ExplorOz Attends Toyota's FJ Cruiser National Media Launch

Friday, Mar 18, 2011 at 18:29


From time to time, ExplorOz receives invites to attend various industry events. We knew the opportunity to see Toyota's new FJ cruiser and partake in a wonderful 2-day on-location media launch in the beautiful Flinders Ranges was too good an opportunity to miss, so as a special thank you to one of our favourite bloggers (and Toyota man) we surprised Member - Mick O with the invitation to represent ExplorOz on March 8th. All he had to do was write this blog... He's his story of the experience.
“Mick, would you like to complete that policy work on your desk or……how about 2 days in the Flinders Ranges test driving the new Toyota FJ cruiser”. I think the scorch marks I left in the cheap government carpet as I departed the office were all the response that question needed!

So there I found myself in the back stalls of a small twin engine turbo prop circling Hawker at midday on a Tuesday vainly searching for a gap in the sea of grey cloud that shrouded everything. It was looking grim and we were more than half way back towards Port Augusta when our pilot, young Biggles, spotted a hole in the grey carpet the size of a beer carton. Not being one to let the opportunity pass he powered on and dove down through the clouds like a Spitfire pilot of old dropping out of the sun onto some unwary enemy. The only thing missing was the flying scarf and a cry of “Tally ho chaps”. We did the entire trip back to Hawker at 500 metres or less (and a heart rate of 180) making for a great flight.

Thankfully, the rain that had been pelting down at Adelaide had not extended as far north as the Flinders Ranges. Landing at Hawker International Airport we were greeted by the full pastel assortment of nearly a dozen spanking new FJ cruisers. This was going to be a lot of fun. In the 1950’s, Toyota took a bold gamble and imported two of its 4 wheel drive Land Cruiser vehicles to the Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme. The dye was cast and over the next 50 years, the Landcruiser built a reputation across the wide brown land as an unbreakable workhorse, none more so than the FJ 40 model of the 1970’s.
Then FJ cruiser aims to capture the spirit and essence of the iconic 1970’s workhorse in a modern design. Believe me when I say it’s a very modern interpretation alright with it’s Bluetooth and ipod connectivity but don’t let that fool you. Get past all the metrosexual gadgetry and the FJ has some serious off road capability that left me impressed.
With its boxy styling and bright colours the FJ is certainly a head turner that Toyota have unashamedly marketed for the Gen-Y demographic. Dave Buttner, head of Toyota Australia (and a really nice bloke), described the FJ as a car that "responds to the needs of the modern buyer while retaining a strong link to its heritage". Cleverly Toyota have backed that by underpinning the Cruiser on the proven Prado platform.


Basically the FJ is a Prado in lighter livery. To my mind, building on a tried and tested platform such as the Prado is common sense. Toyota said testing for Australian conditions resulted in unique calibration for the suspension and power steering and the fitting of 17-inch wheels. Noise-suppressing material was also added to block out road noise created by Australia's coarse-chip bitumen surfaces. Having been released in the US in 2006, the Us market has largely driven the development of the FJ Cruiser. As a result the 4.0 litre V6 petrol motor is well tested but a downside is the fuel consumption: an average of 11.4 l/100k (95 octane minimum). There is no diesel prospect in the foreseeable future and this may affect sales of the right-hand drive model.

The vehicle is a pleasure to drive on the blacktop and eats up gravel roads comfortably. Seating and driving comfort is good; the fabric is 'water repellent' and ventilated and the front seats are well shaped and supportive of even a larger framed bloke like me. Rear seats are higher giving a better view of the road ahead for kids in the back. The rear seats tuck in behind the thick C-pillar. Leg and headroom is good, but it's a fairly cloistered environment in the back. The rear windows are very small and do not open, and there are no rear air-conditioning vents either.

A great idea are the grab handles (or Jesus handles as I commonly call them) on the backs of the front seats. The rear hinged rear doors open out at right angles to provide good access to the rear, even for adults. There is a degree of difficulty in gaining access as I’m sure my 90 year old Uncle Lex would attest if he were to try getting into the rear.
Standard equipment includes fog-lamps, privacy glass, rear parking sensors, cruise control, air-conditioning, steering-mounted audio controls, a multi-information display, central locking, eight-speaker audio with CD stacker, USB, iPod, Bluetooth and aux connectivity. The 60/40 splitfold rear seats fold flat, providing a cavernous storage space. Plenty of space for a mountain bike or a stack of camping equipment. Towing capacity is 2200 kg (braked).

The Off Road Stuff

The Flinders Rangers in SA provided the perfect backdrop to test the FJ Cruiser’s off-road capability. Over a range of terrain including deep dry creek crossings and steep, loose and deeply-rutted grades to patches of almost Mallee like sand and dust, the FJ made light, comfortable work of it all.

Underneath is a very well-sorted all-coil suspension, with high-mounted double-wishbones up front and a five-link system at the rear. At 4670 mm long and sitting on a 2690 mm wheelbase, the 1950 (tare) kg, the FJ Cruiser is a mid-sized wagon. Ground clearance of 224 mm could be a little higher but short overhangs at both front and rear provide for excellent approach angles (36 degrees) and departure angles (31 degrees). Combining the reasonably high stance, short overhangs, good wheel articulation and an excellent turning circle, the FJ can cope with some serious off-road situations. The FJ’s low range transfer case, rear diff-lock and switchable off-road traction control, A-trac (which diverts drive to wheels with traction), give it real credibility in the rough. We had a chance to test this on some serious off track work along a steep sided creek on Arkaba Station. Engine power from the V6 is strong and well managed by the dual range 5 speed box. The gate shift also provides certainty in shift changing but a sequential shift could be a real advantage here and something worthy of consideration by Toyota. The only down side during our test was a bit of feedback through the steering wheel in rockier patches (which may have been negated by a reduction from road tyre pressures) and occasional “rack rattle” on corrugations.

The FJ Cruiser will only be available in one model with a price tag of $44,990 (plus on-road costs). The FJ proved to be a highly capable 4 wheel drive vehicle in the situations we encountered. Toyota have aimed the vehicle at a specific market which, while I might sit outside of but, would I have one in the driveway…….Yes I would. If you like a bit of out of the way action on the weekends, then this vehicle is for you. Do I see a recently retired couple towing a 17’ off road van down the Tanami with it, no I don’t but then who knows what accessories and upgrades the aftermarket producers have in store.

We're sending Mick an ExplorOz Polo Shirt (which apparently he doesn't have!) and some other goodies for his effort. Sounds like a hard day in the office, but hey someone does have to do it and you scored the top job on the day!
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