Toyota FJ Cruiser TRD

A look back at the past

"FJ Cruiser is the direct descendant of Toyota's original FJ40"

"TRD is a Toyota/Lexus exclusive tuning house to improve performance with sporty kit accessories"

"I was impressed with the torque" said Ershad

"FJ Cruiser received a lot of fanfare and had been a success story"

The only car to retain "Toyota" spelled out across the grille instead of the logo, the FJ Cruiser is the direct descendant of Toyota's original FJ40 which has become a bit of a legend after production was halted in 1984. Here in the Middle East, as expected, the FJ Cruiser received a lot of fanfare and had been a success story. Fortunately, a concept version of the FJ Cruiser was unveiled in 2003 with the production model out two years after. We also saw the "Xtreme" variant recently in the showrooms of Dubai which were sold on a custom-order basis. They came with tuned FOX suspensions, bonnet scoop, fender flares and some new LED lighting. Four months ago, Al-Futtaim Motors, Toyota's UAE dealer, officially introduced Toyota Racing Development (TRD) packages for the 2015 Yaris sedan, Yaris hatchback, Corolla, Aurion and the 86, a development which now has the FJ Cruiser TRD in the lineup.

Feel the "Waku Doki"
"Waku Doki" is a Japanese word for adrenaline rush and we are all aware that TRD is a Toyota/Lexus-exclusive tuning house that improves performance with sporty kit accessories. Nothing's done to the engine; so it's the same 4.0 liter V6 block that delivers a power of 270hp with a torque ticking 380Nm. Power is supplied to all four wheels and the transmission is five speed automatic.

Let's be clear - our tester was all about off road gears and accessories. Let me highlight the extras that were added to make the FJ Cruiser "TRD". First of all, you'd notice the stance which is on a higher side considering the car has a short wheelbase. It's done with TRD coil springs and shock absorbers for better ground clearance, steering response and cornering. Seventeen inch TRD black alloy wheels seek attention and black side sill protectors have a purpose in off-roading. Other features include TRD front skid plate protector, fully black radiator grille, TRD shift knob, black door handles, front fog lamps, fender flares and sporty muffler set. The TRD mud guards look old fashioned but distinct.Talking about distinct, how about a built-in air compressor with pressure gauge instrument?

A solid frame from outside is followed up with a similar impression inside. Interiors are afloat with water resistant fabric which is ideal for rough use. You can't miss anything on the vertical center console – everything has huge buttons and knobs. The touchscreen is efficient with all infotainment options: navigation system, rear view camera and buttons to select media source, Bluetooth and telephony. The rear-hinged back doors still yield an inconvenient sort of entry to the rear seats. I had a nice time sitting upfront but for my friends in the rear, it was not that great, especially as time wore on. The audio, however, was decent with eight speakers and the cabin was kept cool with manual A/C.

In terms of safety, a new crawl system is standard along with regular suspects like the ABS, active traction control (A-Trac), cruise control, dual front airbags, differential lock, rear parking sensors, rear view camera and VSC.

The regular FJ Cruiser stands high and now with an even higher stance, it commands even more attention. The vertical front windshield is narrow and blocks little visibility. However, rest assured a regular driver will get used to it with a newly adapted sense of presence.

I was impressed with the torque. It proves to be a big deal when off-road where you'll find it easy to knock on even at very low rpm's. On a straight road, our tester had nothing to set itself apart besides a top speed which was 180kph (with all the noise) and a 0-100kph mark in 10 seconds.

As we hit the dunes (not the big ones on TV), I gained confidence in the dampers which kept us feeling tall and in control while cornering. The underbody is also well protected. While I was fine using "4WD-Hi" most of the times in rough conditions, A-Trac can be used to effectively allow the ABS braking system to control a wheel's spin when you lose traction. Rear differential lock is an option to use "only" when stuck. It forces the rear wheels to spin at the same rate to increase rear traction. We got carried away on many occasions with the torque and smooth gear ratios.

Verdict
The only trouble with the FJ Cruiser is with the passengers behind me - not a comfy or fun drive for them. The FJ Cruiser was never a family car and still isn't. It suits those who are the FJ40 types, looking for a couch with some serious off-road potential. The extra amount, however, is rather unconvincing; that's 30 percent on top of the standard FJ Cruiser and yeah, the TRD kits are under warranty.

Pros: nice torque in low gears, built in air compressor in TRD, off-road potential
Cons: TRD is pricey, rear seats not comfy, visibility
Rivals: Jeep Wrangler, Nissan X-TERRA
Engine: 4.0 liter, V6, 270hp, 380Nm
Transmission: 5 speed automatic transmission, 4x4 part-time
Performance: 0-100 kph: 10 sec, 13 L /100 km, top speed: 180 kph

3.5 STARS

One word: confidence

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