This sports utility has been in the market since its debut at the North American International Auto Show in 2003. When it finally got approval for production due to the positive consumer response, Toyota rolled out the production version in 2005. Built by Toyota’s truck subsidiary Hino Motors and based on a Land Cruiser Prado platform, the FJ Cruiser was a commercial success.
With around 222, 246 units of the Toyota FJ Cruiser sold from the year 2006 up to the time its production was discontinued in 2016, this SUV was big in the U.S. market during its early years due to its retro styling and performance. It had Land Cruiser blood and genes running through its veins after all. When sales declined in the latter part of the 2016, the FJ was then exported to foreign markets such as the Middle East and Australia and it would eventually find its way here in the Philippines in 2014 where it gained a loyal following specifically among off-road enthusiasts. They seem to like the looks of this modern take on the iconic FJ 40 Land Cruiser, which is evident on the round headlights, pronounced front fenders, chunky C-Pillars and a white roof with color coded exterior and cabin center console.
Despite its popularity in the domestic market, the FJ also has a healthy dose of critics, most specially among Ilocanos like this writer who cringes every time gasoline prices spikes up. Think of the FJ as an expensive trophy wife, she’s high maintenance, guzzles a lot booze, yet she is gorgeous enough for men to do her bidding. It had that effect on me. So how does a 13-year old SUV compare with the latest 4WD monsters out in the market? This writer found out after spending a few days with this TRD version and taking it for a drive around the dirt trails of Rizal.
Jumping in through the suicide doors, a basic interior welcomes you which includes a 4WD lever and an audio system that reminds you of the nineties. The dashboard features basic controls and in keeping with the “retro” feel of the interior, there’s a good old fashioned pitch and roll indicator with a compass right smack in the middle of the dashboard. One can immediately feel that this SUV was built and engineered with the U.S. market in mind. There’s a lot of room in the cabin and the space between the front driver and passenger reminds you of the H1 Hummer. Forget about holding hands and getting intimate up front unless if you’re Shaquille O Neal.
Driving it around paved roads for the duration of my test drive was a comfortable experience. It’s not an “86” or a Corolla, so a minor re-adjustment is needed once you get behind the wheel of this two-ton metal beast. Given its high ground clearance, don’t expect it turn like a train on rails on corners and during downhill runs, you might feel a bit of slack when braking, so the key here is to relax and enjoy the ride of the FJ and lap up those deep potholes. You can hardly feel it with this SUV because it is more at home off-road.
The gas guzzling 268 bhp 4.0 liter quad cam V6 is matted to a five-speed automatic transmission and this baby has the grunt for fast sprints. The lack of a diesel powered version is what hunkers down the sales potential of the FJ, especially after the launch of the Toyota Fortuner and the new Land Cruiser.
Priced at P1,886,000, this baby is a steal for SUV enthusiasts and for Land Cruiser loyalists. Never mind the lack of creature features, this baby looks good and it gets the job done. The FJ Cruiser is not everyone, because if you want something more practical, better get a Fortuner or a RAV4. But then again, if you’re into supermodels and you don’t mind her being the most practical or her knowing the equation to E equals MC squared, get it. What matters is she’s good in the sack.