SUV’s 2024 line features more than all-new parts. Toyota has downsized it and changed its focus to win back the off-road enthusiasts who once built its reputation and high sales
- After decades of increasing sizes and prices, the Land Cruiser returns to its roots
- North America receives the all-new SUV in a smaller version than the global one
- There is even a “1958 Edition” with circular headlights and unpained bumpers
Sport-utility vehicles, or SUVs, have become a textbook example of market trend. They began their ascent in the 2000s from the ashes of other trends – minivans were no longer cool, and the first crossovers failed to impress. SUVs eventually became a worldwide obsession, dominating literally all segments and brands. Now, there are signs that their bubble is about to burst, and the automotive market will move on.
“But wait”, you might ask. “Isn’t the article about an SUV Toyota has just released?” Yes, it is. But this is not a modern-day SUV like the Highlander. Toyota noticed that many people still enjoy actual off-road driving and, as a result, need capable cars for that. And it certainly noticed that they have been buying Wranglers and Broncos so far. The Land Cruiser of the photo above comes to perfectly respond to all those events.
Isn’t there a new Land Cruiser already?
Yes, and it appears just above these sentences. You see, Toyota has used the Land Cruiser nameplate since the 1950s. As usual in the auto industry, it has made it bigger, fancier, and more expensive with each new generation. After so long, the SUV went from a no-frills off-roader to the full-size SUV as we know it now. Even though it preserves its capabilities, those increases have driven it away from its original audience.
Toyota has taken some actions to address that issue over time. The first was spinning off the Prado: this is a smaller and cheaper SUV for regions where the original is too much. In Europe, for example, it is simply the Land Cruiser, marketed without that last name. The other was selling both as Lexus in North America, as LX and GX. If people are going to keep them in the city anyway, why not focus and profit from that?
Ups and downs in the off-road line
If that was the whole scenario, the Land Cruiser would be having an easy life. But check the photos above. Toyota has the 4Runner to steal off-road fans; the Sequoia to attract family haulers; and the Lexus to take the wealthier buyers of both segments. And we are not even including the crossovers in this list. The Land Cruiser was struggling to sell, and the reason is crystal-clear: there was no longer room for it in the line.
The old SUV’s withdrawal from North America caused a historical loss more than anything. Sales-wise, it was actually put out of its misery. Toyota never wanted to abandon such a popular nameplate but, as Car and Driver wrote, it had to rethink its strategy. The new Land Cruiser is the latest Prado generation, sure, and the Lexus GX’s generalist counterpart. But it brings a lot more than that, especially in North America.
Rugged looks and the 1958 edition
If you browse the SUV’s technical details, everything you will see is predictable. It rides on Toyota’s brand new TNGA platform, so that brings the latest infotainment system, modern electronic systems, and a few fuel-efficient powertrain options (albeit with no electrification). The Land Cruiser stands out when we look at its 1958 version. First, because it is the base one, which is already rare. Second, because of its content.
Just look at it. Unpainted bumpers, no chrome trim, black door handles and mirror covers, darkened rims, no roof racks… And there are those beautiful headlights with a retro touch. Now, though the new market position brought the price down to around $50,000, it is still not cheap. But that is not a problem because it was never the main purpose. The new Land Cruiser stands out for going back to its off-road origins.
What does that mean in practice?
That no-frills version honors the nameplate’s off-road tradition. It is not as capable as the Wrangler or the Bronco, sure. But it offers an interesting balance of driving fun and affordability, which is everything most enthusiasts want. We can say that this Land Cruiser has brought a modern version of the recipe that made the Jeep Cherokee and Nissan Pathfinder popular in the 1990s – and with them, the entire SUV category.
Now, we can expect the SUV to recover its sales and its maker to have a stronger presence in that market niche. Toyota is experienced with off-road SUVs, so it would not be weird to think of more trim levels and a long line of accessories coming later to enhance its overlanding appeal. For now, all we know is that the press conference hinted at the release of two other models, one of them reminding us of the FJ Cruiser.
What about the Land Cruiser elsewhere?
Some regions will only sell the smaller model, others only the larger one, and only a few will offer both. In this case, the smaller Land Cruiser will probably retain the Prado surname. There is an even smaller group of regions that sell a third version: the 70, which appeared for the first time in 1984 and has had only mild updates ever since. In other words, there will be many options to enjoy the SUV’s off-road capabilities.
Toyota will have problems in North America mostly because of the 4Runner. While it is slightly smaller, its purpose is too similar. The specialized press believes the 4Runner will downsize in its new generation too, especially if it borrows the Tacoma’s powertrain as it has done for some time. Then again, it is a matter of time for us to discover that. For now, let us just enjoy the stylish, no-frills SUV Toyota has just released.
This light-duty version of the new Land Cruiser shows that Toyota actually listens to its fans. It comes with many attributes to win old and young buyers who want a traditional SUV with actual off-road appeal. Do you think it can join the Wrangler and the Bronco and form a market category of rugged SUVs? Or do you think that each of those models are too different to compete and will simply carve niches of their own?
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In 1984, Jeep released the Cherokee XJ with a similar proposal. The model did so well among enthusiasts that it stayed in the same generation until 2001. You can read more about it clicking here.
Danillo Almeida has explored his passion for cars in two distinct ways. The first one is his graduation course in Mechanical Engineering, which will hopefully lead to a job position in the field. The other one is expressing his knowledge and opinions on the matter through writing. Almeida has already contributed to blogs, stores, and websites in general writing automotive content in many formats.