COMMITMENT TO CRUISER
TOYOTA NOT READY TO LET FJ40 GO
IT took a long time for Toyota to get its hands on the FJ Cruiser and the Australian arm of the company is not ready to let it go just yet.
Although the iconic off-road wagon has been dropped from the line-up in the US, Toyota Australia will continue to offer the car here as long as it has supply.
That does not hinge on the US because the FJ is built in Japan.
Other right-hand-drive markets to take the FJ include Japan, New Zealand and South Africa.
Although the FJ received a warm welcome from Aussie buyers, it was already dated by the time it got here.
The inspiration for the design was the original FJ40 four-wheel drive built from 1960 to 1984, which played a large role in the construction of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
Toyota has sold more than 8700 FJs here since its introduction in 2011, at the rate of about 200 a month.
It's priced from $47,990 ($3000 more than its launch price) and premium paint adds another $550.
The vehicle is on a sepa- rate ladder chassis, and shares its engine and underpinnings with the Prado wagon.
There's only one model, with part-time four-wheel-drive, a V6 petrol engine and five-speed automatic, in a choice of seven colours (not all with a white roof).
Nothing much has changed regarding how it drives.
It's big and surprisingly cushy for an off-roader, with rather soft suspension.
The steering is vague and you sit in this car with a roof that shrouds the cabin like a tank turret.
It's good for keeping out the glare of the summer sun, but not so good for all-round vision when it comes to navigating crowded city streets.
In fact, no matter how many times you look over your shoulder, you can't escape the feeling that you're surrounded by blind spots.
Toyota acknowledged the lack of vision when it added a rearview camera and rear parking sensors to the updated model, as well a larger fuel tank; no doubt to compensate for the lack of a long-range diesel.
It's off road that the FJ Cruiser comes into its own.
It's a force to be reckoned with and more than a match for a Jeep or Land Rover, with short front and rear overhangs and 224mm of ground clearance.
The FJ features selectable 4x4, an electrically activated rear difflock and switchable active traction control, with adjustable Crawl Control for added off-road control.
The bad news is there's no diesel, or a manual, the lat- ter being the preferred option of the off-road community.
The 4.0- litre petrol V6 is a lift from Prado, with 200kW and 380Nm of torque and is paired with a gated, five-speed automatic.
Weighing up to 270kg more than Prado, the FJ's economy is rated at 11.4 litres/100km, with a 163-litre tank that gives it a theoretical range of almost 1400km. It takes premium unleaded too. The design is as functional as it is stylish, with washable interior surfaces and chunky controls that are easy to use.
A clutch of off-road gauges adorns the top of the dash, with compass, temperature and inclinometer.
It can tow a 2250kg trailer but oddly a snorkel is not offered for the really serious off-road stuff.
It has a few idiosyncracies, like the rear doors, which open backwards in ‘suicide’ fashion. lt's an intriguing idea but soon loses its attraction after it becomes apparent that the
rear doors can't be opened before the front doors and must be closed first too (good for keeping the kids coraled in the back).
The tailgate is hinged the wrong way too and opens from right to left towards the pavement, exposing those trying to access the luggage area to passing traffic.
Then there's the windscreen wipers.
There are three of them to cover the wide but narrow windscreen. They remind me of the wipers on my 1976 VW Beetle (that's not a good thing).
No trip computer either and the satnav is absolute crap.
In this day and age, one expects to be kept informed of distance to empty and average fuel consumption figure, but you just have to take the stated claim on faith.
Despite its obvious shortcomings the FJ is an appealing car, exciting to be seen in and drive, especially off road.
In years to come, especially if production is wound up, it is destined to become an off-road classic.
Toyota's classic FJ40 lives on.