Chasing the title of fastest SUV requires serious horsepower

Toyota has a rich history of building outlandish one-off projects, but none of them can match the wild nature of this Land Cruiser. Built to break the world record for the fastest SUV, Toyota named this three-row, body-on-frame beast the Land Speed Cruiser. The play on works helps the reality of the project sink in. Engineers had to make a 5,800-pound SUV perform like a sports car in order to break the 211-mph top speed record in the SUV category. The stock 5.7-liter V-8 was heavily modified to make more than 2,000 horsepower, while the suspension was given new life with high-dollar speed parts.

The Land Cruiser’s interior also received a handful of updates like a FIA-certified racing seat and roll cage, along with information displays for keeping tabs on the mechanicals. Surprisingly, the rest of the interior remains factory. The wood grain and leather steering wheel, dashboard, and center console are all intact. A new shifter replaces the stock unit, however, as Toyota updated the gearbox with a new racing transmission designed for the extra power and speed. And all but the driver’s seat was removed for weight reduction. Toyota then put former NASCAR driver Carl Edwards behind the wheel at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. So how fast did the Land Speed Cruiser go? Keep reading for the official speed.

Continue reading for more information.

Toyota Land Speed Cruiser Sets World Speed Record Exterior High Resolution
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Toyota Land Speed Cruiser Sets World Speed Record Exterior High Resolution
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Toyota engineers worked the Land Cruiser into something far more sinister than a traditional 4WD SUV..

Toyota engineers worked the Land Cruiser into something far more sinister than a traditional 4WD SUV. Work was put in at Toyota’s Arizona Proving grounds with speeds reaching over 200 mph before the team moved to Majave’s longer, two-mile runway. The engineering team threw some serious modifications at the stock engine to generate enough power to overcome the Land Cruiser’s brick-like aerodynamics. The Land Cruiser’s 5.7-liter V-8 was given all-new internals with a larger bore and stroke. Displacing 6.2 liters, the engine was then fitted with two massive Garrett turbochargers generating 55 pounds of boost. A custom intercooler has an ice reservoir for keeping air temperatures down, while a hand-built, polished intake manifold delivers the boosted air into the dual-overhead cam V-8. The resulting horsepower ranges between 1,500 and 2,000, depending on the ECU tune.

The suspension was also heavily reworked. The factory shocks were ditched in favor of Fox Racing shocks and the brakes were swapped for high-performance parts. Obviously, the ride height was dropped down to the bare minimum and underbody aero plating was added to control airflow. The frame rails were carved out and reinforced to make room for the super wide Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires mounted on five-spoke wheels.

Toyota Land Speed Cruiser Sets World Speed Record Drivetrain High Resolution
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Toyota Land Speed Cruiser Sets World Speed Record Drivetrain High Resolution
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Toyota Land Speed Cruiser Sets World Speed Record Drivetrain High Resolution
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These modifications were all necessary for the Land Speed Cruiser to break the previous top speed record made by an SUV at 211 mph.

These modifications were all necessary for the Land Speed Cruiser to break the previous top speed record made by an SUV at 211 mph. With Carl Edwards suited up and the two-mile runway clear of traffic, the Land Speed Cruiser began attempting the record. “At 225 mph, the thing was wandering a little bit,” Edwards said. “All I could think was that Craig [the test driver] said, ‘No matter what, just keep your foot in it,’” He certainly did just that as the Land Speed Cruiser sped up another five mph, ultimately hitting 230.02 mph, breaking the previous record by 19 mph. “It’s safe to say that this is the fastest SUV on the planet,” Edwards said after the high-speed runs were completed.

As you can imagine, Toyota has absolutely zero plans to mass produce the Land Speed Cruiser or anything remotely as powerful. If you’re looking for outrageous horsepower in an SUV, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has you covered with the 475-horsepower Dodge Durango SRT and the 707-horsepower Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.

