Toyota’s barge-like off-roader, the Land Cruiser, is usually found doing battle with Land Rover Discoverys and Mitsubishi Shoguns in muddy bogs or cresting dunes in the Middle East.
You won't typically find it blasting down runways at speeds a Jaguar XJ220 or Bugatti EB110 could only hope for. But that’s exactly what this ‘Cruiser is has been designed to do, and it has claimed the title of the world’s fastest SUV with a top speed of 230mph.
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The first task in transforming the huge SUV into one with a top speed capable of shaming the current trio of hybrid hypercars was to give it more power. A lot more power. Toyota’s LA based Motorsport Technical Centre (MTC) started with an American-spec Land Cruiser with a naturally-aspirated 5.7-litre V8 that puts out 381bhp.
Toyota kept the same basic engine but added two huge ‘volleyball-sized’ Garret turbochargers to help push peak power to over 2000bhp. The engine’s internals were also suitably upgraded to cope with the turbos’ 55psi maximum boost.
The Land Cruiser’s eight-speed all-wheel drive transmission was scrapped in favour of a three-speed drag racing gearbox with an overdrive sending power to rear wheels only.
The MTC engineers also took on the not insubstantial task of making the Land Cruiser scythe through the air with a little more grace. The entire body was lowered by around 130mm to reduce the amount of air passing under the car, while the underbody was made smooth with a flat panels and a diffuser to reduce the turbulence of any air that does find its way under the car. The wing mirrors were replaced by small cameras to reduce the SUV’s frontal area and a rear spoiler with a sizable gurney flap helps push the driven rear wheels into the tarmac.
To pilot the vast (and vastly powerful) off-roader to its ludicrous top speed, Toyota called upon ex-Toyota NASCAR driver Carl Edwards. He performed the runs in California at the 2.5 mile long runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port.
Just during the warm-up session the Land Cruiser hit 198mph. Then on the first proper attempt Edwards hit 211mph, enough to match the Brabus Bi-Turbo V12 GLK – the previous SUV top speed record holder.
After cranking up the boost slightly another attempt was made and Edwards blasted up to the record-breaking top speed of 230.02mph.