Toyota 4Runner’s sixth generation answers one big question about the new Land Cruiser

Ever since the Toyota Land Cruiser nameplate was revived last August, we at JNC have been a bit flummoxed about it. Though it wore the legendary name, it didn’t feel like a real Land Cruiser. It just felt off somehow, almost toy-like. We couldn’t quite put our finger on it until now, because the newly unveiled sixth-gen Toyota 4Runner is the actual real deal.

One reason the new American Land Cruiser didn’t feel like a real one was, of course, it wasn’t. That honor goes to the J300 Land Cruiser that isn’t sold in the US unless you go to the Lexus dealer. The American Land Cruiser is actually a J250 Land Cruiser Prado, which allowed Toyota to drop the price by nearly $30,000 from the J200, down to $57,345. That should be lauded, as there hasn’t been a Land Cruiser at that price point in two decades, since the J100 circa 2005.

In the process though, the Land Cruiser lost an essential part of its character. It was difficult to pinpoint, but then one day during a chat around the JNC water cooler it dawned on us: The J250 doesn’t look dignified. With the J300, whether you Land Cruise into a country club or a UN humanitarian aid zone, the vehicle projects authority, capability, and security. It commands respect.

In contrast, the J250 Land Cruiser seems forced and artificial. Don’t get us wrong, we’re suckers for retro styling — nostalgic is our middle name — and although we haven’t driven one we have no reason to doubt that it’s an adept off-roader. But like a lot of modern SUVs, like the new Ford Bronco or post-TJ Jeeps, it might be trying too hard. It’s possible to both look cool and to convey rank with subtlety, but the 250’s styling leans too heavily toward the former.

The FJ Cruiser did a better job of balancing a fun, throwback design with a tough, off-road chassis, possibly because it was smaller. A larger vehicle, especially a flagship, can’t necessarily pull it off in the same way.

It was confusing why Toyota had gone that route for its supposed SUV king. With the reveal of the 2025 4Runner, it becomes a little clearer. That’s because the 4Runner and the Land Cruiser are almost the same truck. Both share a platform and have the same wheelbase. In fact, the 4Runner is a bit longer than the Land Cruiser, though the Land Cruiser is substantially taller. The 4Runner ditches the V6 for a turbo four making 278 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque in base trim, but an optional hybrid turbo four makes 326 horses and 465 lb-ft, the exact same powertrain found in the J250.

In many ways the 4Runner is an even more capable rig than the Land Cruiser. There’s several different trim levels, with some oriented toward luxury and some oriented toward off-roading. Even in the latter category there’s differentiation. The TRD Pro is tuned like an Ironman Stewart desert-running Baja racer, while a new range-topping Trailhunter grade is tuned for overlanding.

The Trailhunter out-equips the Land Cruiser with Old Man Emu remote reservoir shocks, 33-inch tires, steel skid plates, and a factory snorkel. It has a 9.2-inch ground clearance versus the J250’s 8.0 inches. And it has a 32-degree approach and a 24-degree departure angle, whereas the J250 has only 31 and 17. 4Runner buyers can also order a third row but Land Cruiser customers can’t.

And on top of all that, the 4Runner has more cohesive styling while also including several retro touches. The angled C-pillar is a 4Runner trademark. Its rear glass wraps onto the roof in a killer touch that recalls the first two generations and pulls at our heartstrings with all of its 6,000-pound towing capacity. Up front, TRD Pro and Trailhunter grilles are festooned with the old school Helvetica “TOYOTA” rather than the tri-oval logo, and at the rear the 4Runner still has the beloved roll-down window in the tailgate.

The styling has bits of Tacoma and Sequoia, but overall it’s a clear step in 4Runner evolution. There’s no mistaking it for anything else, whereas the J250 doesn’t really look like either its J200 Land Cruiser or J150 Prado predecessors. Oh, and despite its similarities with the Tacoma, the new 4Runner is still built in Japan.

We’ll leave you to read the full 4Runner specs elsewhere on the internet, but even with just what we’ve listed here we find it hard to make a case for the Land Cruiser. With its massive range of options and features, the 4Runner feels like a more complete product.

That brings us back to the J250 Land Cruiser and why it seemed lacking. The Land Cruiser Prado and the 4Runner have always been related, but now it might be that the 4Runner is the primary design and the Land Cruiser is the offshoot. It seems like the US-spec Cruiser was a bone thrown to enthusiasts who demanded the model be revived, wearing the name and look of Land Cruiser without being a full-fledged one.

We are of course picking the smallest of nits. We were some of those annoying enthusiasts yelling at Toyota for discontinuing the Land Cruiser. The revived American Cruiser might be more of an image car than the 4Runner, but at least it’s no unibody Defender. In other words, it has off-road chops worthy of its name.

And it should be noted that we’re talking about US market Toyotas only. The rest of the world the gets diesel and diesel-hybrid J250s, and there’s also the 349-horse, 479 lb-ft, turbo-V6, 10-speed Lexus GX550 built on the same platform. It’s like when Honda offered the Civic, Domani, Del Sol, Acura Integra, and Type R all based on the same platform, all sold simultaneously. We didn’t quite expect the Land Cruiser to fall mid-pack into this realignment, but with a multitude of options the customer wins in the end.

Images courtesy of Toyota.

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6 Responses to Toyota 4Runner’s sixth generation answers one big question about the new Land Cruiser

  1. Danny says:

    I don’t think the Land Cruiser ever found enough buyers in the US for Toyota to take it seriously here. I find it more frustrating that Toyota can justify so many SUV variations, but they insist that they have to partner with Subaru and BMW for their low volume sports cars. They’re the largest car company in the world and have probably sank billions into R&D for some of their platforms, but they can’t come up with their own revvy inline-4 for the GR86?

  2. Jim Daniels says:

    Although I have not seen the 04 Land Cruiser or the 2025 4 Runner I have been keeping up on the new models, as my niece has been patiently waiting the 4 Runner to be revealed. I found for her the current 2005 4 Runner V8 for her that she became the second owner of and has put around 120,000 miles on for a total of 220,000. She was not impressed with the looks of the last generation and she likes what she sees with the release last nite of the 2025 6th generation.
    From a quality standpoint I am glad to see they will be made in Japan. Where pride in workmanship is second to none. I am impressed enough with the way the factory TrailHunter is equipped that I may find a reason to get one myself. Maybe we can get rid of my wife’s 2016 Honda Pilot.

  3. Alan says:

    “…nostalgic is our middle name.”

    I LOL’d.

    Bringing home a 5-speed 4×4 V6 ’93 4Runner any day now. Very excited to add it to the garage of bajillion-mile Toyotas.

    The 6th gen looks like a smash hit home run. Toyota is on fire and offering more enthusiast-targeted vehicles than any other mass market company in 2024. This era will be recalled wistfully.

    Astute analysis, Ben.

  4. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    Physical knobs!!! Muscle memory so so much safer than hunting & pecking.

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