2011 Toyota Land Cruiser 5.7 Xtreme

The Good:
– Tough looks
– Cabin space and features
– King of the offroad
The Bad:
– Very wide
– Even wider turning circle
– Spongy brakes

There are many in the GCC region who believe that the Toyota Land Cruiser is the best offroader in the world, even though many of them have never even ventured offroad. But if the Land Cruiser is already the “best” offroader ever created, what in the world is a Land Cruiser Xtreme then?

The Xtreme is a joint initiative by the Toyota dealer and the Arctic Trucks outfit in the UAE to create a Land Cruiser that goes beyond the capabilities of the regular Land Cruiser. Available with any engine choice and complete with a factory warranty, the one we tested is the 5.7-litre V8-powered “60th Anniversary” version, identified externally by dealer-installed LED lights on the front bumper. All Xtreme models get add-on fender flares that stick out by more than 75mm on each side to cover the 40mm lifted suspension and massive offroad tyres. They additionally have a front skid-plate and chrome side-step tubing.

Scramble up inside though, and it is the familiar Land Cruiser cabin, in top-spec trim no less. There are soft-touch materials on the upper dash and doors, hard plastics on lower panels and funny wood-print stickers to simulate wood trim, as well as supple leather upholstery.

The seats are wide and sofa-like, with nearly no side-bolstering. There is tons of headroom and legroom in the first two rows, accessed by integrated side-steps. The third row is cramped, but average-sized adults can still somewhat breathe, and it can be accessed by effortlessly folding away the second-row seats, although the real effort is needed for slipping in there. The 50/50-split third row easily folded up on the sidewalls of the luggage area, which is sadly necessary since there is no place for flat-folding seats underneath the floor. Other storage areas include hidden cup-holders, bottle-holders in the doors, and a deep chiller under the front armrest, enough for six water bottles.

Other features that came in our loaded tester include power windows, electric mirrors, sunroof, cruise control, navigation, working Bluetooth, a good CD/MP3 stereo with changer and USB port, two headrest-mounted rear DVD screens, dual front and side-curtain airbags, auto-dimming mirrors, intelligent keyless entry with start button, and a strong automatic a/c with rear vents and controls. Having used a similar touchscreen in Lexus models before, we didn’t have issues with the multimedia system. Interesting Xtreme-specific additions include clip-on sunshades for all side windows as well as an offroad kit that came with a tow rope and an air compressor for inflating tyres.

The 5.7-litre V8 in the top-rung Land Cruiser is a fairly potent unit, delivering 362 hp at 5600 rpm and 530 Nm of torque at 3200 rpm, mated to a 6-speed automatic with manual capability. But what may be spritely in the regular Land Cruiser isn’t all too impressive in the heavier Xtreme, as we punched out a 0-100 kph time of 9.3 seconds in our April test, more than a second slower than the non-modified version. We also burned a fair bit more fuel, at a hungry 23.1 litres/100 km.

The suspension mods may seem simple, but they change the way you have to drive this car on the street. It rides higher so you have a commanding view of the road. There is a fair bit more tyre noise at anything above 100 kph. It feels slightly jittery on everything except the smoothest road surfaces. The steering is firmer and more rubbery in its actions. The brakes feel spongy and take longer to stop. And it takes multiple tries to park, because the turning circle is now much larger and the vehicle itself is much wider.

However, the Xtreme remains comfortable to some degree, while there are sensors and basic cameras on all sides to aid parking. And around corners, the suspension doesn’t allow much body roll or floatiness, possibly with the help of the fancy “KDSS” anti-roll system. After all, it is still based on a luxury vehicle.

Take the Land Cruiser Xtreme offroad though, and it’s a whole different game. We only had this truck for a couple of days, in the middle of rainy April weather, so our excursion was limited to firm wet sand. Thanks to the 35×12/50 offroad tyres, its automatic all-wheel-drive system was never even challenged, so we never even needed the locking centre differential, the crawl-control feature or the low-range gear. Needless to say, if for some weird reason you have any doubts about this truck’s offroad capabilities, don’t.

The Xtreme takes the Land Cruiser franchise to another level. It may seem expensive at first, but compared to building the kit yourself, it actually comes out to be quite a deal, with a warranty thrown in for good measure. If you’re serious about offroading to the point of insanity, the Xtreme is a sane choice.

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