Toyota has finally released the FJ Cruiser in Australia. The FJ Cruiser is powered by a 4.0L V6 5 Speed drivetrain with a dual transfer case and heaps of 4WD credibility.
I have just spent a couple of days driving through the Flinders Ranges in South Australia in the 2011 FJ Cruiser. Now Im sure that many of our readers have been following the FJ Cruiser in the States for the last couple for years wondering when and if it was coming to Australia.
Well do you want the good news or bad news first? The good news is that there is very little bad news. The FJ Cruiser is not only a revelation in its looks but it is extremely capable off road as well.
It is well documented that the design idea came from blending the long pedigree of the iconic FJ 40 with modern design and technology.
Toyota’s FJ Cruiser has been developed as a rugged sports utility vehicle that will capture the hearts of younger buyers, according to the chief engineer, Akio Nishimura who was at the launch and was immensely proud of his ‘baby’
Mr Nishimura said it was designed to be a modern SUV with substantial off-road capability as well as practical driving performance for use as everyday transport.
He said the vehicle was named “FJ” because it inherits the DNA of the legendary FJ40 and “Cruiser” to emphasise its Toyota four-wheel-drive heritage.
“The FJ Cruiser is not just a car,” Mr Nishimura said. “It represents the spirit of the company, blending history with modern design and engineering.”
Mr Nishimura had four goals for FJ Cruiser:
• Modern and rugged styling,
• Sufficient space for outdoor recreational activities,
• Audio that can be “felt” with the entire body, and
• Top-level off-road performance.
I actually don’t think that I have seen such genuine enthusiasm and feeling for a car for such a long time from not only its designers but also the very hospitable Toyota PR people. When you got through the marketing hype everyone at the launch was visibly excited to be able to bring the FJ Cruiser to Australia.
The lead exterior designer Jin Kim from the USA was also at the launch and revealed that some of his design ideas came not only from the legendary FJ 40 but also from his pet dog that had a masculine and aggressive stance. Inspiration comes from the strangest places.
Childhood memories that associated a neighbour’s Landcruiser FJ40 with the spirit of adventure were central to William Chergosky’s design inspiration for the interior of the Toyota FJ Cruiser.
“The FJ40 was one of the vehicles I loved. It looked like, in a child’s eye, what you imagine an adventure would look like,” Chergosky said. “In my childhood imagination, Australia is one of the places I imagined the FJ Cruiser. So I’m very excited that it’s going to be there.”
Externally the FJ Cruiser certainly attracts attention with its brilliant design. It also looks even better in the flesh and grows on you the more you see it. It has a wide squat stance and the extra width certainly benefits internal space. The Toyota spelled out across the front grill stands out.
Jump in the drivers seat and you immediately notice they are comfortable however I would have liked the ability to raise the front of the seat squab and some adjustable lumbar support. Putting those aside there is adequate slide adjustment and the waterproof seats provide good support.
The height adjustable only steering wheel feels good in your hands with audio and bluetooth controls. The diameter combines with the 2.7 turns lock to lock to provide comfortable driving.
The dash is well laid out and moves away from the typically Toyota ‘safe’ feel. Due to the upright front windscreen (which has three wipers) the dash sits high and forward which gives the feeling of space but you find yourself sitting slightly higher than you normally would to obtain better visibility forward, especially in off road situations.
The design is high waisted with narrowed windows that ordinarily I wouldn’t like but surprisingly visibility is good and the use of large side mirrors overcomes any blind spot.
There is a clever storage bin in the top of the dash right in front of the driver but no front glove box for the passenger as they make do with a smaller under dash storage area.
Sitting on top of the dash taking centre stage is a three-instrument pod housing the compass, inclinometer and temperature etc. Personally I have never liked these, didn’t like it when the Pajero had it years ago and don’t like it now.
There is no centre console, rather a storage bin that will take a number of drink bottles and other stuff that we all seem to accumulate.
The clever design ensures that the look is very coupe like yet the suicide doors provide relatively good access to the rear seats. The B-pillars are built into the access doors and support the upper and lower front seatbelt anchorages.
Opening the rear doors is only from the inside and access is ok although it would be helped if the front seats automatically slid forward rather than having to manually lift the slide adjuster at the front. This makes it difficult for the rear passengers to alight by themselves.
Sitting in the rear seats is remarkably comfortable, even for someone like me who is larger than the average bear at 192cm and a tad over 100kg. I could sit behind the driver with the driver’s seat fully back and the backrest also back and only feel slightly squashed. I wouldn’t want to drive for hours like that but it was ok.
The rear seats are better for two and they have an aeroplane feel with the small fixed windows. It is a bit like looking out of an aeroplane window and the kids will probably find that pretty cool. Throughout there is more than enough shoulder and headroom, enough to leave the hat on if you like.
The rear seat has a 60/40-split seat back and a double folding cushion function. The rear seat cushions can be easily removed from the vehicle – to further increase cargo space.
The cargo area is home to three child restraint anchorage points (conveniently fitted to the rear seat backs) and four cargo tie-down points. The cargo deck is 754mm above the ground to make loading easy – and occupants can also load small items of cargo through the glass hatch in the back door.
The attention to detail shows in having grab handles everywhere, an improvement from Australia. The other thing I really liked was the rubber mats everywhere. We are now used to either having carpet throughout which if you think about it is absolutely impractical, but the alternatives have always been a bit agricultural. The FJ Cruiser fixes that problem with very comfortable rubber mats that take practicality to new levels and yet provide the necessary noise deadening.
They were literally hosed out with a gurney and came up looking fantastic. Big bonus to the designers for that one and it detracts nothing from the comfort at all.
