It’s hard to understate the importance of the Toyota Land Cruiser to the off-road community. Born from an attempt to reverse-engineer the American jeep during World War II, over the last half-century, it’s grown from a compact two-door all-terrain vehicle to a mighty, massive SUV with room for seven or more people. Indeed, growth has defined the Land Cruiser’s character arc over the decades; it’s grown longer, wider, taller, heavier, more capable and more powerful — the latter, generally speaking, by shoehorning more and more cylinders under its hood.
That long trend might be about to reverse, however. According to a report from Australia’s Car Advice, the next-generation Land Cruiser might ditch V8 power once and for all.
When the new version of Toyota’s fabled off-roader hits the streets in 2021, Car Advice claims, it’ll pack a choice of turbocharged V6 engines beneath its hood — one diesel-burning, one gas-powered. (We’re only likely to see the latter here in America.) Those turbocharged motors will reportedly be joined by a plug-in hybrid model wedding an electric motor to a six-cylinder engine a few years down the line, which is sure to delight those Los Angelinos who want to flex with a giant off-roader but also want to be able to drive solo in the carpool lanes.
If true, it wouldn’t be a surprising move, given both the general trends of the automotive world and what’s happening at Toyota specifically. Downsizing cylinder counts and displacements has become commonplace in car-dom in the last decade, as technology allows engineers to squeeze more power than ever out of every liter while improving fuel economy and reducing emissions. Toyota has already started moving away from eight-cylinder powerplants, where the use case allows for it; while the sporty Lexus LC 500 still uses a naturally-aspirated V8, for example, the LS 500 sedan — which uses the same platform, but is tuned more for luxury than sport — makes do with a twin-turbo V6.
The big question mark, though: What does that mean for the next Toyota Tundra (and potentially, the new Tacoma it may share a platform with)? That big truck has been host to most of the Toyota 5.7-liter V8s roaming America in recent years; if the market demands eight-cylinder power from Toyota pickups, there might be a case to keep the V8 in the Land Cruiser in America. Then again, Ford transitioned the F-150 over to a mostly-turbocharged-V6 engine lineup, and that clearly hasn’t hurt sales. Expect to find out more by 2021.
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