Strengths and weaknesses:
- poor visibility
- tiny rear “doors”
- side-hinged rear cargo door.
Urban Cruiser still has FJ styling peccadilloes
There’s a new FJ Cruiser on the block for 2012 – the Urban Package.
It’s for people who are a little less likely to tackle Mom Nature in all her uncivilized grandeur, but who still want to drive a vehicle with all the appearance of a backwoods buster.
From the outside, there’s little to differentiate it from the Trail Team and Base off-road package. Urban has more bling (a chrome grille) and less brawn (there’s no big black roof rack). Inside, I find more for the city slicker side of me - a 10-speaker JBL Synthesis audio system with a subwoofer, running boards, 115V/400 watt power outlet, backup sensors, leather-wrapped steering wheel and metallic shift knob. The interior trim is colour-keyed to the exterior colour.
I also have city-dweller goodies like an auto-dimming rearview mirror with backup camera display along with power mirrors and windows.
It’s all kind of civilized, really – if you’re seated up front.
Getting into the rear seat requires a front door be open before the rear-hinged rear door can be opened. Then it’s a bit of a struggle for a full size person to get into the rear although kids do it easily.
Once there, the seats are comfortable enough and the leg room is acceptable, but the windows are tiny and the views limited. Getting a child into a booster seat is a real chore.
Speaking of view, it isn’t much better from the driver seat, either. The upright windshield with its three-wiper system is shallow, the A-pillars are huge and there’s a monstrous blind spot created by massive C-Pillars. The hatchgate-mounted spare tire intrudes on visibility through the rear window.
The cargo area is large enough to carry pretty much everything four people would want to take with them, although a roof rack would be handy if I wanted to take three people to the ski hills.
Increasing the cargo area by folding the rear seat is a multi-step process. First, remove the three rear seat headrests then flip the seat cushions forward and then drop the 60//40 seatback. The rear cargo door is side hinged, but at least it swings left so loading from the curb isn’t a big deal.
Under the hood is a 4.0-litre six-cylinder engine that puts out 260 horsepower and 271 lb.-ft. of torque, hooked up to a five-speed automatic transmission. It’s a peppy combination that gets off the line in a hurry and has enough oomph to quickly pass slower highway traffic.
Throttle response is satisfyingly quick and the transmission works through its shift points smoothly.
I decide to take the FJ off the pavement and into a snow and ice-covered area to see how it works on less-than-ideal surfaces.
With a good set of winter tires on the 17-inch alloys, slippage is at a minimum and 4WD ensures passage through snow. To get into 4WD, I have to do it the old fashioned way – with a shift lever.
FJ keeps everything under control by using vehicle stability control, traction control and ABS to keep the truck in line. If things go haywire, front airbags, side airbags and roll-sensing curtains are poised to protect FJ’s passengers.
It’s on the street and highway that I really notice the Urban Package influence. The ride is much smoother than in its more seriously outdoorsy stable mates. No jarring, no jouncing, just a nice even passage.
Urban suspension is the same setup as in the others, but lacks the stiff Bilstein shock absorbers which make for a much harsher ride. This setup makes for a pleasant, well-modulated ride.
As you might expect from an off-road oriented truck – even if it has been citified somewhat – the FJ is a drinker that rarely sees a gas bar to which it doesn’t want to belly up, but then that’s the price you pay for pushing a brick through the air.