Take cruise back to future
Whether you love it or hate it, one thing is for sure, Toyota's FJ Cruiser certainly gets the tongues wagging.
In fact, the only time I can think of where people are so divided over the appearance of a vehicle would have to be Daihatsu's little Copen.
Admittedly, at completely different ends of the motoring spectrum, they nonetheless both manage to elicit comments like "it rocks" or "it sucks!" Once again it is different strokes for different folks and as the saying goes, "one man's passion is another man's poison."
The FJ was launched locally in the middle of last year, and if the sales figures are anything to go by, well they are flying off the showroom floor quicker than hot-cross buns sell on Easter Sunday.
The vehicle pays homage to Toyota's original FJ40, which was so popular in the 1960s, and the Land Cruiser brand. But it was left to 24-year-old whizz-kid designer Jin Won Kim to give it a more modern and up-to-date look.
I don't know whether Kim was eating his seaweed sushi or smoking it when sitting down at the drawing board, but what he has come up with is as retro as they come.
Where else do you find three front windscreen wipers, suicide doors, a two-tone paint job and interiorcontrols that are designed to be used while wearing gloves!
First impression on viewing the vehicle, is yes, there is a definite comparison between the FJ and the Hummer.
Both are big, bold and brassy and for those who are inclined to brag that, "mine is bigger than yours", well the FJ should suit you just fine.
It is really quite an intimidating type of vehicle with its short wheelbase and stocky frame - and it's pretty easy to imagine it roaring about the streets of Baghdad, with a rocket launcher strapped to its roof.
But the only action the majority of FJ's sold in South Africa are going to see is a bit of curb-mounting, while looking for parking space outside the mall on a Saturday morning.
This point is backed up by the fact that FJ's in certain overseas countries have a three-gauge cluster that displays a compass, temperature and inclinometre.
For South African drivers the three gauge cluster displays temperature, fuel level and battery strength! To be honest, for round-town driving I found the FJ a bit of a chore.
Sure enough, it provides a nice ride height but that 4-litre V6 engine ensures you won't get much better than 14 litres per 100 kilometres in the urban commute, so expect the petrol gauge to drop like the temperatures in a European winter.
Also, as cool as the suicide doors look - what with no handles on the outside - to exit the vehicle from the rear requires the front door to be open as well, which is an inconvenience. Rear and side visibility is not what it should be either, with a full-sized spare wheel mounted on the tailgate that encroaches on the rear window and also the massive pillars that are a nuisance when wanting to check for traffic when changing lanes.
Lovers of the FJ will no doubt counter this criticism by explaining that its the exact reason why the vehicle has bathroom-sized side mirrors ... to check for traffic!
Not all is lost on the FJ though and the list of comfort and safety features is quite comprehensive.
Cruise control, electric windows, air conditioner, remote controls for the audio system, iPod, USB connection, six airbags, ABS, EBD, VSC (vehicle stability control) and advanced traction control.
Admittedly, it does have a rear camera and reverse monitor but it is so small you need a pair of binoculars to study it.
In tune with its ruggedness, the FJ doesn't come with some fancy, ankle-length carpets but a washable rubber material which can be easily wiped down after a day in the bush.
I never tackled any serious bundu-bashing - which is where I'm sure the FJ comes in to its own - but in the little off-road experience I did attempt it was excellent.
It was one of the few times I actually looked forward to the challenge of navigating potholes and gravel while I remained in 4x2 mode, though 4x4 high and 4x4 low ranges are available for the tricky stuff.
Engine: 3956cc six cylinder 24V
Power: 200kW at 5600rpm
Torque: 380Nm at 4400rpm
0-100km/h: 7.6 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 175km/h (claimed)
Fuel consumption: 11.4/100km (claimed/ combined)
Well, you certainly get noticed
Not afraid of getting dirty
We don't like:
Rear doors not practical
Blind spots when changing lanes