TONKA TOUGH

4 x 4 Australia - - Driven -

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.

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