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Looking At the FJ Cruiser

With its round headlights and white top (regardless of the body color, the top is white), some people may find the 2007 FJ Cruiser to be, well, cute. That it may be. But it is also said to be the most capable 4x4 that Toyota is building, so it has trail cred in spades.

Something borrowed, something true.

Once again, the FJ is a Toyota that is a result of what Toyota does as well as (to put it mildly) any manufacturer in the business: It takes what it already has and then makes the necessary modifications such that product development goes faster than it otherwise could—this vehicle was developed as a production model in two years—and the product is sufficiently distinctive (without that nagging doubt. . . “Didn’t I see/feel this somewhere before. . .?”) so that they’re proffering what is ostensibly a new model when there are portions that are borrowed. Cases in point:

  • The FJ has a fully boxed frame. It comes from the Land Cruiser Prado. That model is not sold in the U.S. But there are derivatives that are: the Toyota 4Runner and the Lexus GX 470. The frame for the FJ is stretched so that it is 8.27 in. longer than that upon which it is based.
  • There is a four-link rear suspension, a solid axle with a Panhard rod. This is familiar to 4Runner owners.
  • The engine (standard for both the 4x2 and 4x4 versions of the FJ) is a 4-liter, DOHC, 24-valve 60° V6. It produces 239 hp @ 5,200 rpm and 278 lb-ft of torque @ 3,700 rpm. The engine features a cast aluminum block with cast in place steel liners. This is a compact block with exceedingly thin walls, which necessitates casting the liners in place (too thin to bore and insert). The outer diameters of the liners are textured to enhance adhesion, which has positive knock-on effects, like improving heat dissipation. Also, there are water passages between the cylinder bores so as to moderate the temperatures and keep the bores more true. The connecting rod bearings have microgrooves on their surfaces so as to provide oil clearance for cold cranking and oil retention when the engine is hot. This engine, the 1GR-FE, is shared with the Tacoma, Tundra, and 4Runner.
  • The FJ is available with two transmissions: a five-speed electronically controlled transmission with artificial intelligence (i.e., it interacts with the engine ECM so as to determine shift patterns based on driving conditions), and a six-speed manual. The latter is also available in the Tacoma.
  • Differentials? You’ll find that front and rear, they’re shared with versions of the 4Runner or Tacoma.

Get the picture?

 

“Heart and soul.”

OK. Jim Farley is the vice president of Marketing for Toyota Motor Sales. So what he has to say about the FJ needs to be taken with a boulder or two of salt. But given that, it’s still a fairly eye-widening thing to hear him say that the FJ is evidence that Toyota “still has heart and soul.” He describes the vehicle—which is one in a line that started with the Land Cruiser in 1954 (which, incidentally, was developed for use by the U.S. military and law enforcement in Japan)—as “cherished equity.” Incidentally, the “FJ” in the name was the internal code name for the Land Cruiser.
Go climb a mountain.

Yes, you can do things like this with an FJ. Sticking with the 4x4 models (which is probably what anyone who would make such an attempt would opt for), know that there is 9.6 in. of ground clearance. The approach and departure angles are 34° and 30°. The break-over angle is 27.4°. There is a 30° maximum climb angle and a 41° maximum slide-slope angle. The front suspension travel is 7.88 in.; the rear suspension travel is 9.06 in. Although this is dry, if there was water to be forded, the FJ could take it up to 27.5 in. What’s important to note, of course, is that there are skid plates for the engine, transfer case, and fuel tank, all of which leads to a comparatively clean underside (e.g., there’s no large diff hanging down, just waiting to be crunched by a boulder). It’s claimed to be the most capable Toyota 4x4. Which is no idle claim.

 

No time to waste.

