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2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser
Who needs pavement . . . or roads?
By Malcolm Gunn
The Toyota FJ Cruiser is far from cute and barely qualifies as handsome. But you don't have to look twice at Toyota's off-road traveler to know that this tough-looking hombre stands ready to tackle the toughest terrain.
The FJ Cruiser is a boulder-bounding, body-on-frame retro-warrior that, as part of its early development, tamed California's rock-strewn Rubicon Trail, long considered the ultimate rite of passage for any "real" off-roader.
Now well into its fourth season, the FJ remains one of the few vehicles that caters to enthusiasts who actually enjoy getting their vehicles (and themselves) filthy dirty in their search for adventure well off the beaten path. And one excursion into said terrain will quickly convince you that - when the going gets steep, slippery, muddy and generally impassible - the FJ is likely a good friend to have along.
Reaching back into the design vault for inspiration is a tactic employed by several automakers. In Toyota's case, it was the original and still highly prized FJ-series off-roaders that was imported to North America from 1960-'83. Patterned after the Second-World-War-era Willys Jeep, the FJ was notable for enduring most any kind of punishment and indignity their owners could dish out.
The numerous styling touches that link the FJ Cruiser to its glorious past include circular headlights, wrap-around rear glass and signature white-roofed paint scheme. Overall, though, its appearance is surprisingly modern, if slightly eccentric. For example, a pair of handy side access portals open clamshell style for easier passenger and cargo loading/unloading, while the flexible fender trim resists damage and provides door-ding protection. And there are three wiper arms that are used to keep the curved windshield clean.
On the inside, rubber mats replace the usual looped carpeting for a quick hose-out and the seat fabric is water repellent.
For the 2010 model year, Toyota saw fit to update the standard 4.0-litre V6 with a number of tweaks, including a more modern valvetrain, which means a 20-horsepower bump (to 259) and a significant improvement in fuel economy (now 12.5 and 9.6 l/100 km, city/highway, compared to 2009's 14.7/10.8 rating).
A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while a five-speed automatic is optional. Four-wheel-drive selection actually varies depending on the transmission. The best setup is reserved for the six-speed-manual models that works with a Torsen limited-slip centre differential and a two-speed transfer case to direct 60 per cent of the power to the rear wheels under normal conditions or on a 50:50 basis when the centre differential is locked up. In this case, with the various traction and differential locks engaged, the FJ only needs but one of its massive 32-inch tires contacting the ground to deliver traction. This off-roader will make an ear-to-ear-grinning beginner look like a seasoned boulder hopper.
The basic-equipment list gets you air conditioning, steel wheels eight-way adjustable driver's seat, tilt steering wheel, six-speaker audio system, rear differential lock and protective skid plates.
An optional Offroad Package - which seems redundant given that the FJ is already an off-roader - includes heavy-duty shocks, alloy rims with mud and snow-rated rubber roofrack, keyless entry, cruise control backup camera and a thermometer and inclinometer to let you know how steep a slope you're on . . . because when you're actually on the slope, it's tough to tell how much is too much.
If the Offroad Package doesn't provide enough content, it can be substituted for the Adventure Package that adds an eight-speaker FJammer premium audio system with built-in subwoofer as well as other niceties such as running boards, auto-dimming rearview mirror, fancier interior door trim, to name a few items.
The $33,600 (base price) FJ Cruiser doesn't try or even pretend to be a sport ute for the masses. But for hard-core lovers of grit, grunge and gravel, this Toyota demonstrates that obstacle-defeating brawn trumps skin-deep beauty every time.
What you should know: 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser
Type: Four-door, four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle
Engine (hp): 4.0-litre DOHC V6 (259)
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; five-speed automatic (opt.)
Market position: It's one of only a few affordably priced vehicles that have been specifically designed to handle off-road excursions. With fuel economy and pure necessity driving vehicle sales, the FJ's customer base is small, though.
Points: Added power improves FJ's highway performance; Small side-access doors, but better than no doors at all; Full-size spare adds weight to tailgate; Blind spot from extra-wide rear roof pillar a major drawback; Outstanding off-road capabilities plus traditional FJ styling appeals to enthusiasts; Is that Jeep looking over its shoulder?
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG (city/hwy): 12.5/9.6 (AT)
Base price (incl. destination): $33,600
Base price: $23,550
Attractive, youth-oriented sport ute is capable both on and off-road.
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Base price: $24,200
Lacks FJ' s road manners, but delivers impressive off-road performance.
Suzuki Grand Vitara
Base price: $19,900
Well-priced sport ute offers four-cylinder and V6 power.
Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!
Posted February 28, 2011. © CarTest.ca TM