brand, and the team was on a mission to “get it right.”
While we were checking out his work, Jin Won Kim got to see some of ours. He took a liking to this patina restomod we built a few years back, and even gave it the 1st ever Jin Won Kim Toyota Designer’s Award.
Other than my obvious elation (and relief) that the Land Cruiser is back in the first place, I’m happiest with two things about the model. First of all, I like that Toyota steered the new design away from the luxury market. The 200 series is an awesome and capable vehicle, but it had strayed away from what Toyota originally intended the Land Cruiser to be in the first place—a simple, affordable, reliable, and rugged 4X4 vehicle. The second thing I like is the subtle homage the new design pays to previous models. If you look closely, there are 60 series design elements in the crisp, squared-off body lines, as well as the front clip and headlights. There’s even a lettered TOYOTA badge like a 60/62. The 250 shares the same wheelbase as the 80 series, with good approach and departure angles, and there’s a very similar feel to the cabin design. There’s also a little splash of 70 series in there, with the down-sloping door line and the chiseled, lower, and narrower front clip (for visibility). To me, it looks like a Land Cruiser and even feels like one when you are sitting in it. I like the drive train choice, too. Even though I didn’t get to drive it, I imagine the 4-cylinder hybrid will make the 250 feel similar to what I’m used to on earlier models with “about the right amount of power.”
Now, to address the question I’ve heard hundreds of times. “Why not just bring the 70 series to the US?” I’ve listened to many guesses on this, ranging from “It would be too much work to make the 70 series EPA and safety compliant in the US” to “Toyota is already building the 70 series to capacity all over the world, so why add another market?” It might be a combination of those things and more, but I’ve got my own idea. I’ve traveled to many other countries where the 70 series is used for its intended purpose, and I can say that in every case, the end users of the Land Cruiser are using their Toyotas in far more extreme ways than most of us in the United States do. I’ve seen them carrying everything from towers of coffee bean sacks to Brahma bulls through the mountains of Central and South America. I’ve seen them traverse Australia’s relentless terrain with enough supplies, fuel, and water to last for weeks on board. They are used and abused in extreme duty all over Africa and even more so in the Middle East. In all those cases, and even though I’m intimately familiar with their ruggedness, I’ve always been amazed at how well they can survive in those environments. Toyota knows all of this too. They designed the 70 series for those uses, and they know we (Americans), with our superior highway systems and infrastructure, really don’t need what the 70 series offers. Of course, we enthusiasts “think” we need it, but would enough people here be willing to sacrifice the comfort provided by decades of engineering improvements for the durability (and looks) of a 70 series? And are there really enough buyers to make it worth the work that Toyota would have to do to jump through the compliance and capacity hoops necessary to bring the model to the US? I bet Toyota thinks not.
What do you think? Are we too soft for the 70 series Land Cruiser? What do you think of the new Land Cruiser 250? We will make commenting on our website available for a few days to let you share your opinions.