Toyota retires the most venerable off-road vehicle in existence with a bang to pay homage to its predecessors which helped it earn the status it has today.
Out of Spec Score: 61/100
One thing I really like about the 2021 Land Cruiser Heritage Edition, and the 200 Series in general, is that you can tell it’s a Land Cruiser. The large rear arches, tail lights, and general silhouette haven’t changed so much as they have grown with the times over the past 40 odd years. It’s not a particularly sharp looking vehicle, and I’m not even sure if it looks good because of how it’s designed or if it just looks good because it’s a Land Cruiser, but that is besides the point. The front end looks much better than the early 200 Series though, and it isn’t over designed which I do like. Available in only Blizzards Pearl and Midnight Black Metallic, it absolutely looks the business.
Differences for the Heritage Edition are subtle albeit tasteful. The first thing a Land Cruiser aficionado (such as myself) will notice is the lack of running boards. I am a huge proponent of function over form, and this is a perfect example of that in practice, as it gives the big 200 more ground clearance, which now stands at 8.9 inches.
Up top you will notice a Yakima roof rack, perfect for storing extra gear or an oversized spare tire should the buyer opt to go with something a little more aggressive than the 265/60R18s all seasons that are fitted as stock. While the stock tires are no larger than that of a regular 200 Series, they are wrapped around forged aluminum bronze BBS 18 inch wheels that are bespoke to the Heritage Edition.
Finally, wrapping up the Heritage Edition glam is the classic ‘Land Cruiser’ badge on the rear pillar, something we have not seen since the 60-Series which ended production almost 30 years ago. It’s not the most aggro styled off-road vehicle on the market, but it finally looks like a Land Cruiser that is meant for the trail instead of the mall parking lot. Due to these tasteful differences, I score it a 6.5/10
Moving over to the center console there are neat and tidy heating and air con controls, along with a 9” infotainment system, which I have a few gripes about. It’s fairly small at 9 inches and not a touchscreen unit, worse yet however is the pixel quality, which is about a decade behind. No worries though, it will probably outlast most vehicles on the road. While the infotainment system is dated, the 14 speaker JBL sound system is not, which I will get into a bit more later. Buttons for the trick 4WD tech reside near the shift lever, which gives you the option of ‘manumatic’ shifting, useful in off-road situations.
Heated and cooled seats wrapped in premium leather are comfortable and will make sure you have no issues on the highway for extended periods of time or on the trail, as does the heated steering wheel. Second row occupants are treated to heated seats as well and their own climate control panel. Interestingly, the 2020 Heritage Edition was only offered with two rows of seats, though the 2021 allows them to be added as an option. Ours was fitted with only two rows however, freeing up a lot space in the rear for camping supplies or other cargo for Land Cruiser-ing. Though a bit outdated, everything feels solid and is of quality, even if it’s a little too nice off the showroom floor for off-road abuse. I score it a 6.5 out of 10.
Here. We. Go. Off-road is the primary domain where the Land Cruiser excels, so I will spare you most of the details on the on road performance. The KDSS (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System) that hydraulically adjusts the sway bars in cornering and off-road situations does help with on road performance, though I would advise letting the Cayenne that’s on your bumper pass on the backroads and just enjoy the scenery. It’s a Land Cruiser not a Land Racer, and while it’s now 14 year old 5.7L DOHC V8 pumps out 381 horsepower funneled through a smooth 8-speed automatic, it’s not enough to move the nearly two ton off roader in any fashion that could be described as quick.
As most readers know however, the Land Cruiser shines when the pavement ends, and the Heritage Edition is no exception to that. Equipped with plenty of off-road ammunition, it may be the most capable Land Cruiser yet, in stock form anyway. Starting with the mechanical basics, the Heritage Edition, much like the standard 200-Series, offers a center locking torsen limited-slip differential and transfer case with both high and low range.
The Heritage Edition is also equipped with four extra skid plates to protect its more vulnerable bits in high stakes off road situations, which saved me a few times on the trail. As mentioned above, the KDSS system controls sway bar stiffness hydraulically, and can actually disconnect them in certain situations, which is particularly useful to gain more articulation for the rear as it is still a live axle. I was able to get a great amount of flex out of the rear of the big 200, see the photo below from our recent comparison against the new Defender 110, which if you haven’t read yet I highly recommend you do just for the photos alone.
The Land Cruiser’s arsenal of off-road tech doesn’t stop there however, with low mode engaged, you open up the option for Crawl Control, which is essentially a cruise control system for off road situations, controllable via a small knob on the center console. I never used this as I am a firm believer in having as much control as possible in off road situations, though it’s a neat feature no less.
Engaging low range also offers the ability to choose between a wide range of terrain options such as rock and dirt, sand, snow, and gravel. It is slightly annoying however that low-range must be engaged in order to use this. While there are no mechanical front or rear lockers, the Heritage Edition utilizes the latest variation of Toyota’s ATRAC traction control system to mimic mechanical lockers using signals from all four wheel speed sensors.
So how well does it all work? Really, really well. I piloted the Heritage Edition through our IronClads off-road loop, a challenging trail west of Lyons Colorado and was able to make it through with no hiccups, save for high centering a few times due to lack of ground clearance, which as stated earlier stands at 8.9 inches. Give it a bit of right boot and the ATRAC system will work you up most obstacles with little to no issue, I didn’t need to take any bypass tracks in wet snowy conditions which is impressive.
In fact, I was able to take the same lines I took in my lifted 60-Series Land Cruiser fitted with 33” muddies and solid axles. Due to its off road performance capabilities, I am giving it a 6 out of 10 score, had it been equipped with 33” AT or MT tires that score would have climbed a bit more.
