Inigo S. Roces / Inigo S. Roces | November 28, 2016 07:01
The civil bushwhacker
With its rugged throwback looks, spacious interior and comfortable yet go-anywhere ability, it should come as no surprise that the FJ Cruiser has become quite a popular model in the local market. The vehicle has won over many new fans into the Toyota stable, appealing to female drivers, some Jeep and Land Rover faithfuls, as well as a few that have never considered 4x4s until its arrival. The wide availability of aftermarket parts has also helped boost its popularity and it’s not uncommon to see a fully dressed up FJ Cruiser on the streets or in car shows.
In time with the arrival of TRD accessories for the new Fortuner and Hilux, so too have TRD options for the FJ Cruiser been launched. Toyota Motor Philippines even had their own test unit dressed up in full kit, so we thought we’d borrow it for a few days for a test drive.
With already such an imposing façade, the full TRD kit serves only to further emphasize the FJ Cruiser’s rugged abilities. Underneath the front is a new aluminium skid plate with 'TRD' cut out. Riveted wheel arches bolt over the standard flairs, polished black wheels and all-terrain tires serve as the new shoes. Underneath the wheelbase is a new steel bar to serve as protection when going off-road. Behind the wheels are larger mudflaps and a sleek new tailpipe finisher. There’s also the optional TRD side graphic.
Inside is the same throwback interior that has seemingly been designed with hard core off-roaders in mind. No carpeted floors here, just an easy-to-clean rubber lined floorboard perfect for those muddy days on the trails. Indeed, there’s an abundance of plastics, yet given the vehicle’s rugged purpose, it seems rather fitting. With the car being yellow, I can’t help but be reminded of my old Tonka toy trucks, and the rounded child-safe handles only further the illusion.
It’s all propelled by the same 4.0-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 that delivers an impressive 268 PS and 366 Nm of torque. A 5-speed automatic gated shifter delivers power to the rear wheels. There may be no overdrive button but the automatic mode lets you limit the top gear to each of the 5 speeds. A second gear shifter controls the transfer case, letting you shift to 4H and 4L.
Being primarily designed for the American market, the FJ Cruiser has a naturally lofty and boat-like feel. Expect lots of dips, squats and rolls when you accelerate, brake and turn. It all results in a very comfortable ride that is not very confidence-inspiring when you drive fast. And while it seems soft, the vehicle is still fairly stable at highway speeds, even with the more off-road geared TRD kit. That soft ride pays even more dividends when going off-road, muting much of the harsh terrain.
Easily the best part of the FJ Cruiser is how it appears to be such a hard-core off-roader yet is incredibly forgiving to newbies. The high ground clearance and steep approach angles ensure you’re not likely to snag on any rocks or ruts. And while the V6 delivers plenty of power, it’s very easy to regulate once in 4H and 4L, being very progressive and hardly returning any unwanted wheel spin. Add to that the standard inclinometer and there’s very little worry about toppling over.
Finally, the TRD kit does little to diminish the FJ Cruiser’s practicality. It may appear to be a three door, but a set of suicide doors can also open up to grant access to the second row. The rear door swings out instead of up, and reveals a cavernous cargo area even with the seats up.
The only downside to this vehicle is getting it around town. It may appear compact, but it’s incredibly wide. With such a high hood and window line, it’s rather difficult to judge just how close obstacles are to the left side. Behind, the thick pillars obscure much of the view behind, making for some pretty huge blind spots. Toyota has helped address this by equipping the vehicle with a back-up camera display into the rearview mirror. Finally, expect an average consumption of 5-6 km/L in heavy traffic in the city. That will improve significantly in the highway to 10 km/L travelling at 100 km/h average.
In spite of its bulky appearance, the soft ride, quirky yet flexible interior, tons of space, and high clearance have helped the FJ appeal to quite a broad demographic. You’ll see it being driven by students, to young professionals to even a few senior citizens. The TRD kit may not appeal to all of them, yet strikes a good balance between keeping it civil yet still highlighting its off-road abilities. It ticks all the prerequisites for those that want to go off-roading yet aren’t as permanent and irreversible as parts like a snorkel or bull bar.
That said, the FJ Cruiser can be a great intro vehicle into the joys of off-roading, yet still serve the daily driving duties quite comfortably. Just be prepared for the high fuel consumption.
Note: Toyota Motor Philippines has not yet released the final and official prices of the TRD accessories for the FJ Cruiser