If you have a soft spot for something, no matter what it is, it is easy to look past it’s flaws. This is true for most things in life, including cars and today I’m looking at the FJ Cruiser, where the concept originated and all the good, the bad and the in between on this vehicle.
When the production of the original FJ40 ended in 1984 Toyota had shifted its focus on increasing the size and luxury of the Land Cruiser line. The concept of a new FJ with rugged capabilities of the original FJ40 originated in the mid 1990’s.
Fast forward to 2003 and the FJ Cruiser concept made its debut at the Detroit Auto Show in Voodoo Blue, a colour that would become the Signature colour for the production FJ Cruiser.
The FJ Cruiser was primarily developed for the North American Market but has been sold in small numbers globally since its launch. On 25 November 2010, Toyota announces sales would begin in right-hand drive form for the Japanese market. Sales of the right-hand drive model began in Australia and New Zealand in 2011 available in 4 wheel drive automatic only.
For Australian Buyers, the big disappointment was that the FJ is only available with a petrol engine, in this case a four-litre V6, lifted straight from the Prado.
The FJ Cruiser has a stylish retro look about it and features a short wheelbase, stock frame, and grille headlight arrangement similar to the original FJ40. Some of the other throwback design cues include a nearly vertical windshield with three wipers for maximum surface area coverage. The FJ Cruiser is also Toyota’s only current vehicle to use the name ‘TOYOTA’ spelled out across the grille instead of the corporate emblem which has been in use since 1990, another reference to the FJ40 and other older Toyota trucks. The FJ’s body features rear opening access doors (suicide doors), that give a unique look to the SUV. Special high strength steel was used to give the vehicle side impact protection without the need for a door pillar.
Many of the design elements for the interior of the FJ were focused on enhancing the off-road practicality. With all of the interior surfaces covered with a washable rubber material it makes for relatively quick and easy clean ups after heavy outdoor use. The oversized controls have been incorporated to aid drivers with gloved hands. The 3-gauge cluster (with compass, temperature and inclinometer), as well as the 110-volt rear outlet were carried over from the FJ Cruiser concept vehicle as options on the final production model.
For a big off-roader the drive is rather comfortable with rather soft suspension. When it comes to navigating city streets the all round vision in the FJ is not so good and you can be left feeling as though you are surrounded by blind spots. Thankfully Toyota acknowledged this lack of vision and added a reversing camera and rear parking sensors to the updated model, as well as a larger fuel tank – undoubtedly to compensate for the lack of a long range diesel.
It can tow a 2250kg trailer but strangely a snorkel is not offered for the really serious off road stuff.
It is off-road that the FJ Cruiser proves that it is more than a match for a Jeep or Land Rover thanks to its short front and rear overhangs and 224mm of ground clearance. Featuring selectable 4×4, an electrically activated rear diff-lock and switchable active traction control, with adjustable Crawl Control for added off-road control.
The 4.0 litre petrol V6 is a lift from the Prado, with 200kW of power and 380Nm of torque and has been paired with a gated, five speed automatic. Weighing up to 270kg more than the Prado, the FJ’s economy is rated at 11.4 litres/100km. With a 163 litre tank that gives it a theoretical range of almost 1400km. It takes premium unleaded too.
The bad news as mentioned already, there is no diesel version nor a manual. Manual transmission being the preferred option for most of the off road community.
The rear doors open backwards in ‘suicide’ fashion. What may seem like an interesting feature on the FJ soon loses its appeal after it becomes apparent that the rear doors can’t be opened before the front doors and in reverse they must be closed first too.
The tailgate is another shortfall in the design of this car in that it seems to be hinged the wrong way. It opens from right to left towards the road verge, essentially exposing those trying to access the rear luggage area to passing traffic.
The end of the Road?
With production of the FJ Cruiser ceasing in the USA in 2014, it leads to the inevitable question of whether the FJ Cruiser is not long for this world in the Australian Market. Is this goodbye to the FJ Cruiser? However the Australian market, which sources vehicles from Japan, has always been slightly different to the US Market and at this stage Toyota Australia will continue to offer the FJ Cruiser to the demand of consumers both in Australia and other markets.
Despite the obvious shortcomings the FJ to me is an appealing car, nice to drive both on and off road and I really like the retro look it offers. With plenty of after market options available it can be customised to meet your needs and tailored to suit your requirements.
A full list of the FJ Cruiser Specifications are available to view online.
To view the FJ Cruiser’s and other Four Wheel Drives we currently have available at Westside Auto Wholesale you can visit our website at www.westsideauto.com.au
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