Practicality is typically something Land Cruisers excel in, and for the most part, the Heritage Edition subscribes to that same notion. Even without the running boards ingress and egress is fairly smooth and there’s plenty of room for groceries or whatever else you can think of in the back. The Yakima roof rack further adds to the storage, especially for those who enjoy camping or overlanding.
Though our Heritage Edition only came with seating for five occupants, there is an option for a third row now on the final 2021 model. Driving the Heritage Edition every day would be a treat, as it’s fitted without AT or MT tires the ride around town is comfortable (see more below) and it can be driven in just about any condition when leaving the house is deemed appropriate.
Historically, Land Cruisers have always been extremely reliable, which is an added practicality in that you can take it nearly anywhere and worrying about breaking down isn’t likely to be an issue. The V8 power plant and option for a tow receiver means you can tow up to 8500lbs as well, a nice touch for potential buyers with campers, boats, or a race car and a trailer. This helps the Heritage Edition earn its 7.5 out of 10 score.
Historically, one of the Land Cruiser’s strongest points has been how comfortable it is, particularly with independent front suspension models such as the 100 and 200 series. The Heritage Edition follows suit, and is a very comfortable place to spend time both on and off the trail.
I found the heated and cooled leather seats to be among some of the most comfortable I have encountered, especially for an off-road vehicle. While it doesn’t share the active height control system and comfort setting of its more boujee Lexus LX570 counterpart, in town manners leave little to be desired. The Heritage Edition absorbs road imperfections, both on and off road, with ease. The Heritage Edition earns an 8 out of 10 for comfort.
Due to its nearly fourteen year old platform, the Heritage Edition isn’t exactly dripping with tech. I will start with what it does have, it’s four zone climate control system is nice for those in parts of the world where extreme weather is normal and works extremely well, no one will likely argue about being cold or warm which is a plus for buyers with children or an angsty in-law.
As detailed above, the Heritage Edition boasts an impressive list of off-road technology, including a 360 degree camera for both parking and off-roading. The Heritage Edition also offers a wireless charging station, three 12V plugs, and one 120V plug. There’s no need to bring a stereo when camping in the Heritage Edition, as perhaps the best tech it has is its 14 speaker JBL sound system, rewarding both driver, occupants, and anyone else within three campsites with deep bass, full mids, and rich highs.
That’s about it though. The infotainment system is archaic, and while it does have bluetooth capabilities, it does not offer the option to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Arguably, Land Cruisers lack of tech has been part of why they have always been considered so reliable, with early models being more akin to a tractor than an SUV. Though I wouldn’t call it a tractor, the Heritage Edition is still a solid decade behind its competitors in terms of technology, earning it a 5 out of 10 score.
Connected Services 3/10
Much like the technology department, the Heritage Editions offers little in terms of connected services. Though you’re not likely to have service on the trail, the 2021 Heritage Edition does offer Safety Connect, which offers users 24/7 automatic collision notifications, an emergency assistance button, enhanced roadside assistance, and a stolen vehicle locator option. There is not an option to connect to the vehicle remotely through the Toyota App (its actual name), and no Wi-Fi capability or anything else. This will likely change if we get another generation of Land Cruiser (fingers crossed), but for now, it’s fairly disappointing. Due to this, it earns a low score of 3/10.
Active Safety 5/10
While Toyota opted to skimp on tech and connected services, they did give the Heritage Edition some active safety features, though I wish it had more. Equipped with ‘Toyota Safety Sense’, there are a few things that earn back points for the Heritage Edition. These include a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, 10 airbags, and active dynamic cruise control. All of these are standard on the Heritage Edition as is active blind spot monitoring. I would like to see some of Toyota’s other safety features like active lane keeping trickle down to the next generation Land Cruiser, though for now it earns a 5 out of 10 score.
Land Cruisers have always had a very high barrier to entry off the showroom floor. The Heritage Edition is the most expensive yet, starting at $87,995. This is a tough one to score however, because they will literally run forever with proper maintenance. Sadly for the Heritage Edition, I am not scoring it for how well of a value it is after a few decades of ownership. With a TRD Pro 4Runner costing roughly two thirds of what a Land Cruiser costs, it’s an attractive prospect to buyers if they aren’t concerned with V8 power or the Land Cruiser badge, as is the TRD Pro Sequoia for those who need three rows of seating and a V8.
Non-family rivals such as the new Land Rover Defender and the Patrol based Nissan Armada start at roughly $40,000 and $50,000, respectively, making them attractive prospects as well. However, none of them have the Land Cruiser badge, and in the off-road world, that means something. It’s also likely that none of them, including it’s in-house competition, will last as long, or hold their value as well. There’s something to be said about the Land Cruisers long term value too, though off the showroom floor it earns a score of 4 out of 10.
Editors Influence 9.5/10
Due to that rock solid, pun intended, reliability and off road capability, the bond Land Cruiser ownership offers is second to none. From the moment you get in a Land Cruiser, it’s easy to believe that Toyota does three times the amount of R&D on a Land Cruiser than they do on anything else. They are expensive, but once you can afford one, you’re not likely to give it up. Out of the forty plus vehicles I have owned, including BMW M cars, P cars, and classic Toyota Supras and MR2s, the only vehicle I truly regret selling is my Land Cruiser.
I gave the Heritage Edition a 9.5 out of 10 score for editors’ influence, more active safety and including 33” AT tires would have been the perfect touch to set it apart from its regular counterpart and earn it a 10 out of 10 score. Those who can afford the Heritage Edition are likely to enjoy it for not only years, but decades to come should they decide to keep it, racking up plenty of miles and smiles along the way.