Toyota can trace the ‘Cruiser’ nameplate to June 1954, when technical director Hanji Umehara revealed that the new name for the off-road vehicle that had become known as the Toyota Jeep would now be the Toyota Land Cruiser. An evocative description as much as a name, Land Cruiser was also felt to resonate well within the export market, which the model was about to pioneer on Toyota’s behalf.
Learn more: History of the Toyota Land Cruiser
Since then, more than ten million examples of the Land Cruiser have been sold, and through almost 70 years of continuous production, it has become the world’s most customer-trusted vehicle. But did you also realise that during this time some of that etymological magic has been sprinkled on a number of other Toyota models?
As you will see below, the Cruiser name has been associated with a further six distinct models. These have been bigger, smaller, roomier, retro-inspired and conceptual, yet all are connected by that common Cruiser heritage. And what’s more, one of these vehicles will see the designation go much, much further than any Land Cruiser has ever been before.
Toyota Urban Cruiser
Introduced in Europe in 2009 in response to growing customer demand for urban-friendly SUVs, the Toyota Urban Cruiser distilled the rugged, go-anywhere qualities of its distinguished big brother into a new B-segment model that was close in spirit to the original three-door RAV4.
But more than simply being compact and practical, the Urban Cruiser provided an important milestone in the motor industry. The top-spec 1.4-litre D-4D AWD model achieved the world’s lowest CO2 output for a four-wheel drive car, and in its relatively short, four-year life in the UK market played an important role in helping Toyota continue to reduce its overall emissions levels.
Toyota FJ Cruiser
Visitors to the 2003 North American International Motor Show were given an unexpected treat, with Toyota’s surprise unveiling of the FJ Cruiser concept clearly inspired by the legendary 40 Series Land Cruiser. So well-received was the design study that it returned to Detroit two years later as a full production model, initially for the left-hand drive United States market.
Based on the contemporary 120 Series Land Cruiser Prado, the FJ Cruiser had impeccable off-road credentials to back up its highly styled body. This is why the model was later produced in right-hand drive for discerning off-road markets such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Japan. In fact, as of January 2020 and after 14 years of continuous production, you could still buy a brand new FJ Cruiser in the Middle East.
Toyota Tj Cruiser
Fusing the roominess of a van with the aesthetics of an SUV, the Toyota Tj Cruiser was displayed at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show as a concept designed to seamlessly dovetail work and play. The ‘T’ stood for ‘toolbox’ in reference to the vehicle’s boxlike practicality, while the lower case ‘j’ referenced the ‘joy’ drivers could experience in using its four-wheel drive chassis to reach the most inaccessible of locations.
The interior of the Tj Cruiser rivalled the Swiss Army Knife for practicality, with multi-configurable seats that could fold flat to create a double bed-size space, and sturdy side rails that could be configured to mount all sorts of accessories. The fact that the Tj Cruiser was built on the TNGA platform has led some people to predict that it is destined for production. However, we can neither confirm nor deny this assertion.
Toyota Mega Cruiser
Toyota’s answer to the American military’s Hummer H1 marked the biggest and most heavy-duty Cruiser derivative to date. In fact, similar to its US equivalent, the Japan-only Mega Cruiser was originally developed as an unstoppable infantry transport vehicle for the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force. But it was later decided that Toyota’s Gifu Auto Body subsidiary would build a very limited run of civilian models from January 1996 to August 2001.
With a footprint exceeding five metres by two metres, the Mega Cruiser must have been incredibly intimidating from the perspective of a Kei car driver. What’s more, with full-time four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, immense ground clearance, near-vertical approach and departure angles, and grip-seeking differentials across every torque plane, there was no terrain that proved too intimidating for this monster to tackle.
Toyota Space Cruiser
The Toyota Space Cruiser was one of the first people carriers in the UK market and, despite being lauded as the only production vehicle in the world with two ‘moonroofs’, was unmistakably based on the Liteace van. That would change, of course, with its bespoke successor, the Toyota Previa of 1990. But there was still much to like about the Space Cruiser, from its eight-person capacity and (almost) mid-engine architecture to the fact it was rear-wheel drive and that the second and third row of seats could be folded flat to make a convincing double bed.
From 1983 to 1990, a grand total of 9,346 examples were sold in the UK, the majority of which were equipped with the more powerful 2.0-litre engine, as opposed to the launch 1.8-litre unit. At the time, a 2.0-litre displacement sounded generous but the Y-series engine was built for durability rather than speed. Its 87bhp output was therefore never able to propel it to warp speed.
Toyota Lunar Cruiser
This is the concept vehicle that will take the Cruiser nameplate further than ever before. The recently revealed Lunar Cruiser was given its illustrious name because the quality, durability and reliability that are necessary to keep its occupants alive in the vacuum of space are the same values that Toyota has held sacrosanct in the Land Cruiser line for 70 years.
Dwarfing even the Mega Cruiser in terms of size, proposals for the forthcoming Lunar Cruiser pitch its proportions as being approximately akin to two minibuses parked side to side. The pressurised living quarters provide 13 cubic metres of space for up to four occupants, which is about twice the size of the load volume of a long-wheelbase Toyota Proace. As the nearest refuelling station for the hydrogen fuel cell powertrain is half a million miles away, the vehicle has tanks big enough for a range of around 6,200 miles!
Toyota Compact Cruiser Concept
At the other end of the scale to the Luna Cruiser above comes this Compact Cruiser. Designed to show how the ‘Cruiser’ moniker can adapt to an all-electric and ultra-modern environment, it borrows styling cues from the first-generation Land Cruiser the Toyota Compact Cruiser Concept draws off more than 70 years of Land Cruiser and off-road heritage and even won the prestigious 2022 Car Design Award for it’s looks.
Discover more about the Toyota Land Cruiser by clicking here.