How the Toyota Land Cruiser Earned the Right to Be the Most Reliable SUV

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Famous for its reliability and robust construction, Toyota is one of those brands that needs no introduction. It is not surprising that ordinary people associate the nickname with commonplace runabouts. But Toyota has a long-standing nameplate in its lineup that’s so iconic it’s worth calling it a standalone brand.


For those wondering, it’s none other than the Toyota Land Cruiser. Born in the early 1950s, the Land Cruiser proved to be a reliable off-roader and quickly became famous. The utility and reliability of the Land Cruiser have made it one of the “toughest” competitors in the family SUV segment.

However, modern SUVs are pretty much all visible and off limits. In a competitive market, it’s important to stay one step ahead, and Toyota, in all honesty, isn’t exactly quick to embrace change. With the new LC300, however, Toyota has taken a leap forward in terms of technology. Again, we feel it’s distancing itself from what the OG Land Cruiser stood for.

Needless to say, it won’t be as flexible as its predecessors, especially the pre-2000s models. Sure, the LC300 would prove capable, but it won’t stand a chance against the weather-proof Land Cruisers. bullets from the past. However, it will outlast most large SUVs. You can bet on that.

RELATED: There’s a Reason These Toyota Land Cruisers Are Rising in Value


Toyota Land Cruiser: the birth of an icon

As you may know, Jeep played an important role in helping men at war. Largely their companion when traversing all sorts of terrain, the Jeep Willys was an icon with veteran status. Much like how American feelings run towards the capable Jeep, the Japanese had their own four-wheeled companion during times of trouble.

However, since engineering at the time was a daunting task for the Japanese, Toyota was tasked with making 4x4s that could imitate the Jeep. In 1951, and the Korean War meant that the United States was in demand for a military-spec light utility vehicle. The United States government decided to order 100 units of the Jeep Willys and commissioned Toyota to manufacture them. This led to the creation of the Toyota “Jeep” BJ series.

There is an interesting take on how the Toyota 4×4 was named Land Cruiser. Technical director Hanji Umehara coined the name “Land Cruiser” as a worthy alternative to its competitor in England, Land Rover. It didn’t take long for Toyota to start improving its offering and several iterations followed: Series 20 (J20/J30) in 1955, Series 40 (J40) in 1960, Series 60 (J60) in 1980, Series 80 in 1990, the 100 series in 1998, the 200 series in 2007 and the last 300 series in 2021.

RELATED: What Makes Classic Land Cruisers Better Overlanders Than New Ones

Why is the Toyota Land Cruiser so reliable?

In its early days, the Land Cruiser was a military drill built for the road less travelled. Over the years, Toyota wanted the Land Cruiser to be more family friendly. However, Toyota developed the Land Cruiser to cope with harsh and adverse conditions around the world. The brand therefore did not want to sacrifice the Land Cruiser’s all-purpose capabilities. That’s why the team, using Kaizen principles, which it still follows today, built – or, shall we say, over-engineered – a family SUV with care and attention.

Land Cruisers are built to last almost forever, rugged examples with over 300,000 miles are not uncommon. Typically, Toyota comes up with a target that says they should be able to last 25 years. This is evident in some of the design features inherent in the Land Cruiser. In comparison, brake discs and windshields are often thicker than other vehicles. Additionally, the engine and chassis design is quite simple yet robust, with fewer complexities that can go wrong. Countless reviewers complained that the LC200 didn’t have fancy rear-wheel steering or very many electronic add-ons. It’s no surprise Toyota wasn’t quick to embrace these changes.

If you want things to last, better stick to the basics; alongside proven principles. This is one of the strengths of following Kaizen. It’s about perfecting an idea and making it evolve gradually. Of course, you can’t just stick to a philosophy and go with the flow. You’ll have to innovate, but it doesn’t have to be radical. Unlike most OEMs, Toyota isn’t crazy about introducing breakthrough technology.

The 4Runner is a prime example. The sixth-generation 4Runner is just around the corner. But why do you think it takes so long? The new truck has to live up to its name as a reliable vehicle, and Toyota will make sure it does. If it takes time, that’s fine. Even though the 4Runner is old, people are buying it, but paying crazy premiums.

Conversely, a lack of demand caused Toyota to phase out the Land Cruiser in the United States. However, when Toyota announced the discontinuation of the Land Cruiser, sales skyrocketed, which says a lot about the iconic SUV. Toyota sold more Land Cruisers in January 2021 than any other month in the past decade.

Sources: Toyota

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