Last year at SEMA, Toyota showed us a nifty Land Cruiser V8 that could supposedly reach 220 miles per hour. Keep in mind, this is an old-school, body-on-frame people mover of massive proportions. We’re talking nearly three tonnes of three-row leather seating for eight passengers, full-time four-wheel drive, a 381-horsepower 5.7-litre V8, and enough luxury to command an asking price of $85,000 in the States. With the aerodynamic properties of mobile home in a tornado, we were highly skeptical of ever seeing this machine reach 220 mph.
To that end, we were right. The mega Land Cruiser didn’t go 220. It went 230 mph, completely obliterating the 211-mph mark previously held by a Brabus-tweaked Mercedes GLK V12, but there is a catch. More on that in a bit, because right now you’re probably wondering how Toyota managed to get a Land Cruiser to airliner velocities.
As with most speed quests, it starts with boost. Mad scientists at Toyota’s Motorsports Technical Centre added a pair of Garrett turbochargers capable of supplying up to 55 pounds of boost. The stock Toyota V8 would never handle such pressure, so the team also ungraded the internals with race-spec pistons and connecting rods. A custom intake manifold was added to help with the breathing, in addition to addressing “other key items”. Toyota is coy about other details, and we're sure there are plenty of them because the end result is 2,000 horsepower, sent through a custom racing transmission.
Power was only half the battle, however. The suspension was lowered and narrowed to help the Land Cruiser deal with 200-plus mph airflow. The frame was also tweaked to help suspension geometry, and with the narrowed stance the team could run wide Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres. For obvious safety reasons the Land Cruiser was given a full interior cage with a racing seat for the driver, who for the speed run was retired NASCAR driver Carl Edwards.
With everything in place, the team headed to the Mojave Air and Space Port in the California desert, where a 2.5-mile runway was waiting. The first run matched the 211-mph record, but Edwards was running out of room to stop so the boost was dialed up for better acceleration. The second run delivered the GPS-verified speed of 230.02 mph.
But here’s the catch. Technically one can say this is the fastest SUV in the world, but whereas you could by the street-legal Brabus Mercedes (albeit for about half a million dollars), the Land Cruiser is strictly a one-off experiment of insanity. We’ll give Toyota an A for effort because 230 mph in anything with tyees and a steering wheel is impressive. But it seems a bit like cheating to claim a record with a custom-built racer never intended for street use. Still, a record is a record.
Gallery: Toyota Land Cruiser Speed Record
Toyota Land Speed Cruiser Claims “World’s Fastest SUV” Title
With former Toyota NASCAR driver Carl Edwards at the helm, the understated Land Speed Cruiser shattered the previous “World’s Fastest SUV” record by more than 19 mph, reaching a GPS-verified and video-documented 230.02 mph before running out of usable pavement. With enough track ahead, the Land Speed Cruiser could be expected to go even faster.
“At Toyota, we like to say ‘Let’s Go Places,’ and the Land Speed Cruiser goes places faster than any SUV before it. This was an aspirational goal that inspired us all,” said Steve Appelbaum, Toyota Motor Sales national engagement marketing manager. “We achieved success by employing the kind of innovative solutions and unyielding determination that have long represented the core of Toyota’s soul.”
The Land Speed Cruiser, which debuted at the 2016 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show, started life as a stock production model before being heavily modified by a team of engineers at Toyota’s Motorsports Technical Center (MTC).
“The World’s Fastest SUV record was at 211 mph. That’s extremely fast. Toyota thought, ‘Why don’t we make a really, ultra-powerful Land Cruiser, and let’s just see how fast we can make it can go,’” said MTC Manager, Chuck Wade.
Using the Land Cruiser’s production 5.7-liter 3UR-FE V8 engine as a starting point, the team added a pair of volleyball-sized Garrett turbochargers that are capable of producing up to 55 PSI of boost. To cope with extreme force induction, the MTC team upgraded the engine’s internals with sturdier pistons and rods and a custom-made intake manifold, among other key items. This helped ensure the monstrous V8 could safely and reliably produce over 2,000 horsepower for its record-setting runs. The role of doling power was left to a custom racing transmission strong enough to withstand the stresses and abuses of high power and tremendous speeds.
However, building the engine was the easy part. Driving in excess of 200 mph challenges a vehicle’s aerodynamics and stability. To aid controllability, the Land Speed Cruiser sits lower to the pavement, thus dramatically reducing the amount of turbulent air allowed to pass underneath. Its frame received some massaging in order to maintain optimal suspension geometry, and was narrowed by 3 inches to accommodate wider Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.
Test driver and championship road racer Craig Stanton played a key role in fine tuning the Land Speed Cruiser’s setup at Toyota’s Arizona Proving Ground (TAPG). His input was translated into tactile changes made by MTC’s engineers.
“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,” he said. “We made some setup adjustments, and it not only accelerates and shifts more smoothly, but it also has enhanced stability.”
With the Land Speed Cruiser dialed in and finally ready for its record-setting run, recently retired Toyota NASCAR driver Carl Edwards met the team at Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California. In addition to being one of the very few places in the U.S. where supersonic flight is allowed, it features a two-and-a-half-mile paved runway perfectly suited to the Land Speed Cruiser’s mission.
Prior to Edwards’ run, Stanton warmed up the SUV, moving it along at a hefty 198 mph. On his first run, Edwards was able to hit an awe-inspiring 211 mph, but found himself running out of pavement to slow the big SUV. More boost was then dialed in to up the power, and he tried again.
The next run proved to be the most impressive. Edwards put the hammer down, and piloted the Land Speed Cruiser to its jaw-dropping 230 mph record.
“At 225 mph, the thing was wandering a little bit. All I could think was that Craig said, ‘No matter what, just keep your foot in it,’ and we got 230 mph,” Edwards recounted from behind a huge grin after setting the record. “It’s safe to say that this is the fastest SUV on the planet.”