No longer can we mumble about boring shapes, interiors and a lack of excitement from Toyota while regurgitating the undisputed (and much more important) virtues of inherent quality and unrivaled reliability of this world leader’s models.
Why? The reason is the FJ Cruiser, which forms part of the famous Land Cruiser family. Now finally available in right-hand-drive form, this cruiser in the real sense of the term has emerged from the dreadful catastrophes in Japan and reached our shores. So what is all the fuss about?
It’s all about the looks. That retro front-end treatment shouts, “Look at me – I haven’t changed. I was cool in the 1960s and ‘70s and still am.” Close-set round headlights and a plain grille look just fine and notice that this is the only Toyota that doesn’t have the carmaker’s emblem on its grille. Instead, the name is in bold. The emblem still adorns the leather-covered steering-wheel boss, though. The rear also has that retro-modern touch with a side-opening hinged door with mounted spare wheel. Roofs are all white, just as they were on the FJ40 of the 1960s.
But it’s the side view that shows the FJ Cruiser at its best. Only two doors are initially apparent. This is not so, as a pair of “suicide” rear-opening doors allow better access for the rear seat passengers. Note that the FJ has seating for five with a large luggage area aft.
The interior goes right along with the theme. Body-coloured sections are featured, a slab-like facia with symmetrically laid out controls, oversized air-con and vent knobs, and an upright, low-slung windscreen that needs three wiper blades to cover most of the swept area. The sound system sounded good and incorporates a speaker built into the roof lining.
Instruments are not your usual Japanese style and everything looks like a blend of American and British influence mixed-in with the Japanese base – perhaps again harking to the roots of the entire Japanese auto industry. The steering wheel has little rake adjustment and no reach but the driver’s seat has height and tilt adjustment and foot space is good. Rear legroom is adequate but not outstanding. Seating is moisture-repellent cloth that is washable. While the small rear-side windows look as if they will not allow rear passenger visibility, it wasn’t too bad, although, with the limited glass area, this isn’t the best game-viewing vehicle.
So what makes the FJ go? Keeping it nice and simple is a four-litre V6 pushing 200 kW at 5 600 r/min and 380 N.m of torque at 4 400 r/min. Intelligent valve timing is fitted to both inlet and exhaust valves. The engine feeds into a five-speed automatic transmission. For the rough stuff, a separate gearlever moves from 2H to 4H to 4L and a switch adds a rear diff lock. You also have a special off-road traction control available with another switch that includes limited slip for the front diff.
The tyres also fit the bill with 265/70R17 Dunlop GrandTrek AT22 rubber providing the necessary grip. To show that the FJ is much more than a curb-crawler, we negotiated a superb 4×4 course strewn with loose rocks. The traction control did a perfect job in keeping a slow and steady pace with the 245 mm ground clearance proving just enough for the bigger rocks that could not be avoided.
On the tar road, we were in for a much smoother surprise than expected. The suspension (double wishbone at front and four-link with lateral rods at rear) soaks up bumps and potholes with ease. Although body roll and some diving under braking is present, the absorption is excellent and on top of that is a high level of insulation from road, wind and mechanical noise. Steering is light enough (not too light, though) and positive with its hydraulic power assistance.
With this drivetrain, fuel consumption is not going to be outstanding – the official figure is 11,4 l/100 km.
Six airbags and Isofix mounting points are standard or both versions: The FJ Cruiser at R435 500 and the FJ Sport Cruiser at R457 300. The Sport model has black paintwork, leather seating and some chrome bling including on the door handles, mirrors and grille plus scuff plates.
A customised edition Desert Cruiser is presently on offer on sandstorm colour with a nudge bar, spot lamps, tow bar, all weather carpets and rock rails for R450 400.
Another special version is the FJ Trail Cruiser in metallic grey with roof racks plus integrated spot lamps, tow bar, all weather carpets and a black spare wheel cover for R451 700.
Warranty is three years/100 000 km with a five-year/90 000 km service plan. Service interval are 10 000 km.