Toyota may be ready to fill a hole in its line-up, a really big hole left by its decision to kill off the long-lived Land Cruiser for the 2022 model year.
It’s released a teaser image of what appears to be a full-size SUV and a news release hinting, “Something big is coming to the Toyota SUV line-up. A clear picture will come into view soon. Stay tuned.”
Exactly what the Japanese automaker has in mind isn’t clear, however, as it declared the Land Cruiser dead — at least for the U.S. market — with the end of the 2021 model year. For now, buyers have to settle for the Sequoia model. But Toyota just might be looking to upgrade that model for those who want the features and capabilities of its long-time off-road flagship.
A long history
The Japanese automaker shocked Land Cruiser loyalists when it announced the end of the run for the big truck last year. The full-size model had been a staple of the Toyota line-up since 1951 — making it the longest-running nameplate in the company’s pantheon of products.
The outgoing model was clearly falling behind the times, however, as it went without a major update since 2007. Ironically, a ground-up makeover was revealed last June and has debuted in a number of foreign markets. As always, it features a body-on-frame design — but Toyota took steps to both stiffen and lighten the new model which shed more than 440 pounds despite the addition of new technology. And it updates its powertrain, as well, with the introduction of a new twin-turbo V-6.
For those who just have to have a version of the new Land Cruiser, codenamed the J300, there is an option. The underlying platform anchors a more luxurious off-roader, the all-new Lexus LX 600. It’s not as much of a reach as one might expect, the luxury model carrying a base price of $88,245, about $1,215 more than it took to get an entry-level Land Cruiser.
Filling the gap
Nonetheless, there’s been plenty of debate and discussion within automotive circles about whether the flagship Toyota brand would move to fill in the gap at its top end. And the teaser image shown here suggests something big, indeed, is coming soon.
A look at the rear three-quarter image finds some key styling details in common with both the global version of the new Land Cruiser, as well as the LX 600. The most noticeable is the kink in the frame of the glass behind the second row. It’s closer to the shape of the Toyota, though both pick up on what might be described as the Japanese take on the Hofmeister Kink. There are similarities in the taillights and door handles, as well.
But the handout image also shows a more distinctive flare to the sheet metal that flows from the middle of the back doors to the tailgate.
Muscling up the Sequoia
So, what are we looking at? Could this be an updated Sequoia? Perhaps Toyota follows the lead of competitors, such as Jeep, and brings us a “Grand Highlander.” But that seems unlikely. It’s all but certain we’re looking at a replacement for the Sequoia .
And here’s where things loop around. It turns out that the new Sequoia should share the same ladder-frame underpinnings as the newly redesigned 2022 Toyota Tundra. And while there may be little visually in common between the pickup and the global J300 Land Cruiser, they’re almost identical underneath their cabs.
Expect to see a three-row interior package, though it’s unclear whether the Sequoia will feature seven or eight seats — or, most likely, offer both options.
Hybrid option may follow
The Tundra and J300 Land Cruiser also share a 3.4-liter twin-turbo V-6 paired with a 10-speed automatic — though the U.S.-focused Tundra is getting an even more gutsy i-Force Max hybrid powertrain making 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet of torque, as well. Expect to see the V-6 show up in the new Sequoia, though we’ll have to wait to find out if the SUV will add the hybrid driveline, as well.
Toyota officials, all the way up to CEO Akio Toyoda, have indicated plans to electrify essentially all future Toyota models. And, as with the Tundra, a hybrid package would not only deliver better mileage but also offer plenty of grunt for both towing and off-roading.
In typical pattern, Toyota is certain to tease the new SUV a couple more times before giving it a full reveal in the next couple months. And with a handful of auto shows back on the schedule this year, that could happen as soon as Chicago in February, or in New York in April.