It's not even remotely close to a production vehicle, but we still respect the speed.
Last year at SEMA, Toyota showed us a nifty Land Cruiser (an SUV not currently sold in Canada) that could supposedly reach 354 kilometres per hour. Keep in mind, this is an old-school, body-on-frame people mover of massive proportions. We’re talking nearly three tons 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 (approx. $115,000 CAD). With the aerodynamic properties of a mobile home in a tornado, we were highly skeptical of ever seeing this machine reach 354 km/h.
To that end, we were right. The mega Land Cruiser didn’t go 354. It went 370 km/h, completely obliterating the 340-km/h 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 Center 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 320-plus km/h airflow. The frame was also tweaked to help suspension geometry, and with the narrowed stance the team could run wide Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. 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 340-kmh 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 370.18 km/h.
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 U.S. dollars), the Land Cruiser is strictly a one-off experiment of insanity. We’ll give Toyota an A for effort because 370 km/h in anything with tires 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.