GOLDEN ME AN
It’s called the Xtreme, but Toyota’s Arctic Trucks-fettled FJ Cruiser strikes a great balance between two extremes, says wheels’ Sony Thomas
M ost SUV owners in our region buy into a dream that they never live. Apart from the space and practicality they provide, the lure of these four-wheeldrive behemoths lies in their ability to let you leave the confines of the city and explore the wilderness.
But in the real world, a good number of SUV drivers don’t venture off the tarmac in their luxury high-riders, mainly because these are no longer the rugged, spartan and focused 4x4s of the early days. SUVs today are as city-oriented as saloons and crammed with creature comforts – even those that are inherently off-road-ready have their abilities restricted by low bumpers and cosmetic add-ons that are easy to damage and expensive to repair. And those that are modded-up specifically for the rough country are pretty much unusable in an urban setting.
This scenario is what local Toyota dealer Al-Futtaim Motors is seeking to remedy with its Xtreme version of the FJ Cruiser. Modified by Icelandic 4x4 experts Arctic Trucks, the Xtreme FJ has been available in the UAE since
2012, but it was more of a custom-order job. Now, though, it’s been officially added to Toyota’s local line-up, with all the mods approved by the dealer and covered under warranty. These include an uprated Fox stage 1 suspension with an overall lift of 40mm, chunkier rubbers on 16in matt-black alloy wheels, Bushwacker fender flares that allow for the extra suspension travel and a bonnet scoop to let more air into the engine bay. There are a few cosmetic trappings including smoked LED front indicators
No electronic nannies take control when you go off the beaten track – you are firmly in charge
and taillights, front fog lamps and LED daytime running lights.
Not much is different in the cabin from a regular FJ Cruiser, which means a clean dashboard layout with lots of hard but good-quality plastics and rudimentary control knobs and buttons. Although it’s a far cry from the typical SUV cabin that’s padded with leather, wood and the latest gizmos, the FJ’s cabin is a comfortable place to be.
There are no electronic nannies to take control when you go off the beaten track. Flick the low-range lever to four-wheel drive, and you are firmly in charge of the machine, which is well-equipped to take on the toughest of terrains.
A lthough I didn’t get the chance to go off to the desert, I spent some time putting the Xtreme through its paces around a vast off-road patch by the Dubai-Al Ain road. The Fox suspension soaked up the impact from fast jumps over mounds of sand and shrubberies with impressive ease. As against the detached feeling you get in many of the luxury SUVs, the FJ Cruiser Xtreme offers you a much more rewarding off-roading experience where you get a feeling of being fully in control as technological intrusions are kept to the minimum.
Although the 4.0-litre V6 remains unchanged, putting out just 270bhp, it seems more than enough for average off-road duties. It’s even better on the road, with quiet, smooth and effortless progress, complemented by a refined ride.
And the premium Toyota asks of you is not much at Dh149,900, which is Dh5,000 less than the top-of-therange FJ. You can always argue that it would be cheaper to buy a base FJ at Dh114,900 and then do your own off-road mods on it, but then you wouldn’t have the peace of mind that all these accessories are officially approved by the dealer and that your warranty is still valid.
It’s the perfect vehicle for those who dream of owning an SUV that offers a meaningful compromise between adept off-roading and comfortable urban cruising.
The interior is rudimenrary but good quality
Off-road action and smooth city driving; it offers both
Model FJ Cruiser Xtreme
Engine 4.0-litre V6 Transmission
Five-speed auto, AWD
270bhp @ 5,600rpm
Max torque 380Nm @ 4,400rpm Top speed 175kph 0-100kph 11.8sec Highs A good mix of off-road abilities and comfortable urban motoring
Lows Spartan interior