So we bought a manual 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser
The first time I drove the Toyota FJ Cruiser, it was late 2007, I was only 6 months out of college, I owned a 1990 junker, this site was still growing, and I was barely getting any invites to automotive media events. Fast-forward to 2014, and I’m married, I own three cars, the site is a successful behemoth…and I’m still barely getting any invites to automotive media events. That’s how long the FJ has been around. But I digress. The Missus just got her driving licence after a month of lessons, and a manual one at that. As with any noob driver, she still needs to keep practicing stick-shift driving, otherwise she’ll forget like the countless girly men out here, but I wasn’t going to put her in my S2000 on a daily basis. So I bought her a car. A nearly-new manual FJ Cruiser straight from the dealer.
You might ask why I didn’t just buy her a rental-grade manual Yaris. Somehow, I don’t think anyone on this site is interested in reading long-term updates on a Yaris. It’s also the car enthusiast’s curse. Even when I barely had any money, my 1990 junker was an AMG Mercedes. We wanted something cool, yet safe, to add to the fleet. And something that I wouldn’t mind driving as well. We’ll see how it goes.
It’s pretty tough finding a cool-yet-practical manual car for women nowadays. The few manual sports cars have a stiff clutch, while the softer ones are all fleet-spec econo-boxes. The first option was a Jeep Wrangler, but The Missus’s knees were touching the weird upright dashboard and there’s no dead pedal. The second option was a Ford Focus ST, but The Missus is “expecting”, if you know what I mean, so those daft Recaro seats with the high bolsters were hard to get out of for her. I even considered a used Subaru WRX STI or a Toyota Bushanab, but they were all at the Aweer Used Car Market, and after one trip there, I realised what a hell-hole it still was, and wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.
Then we casually arranged a test-drive of the manual Toyota FJ Cruiser. A new one costs Dhs 115,000, which isn’t a bad price for so much metal. The demo car was a late-2013 example. After I let The Missus do some awkward rounds in a parking lot with the salesman, Abbas, riding along, we figured she could eventually manage it with some practice, and more importantly, she could reach the pedals. I still had no real interest in an FJ Cruiser, until I casually asked Abbas if he’d sell the demo car to us, with a “LOL” at the end. Oddly enough, he said it could be possible. Oops.
We go back to the showroom, where Abbas makes a few calls, and arrives at a price of Dhs 98,000, inclusive of smart-repairing a minor ding on one door. Being a Toyota, there are no other freebies even if you pay full cash, aside from the remainder of the 5-year warranty. It sounded like a good price for a 6-month-old dealer-backed car with only 5500 km on the clock, so I pulled out my credit card and made the booking payment.
A couple of days later, I paid the rest with bundles of cash as well as submitted insurance papers. We did our own insurance outside, since it’s cheaper than the ridiculous dealer’s rate and we already had other cars with RSA Insurance.
We initially tried to get a better rate via our usual brokers, Gargash Insurance, but their customer service has slipped over the years, and they actually came up with a rate even higher than the dealer, that too from RSA! When we asked them to look at our no-claims history and arrange a better rate, they simply chose not to reply. So I figured I’d give them a free plug here.
After that, it took several days more by the dealer to get the car prepared for delivery. On the final day, we had to wait 2 hours to get the paperwork done, exacerbated by the fact that we wanted to get our own “special” number plate pasted on it. The cleaned car was already on display, roped away on the lower floor in full view at the Festival City showroom. For our troubles, they threw in a complimentary service at 10,000 km. We then drove it out after a final wipe-down.
We’ll talk more about the FJ’s specs and drive later. As we’re coming to grips with our oddball new truck, we’re pretty pleased with the purchase. And yet, we’re not sure how long we’ll keep it, considering The Missus will only be able to drive till winter, given her “condition.” After that, we might sell it or keep it. Let’s see.