The Land Cruiser 100 represents the culmination of 50 years of building 4x4s. Today, the Land Cruiser has evolved from a serious Jeep type 4x4 into the ultimate luxury all wheel drive sport utility vehicle. While it is considered by most as far more of an upscale luxury sport utility, than the down in the dirt rough and ready 4x4 that is it’s roots, Toyota still managed to maintain it’s incredible off road durability, while making this model the most highway friendly Land Cruiser yet.
In January of 1998, the Land Cruiser 100 series was born to most of the world. (A few countries, most notably in South America, would retain old 80 series.) By this time, the Land Cruiser had earned a strong reputation worldwide for its high performance on difficult terrain as well as for its maneuverability and durability, but the evolution from bare bones hardcore off road utility vehicle to all wheel drive luxury was well underway.
With the development of the Land Cruiser 100, Toyota created a prestige 4WD with significantly improved on-road performance, while sacrificing a bit of its traditional off-road abilities. With double wishbone IFS front suspension and rack and pinion steering, the Land Cruiser 100 was designed to feel more like a passenger car than its heavy-duty predecessors. To further improve comfort and steering stability, hydraulic vehicle height adjustment and dynamic suspension control were added as options, aiming at improved performance on paved roads. The interior was luxurious, with air-conditioning and high-end audio, and an optional DVD navigation system and full leather interior standard in many models.
In December of 1998, the Japanese market Cygnus was released for export to the US. Styled just like the LX470, this model was positioned as the luxury class Land Cruiser 100, more prestigious than the LC100 itself.
Though the Land Cruiser 100 continues to evolve into a passenger car, there are still users overseas who drive it off-road. To meet these needs, such as in Australia and other rugged environments, Toyota has created a Land Cruiser 105-series with a solid front axle and coil springs in the suspension. While officially the 105 series, it’s often referred to as simply the base model 100 series or the 100 series GX. Toyota essentially placed the new 100 series and interior onto an older 80 series frame and suspension. The differences between the base solid axle 100 and most expensive luxury version is stark. The 105 Land Cruiser can be had with manual locking hubs, a manual transmission and part time transfer case, in addition to the solid front axle and front and rear locking diffs.
In the luxury IFS version, the transfer lever extending from the center console is about the only thing that tells you this Land Cruiser is a 4x4 and not a passenger car. It has more luxury features than its predecessor 80-series, including an optional DVD navigation system with EMV (Electro Multi Vision) in the center panel and a top-flight audio system. The upper grade has an option for genuine leather seats. The 100-series does not have over fenders, but the wide body means more space on the inside as well.
Even though a solid axle can still be had, this model, makes it clear that this flagship Land Cruiser has reached the end of it’s serious off road roots. With IFS and lower ground clearance, this generation just cannot compete with the older generation Land cruisers when it comes to serious off road ability. However, Toyota does retain 4 wheel drive and low range as well as an optional rear locker. (The front locker of the prior 80 series, appears to no longer be available on IFS models.) And the extreme durability that Toyota Land Cruiser owners expect, is still present in this latest model.
However, if one considers that the Land Cruiser 100 is the flag ship of all Toyotas, the absolute top of the line and must represent the ultimate in luxury, performance and status, then it is understandable that Toyota chose the design path they did. And in doing so, they still retained as much off road ability as was practice.
After all, Toyota still has the long running Land Cruiser 70 series to fall back on as the true off road successor and continuer of the tradition first set about by the original Land Cruiser. Today the Land 100 and 70 series represents the best of all worlds. The ultimate in luxury and prestige and the ultimate in off road utility.