FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Edition – Behind the Wheel

Behind The Wheel – Trail Teams Edition FJ Cruiser

It is not often that we at DaYUUM feature SUVs or trucks on the site.  But given a chance to get behind the wheel of not one but two Trail Teams Edition FJ Cruisers, we did not hesitate to take the keys and put them on some bump and grind terrains. The FJ Cruiser carries quite a bit of history behind it and is still considered one of the well-known vehicles in Toyota’s truck fleet.  So let’s revisit the times where things got started…

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One of the most iconic SUVs still considered today is the Toyota Land Cruiser – FJ40.  However, the FJ40’s family roots go back to a vehicle called the BJ which dates back to the 1950 4×4 prototype called the AK10.  This had a lot in common with the famed Willys Jeep.  The BJ was Toyota’s first 4×4 utility vehicle powered by a Pre-war B-Type 75 Hp engine.  The 3.4 liter six cylinder engine complemented the BJ’s light truck duties which also set the blueprint for the line of Land Cruisers to follow.

As proof of the B-type engine’s beginnings, it was tasked to cover challenging terrains in July 1951 by Toyota’s test driver Ichiro Taira.  The BJ trailed up Japan’s 12,388-foot-high Mt. Fuji. where it was able to reach the sixth checkpoint out of the 10 checkpoints on the trail to the top of Mt. Fuji. This was a section that no other motor vehicle had ever gone up.  Observers from Japan’s National Police Agency liked what they saw and placed orders for a fleet of the B-type trackers.  Government forestry and utility agencies took notice and filed their own orders. Eventually 1,300 units were built to fulfill the demand.

The recognition was a successful leap from what was to come Toyota’s way.  However, to give it a more appealing and fitting title after roughing up and reaching its feat at Mt. Fuji; in 1954, Toyota officials named it – the Land Cruiser.

As the B-series engine slowly evolved at some point – this slowly got phased out of production as the F-type engine was introduced.  By 1955, the FJ25 progressed – this was an F-series 3.8L 105 Hp overhead-valve six-cylinder gas engine.  The updated Land Cruisers quickly found their way to Venezuela, Malaysia, Kuwait, Jordan, Dubai and Australia, where it displayed its true capabilities in the challenging land conditions.  Around 1958 the Land Cruiser marked its debut in the United States. Sadly, in its first year only One (1) unit was sold.

The 1960s came with renewed engineering and styling bearing the iconic – FJ40.  The FJ40 had the now popular flat, white top, angular lines, wrap around rear windows and fold out rear doors.  It also featured short overhangs, an increased horsepower of 125 Hp, a three speed transmission and the introduction of a two-speed transfer case.  Clearly, Toyota was doing something special that from 1961 to 1965, the FJ40 was Toyota’s best selling vehicle.

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The retro FJ Cruisers introduced in 2005 carried quite a bit of resemblance to the FJ40.  Features like the white roof top, round lights and bold fenders were inspirations taken from the past.  Since its release, Toyota also offered a special trim each year called the Trail Teams Edition – FJ Cruiser.

Model   Year

Color

Quantities

2008

Iceberg

3200

2009

N/A

None   but TRD Package was released

2010

Sandstorm

1500

2011

Army   Green

2500

2012

Radiant   Red

2500

2013

Cement   Gray

2500

Now that you’ve been up to speed with FJ’s past, let’s go through what we got to drive around for a few days – these are the 2012 Radiant Red and 2013 Cement Grey Metallic Trail Teams Edition FJ Cruisers. Distinguished through the monochromatic exterior paint scheme combined with blacked out bumpers, handles, side mirrors and grill are sure give away features of this special trim. One cannot miss the emblem “Toyota” on it’s grill as it is the only vehicle in the Toyota fleet even in the past that carried the company name  instead of just a mere Toyota logo.

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As we excitedly debated where to take the Trail Teams edition rigs and also wanting to bring back the trucks in one piece; we decided to take them to Trabuco Canyon Road.  The trails were unpaved and rough but just enough to exercise the capabilities of the standard Trail Team edition truck trim. As we hit 5 freeway, I immediately noticed the trucks’ toy like features and bulkiness.  These rigs are no sport cars that will zig-zag in and out of the freeway lanes.  However, even with a curb weight of a little over 4200 lbs, the 4.0 liter engine prove to have an up and go in a linear direction.  The FJ is easy and comfortable to drive. Acceleration is quick for this type of vehicle; handling is balance and very predictable.  Both FJs’ are equipped with the 4.0 Litre, 24-Valve, DOHC V6 engine that produces 260 horsepower and 271 lb.-ft. of torque. This proven power plant is mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic transmission. The trucks that we got to test out had the 5-speed automatic tranny.  This tranny set-up is the preferred choice for most buyers specially if when navigating through California traffic.

