FJ pays homage to original
THE FJ Cruiser is more than a distinctive face in today’s herd of 4WDs.
For not only does the FJ pay homage to the original FJ LandCruiser of the 1960s through to the ’80s, it is also an honest off-roader. It’s loaded with style and some faded memories. The FJ began life as a Californian styling exercise, Toyota looking to find more appeal among younger buyers.
By 2003, there was a concept, the Rugged Youth Utility, and by 2005 a production version launched into the US. There are three heroes here: exterior designer Jin Kim, interior designer Bill Chergosky and chief engineer Akio Nishimura.
The three worked in unison to keep the FJ simple, staying true to the tradition of that iconic original and Kim’s initial vision.
There were few compromises between concept and production.
The result is a good-looking machine. For Toyota, this is the ‘‘goanywhere, do-anything’’ machine designed to attract younger, active lifestylers and at a more than reasonable price.
At $44,990, the FJ is Toyota Australia’s most affordable ‘‘proper’’ 4WD wagon. It is $500 dearer than the all-road Kluger and $11,000 cheaper than the three-door Prado, probably its closest competition.
A four-door, hardtop Jeep Wrangler starts at $40,990 and has the advantage of petrol and diesel powerplants, manual and automatic transmissions; a two-door Wrangler starts at $31,590 but can’t offer as much room and on-road comfort as the FJ. The new-boy Toyota arrives with electric windows, aircon- ditioning, six-stacker CD player with USB, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors.
Toyota has eschewed many of today’s electronic driver aids for the FJ, citing the need to keep the machine honest, with more onus on driver ability. But not offering multi-terrain settings and hill descent controls and such is also in keeping with the brief to keep the wagon affordable.
Instead, what’s here is the smooth four-litre V6 petrol engine and fivespeed automatic transmission, a two-speed transfer case, a lockable rear differential, vehicle stability control and traction control, all packaged in and around a shortened Prado platform.
Passive safety features include six airbags and active headrests on the front seats. There’s good visibility to the front and sides and, where compromised by the rear-mounted spare wheel, there’s a rear view camera. Clever B pillars are incorporated into the forward-opening, rear access doors. Active safety features include switchable traction control, stability control and ABS with electronic brake force distribution and brake-assist.
This is a comfortable and competent machine, on and off the road.
The experience begins with that wide, high and handsome cabin. Controls and instruments are big and easily identified, no hunting for miniature controls.
Down the tar the first thought is the steering response is a little remote but after a day, and particularly in the rough, it is familiar and well-weighted.