Past present im­per­fect

You’ve heard of retro chic — this one’s a retro chunk

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Used Car - GRA­HAM SMITH gra­ham.smith@cars­guide.com.au

NEW

In an era dom­i­nated by looka­like wag­ons, Toy­ota’s Cruiser FJ stood out.

For the first time a maker at­tempted to in­ject some de­sign fun into the SUV.

The FJ be­gan a styling ex­er­cise aimed at win­ning over younger buy­ers with a fun sense of style and clas­sic ap­peal.

Styled af­ter the leg­endary FJ40 Land Cruiser of the 1960s, the chunky FJ fea­tured round head­lights, had “Toy­ota” boldly cen­tred on the mesh grille, an up­right wind­screen, white roof, wrap­around rear win­dows, and two-door style.

It looked like a two-door, but had clev­erly dis­guised, rearhinged sui­cide rear doors that al­lowed ac­cess to the rear seats.

It was based on the Land Cruiser Prado with a short wheel­base and wide track and the retro look was car­ried through to the cabin where the old-style dash housed a speedo painted like the orig­i­nal, and the dash knobs and door han­dles were big and chunky and easy to use.

Front pas­sen­gers were well catered for with big, com­fort­able seats and de­cent room, but those in the rear would have found them­selves a lit­tle squeezed for space.

There was just the one en­gine avail­able in the FJ, the fa­mil­iar 4.0-litre petrol V6s. Its 200kW/380Nmm im­bued the FJ with plenty of punch and with a rel­a­tively flat torque curve from low in the rev range it also drove smoothly.

The V6 was backed up by a five-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, and a two-speed trans­fer case de­liv­ered the drive to all four wheels.

With its low-range gear­ing, short over­hangs front and rear, de­cent ground clear­ance, lock­able rear diff and Ac­tive Trac­tion Con­trol to con­trol wheel slip the FJ was a ca­pa­ble off-roader.

On the road the retro Cruiser rode com­fort­ably and han­dled with com­mend­able as­sur­ance.

NOW

The me­chan­i­cals mostly are the same as the Prado so they’re pretty much bul­let­proof.

The V6 en­gine has a cam tim­ing chain in­stead of a belt, which means there’s lit­tle or no risk of it break­ing, and no ser­vice re­quire­ment to change it. Reg­u­lar oil changes are the most crit­i­cal need from a ser­vice point of view.

Be­fore you seal the deal, en­sure you’re happy with the all-round vi­sion from the driver’s seat. There have been prob­lems with the rear view cam­era, so make sure it works.

The FJ has been sub­ject to three re­calls. The first, in 2011, re­lated to the side airbag and cur­tain airbag sen­sor that could have af­fected their de­ploy­ment in a crash. An­other, in 2013, re­lated to the fuel tank breather tube, which was sub­ject to heat dam­age, and which could cause a fuel leak and re­sult in a fire.

A third, also in 2013, con­cerned cracks in the lower in­ner panel of the rear doors where the seat belt re­trac­tor is at­tached. If the panel cracked, the seat belt re­trac­tor could be­come adrift in a crash. It's a wise move to check that these re­calls have been car­ried out and all is well with your car.

SMITHY SAYS

Looks are im­por­tant, but it also drives well on road and off. Lack of a diesel holds it back.

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