FIVE years late but suitably updated, Toyota’s long-awaited FJ Cruiser finally hits the showrooms in mid-March from $44,990 plus on-roads costs for a single, well-equipped model.
Built by truck subsidiary Hino, the retro-styled 4WD is the fifth SUV in Toyota’s stable and is heavily based on the superseded 120 Series Prado, although it has picked up chassis changes from the latest 150 Series.
Designed to evoke the company’s landmark FJ40 LandCruiser – which enjoyed a long production life from 1960 to 1984 – the FJ Cruiser aims to expose Toyota to a wider, more youth-orientated market, as well as highlight its seven-decade experience in off-road vehicles.
FJ40 visual touches include round headlights set within the front grille, an upright windscreen, white roof and wrap-around rear corner glass.
“It is not just a car,” said chief engineer Akio Nishimura. “It represents the spirit of the company, blending history with modern design and engineering.”
To that end, the four-door wagon body features rear-hinged “access doors” similar to that of some one-tonne pick-ups – a move that aims to retain the two-door wagon appeal of the original 4WD while providing five-seater practicality.
Based at the firm’s CALTY studio in California, exterior designer Jin Won Kim revealed that his pet American pit bull terrier provided inspiration for the FJ Cruiser’s “powerful stance and muscular strength.”
Rejecting the term ‘retro’, he said that he simply “tried to keep the essence of the FJ40 – which was fun, rugged.”
Under the bluff bonnet is Toyota’s 4.0-litre all-alloy 24-valve V6 1GR-FE petrol engine with dual variable-valve timing, which is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.
Running on 95 RON premium unleaded, this Euro IV emissions unit delivers 200kW of power at 5600rpm and 380Nm of torque at 4400rpm, combined average fuel consumption is 11.4L/100km and the emissions rating is 267g/km. The fuel tank holds 72 litres.
The rear differential lock is electronically actuated, while the four-wheel drive system is a part-time device with a two-speed transfer case. Some overseas models boast a full-time 4WD system with a six-speed auto, but not Australia for the time being.
Like the Prado 120 on which it is based, the FJ Cruiser employs separate frame chassis construction underpinned by double wishbones with coil springs, gas-filled dampers and an anti-roll bar up front, and a five-link system with coils, dampers and anti-roll bar at the rear.
Brakes are ventilated discs while steering is by variable-ratio hydraulically powered rack-and-pinion, with 2.7 turns lock to lock.
At 4670mm long and sitting on a 2690mm wheelbase, the 2510kg FJ Cruiser is a mid-sized SUV.
For off-road enthusiasts, overhangs are 865mm at the front and 1115mm at the back, with a ground clearance rating of 224mm. The respective approach, departure and break-over angles are 36, 31 and 29 degrees – the latter two being the best of any Toyota SUV.
The company said local testing resulted in unique calibration for the heavy-duty suspension and power steering, the fitment for the 17-inch alloy wheels shod with 265/70R 17 tyres and inclusion of grab handles for rear-seat occupants.
Australia’s coarse-chip bitumen also required the creation of an NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) package that has been adapted for FJs worldwide.
On the safety front there are six airbags, ESC, traction control, ABS brakes with EBD and BA, active front-seat head restraints, rear parking sensors, cruise control and a reverse camera with the display in the mirror.
Air-conditioning, power windows, remote central locking, privacy glass, rear fog lamps, CD stacker/USB/iPod/Bluetooth phone connectivity audio with steering wheel-mounted controls and a trip computer are standard fitment.
The cabin is designed for flexibility and basic utility – hence the large door handles, vent controls and shift levers that can be operated while wearing gloves.
Other notable features is world-first headlining that incorporates speakers for what Toyota says is a “showering” of sound
Nine exterior colours are available – and all are combined with the white roof to enhance the retro FJ40 look.
The FJ Cruiser arrives in Australia after a long gestation period, having been unveiled at the 2003 Chicago auto show as a concept car and in finished form the following year in Detroit, with production commencing in Japan in 2006, primarily for the US market.
Toyota Australia sales and marketing chief David Buttner said the company expects to sell approximately 900 FJ Cruisers by the end of 2011.