This isn’t a production FJ Cruiser. The photo is from January 7, 2003, taken at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The man in the picture is Jim Press, then COO (now president) of Toyota Motor Sales. The vehicle is a concept. Akio Nishimura, chief engineer for the vehicle says from the perspective of the fall of ’05: “Normally, when a Toyota vehicle debuts at a major auto show, its design and production schedule is well under way. But the new FJ was introduced strictly as a concept. The response to the vehicle was so strong and so emotional that Toyota wasted little time in bringing the concept to market. During a typical product development program, the design and engineering groups work together, step-by-step. There are synergies and compromises that are made along the way to arrive at a total package that includes platform, drive train, interior, and exterior. This is not what happened with the FJ. Six months after the 2003 Detroit Auto Show, we started development on the FJ Cruiser. We built our first prototype based on a modified Prado platform in the summer of 2004. This past May [‘05] we tested the first hand-built FJ.” The ’07 FJ Cruiser goes on sale in March 2006 and they’re expecting to sell 46,000 during the remainder of the calendar year.

 

“It is what it is.”

Given the success of the concept FJ, it was felt to be incumbent upon the engineers to take what had been created at Toyota’s Calty Design Research Studio (Newport Beach, CA) and to hew as closely as possible. “There was no doubt,” chief engineer Nishimura says, “when we saw the first sketches from the Calty studios, that we had a vehicle that could speak the design language of young consumers. Because the FJ design concept was so strong, we knew we were committing ourselves to building a serious off-road vehicle that worked as well as it looked. Virtually everything else would need to be engineered ‘around’ the exterior design. To use the exterior as the ‘guiding light’ for the project was highly unusual.” But that is what they did. What the people first saw in Detroit’s Cobo Center in 2003, the vehicle with an exterior design by Jin Kim and an interior by Bill Chergosky, is pretty much the vehicle that is being manufactured. Kim calls the look of the FJ as “industrial modern,” which he says means “tool-like, a combination of ruggedness and functionality, with an honest look and modern surfaces.” A tool is also part of Chergosky’s description of what he was working toward: “A hammer is a great metaphor for the way the interior of the FJ40”—the iconic 1960 Land Cruiser from which the FJ Cruiser is derived—“is constructed. A hammer looks the way it does because it has to drive a nail. When I sat down to design this interior, I looked at the FJ40’s interior. It is a product of manufacturing. One of the style elements is purity—there is no styling. It’s composed of a big metal tub, some pieces of Masonite wrapped in vinyl, and an instrument panel jammed right up against the firewall. I wanted to convey a similar charm. That’s the design intent filtered through the engineering process. It is what it is. It’s like a tool.”

 

Sounds like teen spirit.

A headliner, yes. Big deal, you think. But there’s more to it than meets the eye. There’s something to it that affects the ear. This headliner is not simply something to cover up wires and unattractive sheet metal. Rather, in that headliner are two speakers—NXT SurfaceSound transducers—that are 52% thinner than ordinary speakers. One of the reasons why this is possible is because the headliner actually serves as a diaphragm for the speakers. This is said to be the first deployment of this technology in a vehicle.

 

Steel solid.

What you don’t see here is a B-pillar because there isn’t one. The rear doors aren’t full-sized. They’re considered “access doors,” as they open 90° and offer easier egress and ingress for the rear-seat passengers. One of the issues when developing the FJ Cruiser was safety. A lack of a center pillar doesn’t help in that regard. So the door is fabricated with high tensile strength sheet steel, and the front portion of the access door is engineered such that it offers the same strength as a center pillar would. In addition to which, there was strengthening of the “halo” for the body side opening. High strength sheet steel is used for other closure panels, as well. In addition to the rigidity it provides, it does so at comparatively light weight. Light weight is particularly important for those who drive off-road. 

 

FJ Crusier Dimensionally
Engine4.0-liter, six cylinder, 24-valve DOHC with VVT-I (variable valve timing-intelligent)Wheelbase105.9 in.
Horsepower239@5,200 rpmOverall Length183.9 in.
Torque278 lb-ft @ 3,700 rpmOverall Width74.6 in.
Drive SystemRear-wheel 2WD or part-time 4WDfor automatic transmission models Full-time 4WD for manual transmission modelsOverall Height70.9 in. (2WD); 71/6 in. (4WD)
BrakesVentilated discs, front and rear; four-channel, four-sensor ABS; electronic brake force distribution; brake assistSeating Capacity5
EPA Cargo Volume66.8-ft3 with rear seats folded
27.9-ft3 behind rear seat.