Press release

Land Cruiser, Toyota’s iconic go-anywhere four-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicle, has earned myriad accolades and records over the 60-plus years it’s been in production. And now, among them: the title of “World’s Fastest SUV” thanks to a record speed of over 230 mph, attained by the custom 2,000-horsepower Land Speed Cruiser.

With former Toyota NASCAR driver Carl Edwards at the helm, the understated Land Speed Cruiser shattered the previous “World’s Fastest SUV” record by more than 19 mph, reaching a GPS-verified and video-documented 230.02 mph before running out of usable pavement. With enough track ahead, the Land Speed Cruiser could be expected to go even faster.

“At Toyota, we like to say ‘Let’s Go Places,’ and the Land Speed Cruiser goes places faster than any SUV before it. This was an aspirational goal that inspired us all,” said Steve Appelbaum, Toyota Motor Sales national engagement marketing manager. “We achieved success by employing the kind of innovative solutions and unyielding determination that have long represented the core of Toyota’s soul.”

Toyota Land Speed Cruiser Sets World Speed Record Exterior High Resolution
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The Land Speed Cruiser, which debuted at the 2016 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show, started life as a stock production model before being heavily modified by a team of engineers at Toyota’s Motorsports Technical Center (MTC).

“The World’s Fastest SUV record was at 211 mph. That’s extremely fast. Toyota thought, ‘Why don’t we make a really, ultra-powerful Land Cruiser, and let’s just see how fast we can make it can go,’” said MTC Manager, Chuck Wade.

Using the Land Cruiser’s production 5.7-liter 3UR-FE V8 engine as a starting point, the team added a pair of volleyball-sized Garrett turbochargers that are capable of producing up to 55 PSI of boost. To cope with extreme force induction, the MTC team upgraded the engine’s internals with sturdier pistons and rods and a custom-made intake manifold, among other key items. This helped ensure the monstrous V8 could safely and reliably produce over 2,000 horsepower for its record-setting runs. The role of doling power was left to a custom racing transmission strong enough to withstand the stresses and abuses of high power and tremendous speeds.

Toyota Land Speed Cruiser Sets World Speed Record Exterior High Resolution
- image 715489

However, building the engine was the easy part. Driving in excess of 200 mph challenges a vehicle’s aerodynamics and stability. To aid controllability, the Land Speed Cruiser sits lower to the pavement, thus dramatically reducing the amount of turbulent air allowed to pass underneath. Its frame received some massaging in order to maintain optimal suspension geometry, and was narrowed by 3 inches to accommodate wider Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.

Test driver and championship road racer Craig Stanton played a key role in fine tuning the Land Speed Cruiser’s setup at Toyota’s Arizona Proving Ground (TAPG). His input was translated into tactile changes made by MTC’s engineers.

“I wanted the Land Speed Cruiser to provide the confidence you need, as a driver, to keep pushing even when the world around you becomes a high speed blur,” he said. “We made some setup adjustments, and it not only accelerates and shifts more smoothly, but it also has enhanced stability.”

Toyota Land Speed Cruiser Sets World Speed Record Drivetrain High Resolution
- image 715486

With the Land Speed Cruiser dialed in and finally ready for its record-setting run, recently retired Toyota NASCAR driver Carl Edwards met the team at Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California. In addition to being one of the very few places in the U.S. where supersonic flight is allowed, it features a two-and-a-half-mile paved runway perfectly suited to the Land Speed Cruiser’s mission.

Prior to Edwards’ run, Stanton warmed up the SUV, moving it along at a hefty 198 mph. On his first run, Edwards was able to hit an awe-inspiring 211 mph, but found himself running out of pavement to slow the big SUV. More boost was then dialed in to up the power, and he tried again.

The next run proved to be the most impressive. Edwards put the hammer down, and piloted the Land Speed Cruiser to its jaw-dropping 230 mph record.

“At 225 mph, the thing was wandering a little bit. All I could think was that Craig said, ‘No matter what, just keep your foot in it,’ and we got 230 mph,” Edwards recounted from behind a huge grin after setting the record. “It’s safe to say that this is the fastest SUV on the planet.”

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