First drive: 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Street in the UAE
The last time we drove a Toyota FJ Cruiser, it was 2007 and the recession hadn’t hit yet. Fast-forward to 2014, and that recession has become a footnote in history, but the FJ Cruiser is still around, not looking any different than when it first started out. Now, depending on which rumours you believe, the FJ is on its last legs, and the UAE dealer has created some special models to keep interest alive. One of those models is the FJ Street, a pre-pimped offroader that’s intentionally more about style than about offroading.
The mods are all on the outside, and includes the chrome grille and mirror caps, “Boss Motorsports” 20-inch mirror-finish wheels including the tailgate-mounted spare, 285/50 tyres and lowered suspension. There are also extra fog lamps and LEDs on the front-bumper corners, but those aftermarket bits are also available on “regular” FJ models.
Inside, it’s all stock as far as we can tell. The silver steering inserts are matched with the silver centre-console, dash and door bits. Aside from the cloth seats and inner pull-down armrests, every other inch of the cabin is hard plastic. Oddly enough, women seem to like the toy-like ambience.
Tech features are limited to power windows and mirrors, basic keyless entry, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a trio of pods on the dash-top comprising of a compass, clock and a slope-angle something-or-the-other. The JBL stereo deck is just as basic, but includes a fiddly Bluetooth system, USB/AUX ports and some kick-ass speakers, including a subwoofer in the boot.
The FJ is just about spacious enough for most people, although with that upright windshield and high window-sills, it never feels airy. The rear seats will fit average-sized individuals. The boot is okay in size, and the rear bench split-folds down, but not truly flat.
The entire FJ Cruiser line-up benefitted from a retuned 270 hp 4.0-litre V6 sometime back as part of a mechanical refresh, but it doesn’t feel any quicker than before. Be happy if you break the 9-second mark on the 0-100 kph run. There is no trip computer, so we don’t know how much fuel we burned. The basic 5-speed automatic works fine left on its own, and the low-range gearing is still there, as is the rear diff lock.
Despite the lower ride-height, handling remains the same as before. It’s soft and mushy on turns, as are the controls. The rear suspension even bottoms out now if you go over speed bumps at anything more than crawling speeds. However, those special tyres offer a surprising amount of grip, and no matter how much body roll we felt, it never got tipsy.
We didn’t go to the desert, but we did go gravel-bashing. The FJ has to be set in rear-wheel-drive for road driving, but this also means tons of rally-style sliding fun on flat sandy areas. And while we’d prefer the stock FJ’s suspension, the Street’s lower ground clearance does not diminish its basic offroad cred too much, as you can still go hit minor soft sand dunes, but you just have to plan your routes better to not bottom out. If you do get stuck, the low-range gear is there to power you out, unless you manage to beach yourself on a peak. Don’t be that guy.
The FJ Street goes for Dhs 164,900 in the Dubai showroom and, from our observations, seems to accomplish what it set out to do, which is to turn heads, even with the barrage of stock FJs roaming the streets already. Considering the lowered suspension, we would’ve preferred if they went the extra distance with the tuner-lifestyle thing. Maybe a purple paintjob and tribal decals?