Toyota FJ Cruiser

The Toyota FJ40 started from humble beginnings in the 1960’s. Its go-anywhere attitude was backed up by a dollop of simple, sturdy engineering and then actually managing to go anywhere, including the arid deserts of Khuzestan with the Iranian army in the Persian Gulf War.

A tough bit of machinery – something Toyota hopes to have recreated with their retro-styled off roader, the FJ Cruiser. The FJ first showed its face at the Detroit motor show in 2003, in concept form at that stage, however its imposing stature and off-the-wall styling soon saw it roll off production lines. The design is unashamedly reminiscent of the original FJ40 and several classic FJ traits have been carried over into the new model. At first glance the odd proportions and ugly mug are somewhat vulgar however, much like a bull dog, give it some time and it becomes endearing despite how it looks.

Things don’t get more normal on the inside either. Take the door configuration for example, there are four of them which is pretty normal at first glance, but to open the rear doors you have to open the front ones first, and then they open the wrong way. Once inside you’ll notice your dashboard is colour coded to match the exterior – unlike the bumpers – and all the dials appear to have been designed for use by toddlers.

Despite this, the FJ is relatively well equipped. Creature comforts include an integrated audio/CD sound system with 6 speakers and an iPod, external audio and USB connectors, a powerful air conditioning system, extra power socket, and cruise control. In ‘Desert’ form, like my test unit, some additional niceties are added, such as a nudge bar with mounted driving lamps, all weather carpets, tow bar, rock rails, ‘Desert’ badges and a limited edition Sandstorm colour. It’s exceptionally comfortable and spacious too, with room enough for five occupants to arrive at your destination without needing a chiropractor.

Underneath the quirky shell you’ll find a stretched version of the Land Cruiser chassis, paying homage via its name, and Toyota’s gutsy 4.0-litre, 200kW V6. Power is delivered to the wheels via a five speed automatic gearbox. My initial feelings on this combination were not flattering I must admit. However the FJ made me eat those feelings. The motor is as smooth as J&B’s triple distilled, twice as smooth ‘ad’ only a lot less quiet, almost disturbingly quiet in fact.

For outdoorsy types, the FJ comes with a limited slip centre differential, switch-activated lockable rear diff and in true Land Cruiser fashion, a transfer case with 4×2, 4×4 high and 4×4 low ranges. With tight approach and departure angles, 244mm of ground clearance, and the ability to wade through water 700mm deep, the FJ is an accomplished off-roader.

The trade-off is off course mediocre road manners, with wallowy handling and cumbersome steering. But to be honest it could have been a lot worse, unlike the fuel economy which is cleverly difficult to determine given the lack of on-board computer, but none-the-less commensurate with a two ton heavyweight that’s petrol powered.

At the end of the day I must tip my hat to Toyota. Judging by the number I’ve seen on the roads since its launch late last year the FJ has clearly been well accepted by Toyota’s faithful following. That aside the FJ Cruiser is a fitting tribute to its predecessor and there really couldn’t be any greater praise.

Price: R 450,400
Engine: 4.0 V6 24 valve petrol with dual i-VVTi
Power: 200 kW
Torque:  380 Nm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 8.6
Top speed (km/h): 175
Fuel consumption (l/100km): 11.4 (claimed)

Miles Downard
First published by Autodealer KZN

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