MUCH MORE THAN A PRADO IN FANCY DRESS, TOYOTA’S FJ CRUISER OFFERS SERIOUSLY GOOD VALUE FOR MONEY.
YOU better get in quick if you want an FJ Cruiser, as production of Australian-delivered Cruisers will cease in August. The FJ will still be around in local showrooms for a while after that, but for how long is difficult to say. The FJ is essentially a petrol Prado but with part-time 4x4 and a shortened wheelbase. It also only comes with a five-speed automatic. The lack of a diesel engine and, to a lesser extent, a manual gearbox has no doubt limited its sales, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good thing. When it arrived in Australia in 2011 it took out our annual 4X4 Of The Year award against very stiff competition, and it’s still one of our favourites here at 4X4 Australia.
The FJ’S 4.0-litre V6, complete with variable valve timing on both cams, claims 200kw and 380Nm in typically Toyota-like ‘soft’ tune, where power spread, not peak power, is the name of the game.
The FJ is around 200kg lighter than a petrolpowered Prado, so outright performance and mid-range flexibility are noticeably better. The five-speed gearbox works well with the engine and has a gated shift for ‘manual’ gear selection, rather than the tip-shift of the current Prado.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is the FJ’S modest thirst, no doubt helped by its reduced weight and the engine’s soft tune. Combined with the 159-litre fuel capacity, this makes for a decent touring range.
The reduced weight and better mass centralisation, thanks to little rear overhang, also makes for surprisingly good on-road dynamics, despite the soft suspension and some unsettling from the live rear axle on bumpier roads.
As good as the FJ is on-road, it comes into its own off-road thanks to its supple long-travel suspension and superior ground clearance and approach, departure and ramp-over angles (compared to a Prado). In fact, it has the best approach and departure angles of any Toyota 4x4.
The FJ comes with a driver-operated rear diff lock and, while engaging this negates the traction control on both axles, the driver can reinstate off-road-specific traction control (A-TRC) across the front axle even when the rear diff is locked, which is a major bonus when the going gets tough.
Given the FJ misses out on the third-row seating of the Prado – and access to the rear seat is somewhat restricted – it’s not really a family 4x4. However, the cabin is surprisingly comfortable and plenty roomy for a twoperson getaway. Add in the fact the FJ is well supported by the aftermarket and you have a robust, practical, capable and Toyota-reliable enthusiast’s 4x4.