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For vehicles like the 2018 Toyota Land Cruiser, performance is measured more in terms of boulder-scaling ability than just how quickly it’ll get down a drag strip.

We’ve given it extra points for its off-road tenacity and for its buttery smooth ride, but we’ve peeled one 2018-toyota-land-cruiser-rear | away for its underwhelming handling. That brings it to a 6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Toyota only fits one engine to its 2018 Land Cruiser: a tried-and-true 5.7-liter V-8 rated at 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. Devoid of high-tech turbochargers, the V-8 puts its power to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission and a two-speed transfer case. Unlike some of its car-like rivals, there’s no two-wheel-drive version available.

Despite a curb weight that easily tips 6,000 pounds with a couple of passengers on board, the Land Cruiser accelerates strongly. Its 8-speed automatic fires off quick, smooth shifts, but can occasionally feel confused when pressed hard. Thanks to its separate ladder frame, the Land Cruiser is rated to tow 8,100 pounds.

Underneath, the Land Cruiser’s reinforced frame and solid rear axle are definitely throwbacks to another era. The coil-sprung rear end allows for terrific wheel articulation off-road but can lead to some head toss on pavement. Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System consists of large anti-roll bars that automatically disconnect at low speeds when more wheel travel is needed. Poke your head under and you’ll see just how massive the anti-roll bars are: the front unit measures 1.68 inches in diameter. Thanks to that trick setup, the Land Cruiser corners remarkably flatly on a curvy road.

But don’t go thinking it’s a sports car. Soft 18-inch tires with plenty of sidewall deliver a composed, comfortable ride, but they communicate little of the road to the light steering. The Land Cruiser doesn’t struggle to maintain a straight line across the prairie on the way to a mountain trail, but it’s not ready for an afternoon of corner carving, either.

Toyota Land Cruiser off-road

Where the Land Cruiser excels is away from the pavement. When activated at the press of a button, Toyota’s Crawl Control system uses the traction control and ABS to keep it moving at a slow pace over any kind of terrain. A separate knob dials in specific traction control parameters for any kind of terrain.

The Land Cruiser’s biggest off-road deficit is its girth. It’s nearly 78 inches wide, which means you’ll have to pick your trail carefully. Aiding things slightly is another switch that uses the ABS to give the Cruiser an especially tight turning radius by braking the inside wheel to allow the vehicle to “pivot” around.

Finally, the Land Cruiser’s center differential is a Torson limited-slip that can be locked for severe off-road use at the press of a button.

Where this big SUV feels most magical is bashing through sand dunes. With tire pressures lowered, the Cruiser belies its heft with a nimble, tossable feel and ample power up high in the rev-range where it’s needed.

To those handful of Land Cruiser buyers who will experience all this in action, we tip our hats.

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