Western Suburbs Weekly - - Driveway - Chris Ri­ley

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.


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