Wednesday, September 20, 2006

FAST FORWARD: Toyota Gets Off Beaten Path With FJ Cruiser


OVERVIEW

For those of you who’s hearts yearn for long weekends away from the city, camping deep in the wilderness, and the kind of freedom that can only be delivered by vehicles who’s competence lies beyond the beaten path, Toyota has something to show you.

Meet the FJ Cruiser. New for 2007, this no frills off-road wanderer features a stylistic blending of old and new. It bears a likeness to the original FJ40, especially in the front end. The new FJ targets young people who prefer off-road prowess to street driveability. FJ feels big, tall, and does not have creature comforts in mind.

PERFORMANCE

This rugged, trail-blazing truck is endowed with a 4.0 liter V-6 generating a respectable 239 horsepower. More importantly, the V-6 makes 278 lbs.-ft or torque, which is a necessity in off-road exploration. On the street, the engine feels powerful. FJ also has one of the easiest and smoothest clutches I’ve driven. You truly can get in and feel as though you’ve driven the FJ before. On the other hand, the shifter is sloppy and imprecise. Also, you could fit a blue whale in the blind spot generated by the huge c-pillar.

HANDLING

It doesn’t take long behind the wheel of this full-time 4X4 to understand where Toyota’s priorities are with this truck. It handles like a 4WD truck. Don’t expect the FJ to corner. That is not its purpose. However, given the fact that most of these trucks will spend the lion’s share of their time on asphalt, it is important to say that the ride quality wasn’t bad. In fact, it was smoother over rough roads than I anticipated.

STYLING

Like so many new cars coming out, the FJ takes the styling from the original FJ40 and ads a modern flair. I’m a big fan of the blending of old and new, when it’s done right. My hat’s off to Toyota inside and out. There is no doubt this truck isn’t for everyone. In fact, with its mammoth instrumentation, rubber floor mats, and spray-washable seats, the FJ is singular in its purpose. If you don’t get it, you’ll hate it.

JUDGEMENT

Cheap off-road enjoyment. The FJ fills the void left by the Jeep Cherokee. It has more room than a Jeep Wrangler and is far cheaper than a Hummer. Late 20-somethings who have graduated from their lifted Jeeps to young children and mortgages should take a good hard look at FJ. --- Marcus MacFarland