The FJ’s Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), where both intake and exhaust camshaft timing continuously adjust to readily deliver a broad torque band whenever this is needed.  This is also partnered with an advanced Sequential Multi-Port Fuel Injection system to  efficiently use the vehicle’s 72 liters of fuel.  The FJ cruiser also runs very well with just 87 octane fuel however for more demanding situations such as towing, off-roading and driving at high elevation, Toyota recommends using premium 91 octane fuel.

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The ride through Trabuco Canyon Road was pretty smooth.  I anticipated it to be loud and creaky due to the tire and suspension set-up used on the trucks.  The Radiant Red FJ had the blacked out 16-inch, TRD alloys while the Cement Gray FJ was outfitted with the TRD Beadlock-style alloy wheels.  Both FJs had their wheels wrapped in BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires (LT265/75R16) which were surprisingly quiet at highway speeds as well as when these were bruised and  abused on gravel during our test ride.  Double wishbone front suspension and four-link rear suspension with lateral track bar, coil springs and stabilizer bar partnered with some Bilstein shock absorbers were used in front and rear.  The FJ was also complemented with good wheel travel and 9.6-inches of ground clearance to provide that smooth-bump-and-grind drive.  In addition, I also learned that the rigs were also designed to have the air intake sit high on the hood which would make it possible to drive through substantial water hazards (though we don’t have the balls to try this feature out yet).

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The interior was designed to be simple and straight forward.  Steering responses are appropriate and the steering wheel feels fitting, where won’t realize that you’re driving a bulky rig.  There were quite recognizable blind spots as you sit up high which takes some getting used to. The exterior hue flowed in the interior of the vehicle where the seats were also tastefully accented. Ready for mud and grime, rubber flooring was used from front to back for easy clean-ups.  The instrumentation pod which includes a compass, outside temperature gauge and ‘inclinometer’ that goes on the dash is offered as an option for the Trail Teams Special Edition FJ cruisers. Shift knob levers were ergonomically designed and located for optimal driver reach.  The base model Bluetooth ready sound system was enough but could be improved for the daily drive.

However, all good things must come to an end.  Not that our test drive will soon be over but during the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show week, Toyota announced that the 2014 FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Ultimate Edition will be its final hurrah.  The FJ Ultimate Edition will pay tribute to the iconic Land Cruiser FJ40.  It will show off the newly developed “Heritage Blue” paint scheme inspired by the FJ40’s most sought after color.  And the front grill surround will also be painted in white.  It will also be equipped with a Race-inspired Toyota Racing Development (TRD) suspension which will be an upgrade from the 2013 Trail Teams Edition model.  A TRD stamped skid plate made from one-quarter –inch thick aluminum plate comes standard on the Ultimate Edition – improving approach angle and providing underbody protection.  The 2014 FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Ultimate Edition is scheduled to roll into dealerships in February 2014.

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Overall, the Trail Teams Edition FJ Cruisers were really fun and comfortable to drive.  I have been so used to driving low vehicles that the exceptional ground clearance these trucks offer was really a treat to have.  There were times that I would have mental lapses and angle the truck on speed bumps or inclined entry ways – when these are more than capable of running them over without hesitation.  The Trail Teams Edition FJs were not built to be rock-crawlers by any means.  They may be considered a poor man’s Range Rover or Land Rover but its price, safety, reliability and all-terrain capabilities are enough to satisfy an ordinary off-road trail seeker.  Even as we bid our farewell to an iconic vehicle, I do anticipate that the FJ cruiser will hold its value and continue to attract serious off-roaders in pushing its limits.

On a side note – we liked the FJ so much that we’ll be keeping the 2013 Cement Gray Trail Teams Edition.  We have some upgrades in-line that will enhance the bulky beast inside and out.  First off, for our daily listening pleasures – do we hear OEM Audio+

So stay tuned for the next one…

Peace! and  Merry Christmas to all! =)

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References:

2005 Dec. 19 “History of the Toyota Land Cruiser”. theautochannel.com.

2013 Nov. 5 “Happy Trails, FJ Cruiser”.  http://pressroom.toyota.com/releases

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