When your name is Land Cruiser, that opens up a lot of potential about what you can do on land. In the case of the Toyota Land Cruiser, that meant adding speed to create the Land Speed Cruiser and taking a shot at the record books.
“At Toyota, we like to say, ‘Let’s Go Places,’ and the Land Speed Cruiser goes places faster than any SUV before it,” said Steve Appelbaum, Toyota Motor Sales national engagement marketing manager. “This was an aspirational goal that inspired us all. We achieved success by employing the kind of innovative solutions and unyielding determination that have long represented the core of Toyota’s soul.”
The custom full-sized sport-ute hit a speed of 370.18 km/h at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, in the hands of former NASCAR champion Carl Edwards to take the title of “World’s Fastest SUV,” and reportedly the only thing that prevented it from going faster was that it ran out of usable pavement (the Mojave Air and Space Port has a 4-km paved runway).
“The World’s Fastest SUV record was at 211 mph (339.57 km/h). That’s extremely fast,” said MTC Manager, Chuck Wade. “Toyota thought, ‘Why don’t we make a really, ultra-powerful Land Cruiser, and let’s just see how fast we can make it go.’”
As mentioned earlier, the Land Speed Cruiser is a custom build, by a team of engineers from Toyota’s Motorsports Technical Center (MTC). It was introduced at the 2016 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas.
It started as a production Land Cruiser, but then things went sideways really quickly. It started with the production 5.7-litre V-8, but then added a pair of Garrett turbochargers capable of producing 55 PSI of boost. That necessitated a new intake manifold, as well as changing over to sturdier pistons and rods to handle the forced induction. When all was said and done, horsepower had gone from the production 381 to over 2,000.
That meant a new transmission was needed to handle the power delivery, so the team with a custom racing gearbox.
With the power side of the equation ready to roll, the vehicle itself had to roll efficiently to handle speeds in excess of 320 km/h. The frame was massaged to maintain optimal suspension geometry, and was narrowed in order to receive wider sport tires. Ride height was lowered to reduce turbulence under the vehicle
“I wanted the Land Speed Cruiser to provide the confidence you need, as a driver, to keep pushing even when the world around you becomes a high-speed blur,” said test driver and championship road racer Craig Stanton, who helped fine-tune the vehicle at Toyota’s Arizona Proving Ground. “We made some setup adjustments, and it not only accelerates and shifts more smoothly, but it also has enhanced stability.”
Edwards’ first run got the Land Speed Cruiser up equal to the existing record, but he found it running out of pavement necessary to stop the big SUV. The solution was to dial up the boost and he managed to hit the 370 km/h mark.
“At 225 mph (362.1 km/h), the thing was wandering a little bit,” Edwards recounted with his traditional big grin. “All I could think was that Craig said, ‘No matter what, just keep your foot in it,’ and we got 230 mph. It’s safe to say that this is the fastest SUV on the planet.”