FJ pays homage to orig­i­nal

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE - By BRUCE McMA­HON

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.

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