Design and Engineering

Design and Engineering

Good Arriving in Australia in March 2011, older folk may notice the styling links to the famous 1960’s FJ40 LandCruiser which helped Toyota become the number one selling brand in Australia for at least the last five years. Developed in Toyota’s Californian design centre, the FJ Cruiser doesn’t overdo it on the retro, inspiration apparently coming from the chief designer’s American pit bull, echoing its strong stance and fun looking face. Highlights include the round headlights, mesh grille, angular lines, and upright windscreen with three wiper blades, hidden rear suicide doors, contrasting white roof and wrap around rear windows. Underneath the concept car-like styling, the FJ Cruiser is heavily based on the previous generation LandCruiser Prado (120 Series), although it has adopted a number of changes from the latest 150 Series Prado. With a separate frame chassis construction rather than a passenger car-like monocoque chassis the FJ Cruiser is a true off-road capable 4x4.
Not so good Australia has had to wait some time for the FJ Cruiser to arrive as it has been on sale in the US market since 2006. The concept version was unveiled way back at the 2003 Chicago Motor Show. It should be noted that the FJ was upgraded just before it was launched Down Under, so it was by no means at the end of its life cycle in 2011.
Interior and Styling

Interior and Styling

Good There are lots of likeable retro touches inside such as body coloured panels, oversized door handles and the rubber-like moulded floor that look like it could be hosed down after an off-road adventure, but the FJ Cruiser also comes with a lot of creature comforts too. The big controls on the centre console are easy to use and the layout is logical. Thanks to a wide cabin the FJ Cruiser is spacious up front with healthy rear cargo space and no shortage of shoulder room. The seats are comfortable, and allow great amounts of headroom. Front and side visibility is good and on the road wind noise is surprisingly low considering the almost vertical windscreen and the big bluff side mirrors.
Not so good Smaller folk may not like the high set dash and the windscreen is shallow, but a height adjustable driver’s seat goes some way to combat this. The steering wheel adjusts for rake (up and down), but not reach (in and out), and rear vision is below average even though a very useful rear camera with a screen cleverly mounted in the rear vision mirror comes standard. Rear seat space feels a little cramped, the second row windows are fixed, and front doors must be opened before the rear doors can be used. The spare tyre is located on the rear door so it’s by no means light to open. Fortunately, the lift-up glass tailgate prevents owners having to swing open the door most of the time.
Performance

Performance

Good As the FJ Cruiser is only available with one drivetrain, it’s lucky to be a good one. The 4.0L petrol V6 engine generates a healthy 202kW of power and 380Nm of torque and is teamed up with a smooth shifting five speed automatic transmission. This is an impressively refined drivetrain combination. The FJ Cruiser accelerates well and notably 310Nm of torque is available from a low 1200rpm, easily coping with the 1955kg kerb weight. Whilst this is by no means a cutting edge lightweight SUV, it is well below the weight of the LandCruiser Prado and as such feels noticeably swifter behind the wheel. The FJ Cruiser runs best on premium unleaded and whilst it’s official fuel consumption (11.4L per 100km) is only a little lower than that of the petrol Prado, in the real world we’d guess it’ll use a few less litres per 100 kms.
Not so good The official urban fuel consumption is listed at a less than impressive 14.9L per 100km and Toyota does not offer its impressive 3.0L turbo diesel in the FJ Cruiser.
Ride and Handling

Ride and Handling

Good The FJ wasn’t just shipped over and dumped in Australian dealership’s, it was tuned for our unique road conditions with the steering recalibrated and dampers stiffened by 10 per cent. Whilst it may look like a Tonka truck, the FJ Cruiser doesn’t drive like one. It is a comfortable vehicle with a ride quality well above a number of other ‘hard-core’ off-roaders. On road, the handling capabilities are higher than expected and the steering has sufficient weighting whilst off-road skills are first class with impressive amounts of ground clearance (over 200mm) and short overhangs front and rear with break-over angles that are the best of any 4x4 Toyota. The high profile 17-inch tyres are a good compromise between on and off road use. When the going gets truly rough the driver can lock the rear diffs, select low range and press the active traction-control button.
Not so good Steering feels a touch light on road, however venture off-road and all is forgiven. The FJ Cruiser suffers from excessive body roll during high speed cornering, but this only occurs if you drive the FJ like a sports car, which of course it isn’t. It could be seen as a further compliment to the FJ.
Buying and Owning

Buying and Owning

Good Offered as a single, well-equipped model, the FJ Cruiser ticks the safety box with six airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes with EBD and BA, cruise control, front-seat head restraints, the reverse camera and display and rear parking sensors all standard. Creature comforts include power windows, a CD/USB/iPod/Bluetooth phone connectivity audio system, trip computer, remote central locking, air-conditioning, privacy glass and rear fog lamps. The FJ Cruiser is available in nine exterior colours, all combined with the retro white roof. Its value equation is so good we’d question the judgement of someone buying a three door LandCruiser Prado over this.
Not so good The 72 litre fuel tank is on the small side if you’re hitting the outback, and a 20kg limit on the front bumper limits the use of a hefty bull bar and winch.