It says Toyota on the front, not Tonka. And no, you can't buy spare parts from Lego stores. This is a 21st century interpretation of a Toyota classic, the original FJ40 LandCruiser, and the fifth model in Toyota's 4WD line-up is no school run special.
Its FJ-inspired features include angular lines, round headlights set either side of a wide, mesh grille, an upright windscreen with three wiper blades, a white roof and wrap-around rear corner windows.
Sitting in the mid-$40,000 range puts it right in the heart of small to medium SUV terrain, but theres few within coo-ee of it in terms of 4WD ability. The four-litre V6 five-speed auto (shared with HiLux and Prado) is the only drivetrain on offer, with an equipment list that includes Bluetooth audio and phone link, power front windows, 17in alloy wheels (including a full-size spare slung on the back door), rear fog lamps, rear parking sensors, cruise control, air-conditioning and an MP3/USB eight-speaker sound system, which uses the roofliner as an active part of the sound system.
The V6 petrol powerplant offers 200kW and 380Nm (with 310Nm spinning from 1200rpm), channelled via the five-speed automatic transmission to a part-time 4WD system that also has a rear differential lock and a switchable traction control system for extra off-road ability.
Toyota claims the FJ Cruiser consumes 11.4 litres of PULP (9.3 on the highway and 14.9 around town) but its packing a small 72-litre tank, which doesnt bode well for the bush, when fuel use can sky-rocket look for the long-range fuel tank option box. The dampers were stiffened by 10 per cent and steering have been locally-tested and recalibrated to good effect, and the wheel tyre package was upped to 70-series tyres on 17in wheels.
The look is love-it or hate-it, there seems to be no middle ground, although its easy to see the links to the LandCruiser FJ40, but the California design team threw a bit more stance and muscle inspired by one of the design team's pooches, an American pit bull. The upright windscreen with three-wipers, the white roof and the rear suicide doors, the high-waist, more than 220mm of ground clearance and old-school approach and departure angles, as well as the squared edges all suggest truck but looks can be a little deceiving.
Inside, its not quite a hose-out interior but its not far off, with rubber floor coverings and tough-looking seat fabric. The clever electrochromatic rearvision mirror with built-in screen for the reversing camera contrasts with the painted metal interior panels and roughnready fixtures, but if you were into Hummers but looking for Japanese build quality, this might be your cup of billy tea.
It might be retro but theres nothing 20th century about the safety features six airbags, traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist, active front head restraints, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors.
The news is good, in relation to the exterior it drives far better than youd think from looking at it. Sitting on a ladder-frame chassis with front double-wishbone/coils and a five-link/coil system at the rear, the FJ is immediately a surprise for its decent ride. Its not going to corner like a Cayenne but its not a corner-roller like an old Range Rover either, making it remarkably easy to punt around town without feeling seasick.
Complaints are few tilt-only steering adjustment is a little too old-school for me, the rearvision is abysmal, with massive rearward pillars making the sensors and camera compulsory. The rear doors are a quirky gimmick - remember this was originally a US-destined machine - but entry and exit for some (without sidesteps) is not their forte, particularly in carparks, with no opening window also an issue for some.
Drivetrain refinement is well above average, with minimal engine noise and despite the upright windscreen - theres not a heap of wind noise either. The steering is light and not exactly sharp, but when you ditch the bitumen you get an idea of what the primary aim of the vehicle is.
Theres ample ground clearance for when you want to get dirty, as well as the rear diff lock and the active traction control that operates as an electronic limited slip diff. For serious climbing, lock the rear diff (with the option of more), select low-range and hit the active traction control button and the FJ clambers over all manner of obstacles with good wheel travel and without manic wheelspin or bashing the underbody protection.
Theres plenty to like about the FJ its an honest performer and makes no bones about what it is meant for; its not perfect but it thumbs its nose at the soft SUVs as it disappears into the mud without fear of it being a one-way return trip.
Toyota FJ Cruiser
Price: from $44,990
Warranty: 3 years, 100,000km
Resale: n/a (new model)
Service Interval: 10,000km or 6-months
Economy: 11.4 l/100km; 267g/km CO2, tank 72 litres
Safety Equipment: six airbags, ABS, EBD, stability control.
Crash rating: 5-star (US rating)
Engine: 200kW/380Nm four-litre 24-valve DOHC direct-injection Transmission five speed auto, part-time 4WD.
Body: four-door, 5 seats
Dimensions: 4670mm (L); 1905mm (W); 1830mm (H); 2690mm (WB) Weight 2000kg
Tyre size: 265/70 R17
Spare tyre: full-size