Best of both worlds – the FJ Cruiser
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2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser
By Antony Dickson
Cars, for most people, are usually seen as just modes of transport — something that takes you from Point A to Point B and back. For some, the kind of automobiles they drive reflect their personalities while for others, it is meant to define their status in society. But there are those who just love being adventurous. They would rather stay off the tarmac and take to paths that are sometimes even tough to negotiate on foot. Driving a vehicle in any kind of terrain and conquering it, is their idea of fun. Automobile manufacturers cater to such a breed of people and offer them SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicles). One such vehicle is Toyota’s FJ Cruiser.
The 2012 FJ Cruiser continues to retain in its DNA Toyota’s famed FJ40 characteristics and is evident in its looks. The FJ Cruiser looks rugged and ready to tame any kind of terrain with its huge 32-inch tires and high ground clearance. Design cues adopted from the original FJ40 are the front grille with large round headlights, the rear-mounted exposed full-size spare tire and the hood and fender contours. The rear suicide doors give easy entry access to rear passengers. The side-hinged door on the back opens up to quite a large space for storage and also accommodates an independent opening glass hatch. The wide wheel arches, that allow for over nine inches of wheel travel, speaks volumes of its off-road capabilities. An interesting feature of the FJ Cruiser was the three-wiper system to keep the windshield extra clean during extreme off-road adventures.
Though designed to tackle off-road terrains, Toyota has done well in civilizing this off-roader for city driving. During the week I had it, driving in the city was a pleasure. It sat high above the ground giving a better perspective of your surroundings. It can definitely be a daily driver and on the weekend, be used for some off-road action, without undertaking any kind of modification. It behaves extremely well on tarmac and offers a smooth ride all along thanks to its independent double-wishbone front suspension system featuring coil springs, gas shocks and stabilizer bar. The FJ Cruiser, when ordered with the Off-road Package, also features front and rear Bilstein Shock Absorbers for enhanced performance.
It’s not the just the handling of the vehicle in the city that has been taken care of. The interiors of the FJ Cruiser are very impressive indeed. The gauges use black and white dials for increased visibility and most switches are located in the centre of the dash. The water repellant seats are comfortable even during long periods of driving. The FJ Cruiser has Bluetooth capability, AM/FM/CD with MP3/WMA player, integrated XM Satellite Radio, USB audio input, six speakers and a roof mounted antenna. The quality of sound was excellent with bass and treble notes coming out distinctly from its speakers.
Coming to its powerhouse, the FJ Cruiser features a 260 peak horsepower 4.0 L V6 that generates 271 lb-ft of torque and offers a 5,000 lb towing capacity. Aided and abetted by Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (Dual VVT-i), Sequential Multiport Electronic Fuel Injection, an Acoustic Control Induction System and Electronic Throttle Control System with intelligence (ETCS-i), the FJ’s power plant is a marriage of “strong” and “sophisticated,” delivering maximum performance, improved fuel efficiency, and lower emissions. Though not impressive enough if sudden bursts of power was sought, it did get the job done, in its own pace. The FJ’s rugged engine is mated to a choice of two transmissions. The 6-Speed Manual features true, full-time four-wheel-drive, complete with centre differential lock, rear differential lock and two-speed transfer case. Our tester was equipped with the 5-Speed Automatic Super ECT that offered precise, seamless shifts and featured an on-demand four-wheel-drive system with automatic disconnecting differential, two-speed transfer case and rear differential lock. The FJ Cruiser’s power train includes a heavy-duty battery, starter, alternator and heater, and a stainless steel exhaust system. With a 4-litre engine under the hood, you can expect the FJ Cruiser to be a guzzler. We averaged 14 litres per 100 kilometres in combined city/highway driving.
The FJ Cruiser is loaded with several safety features and is engineered for maximum safety. All FJ Cruiser models are standard equipped with the Toyota Star Safety System™, a suite of six active safety technologies designed to protect occupants by helping drivers avoid accidents in the first place. The Toyota Star Safety System includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Antilock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA) enhancements, plus Smart Stop Technology (SST). The FJ Cruiser surrounds driver and four passengers in a suite of six airbags, including dual-stage driver and passenger airbags, front seat mounted side airbags, and front & rear side roll-sensing curtain airbags. It also comes with active front headrests with whiplash protection, anchor points for child-restraint seats and a direct tire pressure monitoring system among others.
The FJ Cruiser, both manual and automatic transmission models can be ordered with the Offroad Package, which adds: Front and rear Bilstein Shock Absorbers, a passenger seat foldable armrest, rear privacy glass, cruise control, keyless entry, a floating ball type multi-information display with compass, outside temperature gauge and inclinometer, roof rack, power adjustable exterior mirrors with image lamps, cargo-area mat, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror with integrated back-up camera.
The FJ Cruiser, when equipped with the automatic transmission, can be ordered with the new Urban Package which includes features such as a 10-speaker JBL Synthesis Audio System with subwoofer, running boards, a 115v/400watt power outlet, back-up sensors, leather-wrapped steering wheel and metallic shift knob, and interior trim keyed to the exterior colour.
The FJ Cruiser’s most interesting trim, in both manual and automatic transmission models, is available as a Trail Team Special Edition. This includes an exclusive “Radiant Red” exterior with matching roof, colour-keyed interior trim, blackout mirrors, bumpers, rear tow hitch cover, door handles and grille, off-road rock rails, 16” black TRD alloy wheels with BFGoodrich Rugged Terrain tires, unique roof-mounted off-road lighting with roof rack and leather steering wheel with exterior colour accents.
The FJ Cruiser is without doubt an excellent choice for an off-roader. It’s fun off-road while possessing excellent road manners at the same time. It’s closet competition would be the Jeep Wrangler. The FJ Cruiser, however, offers a smoother ride and more storage room even with four passengers. The tester featured here — the FJ Cruiser 4WD 5A — cost $40,165 excluding taxes and other administration fees.