Overlanding has become a lifestyle phenomenon, to such an extent that thousands of visitors attend big name events like the Overland Expo each year. If you’re looking to start a project of your own, you need to start with a base vehicle, but which one is truly the best? Do you go for tried-and-true and get the expensive, but mightily capable Toyota Land Cruiser? On the other hand, you could go full #vanlife and spring for the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter to create a home away from home wherever you go. The Land Cruiser’s little brother, the Sequoia, also offers a large alternative that is not nearly as expensive.
In this video, we take the brand new Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro, a four-wheel drive Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4×4 and the venerable Land Cruiser on an off-road challenge to see which one really makes the best overlander.
The rigs by the numbers
If you want the best of the best, the Toyota Land Cruiser offers a capable, dependable rig. Right out of the box, it has a legendary overlanding name behind it, complete with an good old V-8 and plenty of off-road toys. By modern standards, it’s really a dinosaur at this point. Its 5.7-liter V-8 dates back to the stone age, it seems, with 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque. But that old school technology means its reliable, if not anywhere near the most efficient SUV you could buy today. At least, the Land Cruiser comes with an eight-speed transmission, a multi-terrain monitor, Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), Multi-Terrain Select, Crawl Control and a Torsen limited-slip center differential.
The down side to the Land Cruiser? It’s horrendously expensive to buy new. Our tester racked up an $89,129 price tag, with carpeted floor mats ($229) and the rear seat entertainment system ($2,220) being the only optional equipment. That’s where the 2020 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro makes its case. It houses the same 5.7-liter V-8 as the Land Cruiser and the Toyota Tundra, naturally with the same miserable fuel economy (13 City / 17 Highway / 14 Combined mpg). However, it costs significantly less, coming in at $67,029, or $22,100 less than Toyota’s top-dog SUV.
While the Sequoia TRD Pro does come with TRD-tuned Fox shocks, it doesn’t come with the other technology the Land Cruiser, or even the 4Runner, has. No Multi-Terrain Select, Crawl Control, or locking rear differential. Just a locking center differential (like the Land Cruiser) and a six-speed automatic transmission.
What about the Sprinter?
Then you get into the truly gargantuan Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Opt for this 4×4 version, and you get a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 instead of a big gas V-8. With 188 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, there is a trade-off involved on power. However, you get significantly more space to build an off-road oasis, and the diesel engine returns slightly better fuel economy than either of the Toyotas.
Yes, the center of gravity is much higher, but the van offers a blank canvas on which you can fit whatever overlanding setup you desire. At $61,333, it’s also the most affordable option of the rigs we’re taking off-road here. It is still a van, so the equipment level can only be described as spartan, which is saying something considering the Sequoia we’re pitching it up against.
The 2020 Toyota Land Cruiser offers up 8.9 inches of ground clearance, as well. The Sequoia TRD Pro does extremely well for a big SUV with 10.0 inches of ground clearance. For its part, the Sprinter offers decent, but not amazing clearance, plus its 144-inch wheelbase may create some issues in tricky breakover spots.
Which overlanding rig would you choose? Let us know your perfect configuration in the comments below!