Past present imperfect
You’ve heard of retro chic — this one’s a retro chunk
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.
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.
Looks are important, but it also drives well on road and off. Lack of a diesel holds it back.