If there is a Toyota worth the TRD badge it wears, it has to be the FJ Cruiser. The able adventurer makes TRD an uplifting experience, quite literally.

THE SPECS: 17” TRD black allow wheels, TRD front skid plate protector, TRD coil springs and shock absorbers, Dress up muffler, Black side sill protectors, TRD shift knob, TRD mudguards and fender flares // Crawl Control, Navigation, Audio Controller, Built in compressor to inflate tyres

THE PERFORMANCE: 4.0 L V6 engine and 5-speed automatic transmission, 270 hp and 381 Nm of torque, 0 – 100 in 8.8 sec on test, Fuel economy 5.8 km/L

Uniquely Dramatic Feature: Doors of the FJ Cruiser – Rear access door that opens away from the front door, independent glass rear door hatch, luggage door full open lock

UPSIDE: Looks as capable as it is, Reliable in a tight spot, Reasonably quick on road

FLIPSIDE: FJ Extreme has added performance, Cabin could be queasy for some, Narrow boot

THE PRICE: Around AED 150,000 (2016 prices to be announced)

The lift pack in the FJ Cruiser TRD version allows you a glimpse of more things that makes this vehicle so capable, like the yellow painted suspensions and the springs.  It makes the suspension hardier for greater challenges, and as it stands still and mighty, the Cruiser lifts the slightest burden off your mind about the car getting stuck in a spot.

Cabin and Controls

Designed fashionably low, as though wearing a golfing cap, the FJ Cruiser maintains little headroom but never threatens to bring the roof down. FJ has characteristic reverse doors that swing away from each other to open. The narrow rear door doubles up as the B pillar, hosting the seat belt hinges, and remains shut till the front one is ajar.

The reverse doors make access to the cabin back really easy. Yet it’s a funny door that reminds me of an aircraft toilet door. It shuts in claustrophobia, on an eerily similar queasy cabin, especially on long drives – which is surprising if you consider the fair legroom in the rear. However, the feeling wouldn’t matter to you, if that sort of thing never stopped you from jumping into a roller coaster.

Creature comforts have always been sparse in the FJ Cruiser but, seriously, a BlueTooth, turn navigation and a music system could be considered plenty for a vehicle known for its unforgiving dune bashing skills. I can’t say if it had anything to do with my destination, but the navigation screen visual chose to hang as soon as I asked for guidance; no worries, the voice directed me through every twist and turn.

The front cabin thoughtfully provides the driver and passenger with an additional sunshade flap on the side but chooses to do away with side grips and have them stuck behind the front seats instead.

[As this story goes to press (oops… figuratively speaking!) there is no sign or word of the 2016 FJ Cruiser TRD yet, while the FJ Extreme has announced its presence. The new FJ does away with the skid plate, and also the JBL subwoofer stowed away in the rear. Before the disappointment sets in, the good news is that the top-trim gets leather seats and blind spot monitors.]

An unplanned capability test

If you ask me which is the most sophisticated button in the FJ cabin, the answer would be “the rotary control for the 5-inch touch screen”. But definitely the most interesting ones are the traction control, the A-track, the differential lock and the hill descent control button.

The low gear lever sits next to the driving gear announcing the credentials of the FJ Cruiser with the high twos and L4. I didn’t get the chance to experience it deep inside the desert. But opportunity surfaced when I least expected it, in the form of a rather forbidding patch of sand that seemed to be the last parking refuge of SUV owners that morning.

It wasn’t the pockets of Liwa but the terrain had already trapped a Lexus and a Prado – and the last I checked they were in rather good standing as off-roaders! So egged on by a TRD badge, I right away took the bait; and to my horror, found myself trapped quickly enough!

Even as the FJ was right in the middle of a thickening plot (couldn’t resist that one!) all I had to do was slip the low gear into place. With just the right amount of pressure from my foot, that made sure dirt was thrown up by the spoon and not the shovel, it wasn’t long before the FJ Cruiser pulled itself out of the sand and whirred past the maimed heroes, and onto the main road. On the way, I noticed yet another battle hero still sending up sand and mud flying… a Jeep Renegade, if I weren’t seeing things!

The essential FJ Cruiser

The FJ Cruiser is perhaps more comfortable and spacious than its original edition but I am yet to come across a person who went ahead and bought it for comfort’s sake. Especially with the higher stance of the TRD, you don’t really push corners with it. You are happy that you know where it is headed or where it stops – no surprises there! If the 4.0 L engine takes the FJ to 100 kmph from standstill in 8.8 sec, count it as a bonus that will help you get over the fuel-burning rate of 17 L per 100 km. What the FJ is known for, the TRD edition does even better, and that justifies the extra 11 grand that you pay for it.

Pictures: Sudeep Koshy

FJ Cruiser TRD Review: With or Without was last modified: December 27th, 2016 by Sudeep Koshy

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