Townsville Bulletin - - Nurrse -

THE FJ Cruiser is more than a dis­tinc­tive face in to­day’s herd of four-wheel-drives. For not only does the FJ pay homage to the orig­i­nal FJ Land­Cruiser of the 1960s to the 1980s, it is also an hon­est off-roader that comes loaded with style and mem­o­ries. The FJ be­gan life as a styling ex­er­cise in ap­peal with younger buy­ers. By 2003 there was a con­cept, the Rugged Youth Util­ity, and by 2005 a pro­duc­tion ver­sion. The evo­lu­tion has re­sulted in a good-look­ing ma­chine with many prac­ti­cal touches, few elec­tronic doo-dads and a fair swag of off-road abil­ity. Toy­ota de­scribe it as a `` go any­where, do any­thing’’ ma­chine de­signed to at­tract younger, ac­tive buy­ers at a rea­son­able price. At $ 44,990, the FJ is Toy­ota Aus­tralia’s most affordable `` proper’’ four-wheel-drive wagon. It is $ 500 dearer than the all-road Kluger and $ 11,000 cheaper than the three-door Prado. A four-door, re­mov­able hard­top Jeep Wran­gler starts at $ 40,990 and has petrol and diesel pow­er­plants and man­ual and au­to­matic trans­mis­sions. A two-door Wran­gler starts at $ 31,590 but can’t of­fer as much room and on­road com­fort as the FJ. The Toy­ota new boy --in one model grade only --ar­rives with elec­tric win­dows, air con­di­tion­ing, six-stacker CD player with USB, iPod and Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, a rear-view cam­era and rear park­ing sen­sors. Val­ueadded ma­te­rial in this ad­ven­ture ma­chine com­pound, and wa­ter-re­pel­lent seats. Cit­ing the need to keep the FJ hon­est, Toy­ota has es­chewed many of to­day’s elec­tronic driver aids for the FJ, putting more onus on driver abil­ity. Not of­fer­ing fea­tures like mul­titer­rain set­tings and hill de­scent con­trol also keeps the price down. What you do get is a smooth 4.0-litre V6 trans­mis­sion, a two-speed trans­fer case, a lock­able rear dif­fer­en­tial, sta­bil­ity con­trol and trac­tion con­trol, pack­aged in and around a short­ened Prado plat­form. There are no plans at this stage for a diesel en­gine and there’s a 20kg load limit on the front bumper, lim­it­ing the use of bull bars and winches. Ap­par­ently, test­ing weights hang­ing off the front of the chas­sis rails to Toy­ota stan­dards would have taken too long and stymied its Aus­tralian in­tro­duc­tion. De­signer Jin Kim drew heav­ily on the orig­i­nal FJ40 de­sign, plac­ing an orig­i­nal in the stu­dio as he worked. Kim says he was af­ter the orig­i­nal’s essence, rather than a pure retro de­sign. So the FJ has round head­lights, a mesh grille with Toy­ota badge, an up­right wind­screen, two-door style ( with clever rear-ac­cess doors), white roof and wrap-around rear win­dows. It also sits on 17-inch wheels, all of which colours the FJ with hints of yes­ter­year, adapted into an ag­gres­sive 21st cen­tury stance. `` It looks very se­ri­ous, pur­pose­ful, in­de­struc­tible,’’ says Kim. `` At the same time, it looks fun.’’

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