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1996 Toyota Land Cruiser REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/6/2017

What’s New: The Black Package debuts, featuring black paint along with chrome mirrors and door handles.

Review: Long before Explorers and Troopers--and years ahead of the first Blazers and Broncos--Toyota joined the slowly-blossoming sport-utility arena with the first Land Cruiser, rival mainly to Jeeps and Land Rovers. That was 1960, when the first canvas-topped "Landcruisers" cost less than $3000. Today, Toyota offers a descendant of that vehicle under the same name that is more powerful and a lot more expensive.

Only one model is on sale, a four-wheel-drive wagon powered by a 4.5-liter, 24-valve six-cylinder engine that cranks out 212 horsepower. Revamping for 1995 added airbags for both the driver and front passenger. Those front occupants also enjoy the benefit of height-adjustable seatbelts. Four-wheel antilock braking is installed on all Land Cruisers, working with all-disc binders. Excitement for 1996 is limited to something menacingly called The Black Paint Package, which consists of, surprise, black paint as well as chromed mirrors and door handles.

For peak traction in difficult spots at low speeds, an exclusive front and rear locking differential is available. That makes Land Cruiser the only sport-utility on sale in the U.S. with three locking units, to amplify the effect of the standard permanent four-wheel-drive system. In fully locked mode, all four wheels are driven in unison, with equal torque distribution. A second-gear-start feature boosts traction on slippery surfaces. Land Cruisers seat seven and can tow a 5,000-pound trailer.

For its stout sticker price, at least you get a lot of equipment, including air conditioning, power locks and windows, cruise control, and more. Traditionally, potential shoppers have faced long waiting lists to get a Land Cruiser, undaunted by the prospect of a stiff ride or quickly-depleting fuel tank. These capable machines attract the kind of customer who might otherwise pay big bucks for a Land Rover or Range Rover, whether or not any plans for off-roading lay ahead. Any of them would look good decorating a driveway in an affluent neighborhood--especially to passersby who can appreciate the heritage that accompanies such a purchase.

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