I must make special mention of the innovative ‘surround sound’ that takes the meaning of surround literally. There are speakers everywhere, even in the roof and that provides a pretty cool listening experience. Another big tick for the designers.
The system also features a USB port for iPod™ connectivity, 3.5mm input jack for other MP3 players, six-stack CD player and Bluetooth™ for mobile phone hands free and audio streaming.
Safety is a priority with six airbags and active front-seat head restraints and a reversing camera with the display located in the electro-chromatic rear-view mirror. This should be mandatory for all vehicles.
Active safety features include switchable active traction control (A-TRAC), vehicle stability control (VSC), and anti-skid brakes (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA).
The FJ Cruiser is based on the Prado underpinnings. It shares the same ladder-frame chassis, drivetrain and suspension with some modifications.
The FJ Cruiser is built for 4WD work. It features impressive road clearance – a 36-degree approach angle, 31-degree departure angle and 29-degree break-over angle. The latter two dimensions are the best for any vehicle in Toyota’s local 4WD range.
The clearance is 224 mm, which is bettered in Toyota’s range by only the Landcruiser 200 series and an impressive fording depth of 700mm with the air intake at the front. The drivetrain is 2WD for the most part but has shift on the move two-speed transfer case to high 4wd.
Unlike the new Prado Toyota has kept the electronic wizardry to a minimum but the capability doesn’t suffer at all. FJ Cruiser is fitted with electronic functions, such as Active Traction Control and rear differential lock that can be switched on and off on demand.
To show just how good the FJ Cruiser is off road we never had to engage the rear diff lock and we only engaged the ATC to play with it. Make no mistake the FJ Cruiser is a beauty off road.
The wheelbase at 2690mm is between the 3 door and 5 door Prado as is the overall length at 4670mm of the FJ Cruiser. It is wider at 1905 mm. When you drive it though it doesn’t feel like a big SUV at all. You do notice the width on tracks but it’s not a big issue.
It does however ride better than both the Prado’s and the balance between on and off road seems to be better. To drive the FJ Cruiser is a surprise. It is remarkably stable on road even at speeds up to 150kmh and has good feel through the steering wheel. It has a sporty nature.
Off road the FJ Cruiser is probably a tad more comfortable that the Prado with less bouncing around and excellent feedback. It also feels smaller and way lighter than it is handling everything we threw at it on the launch with consummate ease.
FJ Cruiser has long-travel all-coil suspension – with high-mounted double-wishbones at the front and a five-link system at the rear – to optimise suspension performance on and off-road. The five-link solid rear axle system offers a balance of maximum wheel travel with optimal road holding.
Local testing has resulted in unique calibration of the heavy-duty all-coil suspension and power steering to suit Australian conditions, plus the fitment of 17-inch alloy wheels and 70-profile tyres. The result is better feedback through the steering wheel with minimal kickback off road and better rebound off road as well.
Also having 17-inch tyres means that you can still purchase some decent off road rubber. Along those lines thankfully Toyota resisted the urge to put the spare underneath and there is plenty of room for an aftermarket long range fuel tank.
Toyota FJ Cruiser’s petrol engine has been proven under local operating conditions in Australia’s best-selling SUV, LandCruiser Prado, and the country’s top-selling Ute, HiLux.
The 4.0-litre quad-cam V6 engine has more than 310Nm of torque available from approximately 1200rpm, to increase the FJ Cruiser’s off and on-road flexibility.
Peak torque of 380Nm is reached at 4400rpm and maximum power of 200kW is delivered at 5600rpm.
This performance is transmitted to the wheels through a five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with gate type shifting. Personally I prefer the tiptronic style especially for off road driving however once you get used to the gate it is ok to use.
Fuel economy on the official combined cycle is 11.4 litres/100km*, delivering a theoretical driving range of 631km with carbon dioxide emissions of 267 grams/km.
On the highway, fuel economy improves to 9.3 litres/100km* (774km range). Even on the urban cycle, FJ Cruiser returns 14.9 litres/100km* (483km range). However a happy right foot will see those official figures seem way south of the reality.
FJ Cruiser will be offered in nine exterior colours, all with white roof, including the hero colours Voodoo Blue and Hornet Yellow. The other colours are: Military Blue, Titanium, French Vanilla, Jungle, Brick Red, Sandstorm and Ebony.
Toyota Service Advantage pricing is $210 per service for the first 3 years or 60,000km, whichever occurs first. Service interval is every 10,000kms.
At the launch you could see just how proud both chief engineer Akio Nishimura and the exterior designer Jin Kim were when they could see their creation driving through the high trails against the magnificent backdrop of the Flinders Ranges.
They have every right to be proud, as what they have created is a stunning design that is very capable off road yet does not have that large SUV feel around town. The FJ Cruiser has the looks and street cred backed up by off road capabilities to become an instant hit.
Having driven my fair share of 4WD vehicles over the years I am really impressed with the simplicity and execution of design philosophy in the FJ Cruiser. As I said before make no mistake about the FJ Cruiser being a soft roader. It is a bloody beauty off road.
At a MLP of $49,990 and only one well specified model there is not much around that looks as good or has the same feel both on and off road. I would add the rock rails to protect the sills, the roof rails and away you go.
My guess is that if you want one put your order in early or you might be facing a wait for your new FJ Cruiser. Toyota should and deservedly so sell heaps of them. But please Mr Toyota when can we have the diesel.
What is Good?
- It looks different
- Surprisingly comfortable inside
- Extremely capable off road
What is Not So Good?
- No Diesel
- No Diesel (and no that is not a misprint)
- Over bonnet visibility a little restricting
- Poor Towing Capacity
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