2015 Toyota FJ Cruiser TRD | First Drive
* A phenomenal off-roader that tackles dunes with great ease
* Impressive torque at low rpm
* Built in air compressor on the TRD version is capable of inflating 2 tires simultaneously
* Visibility from its narrow windscreen isn't the best
* Does tend to feel overpriced when compared to its standard siblings
* One can feel claustrophobic in the back seat
With the rising sun as our backdrop and rippling dunes sprawling farther than our eyes could see, we set off on the 34th Gulf News Fun Drive on a chilly Friday morning. From Umm Al Quwain to the picturesque Wadi Maleha and onto the sharper and more challenging dunes of Hatta, it was a truly gruelling 100 odd kilometres that we put our 2015 Toyota FJ Cruiser TRD through the sandy stuff in UAE.
For those who believe that the FJ Cruiser is an aesthetic disaster, not much relief will be found in knowing that the TRD edition is merely a stickered, brawnier version of the regular rig.
With flared fenders, side sill protectors, an engine protection plate, a stylized exhaust tip and blatant TRD branding, this incarnation of the Toyota FJ Cruiser definitely looks the part though. Sitting higher up thanks to its taller coil springs and shock absorbers, the FJ TRD also bears a more commanding stance. However, with the majority of special bits being simple bolt-on additions, it makes you question if it’s worthy of the AED 155,000 asking price.
Having spent nearly 12 demanding hours within the confines of the TRD FJ Cruiser’s cabin, we developed a fair understanding of the pros and cons associated with an interior that to some, looks like it were put together using a Meccano set. With gloss black trim making its way onto the dashboard and door panels, it provided a break from the monotony of dull, hard plastics all around. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a big enough distraction to make us forget the sheer ache our backs and rear ends were experiencing due to the terrain and the bland, unsupportive seats.
It is only when analysing the feature list of the TRD FJ Cruiser that one truly understands the Japanese SUV’s attachment to the paths less travelled. Fitted with ATRAC, a rear differential lock and a hill descent option, this sand warrior is well kitted out to handle the dunes. A nice touch was the inbuilt flag mount in the roof rack. Simply get a read flag from Al Awir shops and bolt it into the flag plug – simple, effective. Attention to details did not end there. Pre-fitted air compressor in the boot comes with pressure gauge and is powerful enough to fill up two tires simultaneously to pre-set pressure levels.
Electronic toys inside the FJ Cruiser TRD include a touchscreen infotainment unit, a rearview camera and a knob along the centre console that controls the media source and Bluetooth telephony. Nothing spectacular or groundbreaking, but decent nonetheless.
Powered by the very same engine found in the standard FJ Cruiser, the TRD version remains good for 270 horsepower and 380 Nm of torque from its 4.0 litre V6 engine. Mated to a 5 speed automatic transmission, the FJ TRD directs power to all four wheels and is able to touch 100 km/h in 10.1 seconds before proceeding to its 180 km/h top speed. Of course that would only matter on tarmac, as off the beaten path, it isn’t about speed.
Be it while ascending the steepest of dunes or merely riding the crests of smaller ones, the virtually endless amounts of torque are more than enough to confidently get the FJ through even the trickiest of patches off-road. With a short wheelbase and a decent amount of ground clearance, taking the FJ TRD off-road isn’t a daunting experience at all. In fact, with an unintrusive traction control system, brilliant gearing ratios, and sheer low-end power, it makes for an experience that all off-road junkies should be a part of at least once.
We really like the 2015 Toyota FJ Cruiser TRD, we genuinely do. But when we weigh its price tag against what it brings to the table, we can’t help but feel there are better ways to spend that AED 155,000.
Option one (and still overpriced) being the TRD’s cousin, the FJ Cruiser XTREME that imbibes the exact same amount from your bank account, but caters to the hardcore off-road enthusiasts with a Fox suspension setup, Eibach springs and wider BFG tires.
Option two and arguably the best of the lot remains buying a standard FJ Cruiser for AED 119,500 and kitting it out the way you like. Wider tires, a stiffer suspension set-up and maybe even a better exhaust system. The possibilities are limited to your requirements and bank balance. For those who know what they want, this is undoubtedly the best option. Spending AED 35,000 for a basic suspension upgrade, black wheels and an inbuilt air compressor seems rather pointless. The only after thought would be Warranty – with the TRD kitted version, it’s all covered.